7-day Tour of Zambia

Birding Ecotours

7-day Tour of Zambia

       

Price on Request

South Luangwa National Park

The park is a spectacular birding location, situated in the Great Rift Valley that runs through eastern Zambia. There is some fantastic birding as well as prolific wildlife in this remote region. The park covers over 9050km² and is one of the world’s finest game parks with huge concentrations of wildlife. With over 450 birds this is a “must see” destination. Its main river, the Luangwa, a tributary of the mighty Zambezi, meanders for 900 kilometers across the floodplain of the park valley creating sandbars, cut-offs, and oxbow lakes.

Groves of riparian woodland with ebony trees border the river. Mopane woodland predominates, and on the escarpments Miombo is ever-present. The migrant African Pitta arrives from mid to late November, which is the start of their breeding season, and the male immediately begins to call. With the onset of breeding they become far more secretive, so timing is paramount for this trip.

This is also the beginning of the rains, where the first green flush triggers the onset of breeding in the resident birds, and migrants begin to flood in, mixing with the local avian population at this time of plenty as the insects proliferate. Distinctive calls herald the beginning of each day from Southern Ground HornbillGrey Crowned Crane, and Western Banded Snake Eagle. Typical intra-African migrants and Palearctic migrants include Barred Long-tailed CuckooAfrican CrakeAllen’s GallinuleDwarf Bittern, and our African Pitta, together with huge concentrations of Southern Carmine Bee-eater. In more recent years  Greater Spotted Eagle has been tracked to this area using satellite telemetry. Resident Yellow-billed and Red-billed Oxpeckersare found de-ticking most of the larger animals, and large flocks of Lilian’s Lovebird explode into the air and then seem to almost disappear in the foliage of the leadwood trees in an instant.

Luangwa lagoons 

Often the beginning of the rains are delayed, and the drying lagoons have a resurgence of activity as Yellow-billed Stork compete with both Great White and Pink-backed PelicanMarabou, and African Fish Eagle for the last remaining catfish in the mud in “large feeding frenzy bird parties”. These are an incredible sight to witness. Shallow waters and sand bars attract African Skimmer, a regular breeder here, and this area is an important stronghold for this species. White-fronted Plover and White-crowned Lapwing jostle for space on the sandbanks alongside the noisy Water Thick-knee. Waterbirds such as Saddle-billed StorkYellow-billed StorkAfrican Openbill,and Marabou concentrate in oxbow lakes alongside honking Egyptian Goose. Numerous game birds such as Helmeted Guineafowl and Swainson’s and Red-necked Spurfowls forage alongside Hadada and African Sacred Ibis. Great Egret breeds in the valley in large Winter Thorn trees, as the oxbow lagoons swell with water. Here too the Dwarf Bittern arrives to breed, and isolated sightings of  Malagasy Pond Heronare on record.
Along the numerous sandbanks

Giant and Pied Kingfishers compete with the jewel-like Malachite Kingfisher for small fish, and their forest  relatives jostle for insects alongside. Woodland and Pygmy Kingfishers are particularly beautiful as they flash past in an iridescent blur. Horus SwiftWhite-fronted Bee-eater, and Southern Carmine Bee-eater coexist and breed in the dry river banks, the latter in huge numbers.

Riverside drives and thickets

Western Banded Snake EagleAfrican GoshawkNarina TrogonAfrican BroadbillAfrican Pitta,  Broad-billed RollerEastern Nicator, and Black-throated Wattle-eye are just a few of the birds that enjoy the thick riparian vegetation along the riverside. Hawking insectivores launch themselves from the dangling Combretum fronds, swooping low over the water  when catching insects and then returning to their perches.

Mopane woodlands and open plains

The Mopane woodlands are the home of Racket-tailed RollerSouthern Red-billed HornbillMeves’s StarlingArnot’s ChatWhite-browed Sparrow-WeaverRed–headed Weaver, and electric green flocks of Lilian’s LovebirdPearl-spotted Owletcalls incessantly and tests the birders’ eyesight, and with the rains the strident call of Woodland Kingfisher rings out.

Larger birds are well represented, which include Lappet-facedHooded, White-headed, and White-backed Vultures, as well as numerous large resident and migrant  eagles such as BateleurMartial, Steppe, and Lesser-spotted EaglesSaddle-billed StorkSouthern Crowned Crane, and Southern Ground Hornbill are frequently encountered in the temporarily flooded pans.

The smaller seedeaters are well represented at this time of plenty, and keep an eye open in particular for  Cardinal Quelea. Weavers, especially Village Weaver, breed in huge numbers, and Collared Palm Thrush and Moustached Grass Warbler make for an exciting addition to a “must visit” destination. Böhm’s Spinetail and Mottled Spinetailare just two of the nine species of swifts which have been recorded at the Mfuwe bridge, the latter, along with Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, are particularly associated with the numerous baobab trees.

Late afternoon and night drives

This specialized activity allows you to view nocturnal creatures in safety. Alongside numerous species of nightjar and other night birds, four-toed elephant shrewbushy-tailed mongoosevarious genets, and of course leopard, for which South Luangwa is renowned, could be seen. One may get glimpses of thick- tailed galagolesser bushbaby, and serval. The crepuscular Bat Hawk can be seen hawking bats along the trees of the lagoons in the late evenings, while African Skimmer feeds on into the moonlight. The highly sought-after  Pel’s Fishing Owl is here, with its eerie mysterious call, which helps in locating it on night drives along the lagoons, alongside Verreaux’sand Spotted Eagle Owls. A night drive here is an absolute must.

Overview

This truly wonderfully wild national park is the home of many other exciting small and large inhabitants, too numerous to mention all, but huge numbers of hippo and Nile crocodileAfrican buffalokuduelandbushbuckimpalaplains zebra,Thornycroft’s giraffe, Cookson’s wildebeestAfrican elephantlion, and  African wild dog are regularly spotted. All this is a photographer’s dream. This massive concentration of wildlife has a huge impact on the ecology of the valley, particularly the birds. It is certainly the place for a true adventure, led by an expert guide and scout.

Itinerary

(7 days/6 nights)

Day 1. Arrival in Lusaka, transfer to Mfuwe Lodge 

Your international flight arrives at Lusaka International Airport, where you will be transferred to the  domestic departure lounge, from where you fly to Mfuwe airport. From here you will be transferred to Mfuwe Lodge – an award winning lodge, located inside South Luangwa National Park. Here you commonly witness close encounters with African elephants lured by a wild mango tree fruiting at this time of the year. You get extremely close, in fact, when they walk through the reception area into camp to collect the delicacy.

Overnight: Mfuwe Lodge, South Luangwa National Park

Days 2 – 4. Bilimungwe Bushcamp

After breakfast, start your journey to Bilimungwe Bushcamp. This camp is small and exclusive and only accommodates eight guests. En route you will have the ultimate enjoyment of birding and game viewing in comfort from an open 4×4 vehicle.

This stunning camp is set beneath a huge mahogany tree, which overlooks three waterholes. This is truly a nature lover’s paradise with spectacular birds and animals. You will be birding and game viewing around Bilimungwe for three full days, in particular for the amazing African Pitta!

Day 5 – 6 Mfuwe Lodge

Transfer back to Mfuwe Lodge, birding and game viewing en route. Then you have another full day here to enjoy the amenities and service of this very special lodge.

Day 7 Departure 

After breakfast, you will start your return transfers to Mfuwe Airport for the flight to Lusaka International Airport, from were you will fly home.

Price on Request

Price Includes:

All accommodation in en suite rooms, all meals, ground transport and guiding

Price does NOT Include:

International flights, gratuities, laundry, alcohol and expenditure of a personal nature

 

October 2013

Be like a little bird - spread the word