15-Day Tanzania Birding Tour
The wildlife-rich Tanzania boasts one of the largest bird species lists of any African country with almost 1100. 800 Species are resident and nearly 200 are regular migrants, 21 species are endemic to Tanzania and a further 43 species are near-endemic.
Any birder’s dream destination, let’s go birding in Tanzania!
This expert-guided birding tour can be booked as a small group private tour for dates that suits your travel plans.
Next Group Tour Departure Date: To be confirmed
Full Itinerary – Tanzania Birding Tour
Arrival at Kilimanjaro International Airport, transfer to Arusha
Welcome to Tanzania! Your fantastic birding safari will start as soon as you touch down at the Kilimanjaro International Airport in northern Tanzania. The airport is not called the “Gateway to Africa’s Wildlife Heritage” for nothing; you are close to some of the planet’s best known wildlife reserves.
You will be met by your Nature Travel guide, we will pack our bags in our comfortable, airconditioned vehicle and we will transfer to our comfortable hotel in the cool, lush and green city of Arusha, less than an hour away to the west.
Arusha is the safari capital of Tanzania, located on the southern slopes of Mount Meru (4,562 m/14,968 ft above sea level), close to Mount Kilimanjaro. The city is close to the Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Lake Manyara National Park, Olduvai Gorge, Tarangire National Park and Arusha National Park.
Built by the Germans as a centre of colonial administration because of the temperate climate (sits at 1,400 metres/4,600 ft above sea level) Arusha is a good spot to take a day off from your safari if you have extra time. It is a major international diplomatic hub and a multicultural city with a majority Tanzanian population of mixed backgrounds. Arusha is also known for its vibrant night life, with popular local night clubs. It was also the setting for the 1962 film Hatari!, starring the legendary John Wayne.
If we have a few hours to spend, depending on our arrival time, we may do a short trip to some close locations to kickstart our birding. The area around Arusha is a great place to see raptors, including Steppe and Tawny Eagle, Bearded Vulture and a variety other falcons and eagles, so remember to look up! We may even pick up some birds around our hotel grounds, including Amethyst, Scarlet-chested and Variable Sunbird, Baglafecht, Village, Golden-backed and Chestnut Weaver, and Southern Citril.
We will have dinner at the hotel tonight and get to know each other a bit better. We will also learn a bit about where we are; fantastic Tanzania!
It is the world-class safari destination (together with neighbouring Kenya), boasting some of the best wildlife reserves on the planet, as well as incredible cultural richness and some very cool geographical features, not least the magnificent and iconic Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain on Earth.
Certainly one of the major attractions when visiting Tanzania is the large herds of migratory Common Wildebeest (and their companions such as Plains Zebra) in the annual Great Migration. These herds constantly move in search of new grass, so their location varies with the time of the year. It is probably the greatest wildlife spectacle on Earth.
The country has three main geographical regions, namely the coastal region (high rainfall area with lush forests), the central plateau (where the vast plains and major national parks are and where the focus of this safari lies) and the mountainous region that contains Mount Kilimanjaro and the eastern Arc mountain range. The country is the site of Africa’s highest and lowest points: Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) above sea level, and the floor of Lake Tanganyika, at 1,471 metres (4,826 ft) below sea level, respectively. Tanzania also boasts three of Africa’s Seven Natural Wonders (Mount Kilimanjaro, the spectacular Ngorongoro crater, and the famous annual Serengeti mammal migration) as well as seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites!
After learning a bit about Tanzania we will also discuss our plans and the target fauna and flora species for the exciting safari ahead, so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy themselves fully and create memories that will last a lifetime. We will then retreat to our rooms for our first night on tour in Africa!
Arusha to Amani Nature Reserve (East Usambaras)
We will enjoy an early breakfast at our hotel and then pack our bags in the vehicle. We have a long day of driving ahead of us, but our destination will make it worthwhile!
We will chat about the trip and specific targets that you might have, ensuring everyone has a good time and a great trip list. We are going to see some spectacular scenery, wonderful birds, top African big game, and enjoy excellent accommodation and great local cuisine, along with friendly people and interesting culture. A great trip with many lifers awaits!
We are heading southeast to the mighty Usambara mountains – one of the most iconic birding sites in Africa. The Usambaras are approximately 90 kilometres (56 mi) long and ranging from 30 to 50 kilometres (19–31 mi) wide. They form part of the Eastern Arc Mountains, which stretch from the Taita Hills in Kenya through to the Udzungwa Mountains of southern Tanzania.
Due to the range’s long-time climatically stable history, a high degree of endemism developed here. The range is one of the world’s major biodiversity hotspots, with 16 plant genera, 75 vertebrate and 265 invertebrate species being endemic to these mountains! This area has been called “Africa’s Galápagos”, due to this incredible diversity, referencing the famous Ecuadorian archipelago.
The range is accessible from the towns of Lushoto in the west, and Amani in the east. The Usambaras are commonly split into two sub-ranges, the West and the East Usambara Mountains. The East Usambara are closer to the coast, receive more rainfall (up to 2,000 mm per year), and are significantly smaller than the West Usambara. The father of Tanzanian ornithology, Reginald Moreau, made the Usambaras his home in the 1930s and 1940s, and he discovered several new species here and did invaluable research that is still used to this day.
We will either enjoy a packed lunch or stop in one of the towns along the way to grab a bite to eat. We will arrive at our chosen accommodation in the late afternoon, check in and get used to our surroundings. Our home for the next three nights is a comfortable, quiet and peaceful lodge close to the reserve, where they are very proud of their food and quality of service, so we are bound to have a great time! Just walking around the camp, and the surrounding fields you can see many species of bird including some notable endemics. The spectacular view over the forests is great for raptor viewing, so keep an eye out for Long-crested, Tawny and Crowned eagle from the camp. Forest Buzzard and African Harrier-hawk are also frequently seen over camp.
The East Usambara Mountains, where we will bird first, are forested all the way from sea level to the highlands. Much of the sub-montane forest at an elevation of 800 to 1,400m above sea level is preserved in the 8,380 ha Amani Nature Reserve, a hidden birding gem and our destination for the next two days. The forest in the area of Amani has unfortunately been reduced by massive tea estates and is now basically restricted to the tops of the mountains. Fortunately, the remaining area was declared a nature reserve in 1997 (also incorporating the Amani Botanical Garden) and this is the area that we will focus our efforts on.
The forests of the Amani Nature Reserve consist of tall, luxurious sub-montane forests and deciduous to semi-deciduous lowland forests. The reserve has exceptional conservation values that include a rain forest, incredible biological diversity and endemic, endangered and threatened flora and fauna. Apart from the fantastic birds, the area of the reserve boasts numerous endemic invertebrates dependent on the native moist forest cover, including mites, spiders, freshwater crabs, dragonflies, beetles, butterflies, millipedes and molluscs.
We will get together for dinner and some socialising and then we are off to bed for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow the birding gets serious!
*Please note: tonight might be a good opportunity to go on an optional night walk with one of the lodge’s experts to look for chameleons and other smaller creatures of the night. Chameleons are very hard to find during the day but at night they glow white in torchlight. We might see several species including the pygmy Rhampholians. In addition to the pygmy chameleons a notable endemic of the Usambaras is the spectacular Usambara three horned chameleon (Chameleo deremnsis). The Usambara two horned chameleon is less frequently seen, but you never know!
Amani Nature Reserve (East Usambaras)
We will have a full day to bird this fantastic area of the famous East Usambaras. We will start with an early breakfast accompanied by some excellent Tanzania coffee or tea, and then set off. Depending on what we see we will either have lunch back at the lodge, or we could enjoy a picnic lunch somewhere in the reserve to maximise our chances of seeing our avian targets.
There are several trails in the reserve (with cool names like Turaco, Konkoro or Mbamole) that we will follow on foot, with sometimes a short drive in between to get to specific spots.
Some of the very special birds that we will be looking for are the critically endangered Long-billed Forest Warbler, the endangered and endemic Usambara Hyliota, the endangered and endemic Usambara Weaver, the endangered Amani Sunbird, and the vulnerable Dapple-throat.
We will also look for others like Green-headed Oriole, Swynnerton’s Robin, Kretschmer’s Longbill, Red-capped Forest Warbler, Forest Batis, Lemon Dove, Mottled Spinetail, Sharpe’s Akalat, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Pallid Honeyguide, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Banded Green and Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Broadbill, Mombasa Woodpecker, Black-bellied and Kenrick’s Starling, Red-throated Twinspot, Bat Hawk, Fischer’s Turaco, Narina Trogon, Red-tailed Ant Thrush and many more.
There are very few large mammals in the reserve, and even with some luck we will only see Common Duiker, Bushpig and two species of monkey (Angola Colobus and Blue Monkey). Smaller mammals we could encounter include Black And Red Bush Squirrel, various galagos, Eastern Tree Hyrax and Black And Rufous Sengi.
A long list of reptiles have also been recorded in Amani, including 25 snakes species, 7 chameleon species and much more. Furthermore, 34 amphibians have been ticked here, including the endemic and endangered Usambara Blue-bellied Frog.
We will get together back at the lodge to freshen up and then have some dinner. Tonight we will also do some owling before or after or meal, where we will look for the vulnerable Sokoke Scops Owl, the endemic Usambara Eagle-owl, and others.
Amani Nature Reserve (East Usambaras)
We once again have a full day of birding in the reserve. Our day will start with an early, quick breakfast (with superb views of the stunning landscape around us) before we set off. We will return for lunch and a short siesta and then we go birding in the afternoon again.
We will keep searching for more of the special species of birds that call this area home. Today we will hope to add Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Green and White-eared Barbet, African Green Pigeon, Tambourine Dove, African Emerald Cuckoo, Green-backed Honeybird, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike, Fülleborn’s Boubou, Lowland Tiny and Shelley’s Greenbul, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Pale Batis, Red-capped Robin-chat, Spectacled Weaver, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Green Twinspot, Olive, Collared and Plain-backed Sunbird, African Palm Swift, Black Saw-wing and many more.
We will also target some of the raptors of the area, and hope to see Black Sparrowhawk, Ayres’s Hawk-eagle, Palm-nut Vulture, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, African Cuckoo-hawk, African Goshawk and Crowned Eagle.
We will once again relax and complete our growing lists tonight, then sit down for dinner. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest; tomorrow a different part of our adventure starts.
Amani Nature Reserve to Lushoto (West Usambaras)
We will have an early breakfast and leave the Amani reserve. We are heading “next door” to the nearby West Usambaras to continue our birding in this great part of the country.
The West Usambaras are higher than their eastern counterpart, and also feature more intact forest, though both ranges have sadly been heavily deforested. The difference in altitude will mean that we will search for some different species in this part of the Eastern Arc.
En route to our comfortable accommodation we will stop at one or two specific spots to target certain species, and with some luck we could pick up Green Tinkerbird or something similarly exciting.
We will drive through the leafy highland town of Lushoto, at an elevation of about 1,400 metres (4,550 ft) above sea level, surrounded by pine plantations, banana fields and beautiful patches of tropical foliage. It is the main town of the West Usambaras and the base for most travellers, and has a strange Afro-Germanic feel to it due to the influences during the German colonial times of the early 1900s.
We will reach our home for the next two nights in time for a good (late) lunch, we will then have some relaxation time and then we are off searching for more top birds. The lodge is situated on sprawling grounds on a gently sloping hill in the Magamba Forest, offering a picturesque scene from every viewpoint. It was built as a farmhouse in the 1930s and is steeped in history. It has been recently renovated and fitted with modern amenities to make our stay comfortable.
This part of the Usambaras is filled with wonderful trails covering the hillsides, and some tourists come here purely for the hiking. We will traverse many of these trails in search of our avian targets.
One of our main targets here is Spot-throat. Although it is fairly common to hear it, it is very difficult to see. It is a near-endemic, occurring here and in northern Malawi only. Other top birds we will search for include Usambara Weaver, Usambara Double-collared Sunbird, Usambara Thrush, and Usambara Akalat.
The mountains also offer good general birding, and we will look for birds like Bar-tailed Trogon, Kurrichane Thrush, Collared Palm Thrush, East Coast Boubou, Black-winged Red Bishop, African Hill Babbler, Eastern Nicator, Mottled Swift, White-chested Alethe, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Oriole Finch, Evergreen Forest Warbler, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Tiny Greenbul, Sharpe’s Starling and many others.
We will return to our lodge for a superb home-cooked dinner, to do our lists and then to fall asleep after another great day’s birding.
Lushoto (West Usambaras)
We have a full day in this lushly forested area to search for more specials. We will have an early breakfast and return to the lodge for lunch and a short break. Then we will go out in the afternoon again.
We will focus our attention on the Magamba Nature Reserve, and we will definitely bird along the famous Magamba Sawmill Road. It is the best place to see Usambara Weaver, Usambara Akalat and Red-capped Forest Warbler.
Other birds we will target today include Sombre and Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Coastal Cisticola, Red-rumped Swallow, Amethyst Sunbird, Red-backed Mannikin, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-chested Cuckoo, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, and many others.
There are also many mammals that inhabit the forest, but we will like only encounter Blue Monkey and Guereza.
We will return to the lodge for a scrumptious dinner and a good night’s sleep. Before putting your head down listen out for the call of the African Wood Owl – what a lovely way to fall asleep… Tomorrow we go to the lowlands!
Lushoto to Same, birding along the way
Once again our day will start with an early breakfast before we pack up and depart for the next part of our birding adventure.
We will leave the Usambaras and head north (and down into the drier lowlands) to the Same area. We may find more interesting species on the way and we’ll make several stops to enjoy some birding. We could find species like Bare-eyed Thrush, Eastern Violet-backed, Hunter’s and Tsavo Sunbird, Yellow-spotted Bush Sparrow, Northern Brownbul, Black-necked and Vitelline Masked Weaver, Green-winged Pytilia, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Purple Grenadier, White-bellied Canary, Somali Bunting, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Black-throated Barbet, Pygmy Batis, Pringle’s Puffback, Pink-breasted Lark, Dodson’s Bulbul, Mosque Swallow, Tiny Cisticola, Grey Wren-Warbler, Scaly Chatterer, and Golden-breasted and Fischer’s Starling.
The drive will take about 3 to 4 hours, but that is excluding birding stops! The plan is to enjoy a packed picnic lunch somewhere along the route today.
Before reaching our destination, we will make a detour to try and find the endemic and vulnerable South Pare White-eye. On the way to this target species we might find some other good birds to boost our lists, including Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, White-bellied Tit, African Yellow Warbler, Bar-throated Apalis, Abyssinian White-eye, White-starred Robin, African Firefinch, Reichenow’s Seedeater and Southern Grosbeak-canary.
On arrival at the town of Same we will continue to our smart accommodation and our home for the next two nights. It offers spectacular views of the South Pare Mountains and because of its location it is the ideal gateway to Mkomazi National Park, the South Pare Mountains and Shengena Forest. The restaurant is also a great place to enjoy a mix of Indian, Tanzanian and Western meals. We will unpack and enjoy the views with a drink (and our binoculars!) in hand.
Our lodge is very close to the town of Same. It is a town with some 30,000 inhabitants near the border with Kenya, sitting at an elevation of 897 m (2,943 ft) above sea level. The main road from Dar es Salaam to Arusha passes through the town. Same’s market is especially famous, and there are many diverse articles sold here, including a variety of fruits and vegetables from the Pare Mountains, as well as colourful Kangas and Kitenge (traditional women’s clothing). You can have one tailormade for you within a day or so!
We will have an excellent dinner at the lodge’s restaurant and update our lists. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest.
Same (birding in Mkomazi National Park)
We will start our day with an early breakfast and then we are off to the nearby Mkomazi National Park, where we will bird the whole day.
We will enjoy a packed lunch in a nice spot in order to maximise our time spent in the park. This amazing 3,245 km2 (1,253 sq mi) park was established in 1951 as a game reserve and later converted to a national park (2006) to protect two endangered species, Black Rhinoceros and African Wild Dog from human interference, specifically cattle herding. Mkomazi is basically an extension of Tsavo National Park across the border in southern Kenya and has similar habitat, namely semi-arid savanna woodland on red soils. It is part of the Somali-Maasai biome, with grasses and trees of the Acacia and Commiphora families dominating. Because of these climatic conditions, it houses fauna and flora species rare or absent anywhere else in Tanzania.
It is a rugged and beautiful park, with mountains visible in all directions, including iconic Mount Kilimanjaro to the northwest at dusk and dawn. It is a very quiet park and almost only birders visit here – a rare treat on the otherwise busy East African safari circuit.
Over 450 species of birds have been recorded in this IBA-listed reserve, and we will be looking for the big specials like Friedmann’s Lark, Three-streaked Tchagra, Shelley’s Starling, Somali Crombec and Yellow-vented Eremomela.
Other dry-country specials we will try to tick include Vulturine Guineafowl, Ashy and Tiny Cisticola, White-headed Mousebird, Pringle’s Puffback, Rosy-patched Bushshrike and Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit.
Other great birds we could tick for our lists include Pygmy Batis, Black-faced Waxbill, Red-bellied Parrot, Purple Roller, Eastern Violet-backed, Black-bellied and Tsavo Sunbird, Red-and-yellow and Black-throated Barbet, Pink-breasted Lark, Northern Brownbul, Dodson’s Bulbul, Red-fronted Warbler, Grey Wren-warbler, Scaly Chatterer, Bare-eyed Thrush, Mosque Swallow, Yellow-spotted Bush Sparrow, Taveta Weaver, Southern Grosbeak-canary, White-bellied Canary, Somali Bunting, Von der Decken’s Hornbill and Northern Grey Tit amongst others.
In terms of mammals, we unfortunately won’t get to see the rhinos and wild dogs, as they are kept in a separately fenced camp for protection. However, the reserve does have Lion, African Elephant, African Buffalo, Giraffe, Common Eland, Plains Zebra, Hartebeest and several species that are difficult to see elsewhere in Tanzania. These include Lesser Kudu, the odd-looking Gerenuk and Beisa Oryx.
After an awesome day in Mkomazi we will return to our lodge in Same and have a good dinner and some socialising time. We have been together for about a week now, so it might be a good time to start chatting about trips we might have planned for the coming months and years; there are so many amazing places and birds to see! We will then head to bed for a good night’s rest.
Same to Arusha
This morning we will start with an early breakfast and then go out to target specific birds of the Same area we may have missed yesterday or the day before. We will then set off towards Arusha, birding on the way and stopping for lunch en route.
On the way we will also visit the Nyumba ya Mungu Reservoir. It is a man-made reservoir situated in the Pangani River Valley of the Maasai Steppe, about 50 km south of Moshi. Here we hope to find a host of waterbirds and also some terrestrial species, including Fire-fronted Bishop, Hunter’s Sunbird, Black-faced Sandgrouse, Straw-tailed Whydah and Northern Crombec.
We will arrive in Arusha in the mid-afternoon, and if there is time we might do some birding at the nearby Arusha National Park.
The park is Tanzania’s smallest national park (552 km2/ 212 sq mi), but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in sheer natural beauty! It covers Mount Meru, a 4,562 m (14,968 ft) high volcano, and also boasts the Jekukumia river, forested mountain slopes, swamp-filled craters (including the “mini-Ngorongoro” crater of Ngurdoto) and associated open savannah grasslands.
Some 300 birds have been recorded in the park, and special species include Verreaux’s Eagle, Bearded Vulture, Black and Saddle-billed Stork, Grey Crowned Crane, Narina and Bar-tailed Trogon, Black Cuckooshrike, Taveta Weaver, Red-fronted Parrot, Spot-flanked and Brown-breasted Barbet, Tacazze Sunbird and Abyssinian Crimsonwing. There is also a healthy population of Giraffe, along with African Elephant, African Buffalo, Hippopotamus, Plains Zebra, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Kirk’s Dik-dik, Common Warthog, Blue Monkey and Guereza.
We will go to our hotel in the early evening, freshen up and have dinner while we update our lists. We will then enjoy a good night’s rest in our comfortable hotel; tomorrow we go to big game country!
Arusha to Ngorongoro Crater
Today we have a full day of birding and driving, so we have to start with an early breakfast. Then we’ll load the vehicle with our bags and set off. Our first stop will be the Oldonyo Sambu area, to the north of Arusha. We are going to bird the famous area of Angyata Osugat or ‘Lark Plains’, famous with birders from all over the world. It is possible to record up to eight species of lark at this site! Species we will target include Athi Short-toed, Foxy, Red-capped, Pink-breasted, Short-tailed and our main target here, the rare, critically endangered and endemic Beesley’s Lark.
Situated in the rainshadow of Mount Meru, this area is also home to a host of dry-country specials which include White-headed Mousebird, Ashy and Tiny Cisticola, Red-fronted Warbler, Northern Crombec, Chestnut-bellied and Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Taita Fiscal and Steel-blue Whydah. The area is also an excellent place to see raptors including Steppe and Tawny Eagle, Bearded Vulture and a variety other falcons and smaller raptors.
We will bird here in the general area the entire morning and we also hope to pick up Abyssinian Wheatear, Red-fronted and Black-throated Barbet, Red-throated Tit, Slate-coloured Boubou, Fischer’s Starling, Bare-eyed Thrush, White-bellied Canary, Southern Grosbeak-canary, Spotted Eagle-owl, Nubian Woodpecker, Grey-headed Social-Weaver, Banded Parisoma and many others.
We will enjoy lunch en route or in the form of a packed lunch as we continue to our next destination, the world famous Ngorongoro! There will be some nice birding on the way (roughly 3 hours of driving) and we will stop for any new species we encounter.
We will reach our chosen lodge for tonight in the mid-afternoon. The lodge is situated very close to the rim of the famous crater, from where the views into the crater floor are simply mind-blowingly beautiful. The lodge offers a perfect base from which to explore the Ngorongoro crater and its surroundings.
We will walk in the lodge grounds and surroundings this afternoon, where the birding is always good. We will hope to pick up species like Hunter’s Cisticola, Golden-winged and Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Bar-throated Apalis, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Brown Woodland Warbler, Southern Citril, Thick-billed Seedeater, Brown Parisoma, African Olive Pigeon, Brown-backed Woodpecker, Waller’s Starling, White-naped Raven, White-headed Barbet and Schalow’s Turaco, to name just a few.
We will freshen up and then have some dinner in the lodge restaurant. Afterwards it’s off to bed, for tomorrow we descend into the crater itself!
We will start our day with a very early breakfast, because we need to descend into the crater before the Big Five-chasing masses do the same!
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers some 8,300 km2 (3,200 sq mi) adjacent to the famous Serengeti Plains. It’s main feature is the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera. The caldera is surrounded by steep walls rising 600 metres above the crater floor. The crater was voted as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa in 2013. It is simply a must-visit place on any tour to Tanzania, so you better get your cameras ready. It really is gobsmackingly beautiful, and today is an experience you will treasure forever!
Descending slowly down to the crater floor will take us through some great scenery, and in the mornings the light is beautiful for photographs. Herds of wild animals are plenty inside the crater and the grasslands are the permanent home to over 25,000 large mammals – a truly magnificent sight, and a huge number for such a small area. We will look out for Lion, Leopard, African Buffalo, African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros (there are only about 20 or 30 in here, but we see them regularly), Cheetah, Spotted Hyaena, Plains Zebra, Common Wildebeest, Hartebeest, Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelle, Common Eland, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Bohor Reedbuck, jackals, baboons and monkeys.
While a major attraction is of course the mammals, birding within the caldera and on the top of the crater rim is very good. Over 500 species are known from this area and we will look for Fischer’s Lovebird, Schalow’s Turaco, Hunter’s Cisticola, Rüppell’s Robin-chat, Tacazze and Golden-winged Sunbird, Hildebrandt’s and Shelley’s Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Pectoral-patch and Lynes’s Cisticola, Pied Avocet, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Bateleur, Martial and Long-crested Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Black-bellied and Kori Bustard, Common Ostrich, Secretarybird, Mountain Yellow and Brown Woodland Warbler, Black-crowned Tchagra, Moorland Chat, Brown-backed Woodpecker, Cinnamon-breasted Bee-eater, Mountain Greenbul, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Lesser and Greater Flamingo, Chestnut-banded Plover and Rufous-tailed Weaver amongst others.
We will spend the whole day birding and enjoying game drives in the crater, taking a packed picnic lunch with us. Later in the afternoon, we will ascend back up to the crater’s rim enjoying some more highland forest birds as we move higher.
We will arrive at our new accommodation, where we will be staying for the next two nights, late in the afternoon or early evening. The lodge is situated roughly halfway between Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara, where we will bird tomorrow.
We will check in, get together to update our lists and then have some well-earned dinner in the good restaurant while we chat about our amazing sightings of the day. Then we will retire to our rooms for a good night’s rest.
Full day birding at Lake Manyara National Park
We will start with an early breakfast in the restaurant and then we head off for a full day of birding in nearby Lake Manyara National Park.
Lake Manyara National Park offers varied habitat, but two-thirds of the 330 km2 (130 sq mi) park is covered by the pristine and shallow soda of Lake Manyara when water levels are high. The remainder is mostly in a narrow strip of land between the Manyara Escarpment to the west and the lake. The park actually used to be an area used for sports hunting, but it was given national park status in 1960, and is now an important stop-over for birders visiting Tanzania. In fact, some expert say that if a birder only had to choose one park to visit in Tanzania, then this is it!
The park is notably excellent for birding with over 400 species recorded. It’s frequently possible to see over 100 species in a single day! The lake attracts large numbers of Lesser Flamingos, one of its major attractions; in the early 1990s someone estimated the numbers to be in excess of 2 million! We will also look for Greater Flamingo, Great White Pelican, Greater Paint-snipe, Yellow-billed Stork, Goliath Heron, Glossy Ibis, Whiskered and White-winged Tern, Chestnut-banded Plover, Common Moorhen, African Jacana, Palm-nut Vulture, Ayre’s Hawk-eagle, Martial, Tawny and Crowned Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Gabar Goshawk, Grey Kestrel, Purple-crested Turaco, Crested Guineafowl, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Blue-capped Cordonbleu, Silvery-cheeked and Crowned Hornbill, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Slate-coloured Boubou, Lesser Honeyguide, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Superb and Hildebrandt’s Starling, and Fan-tailed Widowbird along with many more.
The park is famed for its tree-climbing Lions, and since we won’t be going to the Serengeti on this trip, we will have to look for them here! A variety of other mammals are also present, including large numbers of African Elephant as well as African Buffalo, Hippopotamus, Giraffe, Plains Zebra, Common Wildebeest, Thomson’s Gazelle, Impala, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Kirk’s Dik-dik, Common Warthog, Leopard, Spotted Hyaena, Black-backed Jackal, Honey Badger, African Clawless Otter and Egyptian Mongoose. Furthermore, the park has the highest concentration of baboons (Olive Baboon) anywhere in the world!
We will return to our lodge outside the park for dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Ngorongoro Crater to Tarangire National Park
This morning we will have an early breakfast and then check out. We will head to Tarangire National Park, a less explored birding gem to the south. Birding on the way will be active and we shall stop for some special species as we proceed to Tarangire.
Tarangire covers an area of 2,850 km2 (1,100 sq mi) and is famous for its high density of African Elephant, massive and plentiful termite mounds and iconic, mythical Baobab trees. The landscape of Tarangire is primarily open savanna dotted with Acacia woodland and large Baobab trees, with the areas next to the river containing dense patches of riparian woodland and even some palm trees.
The park is a dry season refuge when large numbers of migratory wildlife such as African Elephants (sometimes in huge herds numbering hundreds of individuals), Giraffe, Plains Zebras, Common Wildebeest, Common Eland, African Buffalo, Impala and other antelope concentrate around permanent water sources. In fact, after the Serengeti, Tarangire has the greatest concentration of wildlife in Tanzania!
We will enjoy a full morning of game drives inside the park and then exit to go to our lodge for lunch and some relaxation time. The lodge is only 10 minutes from the park’s entrance and is perfectly situated in the corridor between Tarangire and Manyara. It is perched in a perfect spot for us to watch animals drink at the beautiful Burunge Lake, and you are guaranteed some incredible sunset pictures from here!
We will go out for an afternoon game drive in the park again, and we hope to see some special species here. Top targets will include the endemic Yellow-collared Lovebird, near endemic Red-throated Tit, beautiful Northern Pied Babbler, endemic Ashy Starling, endemic Rufous-tailed Weaver and well-named African Silverbill.
Raptors are well represented in Tarangire, and we will hope to tick White-headed, White-backed, Hooded and Lappet-faced Vulture, Bateleur, Brown Snake Eagle, Tawny, Lesser Spotted and Martial Eagle, African Hawk-eagle, African Harrier-hawk, Little Sparrowhawk, Red-footed and Pygmy Falcon, Verreaux’s Eagle-owl, Pearl-spotted Owlet and African Scops Owl.
We will get together for drinks on the lodge’s deck and enjoy the views before having dinner. Then we are off to bed and a good night’s rest.
Tarangire National Park
We will start our day with an early breakfast at the lodge and then back into Tarangire for a full day of birding. We will once again return to the lodge for lunch and some down time before we head back out again.
Tarangire is one of our favourite parks in east Africa, partly because it is quieter than the other reserves, but also because of its incredible natural beauty. It really is an awe-inspiring place, comprising of granite ridges, river valleys, mixed vegetative landscapes, and swamps. It provides breathtaking views of the Maasai Steppe and the mountains to the south.
Tarangire is also the one place in Tanzania where dry-country antelope such as Beisa Oryx and Gerenuk are seen regularly. We will also look for Waterbuck, Giraffe, Impala, monkeys, Olive Baboon, Cheetah, Caracal, Honey Badger and African Wild Dog.
Apart from the specials, another 550 species of birds have been recorded in the park, and we will search for African Broadbill, White-bellied Bustard, Red-necked and Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Woodland Kingfisher, Double-banded and Three-banded Courser, Red-billed and White-headed Buffalo Weaver, Coqui and Crested Francolin, Black, Red-chested and Diederik and Great Spotted Cuckoo, Great Painted-snipe, Mottled Spinetail, Southern Ground Hornbill, Red-bellied and Meyer’s Parrot, Lilac-breasted Roller, Bearded Woodpecker, Southern Red Bishop, Knob-billed Duck, Banded Parisoma, Miombo Wren-warbler, Red-winged Prinia, Green Wood Hoopoe, Brubru, Magpie Shrike, Red-and-yellow Barbet and many more.
We will return to our lodge late in the afternoon to freshen up. Then we will sit around the fire again under African skies and enjoy our farewell dinner together, chatting about the fantastic Tanzania trip we’ve had. Then we are off to our rooms for a final night’s sleep on this amazing continent.
Tarangire National Park to Kilimanjaro International Airport and Departure
And so an amazing Tanzanian birding tour unfortunately comes an end. What a great time we had!
After breakfast at the lodge, we will pack our bags and head to Arusha (about 3 hours away) and stop for lunch or some last minute shopping. We will then make our way to Kilimanjaro International Airport for our flights home, and the end to our lovely tour.
*Please note: extensions to Pemba Island, Zanzibar, the Serengeti or even Kenya can easily be arranged. Don’t hesitate to ask for our expert assistance.
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