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Birdwatching Safaris

Many destinations in Safari Africa are fabulous for birdwatching. From bee-eaters to ostrich, the range of species is astounding! There may be times when big game is scarce, but you can always enjoy scanning the skies, swamps, and seas for birdlife.

Although there are some hardcore birdwatchers out there, it’s fair to say that birds are not usually top of the list when it comes to what the majority of people most want to see on safari. However, it is hard not to become fascinated by Africa’s birdlife; the sheer diversity of species, sizes and colours is astounding and varies between locations. Furthermore, even on days when there is scarce big game to be seen, there are always birds to watch.

From the elusive shoebill and graceful flamingos, to vibrant bee-eaters and gigantic ostrich, there are plenty of weird and wonderful species to see. There are also several destinations in Safari Africa that lend themselves to fabulous birdwatching in particular.

*All photographs taken by YZ Josh

Lilac breasted roller, birdwatching safaris
Juvenile bateleur, birdwatching safaris

Our top destinations for birdwatching safaris:

1. Tanzania

Home to one of the highest number of species anywhere in Africa, Tanzania is, therefore, a good option for a trainee twitcher as new species can be spotted throughout your trip.

From the plains of the Serengeti, rich with huge raptors, to the woodlands of the Selous and Ruaha and Lake Manyara with its resident flamingos, the varied habitats really increase the species count. There are almost 1,400 species of birds to spot in Tanzania and this number is so high due to migrant birds that come down from Europe and up from Southern Africa. An impressive 24 species of these birds are endemic to Tanzania.

Crowned crane, Serengeti birdwatching

Grey crowned crane

Scops owl, Tanzania birdwatching safaris

Scops owl

The most exciting and special of these has to be the Pemba scops owl, and if you are willing to make the trip to Pemba Island you might be lucky enough to find one. To add to your list of species, we couldn’t not mention Tanzania’s national bird, the stunning grey crowned crane, which is found all over the country. However, you will have excellent chances of sighting one in the Serengeti.

2. Zambia

Another hotspot for birders, Zambia's highlight include the shoebill, which can be relatively easily seen in the northern swamps (as well as in Uganda), and the Luangwa’s seasonal migrations of striking carmine bee-eaters and elegant crowned cranes.

Zambia boasts over 700 species of its own, with the best time to visit for birders being just after the summer rains due to the arrival of many migrant species. The Central African Plateau here is arguably the best region for birding in the country, as it has a variety of national parks and protected areas where birds thrive. There are said to be three endemic birds to Zambia, but the only ‘true’ endemic bird is the Chaplin’s barbet.

3. Botswana

The Okavango Delta is a beautiful game area but is also renowned for birdwatching. Its patchwork of wet and dry areas provides habitats for a number of rare species, as well as iridescent sunbirds and starlings that will catch any eye. Malachite and woodland kingfishers are also a particular treat to see.

Malachite kingfisher, Botswana birdwatching

Malachite kingfisher, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Pel's fishing owl, Botswana birdwatching safaris

Pel's fishing owl, Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Makgadikgadi Pans area is dry and arid for most of the year, but following the rainy season, when the salt pans fill with water, a huge number of species, including waders and breeding flamingos, is attracted to the area. There are 616 birds found in Botswana, and 482 of these can be found in the Okavango Delta alone, so the Delta is a must for any keen birders. The Pel’s fishing owl is said to be one of the rarest owls in Africa and you have strong chances of finding it in the Okavango, particularly up in the ‘panhandle’.

4. Namibia

Namibia also provides some great birdwatching opportunities, especially seabird species along the coast. Over 700 species of birds reside in Namibia and in our opinion the optimum time to visit for birding is during the rains between November and April when the migratory birds are there.

The Caprivi Strip, now known as the ‘Zambezi Region’, is likely the best area for this as it is an Okavango-typed ecosystem where the dry desert and waterways of the Okavango and Linyanti meet, providing a mecca for birdlife. With only one ‘true’ endemic bird, the dune lark is found down in the Namib Desert but is not hard to find at all. Another special, the near-endemic Rüppell’s Parrot, is one other to look out for, as it is only found in Namibia or Angola.

If you are interested in a birdwatching safari, just let one of our experts know here and they can help you plan your adventure today.

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