Birdwatching Safaris in East Africa; Where to Go birding?
The East African region still remains a center of most of Africa’s wildlife encounters. Leaving aside the traditional savanna big game safaris, its range of habitats yet more offer impressive Avian life to behold. Birding in Africa is a key activity for special interest holiday makers. Where else on a birding safari or journey in Africa could it be possible to see more birds, with the same amount of time than in East Africa?
ATW Holidays Africa birding only trips and journeys, are a form of special interest safaris. These are organized for fervent avian travelers or ornithologists, specialist birders and budding birders. These safaris take you to some of the most popular and remote birdwatching safaris sites around East Africa. It is crystal-clear why the region is one of the revered destinations for birding journeys across Africa.
It has 3 of Africa’s four destinations whose bird-list hits the 1000+ mark. These are; Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania which host variety of bird species including resident, migratory, restricted range/endemic species among others.
Where to go on a birding journey or safari in Uganda?
Birdlife has flourished beyond just surviving in this small and stunningly beautiful country. So as such, it has always attracted the attention of avid birding safari and holiday makers in Africa. Uganda is the smallest country among those whose bird-list hits the 1000 mark and this means more species can be seen over smaller time and per unit area. The country is at the confluence of the East African savannas and evergreen West African jungle making it a perfect place to see both forest and open-savanna species.
The country’s biodiversity and rich eco-system composed of extensive savannas, tropical forests, wetlands and water bodies among others make birdlife thrive and this explains the alluring population of the bird species. Uganda over the years has been a birdwatching safaris success story. It has won a number of birding accolades for example, Bwindi Impenetrable forest was voted No. 1 by the African Bird Club among Africa’s best birding sites in 2012, Birdlife Africa voted Murchison Falls No. 9 best birding spot in Africa and more.
Bird-watching is possible almost everywhere in Uganda but there are key sites that definitely stand out. Our birding journeys and safaris in Uganda are led by expert and avid birders/guides and will let you explore, from the remote to major spots for core journeys.
Most of the birding journeys will lead to Uganda’s western tourism circuit. The Semliki National Park has over 440 bird species and Bwindi Impenetrable-350 species, both having the highest numbers of the Albertine Rift endemics. Kibale Forest is home to forest varieties and a bird count of over 372 species including 6 that are endemic to the Albertine Rift region. Queen Elizabeth National Park shelters over 600 species and its classified as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by Birding International. Murchison Falls N.P has 451 species, Kidepo Valley with 475 and these parks will reward you with the best savanna species. Mabamba wetland near Entebbe, Tooro-Semliki wildlife reserve, Budogo Forest, Bigodi wetland near Kibale Forest and many other sites will undeniably make your Bird-watching safaris in East Africa sensational.
The appealing list of the bird variety includes; the Great Blue Turaco, the pre-historic looking Shoebill Stork, Shelley’s Crimson-wing, African Green Broadbill, Green Breasted Pitta, Doherty’s Bush Shrike, Short-tailed Warbler, Egyptian Vulture and Palm-nut Vulture among others. For a keen birder aim for and expect to see at least 500+ species on a single 10 day and above birdwatching safaris Uganda tour while for a starter, aim for 300+ in the same period.
Birdwatching safaris in Rwanda and where to go?
The 26’338 sq.km country is a remarkably green country with rolling hills, it is part of the great lakes region of Africa and its eco-biodiversity has contributed to its abundant birdlife and it is a destination to look-out for, for any birding safaris in East Africa. At its size, Rwanda has more than 700 bird species, with a count of over 29 Albertine Rift Endemics and a staggering variety of the Lake Victoria basin endemic species.
Like Uganda, birdwatching safaris in Rwanda is almost possible everywhere but key sites definitely standout. For a perfect birding safari in Rwanda, we would recommend 7 days and more but it is also possible to do short birding trips. Located in the west of the country is Nyungwe, a tropical montane forest protected as a national park. Because of its forest biodiversity, it is Rwanda’s most profound birding safari destination and its basically popular for its forest bird variety.
The forest has more than 320 bird species including the Albertine rift endemics, and one of the most interesting bird species to look-out for is the Red-collared Babbler. There’re some rare species like; Kivu Ground Thrush, Congo Bay Owl, Kungwe Apalis, Albertine Owlet, Rockefeller’s Sunbird and Willard’s Sooty Boubou among others.
East of the country is Akagera, a savanna national park whose biodiversity takes in woodlands, swamps and lakes which make a great combination of habitats for birdlife to thrive. Birding in Rwanda’s Akagera is a reward. There’s a total of over 490 bird species and birdwatching safaris here can be done on nature walks, game drives or boat safari on lake Ihema. But there’re other notable birding sites for a safari in Rwanda like; Volcanos national park located north of the country.
It has over 200 species with 17 Albertine Rift endemics, like the unique Scarlet-Tufted Sunbird commonly seen around Mt. Bisoke. Gishwati-Mukura, Rwanda’s recent national park is also a birdwatching safaris haven to explore. Its bird list notches up to over 390 species in total with Mukura standing at 163 and Gishwati at about 230. For core birders, places like Lake Kivu, Rugezi Marsh a Ramsar Site can be added on your itinerary.
Birding Safaris in Kenya and Tanzania, What is the experience like?
Apart from their two East African counterparts of Uganda and Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania are rich in the open savanna bird species. They also have the highest number of bird species with Kenya having more than 1’100 species and Tanzania having close to 1’200 species. Birdwatching in these two East African vast countries is a success story and almost every tourist site or destination is equally rewarding.
Though the two countries are basically popular for the African Big game show and experiences, they offer otherworldly African birding journeys and safaris.
Birding in Kenya is possible almost everywhere and the country has more protected areas than any other East African country. Its national parks and reserves are key birdwatching sites, from the inland to the coastal areas around the Indian Ocean. Lake Nakuru is a popular spot for the Flamingos which are some of the most interesting species to see. From Nairobi, all the way to Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Arabuko Sokoke and Kakamega forest, to the coast at Watamu among other destinations both tropical and arid, birdwatching is possible.
Tanzania on the other hand also offers remarkable birding encounters. Its savanna national parks in the northern and southern tourist circuit are all possible birding site to spot the savanna specials. From Tanzania’s national parks of Arusha, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater to the shores and reserves of Lake Victoria, birdwatching safaris is simply rewarding in the country. While also keen and passionate birders can explore the lower elevations of Kilimanjaro Mountain whose bird diversity is impressive.