18-day Birding & Wildlife Spectacular

Birding Ecotours 18-Day Birding & Wildlife Spectacular

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Special birds, African mammals and breathtaking scenery including Victoria Falls

The localized and beautiful Swynnerton’s Robin (Photo by Niall Perrins) is a special of Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands

Zimbabwe is an absolutely fabulous country – scenically wonderful, with very friendly people fluent in English and (surprisingly to many people) with an EXCELLENT infrastructure. The hundreds of miles of paved roads are in very good condition and it is one of the few African countries you can see a great deal of without a 4×4. With an improving political leadership, the country is once again fast becoming a very popular destination to birders, and right now it is possible to get very comfortable accommodation at give-away rates.

During our 18-day tour, you’ll see all the major habitats, sights and birds of this wonderful country, end up with a very good bird list and loads of Africa’s big and small mammals. We begin with your international flight arriving in Harare, from where we take a charter flight to one of Africa’s wildest game parks, Mana Pools. While this is one of the few game parks in Africa you can legally explore on foot, we do not advise this because of the presence of a host of dangerous animals. This incredible park is at the bottom of the breathtaking Zambezi River Valley (here, the Middle/Lower Zambezi, one of Africa’s biggest rivers, is bounded by steep and immense escarpments on either side), and is full of excellent birds including the localized Lilian’s Lovebird which is one of many targets we’ll search for. After three nights exploring this park, we’ll fly back to Harare. (For those who only have 15 days available and wish to start the tour now and treat Mana Pools as a pre-tour, that is perfectly OK). We then spend two nights in Harare itself.

Harare has a very special position high on the Mashonaland Plateau and boasts brilliant wetland and miombo birding. If good rains have fallen, January is the best time to find rare rallids such as Streaky-breasted Flufftail, Striped Crake, Spotted Crake and many others, along with many other birds such as the beautiful Yellow-mantled Widow, Grass Owl and a plethora of other sought-after birds around Zimbabwe’s capital city. We also look for all the Miombo woodland endemics – Miombo woodland is a habitat found only in south-central Africa, so many of the birds we will see are endemic to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Angola and the DRC. We’ll look for species such as Miombo Rock-thrush, Miombo Tit, Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Boulder Chat (almost endemic to Zimbabwe), Spotted Creeper and all the others.

We then head eastwards to the spectacular Eastern Highlands where several species endemic to small parts of Mozambique and Zimbabwe lurk – including Chirinda Apalis, Roberts’ Warbler and more. Swynnerton’s Robin is most easily found here, but does also extend northwards into Tanzania. We also look for Blue Swallow, Striped Flufftail and other rare birds. We’ll also visit the nearby Eastern lowlands (Honde Valley and other sites), which have many birds more typical of the Mozambican coastal plain, and will look for the rare and localized Zambezi (Green) Indigobird (best seen between January and March when in breeding plumage and singing from atop dead trees) along with other indigobirds, Anchieta’s Tchagra, Scarce Swift, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill and the beautiful Peter’s Twinspot, among a very rich diversity of other birds. We’ll spend several days birding the eastern highlands and lowlands of Zimbabwe – an absolutely idyllic area which you’ll be sad to leave.

We’ll then head southwards to Great Zimbabwe ruins, a fascinating place historically, but also a first class miombo birding area, where we might see Thick-billed Cuckoo and (as always!) so many others. Then we’ll head westwards to the fabulous rocky outcrops of Matobo National Park for two days, where we’ll look for high concentration of raptors (including the highest density of the magnificent Verreaux’s Eagle on the planet), Freckled Nightjar, Mackinder’s (Cape) Eagle Owl (with luck), the near-endemic Boulder Chat and loads more (throughout Zimbabwe, there is a rich diversity of birds, wherever you go in the country). Then, nearing the end of our epic journey, we’ll head to one of Africa’s great game parks, Hwange National Park, where we’ll see a host of new bird species that hopefully will include Three-banded Courser, Bradfield’s Hornbill and tons more, along with Africa’s big (and small) mammals, in a massive park. We end the tour at the village of Victoria Falls, where we spend two nights in an extremely rich area for birds (expecting to add many new trip birds) while of course also looking at the great falls, before flying home from here (there are usually inexpensive flights from here to Johannesburg where you can connect homewards).

All in all, a trip of greatly contrasting scenery and habitats, and relatively small driving distances on good roads.

Itinerary

PRE-TOUR:

Day 1: Arrival Harare – Mana Pools Game Reserve

After your international flight arrives in Harare, we take a charter flight to Mana Pools Game Reserve in the Zambezi Valley, where we look for Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Lilian’s Lovebird, African Skimmer, Racket-tailed Roller, Grey-headed Parrot, Collared Pratincole, Bohm’s (Batlike) Spinetail, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Pel’s Fishing Owl (with luck), Western Banded Snake-eagle and many other exciting birds. We also have a good chance of finding Lion, Leopard (with luck), Elephant, Buffalo, African Wild Dog (with luck), Nyala and Nile Crocodile.

Overnight: Mana Pools

Days 2-3: Mana Pools Game Reserve

We spend two full days exploring this fabulous park.

Overnight: Mana Pools

Day 4: Harare

we fly back to Harare where we meet with anyone not joining the Mana Pools pre-tour. Time permitting, we begin our exciting birding exploits around Harare today.

MAIN TOUR:

Day 1: Arrival Harare

Same day as Day 4 of pre-tour. We can begin our Harare birding today, depending on arrival time of flights.

Overnight: Crake Cottage or similar, Harare

Day 2: Monavale & Marlborough Vleis

We spend a full day birding the wetlands and woodlands of the Harare area. We usually focus on Monavale and Marlborough Vleis when looking for tough water-associated birds such as Blue Quail, Streaky-breasted Flufftail, Striped and Spotted Crakes, but we modify our plan depending on recent information. In dry years we have little chance of finding these rarer water-birds, but there are always more common but nevertheless sought-after species to keep us entertained – such as Yellow-mantled Widow, harriers and a host of others. Time-permitting, we’ll start our Miombo woodland birding today.

Overnight: Crake Cottage or similar, Harare

Day 3: Gosho Park & Eastern Highlands

We will leave after breakfast for Miombo woodland sites such as Gosho Park, looking for the rare migrant Collared Flycatcher and more common but nevertheless very sought-after and quite localized birds such as Miombo Rock-thrush, Black-eared Seedeater, Boulder Chat, Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Miombo Tit, Miombo Glossy Starling, Spotted Creeper, Southern Hyliota, White-breasted Cuckoo-shrike, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird and a long list of other goodies. We’ll eventually head to Mutare in the beautiful Vumba area of the Eastern Highlands, adjacent to Mozambique, aiming to get there in the late afternoon, after a super-exciting day of birding.

Overnight: White Horse Inn or similar

Day 4: Burma Valley

We will head into the Burma Valley for lowland species such as various indigobirds, the star one being Green (Zambezi) Indigobird, Peter’s Twinspot, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill and others. We’ll then return to the highlands for a suite of brilliant birds including Swynnerton’s Robin, Cabanis’ Bunting, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Chirinda Apalis, Roberts’ Warbler, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Orange Ground-thrush, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher and Bronzy Sunbird – to name but a few.

Overnight: White Horse Inn or similar

Day 5: Inyanga Highlands – Honde Valley

Today we head north past the rugged Inyanga Highlands and then travel down into the hot lowlands of the Honde Valley, contiguous with the sprawling Mozambican coastal plain, where we find a new suite of birds in a completely different world. We’ll look for Anchieta’s (Marsh) Tchagra, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo (with lots of luck), Short-winged Cisticola, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Peter’s Twinspot, Black-rumped Buttonquail and many others in this diverse tropical area. We’ll also look for Scarce Swift near a breeding site – this species can be seen anywhere in the Eastern Highlands/lowlands of Zimbabwe but is rare and certainly most easily found near roosting/breeding sites. We’ll also keep an eye out for the very large Mottled Swift along with more common and widespread swift species, throughout this area.

Overnight: Aberfoyle Golf Estate

Day 6: Honde Valley

We will spend a full day exploring this extremely exciting and intriguing area.

Overnight: Aberfoyle Golf Estate

Day 7: Inyanga National Park

We will drive to the nearby Inyanga National Park where we’ll look for Blue Swallow, Striped Flufftail (this mega-skulker needs luck!) and various other quality birds, plus we’ll spend time looking for anything else we may have missed here in the extreme east of the country.

Overnight: Pine Lake Inn or similar

Day 8: Inyanga – Great Zimbabwe

After final birding in Inyanga, we head southwards on a long drive through absolutely beautiful hill country, eventually reaching Great Zimbabwe where we’ll spend one night, looking for Miombo woodland birds and many others.

Overnight: Great Zimbabwe Inn or similar

Day 9: Matopos National Park

Today we head to the dry western half of Zimbabwe. We will call the spectacular granite dome country of Matopos National Park our home for two nights. Here we have a chance of seeing a good many raptors, Freckled Nightjar, Cape (Mackinder’s) Eagle Owl and some excellent mammals. A star bird, if we have not yet seen it, might well be Boulder Chat.

Overnight: Matopos Lodge

Day 10: Matopos

A full day exploring the stunning Matopos country.

Overnight: Matopos Lodge

Day 11: Hwange National Park

We head northwards towards Victoria Falls, stopping for two days of awesome bird and wildlife viewing at a humungous game park, Hwange National Park. We should add many birds more typical of Botswana and the Kalahari here, including Crimson-breasted Shrike, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Kalahari Scrub-robin, Southern Pied Babbler, Tinkling Ciscticola and more. We also have a good chance of seeing some birds more typical of other areas – it’s a strange mix here at Hwange – like Mosque Swallow, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Racket-tailed Roller and Three-banded Courser. This is also African mammal country and we could quite easily end up seeing all of the Big 5 with a little bit of luck, a plethora of antelope species, the adorable Bat-eared Fox, perhaps Cheetah and a lot more.

Overnight: Lodge inside Hwange National Park

Day 12: Hwange

full day in this massive wildlife park.

Overnight: Lodge inside Hwange National Park

Day 13: Victoria Falls

We head a short distance to the north-eastern corner of Zimbabwe, near where four countries meet (Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe). Here, we spend two nights birding and game-viewing in very wild country, while also spending some time admiring the impressive Victoria Falls. Birdlife is abundant and we could see Pennant-winged Nightjar, Collared Palm-thrush, Dickinson’s Kestrel, two species of Paradise Whydah, possibly even a Taita Falcon (but very rare), Schalow’s Turaco, African Finfoot, Pel’s Fishing Owl, White-crowned Lapwing, Rufous-bellied Heron, White-backed Night-heron, Half-collared Kingfisher, Rock Pratincole and an ongoing list of others. We should also see Nile Crocodile and big and small mammals such as Elephant.

Overnight: A hotel on or near the mighty Zambezi River – usually A’Zambezi

Day 14: Victoria Falls

A full day in this wonderful area.

Overnight: A hotel on or near the mighty Zambezi River – usually A’Zambezi

Day 15: Departure

Fly from Victoria Falls home (usually via Johannesburg)

Prices

Price includes: daily full breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, cool-drinks, bottled water, accommodation, entrance fees, guiding fees, and all transport while on tour in South Africa.

Not included: Air ticket to South Africa, personal insurance, alcoholic beverages, tips, laundry and personal expenses such as gifts.

NB All Anytime Tour itineraries are essentially drafts – the final itinerary will be arrived at during discussions with the clients and tailored to the client’s individual needs and is, of course, subject to the availability of accommodation etc. and any changes in local conditions. Our aim is to arrive at an itinerary which gives you the maximum chance to see the birds [& etc.] you want to see.

 

October 2013

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