AT A GLANCE
Tanzania is a wildlife-rich country in eastern Africa within the Great Lakes region, famed for its huge unspoiled wilderness areas and the feeling of an Africa of old it imprints on the memories of those who visit it.
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 352 metres (1,155 ft) below sea level, respectively.
Tanzania is highly biodiverse and contains a wide variety of animal habitats, including the famous central savanna plateau, forested highlands and a long coastline. Tanzania is home to about 310 mammal, 130 amphibian and over 275 reptile species, many of them strictly endemic. It is also a very important country ornithologically. It has one of the largest species lists of any African country, almost 1100 of which over 800 species are resident and nearly 200 are regular migrants. 21 species are endemic to Tanzania and a further 43 species are near-endemic.
Tanzania’s 80 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) cover a total of more than 167,000 square km or about 18% of the land area, and the country also boasts 16 national parks and wildlife reserves. In fact, 38% of Tanzania’s land is protected in parks and reserves. On Tanzania’s Serengeti plain, White-bearded Wildebeest and other bovids participate in a large-scale annual migration, one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the planet.
On this Nature Travel Birding safari we will visit the East and West Usambara Mountains, part of the Eastern Arc of mountains and often referred to as the “Galapagos of Africa” due to the high biodiversity here. We will also visit Mkomazi National Park, the stunning archaeological wonder of the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park.
DAY 1: Arrive in Arusha
This Tanzania Birding Tour will start in Tanzania’s tourism capital, Arusha. We shall arrive via the Kilimanjaro International Airport about 60 kilometres from the city, where our driver will receive us and kickstart our journey. We shall then head to our hotel in Arusha.
Arusha is located at the base of volcanic Mount Meru (4,562.13 metres/14,968 ft) and is a gateway to some fantastic safari destinations and to Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, lying some 100 kilometers northeast. Arusha 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. Furthermore, Arusha was the setting for the 1962 film Hatari!, directed by Howard Hawks and starring 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 kick start our birding. We may even pick up some birds around our hotel.
DAY 2-4: East Usambaras (Amani Nature Reserve)
We shall leave Arusha and head southwards 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 30–50 kilometres (19–31 mi) in width. They form part of the Eastern Arc Mountains, which stretch from Kenya through Tanzania. The range is one of the world’s major biodiversity hotspots.
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 Usambara Mountains and the East Usambara Mountains. The East Usambara are closer to the coast, receive more rainfall, and are significantly smaller than the West Usambara.
The East Usambara Mountains are forested from sea level to the highlands. Much of the sub-montane forest at an elevation of 800-1400 m is preserved in the Amani Nature Reserve, a hidden birding gem and our destination for the next two days. The forests of the 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.
Some of the special birds that we will be looking for are the endangered Sokoke Scops-Owl, the endemic Usambara Eagle-Owl, the critically endangered Long-billed Tailorbird, the endangered Usambara Hyliota, and the endangered Amani Sunbird. We will also look for others like Dappled Mountain-Robin, Swynnerton’s Robin, Usambara Weaver, Kretschmer’s Longbill, Forest Batis, Lemon Dove, Mottled Spinetail, Sharpe’s Akalat, Dappled Mountain Robin, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Pallid Honeyguide, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Banded Green Sunbird, Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Broadbill, Mombasa Woodpecker, Black-bellied Starling, Kenrick’s Starling, Red-throated Twinspot, Bat Hawk, Narina Trogon, Red-tailed Ant Thrush and many more.
We shall spend the next two days exploring this area for birds and other interesting fauna and flora.
We will spend our nights at the comfortable lodge in the reserve.
DAY 5 & 6: West Usambaras (Lushoto)
We will leave Amani early and move to the nearby West Usambaras to continue our birding in this great place.
The West Usambaras are higher than their eastern counterpart, and also feature more intact forest, though both ranges have been heavily deforested. One of our main targets here is Spot-throat Modulatrix. Although it is fairly common to hear it, it is very difficult to see. The mountains also offer good general birding, with extra chances to see birds like Usambara Weaver, Bar-tailed Trogon, Kurrichane Thrush, Collared Palm Thrush, East Coast Boubou, Black-winged Red Bishop and Coastal Cisticola, Usambara/Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, African Hill Babbler, White-chested Alethe, Usambara/Olive Thrush, Usambara Akalat, Spot-Throat, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Oriole Finch, Evergreen Forest Warbler, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Tiny Greenbul, Sharpe’s Starling and many others.
We will spend two nights at Muller’s Mountain Lodge. The lodge is situated on a gentle sloping hill, offering a picturesque scene from every view point. 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.
DAY 7 & 8: Same & Mkomazi National Park
Today we leave the Usambaras and head north to the Same area. We may find more interesting species on the way and we shall make several stop-overs to enjoy birding.
On arrival at Same we will do some birding; then relax at our hotel for the night. Same is a town with some 30000 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.
The following day, we shall enjoy birding in the mighty Mkomazi National Park the whole day, with breaks in between. This amazing 3,245 square kilometre (1,253 sq mi) park was established in 1951 as a game reserve and later converted to a national park to protect two endangered species, Black Rhinoceros and African Wild Dog. Mkomazi is basically an extension of Tsavo National Park in southern Kenya and has similar habitat, namely Acacia scrub and semi-arid savanna.
Over 450 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve, and over the next two days we will be looking for Friedmann’s Lark, Pygmy Batis, Three-streaked Tchagra, Shelley’s Starling, Pringle’s Puffback, Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Black-faced Waxbill, Red-bellied Parrot, Purple Roller, Golden-breasted Starling, White-headed Mousebird, Eastern Violet-backed, Black-bellied and Tsavo Sunbird, Vulturine Guineafowl, Ashy and Tiny Cisticola, Red-and-yellow and Black-throated Barbet, Pink-breasted Lark, Northern Brownbul, Dodson’s Bulbul, Red-fronted Warbler, Grey Wren-Warbler, Somali Crombec, Scaly Chatterer, Bare-eyed Thrush, Mosque Swallow, Yellow-spotted Petronia, Taveta Weaver, Southern Grosbeak-Canary, White-bellied Canary, Somali Bunting, Von der Decken’s Hornbill, Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tit and Northern Grey Tit amongst others.
We will spend two nights at our comfortable motel, the Elephant Motel in Same. The motel offers spectacular views of the South Pare Mountains and because of its location it is the ideal gateway to Mkomazi Game Reserve, the South Pare Mountains and Shengena Forest.
DAY 9: Same to Arusha
On this day, we shall enjoy more birds in the Same area to add to what we may have missed the previous days.
We shall then visit the nearby Nyumba ya Mungu Reservoir. It is a man-made reservoir situated in the Pangani River Valley of the Masai Steppe, about 50 km south of Moshi. Here we hope to find a host of waterbirds and more terrestrial species like Fire-fronted Bishop, Hunter’s Sunbird, Black-faced Sandgrouse, Straw-tailed Whydah and Northern Crombec.
In the afternoon, we will drive to Arusha for maybe some birding around the city and a good night’s rest in our comfortable hotel.
DAY 10: Arusha to Ngorongoro
We will leave early for some dryland habitat north of Arusha where the rare Beesley’s Lark is found. The so-called “lark plains” are located about an hour from Arusha and is an internationally known magnet for birders because of the lark. The area is also an excellent place to see raptors including Steppe and Tawny Eagle, Bearded Vulture and a variety other falcons and eagles. We shall enjoy birding here the entire morning as we search for the famous lark among an array of other birds, such as the Abyssinian Wheatear, Chestnut-bellied and Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Red-fronted and Black-throated Barbets, Red-throated Tit, Slate-colored Boubou, Nubian Woodpecker, Grey-headed Social-Weaver, Banded Parisoma, Tiny Cisticola, Greater Kestrel, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Red-throated Tit, Short-tailed Lark, Foxy Lark, Athi Short-toed Lark and White-headed Mousebird.
In the afternoon, we will drive to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, about 3 hours to the west. There will be some nice birding on the way and we will stop for any new species we encounter.
We shall enjoy the views of the mighty Ngorongoro Crater from our lodge, and spend some time birding there too. Species we hope to see here include Hunter’s Cisticola, Golden-winged and Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, 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.
We will spend the night at our comfortable lodge, ideally located on the edge of the Ngorongoro crater rim, offering a perfect base from which to explore the Ngorongoro crater and its surroundings.
DAY 11: Ngorongoro Crater
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers some 8300 km2 (3,200 sq mi) adjacent to the 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!
We will start our day by slowly descending the majestic Ngorongoro Crater. Descending down to the crater floor takes you through great scenery and you get to experience the local Euphorbia tree varieties. Herds of wild animals are plenty inside the crater and the grasslands are the permanent home to over 25000 large mammals – a truly magnificent sight. We will look out for the local African Lions, Cheetah, Savannah Elephants, Black Rhinoceros, Golden Jackal, Common Zebra, Wildebeest and other gazelle.
While a major attraction is 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, Rueppell’s Robin-Chat, Tacazze and Golden-winged Sunbird, Hildebrandt’s Francolin, Shelley’s Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Lyne’s Cisticola, Pied Avocet, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Bustard, Kori Bustard, Secretarybird, Rosy-breasted Longclaw, Lesser Flamingo, Greater Flamingo, Chestnut-banded Plover and Rufous-tailed Weaver amongst others.
We shall spend most of the day birding and enjoying game drives in the crater. Later in the afternoon, we shall ascend to the crater’s rim enjoying some more highland forest birds as we move higher.
We will arrive at our lodge for the next two evenings in the late afternoon and have dinner and a good night’s rest.
DAY 12: Lake Manyara
On this day, we shall drive to Lake Manyara for a day trip.
Lake Manyara National Park offers varied habitat, but two-thirds of the 330 km2 (130 sq mi) park is covered by the pristine soda 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 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. We will also look for Greater Flamingo, Greater Paint-Snipe, Grey-olive Greenbul, Crowned Eagle, Purple-crested Turaco, Crested Guineafowl, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Blue-capped Cordon-bleu, Grey Kestrel, Martial Eagle, Yellow-billed Stork, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Common Moorhen, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Slate-coloured Boubou, Goliath Heron, Superb Starling, Hildebrandt’s Starling and Great White Pelican along with many more.
The park is famed for its tree-climbing Lions, but a variety of other mammals are also present, including large numbers of Elephant as well as Giraffe, Hippopotamus, Sykes’s Monkey and Kirk’s Dik-dik.
We will return to our lodge for dinner and a good night’s sleep.
DAY 13 & 14: Tarangire National Park
Today we 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 NP covers an area of approximately 2,850 square kilometers (1,100 square miles) and is famous for its high density of Elephant, termite mounds and baobab trees. Elephants congregate in herds of up to 600 animals, and the large numbers of other game animals attract numerous Lions.
Over 550 species of birds have been recorded in the park, and we will search for Yellow-collared Lovebird, Red-throated Tit, Northern Pied-Babbler, Ashy Starling, Rufous-tailed Weaver, Northern White-bellied Bustard, Red-necked and Yellow-necked Francolins, Woodland Kingfisher, Double-banded Courser, White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Coqui Francolin, Pygmy Falcon, Brown Snake Eagle, Black Cuckoo, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Great Painted Snipe, Mottled Spinetail, Southern Ground Hornbill, Meyer’s Parrot, Bearded Woodpecker, Southern Red Bishop, Knob-billed Duck, Banded Parisoma, Miombo Wren-warbler, Green Woodhoopoe, Brubru, Magpie Shrike, Red-and-yellow Barbet and many more.
We will arrive at our beautiful accommodation in the late afternoon and have dinner and a good night’s rest; unfortunately our last night together on this trip.
DAY 15: Arusha and Departure
We shall leave for Arusha after breakfast it is about a 3 hour drive.
We shall enjoy lunch at a local restaurant then take an airport transfer for the flights home, marking the end to our lovely tour.
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