14-Day Zambia Birding Tour
Our fantastic 14 day Zambia birding tour visits many of the key birding hotspots in the country as well as the majestic Victoria Falls. On top of the wonderful birding opportunities, you will be treated to Big Five sightings, stunning scenery and the welcoming attitude of the people of Zambia.
Full Itinerary – Zambia Birding Tour
Start of safari in Livingstone, including Zambezi River boat cruise
Welcome to Zambia! Your fantastic birding tour in one of the most remarkable countries on the continent will start as soon as you touch down at the Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport near the town of Livingstone in the south of the country. You will be met by your Nature Travel guide who will help load the bags into our comfortable, airconditioned vehicle before we set off for our lodge situated nearby.
*Please note that we advise arriving in Livingstone as early in the morning as you can, to ensure a full afternoon of activities on our first day.
Livingstone is a major tourism centre for the nearby Victoria Falls and was named after Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone, who was the first European to explore the area. It is a relaxed and friendly town, with a few nice museums and some great restaurants. A major event in 2011 was the installation of the town’s first set of traffic lights!
Our accommodation for the next two nights is right on the bank of the mighty Zambezi, with the river extending the full length of the property, offering some breathtaking views over the watercourse. Accommodation is provided in luxury “tented” chalets with en suite facilities, and the property has a beautiful pool perfect to cool off in with a drink in hand. You will feel right at home and might not want to leave!
After settling in and getting acquainted with our surroundings we will make our way to the river for a very exciting activity that will stay in your memory for a long time. We will board one of the many comfortable cruisers that glide up and down the Zambezi on a daily basis, with staff that know the river intimately. We will be provided with some snacks and drinks while slowly cruising the river for an hour or two, a truly unforgettable experience.
Remember to look not just at the superb sunset (awesome photos guaranteed!), but also the fauna and flora on the water and at the water’s edge. On previous cruises we have seen African Elephant, African Buffalo and huge Nile Crocodiles from the boat. We should also tick our first birds of the trip, and these could be some special ones. We are hoping to see Brown-necked Parrot, Rock Pratincole, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Western Osprey, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Bat Hawk, Rufous-bellied and Striated Heron, White-crowned Lapwing, Little Bittern, African Skimmer, Giant and Half-collared Kingfisher, African Darter, African Finfoot and White-backed Night Heron to name just a few.
After the cruise we will return to the lodge and freshen up. Then it’s time to enjoy a sundowner drink and our Zambia Birding Tour welcome dinner, getting to know each other and chatting about where we have all been on safari before and what everyone’s main target species for the trip are.
In the background we will have the sounds of the wildlife that live along the mighty Zambezi, including hopefully the characteristic who-who, who-who-who-are-you of the resident pair of African Wood Owl. Then we will settle in for a good night’s sleep. Welcome to Africa!
Machile (Black-cheeked Lovebird search), return to Livingstone
We will be up very early this morning with a quick cup of coffee to get us going.
We will be on the road in the dark, aiming west for a while and then turning north as the light breaks. We are heading for the isolated Machile area near the town of Mulobezi in Zambia’s Western Province. It is an area dominated by Mopane woodland, with some grassland, floodplains, thickets, mutemwa forest (thicket shrubs) and munga (thorny woodand), but very few permanent water sources.
This Important Bird Area is the main stronghold for the much localised Black-cheeked Lovebird, one of the most sought after specials in Africa and one of Zambia’s two endemic species. This monotypic lovebird is restricted to southwestern Zambia, where it prefers Mopane woodland, but only where it is adjacent to woodland dominated by Rhodesian Teak (also called Mukusi or Zambezi Redwood). The lovebirds use Mopane in the dry season and Rhodesian Teak during the rains. They are also usually within a reasonable distance of a reliable water source, at which the birds drink daily. We will hope to pick up a nice flock of these loud and colourful birds.
Besides this very special bird we will look for Acacia specials that are difficult to find elsewhere in Zambia, including Meves’s Starling, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Black-cheeked and Violet-eared Waxbill, Scaly-feathered Weaver, Three-banded Courser, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Burchell’s Starling, Bennett’s Woodpecker, Southern and Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Marico Flycatcher, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Crimson-breasted Shrike and Acacia Pied Barbet.
Other species we could tick today include Marabou Stork, White-backed Vulture, Black-chested and Brown Snake Eagle, Gabar and Dark Chanting Goshawk, Martial and Tawny Eagles, Crested and Swainson’s Francolin, Crowned Lapwing, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Mourning Collared and Namaqua Dove, Grey Go-away-bird, Jacobin Cuckoo, White-browed Coucal, Verreaux’s Eagle-owl, Red-faced Mousebird, Woodland and Striped Kingfisher, Swallow-tailed and Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Purple Roller, Common Scimitarbill, Southern Ground Hornbill, Southern Red-billed and African Grey Hornbill, Rattling Cisticola, Arrow-marked Babbler, Southern Black Tit, Magpie Shrike, Yellow-billed and Red-billed Oxpecker, Lesser Masked Weaver, Red-billed Quelea, Yellow-crowned Bishop, White-winged Widowbird, Green-winged Pytilia, Jameson’s Firefinch, Village Indigobird and Black-throated Canary.
We will take both a packed breakfast and lunch with us as we do not know how long we need to search for the lovebirds.
By late afternoon we hope to be back in Livingstone where, if time allows, we will make a coffee stop at the famous Lookout Café above the breathtakingly beautiful Batoka Gorge, a haven for cliff-nesting birds, in particular raptors. It is listed as an IBA by Birdlife International mostly due to the 30+ species of birds of prey that have been recorded here. We will search for Peregrine and Lanner Falcon, Augur Buzzard, Verreaux’s Eagle, Mocking Cliff Chat, Red-winged Starling, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Striped Pipit and if we are very lucky even the vulnerable Taita Falcon.
We will return to our lodge on the banks of the mighty Zambezi and arrive in the early evening. We will freshen up, get together to update our growing trip lists and enjoy dinner. Remember to keep an eye out for Pearl-spotted Owlet, African Wood Owl and Square-tailed Nightjar that are regularly heard and seen at the lodge at night.
We will retire to bed, hopefully having ticked a big Zambian special and many other birds today. Get some good shut-eye, because tomorrow morning is going to be very exciting!
Victoria Falls, and afternoon transfer to Choma
We will meet on the deck and enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast, scanning the river hoping to see the resident African Finfoot pair.
We will then pack our bags, check out and make our way to the famous Victoria Falls where we will spend the morning enjoying one of the natural wonders of the world and walking in the riverine woodland around the falls.
In 1851, Scottish missionary explorer David Livingstone first heard of the great waterfall, but it was only in 1855 that he set out to visit it. He spent the night on Kalai Island a few kilometres upstream of the falls, having come down river by foot, and the next morning set off in a small canoe to approach the thundering smoke he had seen from afar. He landed on the biggest island on the lip of the falls, now called Livingstone Island and from there obtained his first view of the Falls. He wrote, “No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”.
Victoria Falls – known to locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya, or ‘The Smoke That Thunders’ – is one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World” and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A staggering 750,000 m3 of water thunders down the cliff face per MINUTE when it is in full flow around April each year, making it the largest waterfall in the world by volume! However, no amount of cold facts can prepare you for the sight of this unfathomably vast and powerful body of water that plunges into the Zambezi gorge. It truly is majestic and unforgettable, and a must-see for adventure and wildlife travellers from all over the globe.
Remember to bring your cameras – it’s impossible to take too many photos of Vic Falls! Also remember to hire a raincoat when entering the small Mosi-oa-Tunya park connected to the falls; even in the dry season the spray form the falls can make you quite wet. The park is ‘twin’ to the Victoria Falls National Park on the Zimbabwean side.
We will hike along the footpaths of the park, looking for some of the special bird species that occur here, including the beautiful Schalow’s Turaco, loud Trumpeter Hornbill, quite rare Collared Palm Thrush, Verreaux’s Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, White-browed Robin-chat, the localised hollidayi subspecies of African Black Swift, Tropical Boubou, Red-winged Starling and many more. There are also Bushbuck and many smaller mammals in the park.
We will have lunch somewhere in town close to the falls after an exhilarating morning.
We will then board our vehicle and make the drive to our next destination, about 3 and a half hours to the northeast.
Strictly time permitting, we could swing by the Livingstone Sewage Works for a quick scan. On our previous visit we saw Striated and Purple Heron, Giant Kingfisher, Black-winged Stilt, African and Lesser Jacana, Allen’s Gallinule, Reed Cormorant, African Sacred and Glossy Ibis, African Swamphen, Black Crake, African Reed Warbler, Wood Sandpiper, Fulvous and White-faced Whistling Duck, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow and Red-faced Cisticola.
We are heading for the market town of Choma and the nearby Nkanga River Conservancy. Our lodge for the next 2 nights is situated in beautiful natural gardens overlooking a lake, with all chalets enjoying impressive views of the surrounding bush and the lake.
We will arrive in time for a short walk in the gardens, and then it’s dinner time. The lodge owners pride themselves on excellent, personal service and top cuisine, so we are in for a treat. After our exciting day at the falls we will all have a good night’s sleep.
Day 4 :
Choma/Nkanga River Conservancy
We have a full day of birding in the conservancy and other hotspots in the area.
We will enjoy an early breakfast and then we are off! The Nkanga Conservation Area is one of Zambia’s top IBAs (Important Bird Areas) and boasts a variety of great birding habitats, including Miombo woodland, Munga woodland, and thickets interspersed with dambos (a shallow, seasonally inundated wetland) and some open grassy plains. We will do a mixture of birding walks and drives to ensure that we spend enough time in each of the birding habitats.
The conservancy is best known for seeing the snowy white Chaplin’s Barbet, a Zambian endemic. These beautiful barbets prefer a unique habitat of fairly open grassland and low bush, dotted with mature Sycamore fig trees. On a recent visit we had a male and female building a nest hole in a tree; we watched them for half an hour! This area is also good for a variety of fantastic raptors that include White-headed, lappet-faced, Hooded and White-backed Vulture, Bateleur, Martial, Tawny, Crowned and Long-crested Eagle, Black-chested and Brown Snake Eagle, Black, Gabar, Ovambo and Little Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk and African Hawk-eagle.
We will return to the lodge for lunch and some time to relax, although a walk through the lodge gardens is also usually very productive. The “garden list” here is fantastic and includes species like Arnot’s Chat, Crested and Black-collared Barbet, Miombo and Greater Blue-eared Starling, Village, Blue Waxbill, Red throated Twinspot, African Hoopoe, Green-winged Pytilia, Meyer’s Parrot, Bearded, Golden-tailed, Bennett’s and Cardinal Woodpecker, Miombo and Southern Black Tit, Scarlet-chested, Black, Collared and White-bellied Sunbird, Kurrichane and Groundscraper Thrush, Broad-billed and Lilac-breasted Roller, Green Wood Hoopoe, Bronze Mannikin, Pied Wagtail, Yellow-throated Bush Sparrow, Chinspot Batis, Willow Warbler and African Paradise Flycatcher.
In the afternoon we will go out in search of more special species in the area. In the Miombo woodland we will look for bird parties that could contain Racket-tailed Roller, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Miombo Pied Barbet, Bennett’s Woodpecker, Grey Penduline Tit, Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah, Orange-winged Pytilia, Green-capped Eremomela, Shelley’s Sunbird, Cabanis’s Bunting, Stierling’s Wren-warbler, African Spotted Creeper, and Yellow-bellied and Southern Hyliota.
We will also look in the grassland habitats for specials like Sooty Chat, Rufous-naped and Flappet Lark, and Croaking Cisticola. There are also several wetland areas that could see us tick some more good species, including Saddle-billed Stork, Glossy Ibis, Little Bittern, White-backed, Knob-billed and African Black Duck, African Pygmy Goose, Collared Pratincole, Lesser Moorhen, Allen’s Gallinule, Senegal Coucal, African Wattled Lapwing, African Snipe and Malachite Kingfisher. On a recent visit we stopped at one wetland where we counted 12 African Rails and 21 Lesser Jacanas in an hour!
This area is not all about birding though, as the conservancy has a very good and varied mammal list too! We could see Greater Kudu, Sable Antelope, Tsessebe, Puku, Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, Common Eland, Waterbuck, Impala, Common Duiker, Sharpe’s Grysbok, Plains Zebra, Bushbuck, Vervet monkey and Chacma Baboon.
We will return to the lodge in the late afternoon or early evening to freshen up and relax. If we are lucky the resident African Scops Owl might be around, along with Thick-tailed Greater Galago, Honey Badger and we’ll definitely hear the loud screech of the Southern Tree Hyrax. We will update our growing trip lists and then have dinner together, followed by a good night’s rest after a productive day.
Choma to Lusaka
We start our day with a later, more relaxed breakfast today. We then pack our bags, check out and say our sad goodbyes to the wonderful staff at our lodge.
We then jump into our vehicle and head northeast towards Zambia’s capital city of Lusaka, birding along the way and making stops to stretch our legs or take photos of the beautiful landscapes. We should reach our accommodation after about 5 to 6 hours.
We actually drive through a sizeable portion of Lusaka, and will learn a bit about it as we cross it from west to east. Lusaka is the geographic, commercial and metaphorical heart of Zambia, has a population of about 2 million people and is the fastest developing city in southern Africa. Although not blessed with many parks, top museums or other major attractions, is does boast some fantastic markets, restaurants, a pumping night life scene and an authentic African feel.
Our accommodation is on the southeastern side of the city and the owners will make us feel right at home when we arrive to check in and have a late lunch.
The lodge is surrounded by about 25 acres of miombo woodland, perfect for a stroll in the afternoon looking for birds and smaller creatures. An important species to look for here is the Brown-necked Parrot, but we could also see Grey-headed and Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Long-billed Crombec, Kurrichane Thrush, Red-headed Weaver and even Fiery-necked Nightjar with its quintessential African night time song of good-lord-deliver-us. Our stroll will be a relaxing, quiet way to end our day on the road.
We will relax and have dinner, chatting about trips we would all like to do in the future to exotic places on the planet. We need to get to bed a little earlier tonight, because tomorrow we have an even longer day of driving ahead.
Lusaka to Kasanka National Park
We will start our day with an early breakfast and then check out.
We have a long day of driving ahead of us, and we know that no one likes these long days, but our destination and the birds (and animals) there will make it very much worth the sore bums and legs! We will make several stops en route to stretch our legs and use the bathroom, and also to enjoy our packed lunch somewhere in a nice spot.
We will be travelling on the T2 highway today, also known at the Great North Road, part of an ambitious project that was supposed to link Cape Town in South Africa to Cairo in Egypt by road. From about 1890 onwards, the British Empire envisioned a road that would stretch across the African continent from south to north, running through the British colonies of the time. The road would give Britain the most important and dominant political and economic influence over the continent, securing its position as a global colonial power. One of the main proponents of the route was Cecil John Rhodes, though his preference was actually for a railway line and not a road.
On the way we could see African Harrier-hawk, Bateleur, Knob-billed Duck, Woolly-necked Stork, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and many others.
We should reach our destination, the Kasanka National Park, in the late afternoon. We will check in at our chosen lodge and relax a bit, enjoying our surroundings.
We will spend 3 nights at the lodge, overlooking one of the biggest lakes in the heart of Kasanka, which is the prime location from which to see all of the park’s wonderful fauna and flora. The main dining area has beautiful views and is complemented by a cosy bar and chill zone while many a warm and cold drink are enjoyed around the fireplace outside the main building. The tranquil surrounds and welcoming staff will make sure our stay in Kasanka is unforgettable. Dinner around the camp fire will be special in the evenings, sharing safari stories and making friends for life.
We will get together for updating our lists, socialising and dinner, with the wild African bush all around us. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest; tomorrow we go exploring Kasanka!
Kasanka National Park
We have our first of two full days in Kasanka today; this is to ensure we see all we need to see in this special little park.
We will enjoy breakfast in the main dining area this morning, and if we are lucky we could tick our first mammals in the park. Keep an eye out for African Elephant, African Buffalo, Hippopotamus, Nile Crocodile, beautiful Sable and Roan Antelope, the rare swamp-dwelling Sitatunga, Lichtenstein’s subspecies of Hartebeest, Puku, Bushbuck, Common Warthog and more while we sip our coffee and enjoy the food.
We will explore Kasanka by vehicle, on foot and by boat, depending on current water levels and weather patterns. We will return to the lodge for lunch and some relaxation time in the middle of the day, and then go out into the park again in the afternoon.
Although only 390 km2 (150 sq mi) in size, picturesque Kasanka in Zambia’s central province is one of Africa’s hidden gems. This peaceful sanctuary, situated on the southwestern edge of the Lake Bangweulu basin and way off the beaten tourist track, is blessed with miombo woodland, rivers, lakes, wetlands, forest swamps, lagoons, meadows and dambos, thus supporting a uniquely wide range of abundant bird species and some very special mammals.
Rescued from becoming another defunct African national park by British expat David Lloyd in the late 1980s, Kasanka has blossomed into a fantastic private-public success story. The Kasanka Trust and Zambia National Parks and Wildlife Services run the park together, ensuring growing animal numbers and improvement in tourism infrastructure.
Kasanka is a great birding destination, with just over 470 species recorded in what is a very small area. The park is home to a few species at the edge of their range, more commonly associated with Central Africa. The beautiful Ross’s Turaco and Böhm’s Bee-eater are two of the birds in that category.
Other specials we will look to tick in the moist strips of woodland include Pale-billed Hornbill, Anchieta’s Sunbird, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Grey Waxbill, Black-backed Barbet, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, Bocage’s Akalat, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Little and Cabanis’s Greenbul, Grey Apalis, African Thrush, Green-headed Sunbird, Dark-backed Weaver, Black-tailed Waxbill, Red-throated Twinspot, and Red-backed Mannikin.
Miombo forest will give us a chance to see Thick-billed Cuckoo, Racket-tailed Roller, Miombo Pied and Anchieta’s Barbet, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Rufous-bellied Tit, Grey Penduline Tit, Trilling Cisticola, African Spotted Creeper, Red-capped Crombec, Black-necked Eremomela, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Böhm’s Flycatcher, Bearded and Miombo Scrub Robin, Miombo Rock Thrush, Bush Pipit, Cabanis’s Bunting and Black-eared Seedeater.
Wetlands, dambos and rivers are good places for us to search for African Finfoot, Half-collared Kingfisher, Coppery-tailed and Black Coucal, White-backed Duck, Hottentot Teal, Rufous-bellied Heron, African Swamphen, African and Lesser Jacana, Marsh Tchagra, Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Pygmy Goose, Fülleborn’s Longclaw, Fawn-breasted Waxbill, Moustached Grass Warbler and Short-winged Cisticola.
Other species we will search for include Wattled Crane, Black-bellied Bustard and raptors like Crowned, Martial and African Fish Eagle (Zambia’s National Bird), Bateleur, African Hawk-eagle, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Dark Chanting Goshawk and many others.
The legendary, weird-looking, mythical Shoebill has also been seen on occasion in Kasanka, but we would have to be very lucky to encounter this species here. It is far easier seen on our Bangweulu Swamp extension that you can easily add to this trip.
After an exciting day in Kasanka we will return to the lodge to freshen up and socialise. We will update our lists with today’s wonderful species and have a fantastic dinner under African skies. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest.
Kasanka National Park
We have another full day in Kasanka today! Waking up to the dawn chorus in the middle of the African bush is what birding is all about… enjoy!
We will follow the same pattern as yesterday, enjoying an early breakfast at the lodge and returning for lunch and a short siesta, before some more birding in the park in the afternoon.
We will make sure we find all the species we might still need from this habitat, deciding on a plan of action for the day together.
Being part of the Congo Basin, the area that Kasanka is situated in is ecologically in between the dryer well-known safari destinations in eastern and southern Africa and the rainforests of central Africa. The park is mostly flat and has an average elevation of about 1,200 m (3,940 ft) above sea level. There are five perennial rivers in the park, with the largest being the Luwombwa, and also a number permanent shallow lakes and water bodies, with the largest being Wasa. Brachystegia woodland, also known as miombo woodland, covers around 70% of Kasanka’s surface area, interspersed with grassy dambos, papyrus swamps and three types of forest.
Not only is this variety habitat fantastic for us as birdwatchers, but it’s also excellent for mammals. A staggering 114 mammal species have been recorded in tiny Kasanka, including African Elephant, African Buffalo, Leopard, Hippopotamus, the very rare Sitatunga, Puku, Sharpe’s Grysbok, Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, Sable and Roan Antelope, the Kinda subspecies of the Yellow Baboon and the scarce Blue Monkey, along with many smaller ones and a good range of insects and reptiles, including the beautiful Gaboon Viper.
Of course, most people associate Kasanka with the biggest mammal migration on earth. Yes, you read that right! Between October and December each year, a staggering 10 million African Straw-coloured Fruit-bats descend into a tiny patch of evergreen swamp forest inside Kasanka. This natural phenomenon, unique only to Kasanka, is the stuff of bucket lists and once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experiences. It is without a doubt one of the most jaw-dropping spectacles of nature, and officially the biggest mammal migration on the planet. If our timing is right we could be part of this incredible event that literally darkens the sky.
After another exciting day in Kasanka we will once again return to our fantastic lodge to update our lists and have dinner, afterwards chatting the evening away while the stars shine brightly from pollution-free African skies. Then we are off for a good night’s rest, because tomorrow the next part of our birding tour starts.
Kasanka National Park to Shiwa Ng’andu
We will have a final breakfast at our lodge, pack our bags and check out. We then say goodbye to the wonderful staff and jump into the vehicle.
We will do some birding on our way out of Kasanka, making sure we haven’t missed any key species here. We will exit the park and head southeast for a while, before rejoining the T2 highway, turning north. Our journey will take us about 5 hours, and we will make stops for stretching our legs and photographs if we see something cool.
Our destination is the stunning 1920 grand English-style country house and associated vast estate of Shiwa Ng’andu in the Muchinga province. Its name is derived from the name of a small lake nearby, Lake Ishiba Ng’andu, which in the local Bemba language means ‘lake of the royal crocodile’. The house itself is also known as “Shiwa House”, or since 1999 as “Africa House”, after the novel of the same name by Christina Lamb that dealt with the property’s history. Shiwa Ng’andu was the lifelong project of English aristocrat Sir Stewart Gore-Browne, who fell in love with the country of Zambia in 1914 when he was working on a commission that determined the border between Northern Rhodesia and the DRC. Building started in 1920 and it has been owned by his family ever since.
Although it is possible to stay in the recently refurbished Shiwa House itself, we will use the facilities at Kapishya Hot Springs, some 10 km west of the main estate. It is run by Sir Stewart Gore-Browne’s second grandson. The naturally sulphur-free geothermal springs is a perfect 40 degrees Celsius and have been enjoyed by guests for generations. There are a variety of activities to do in the vicinity, including river rafting, horse riding, mountain bike riding as well as guided walks around the area. There are several exciting sites nearby, such as Nachipala Bareback Hill climbed by David Livingstone himself in 1867, and a rock shelter with paintings estimated to be 60,000 years old.
We should reach our lodge in time for a late lunch or mid-afternoon snack, giving us time to acquaint ourselves with our beautiful surroundings. All chalets and the lodge face the Mansha river and are surrounded by lush green tropical gardens, where Ross’s Turaco and Green-headed Sunbird are both fairly regular visitors. The rustic bar and dining area is a great place to relax and unwind while having a snack or a drink.
We will meet in the restaurant after a stroll in the gardens (or a dip in the pool or the springs, depending on the weather, or even a treatment at the excellent spa) and enjoy the high quality, home-grown food on offer here. We will relax and chat at the bar, before heading to our rooms for a good night’s sleep.
Our day will start early with some breakfast alongside the excellent locally-grown Arabica coffee.
We will explore the entire estate and surrounding areas by vehicle and foot today, picking up important species as we go. We will return for lunch and some down time, and then continue our birding in the afternoon.
Shiwa lies at submontane levels and the surrounding mountainous terrain is, in places, quite dramatic. The lake provides a somewhat rare plateau habitat, with reedbed fringes and papyrus swamp. Elsewhere, miombo is predominant, both in the flatter areas and on the hills, and there are also broad dambos, some mushitu (evergreen swamp forest) and riparian forest. So overall, a great mix of habitats for us to search in! It is listed as one of the 31 IBAs in Zambia and is a priority site for conservation in the country, as at least 373 species have been recorded here.
We will search for the fantastic Palm-nut Vulture and peculiar Bat Hawk around the lake, and diverse species such as Chestnut-headed Flufftail, African Grass Owl, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Marsh Widowbird, Stout Cisticola and Quailfinch in the dambos. In rocky areas we will look for Rock Martin, Mocking Cliff Chat and Lazy Cisticola and in the mushitu for Bocage’s Akalat, Black-backed Barbet, Grey Apalis and Splendid Starling.
Along the rivers we hope to see African Finfoot, African Pygmy Goose, Yellow-billed and Knob-billed Duck, Goliath Heron, Fülleborn’s Longclaw and Half-collared Kingfisher, and in the papyrus swamp we could find Greater Swamp Warbler, and if we are very lucky even something rare like Corn Crake, Great Snipe or Malagasy Pond Heron that have all been seen here before.
Two of our top localised targets here is the Bar-winged Weaver (which we saw last time while driving into the estate!) and White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, which is sometimes seen from the hot springs!
As much of the estate is basically a protected game area, in terms of mammals we could see Puku, Greater Kudu, Waterbuck (defassa subspecies), Southern Lechwe (black subspecies), Hartebeest (Lichtenstein’s subspecies), Common and Blue Duiker, Bushpig, Oribi, Bushbuck, Impala, Vervet monkey, Yellow Baboon and more. At night there is even a chance to see African Civet or genets in the gardens.
We will return to the lodge in the late afternoon to relax and maybe visit the hot springs. We will have a lovely 4-course dinner and update our trip lists, and then socialise into the evening. Then it’s bed time after an exciting day at Shiwa.
Shiwa Ng’andu to Mutinondo Wilderness
This morning we will have a slightly later breakfast, and then check out and leave the wonderful Kapishya hot springs and Shiwa area.
We will bird in specific spots where we might still need certain species, and then make our way out of the estate and hit the road. We are aiming south, heading for our final top birding location on the tour, the Mutinondo Wilderness area.
The drive south will give us some time to learn about our destination. Mutinondo is a stunning, private 100km2 reserve that encompasses a pristine stretch of untouched Miombo woodland near the edge of the Luangwa escarpment. The scenery is really fabulous, with massive granite inselbergs, clear rivers with waterfalls, dambos and some small wetland areas.
The drive will take us about 3 hours and we should reach our lodge in time for a late lunch. It is a beautiful lodge with mind-blowing views, built out of local materials and with staff from surrounding villages. After lunch we will have some time to relax and in the afternoon we will do our first short birding excursion.
Mutinondo has a good network of trails that we will explore by foot, and despite the granite outcrops the going isn’t too strenuous. There are no large or dangerous animals and the rivers have no crocs or hippos, so we can walk wherever we want looking for avian species to tick.
Top species we will search for on our first walk on the rocks near the lodge include Augur Buzzard, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Rock Martin, Red-winged Starling, Striped Pipit, Western Miombo Sunbird and Rock-loving Cisticola, to name a few.
We will return to the lodge to relax and freshen up. Dinner will be served and we will update our lists before retiring to bed for a good night’s sleep, for tomorrow we hit the Miombo!
Today is our first of two full days to explore beautiful Mutinondo. We need two full days because Miombo birding is generally not easy! We will need some patience and persistence to find all our targets here.
We will enjoy breakfast and lunch at the lodge, with birding excursions in the morning and afternoon. In the woodlands we will try and locate Bar-winged Weaver (the best place in all of Zambia to see this special), Racket-tailed Roller, Whyte’s, Black-backed, Miombo Pied and Anchieta’s Barbet, Miombo Tit, Pale-billed Hornbill, Miombo Wren-warbler, Miombo Scrub Robin, Miombo Rock Thrush, African Spotted Creeper, Black-headed Oriole, Green-backed Woodpecker, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Souza’s Shrike, Anchieta’s and Eastern Miombo Sunbird, Orange-winged Pytilia, Reichard’s Seedeater, Retz’s Helmetshrike, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Rufous-bellied Tit, Cabanis’s Bunting, Yellow-throated Bush Sparrow and Fawn-breasted Waxbill.
Mushitu is a good place for us to search for several cool species, including Bocage’s Akalat, Cabanis’s Greenbul, Laura’s Woodland and Evergreen Forest Warbler, Black-throated Wattle-Eye, Green Twinspot, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher and Ross’s Turaco.
Of course we are here for the birds, but there is a lot to do here apart from birding. You could just relax and enjoy the landscapes, or try your hand at trail running, canoeing, mountain biking, mushroom picking (in season), swimming, catch-and-release fishing, horse riding and more.
We will get together after a good day of birding to socialise and relax (and enjoy the spectacular sunset), have dinner and update our trip lists. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest.
We have another full day to enjoy all that this beautiful reserve has to offer.
We once again start with breakfast and then we hit the trails. We will return for lunch and a siesta and then head out in the afternoon again.
Mutinondo is listed as an IBA/Site of special interest, with an incredible 362 species on the list; remarkable for such a small reserve. The rivers and wetland areas might yield species like African Black Duck, Fan-tailed Grassbird, Stout Cisticola, Mountain Wagtail, Marsh Widowbird, Swamp Nightjar, Fawn-breasted Waxbill, and if we are very lucky even rarities like Blue Quail, Locust Finch or maybe even Chestnut-headed Flufftail!
Other species we could tick and that we have seen here before include Hildebrandt’s Francolin, Crowned Eagle, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Green-backed Honeybird, Meyer’s Parrot, Red-capped Crombec, Brown-headed Apalis, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Böhm’s Flycatcher, and Wood and Striped Pipit.
Although there are no large mammals or big carnivores, we could still see Bushbuck, Roan and Sable Antelope, Hartebeest, Common Warthog, Bushpig, Side-striped Jackal and several smaller mammals, reptiles, beautiful butterflies and more.
Tonight just before or after dinner we will walk to Charlie’s Rock, where apart from maybe finding Freckled Nightjar we will also enjoy stunning sunset views while sipping our sundowner drinks.
We will enjoy our farewell dinner together having made friends for life during a fantastic Zambia birding trip. We will chat about our trip, remembering the amazing sightings, funny moments and no doubt agreeing that Africa is simply the best! Enjoy the last night under African skies.
Mutinondo Wilderness to Lusaka and Departure
Today is unfortunately another long transfer day, as we have to get back to the city of Lusaka. After a final breakfast we will pack our bags, check out and say our farewells to the friendly staff at the fantastic lodge.
Then we are off for a full day of driving in a southwesterly direction. Once again we will make several photo stops, leg-stretch stops and a long lunch stop.
Depending on your flight time we will transfer you to the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport well in time for your onward or homeward flights. Here we will say our goodbyes after our fantastic time together in the “warm heart of Africa”, amazing Zambia!
*Please note: if you flight only leaves the following day we will arrange local accommodation for you from where you will be transferred to the airport.
We offer several fantastic local extensions for this Zambia Birding Trip. See below for some of the special species that you can see on the different extensions. Please don’t hesitate to ask for our expert assistance to create the perfect itinerary for you.
• 3 day extension to the Bangweulu Swamps in northeastern Zambia. This vast (9,850 km2/3,800 sq mi) floodplain area is one of the world’s most important wetlands (according to the Ramsar convention) and is best known as the easiest site in Zambia to see the prehistoric-looking Shoebill, one of the most sought-after birds on the planet. Over 400 species have been recorded here and other specials in the area include Swamp Flycatcher, Eurasian Bittern, Denham’s Bustard, Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, African Skimmer, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Fulleborn’s and Rosy-throated Longclaw, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Sooty Chat, Greater Swamp Warbler, Marsh Widowbird, Tanzanian Masked Weaver and many more. There are also some notable animals, including Sitatunga, Tsessebe, Oribi and the smithemani subspecies of the Southern Lechwe.
• 4 day extension to the Mwinilunga area in northwestern Zambia. This area is best known for the accessible Congo-Guinean forest areas and the big number of birding specials that can be found in these unique areas. These include Forbes’s Plover, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Afep and Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue Malkoha, Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, Western and Pallid Honeyguide, Grimwood’s Longclaw, Angolan Lark, Black-and-rufous and Angolan Swallow, Black-necked Eremomela, Rufous-bellied Tit, Bocage’s and Bar-winged Weaver, Red-tailed Bristlebill, Shining-blue and Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Sooty Flycatcher, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Spotted Thrush-babbler, Little, Cabanis’s and Honeyguide Greenbul, Fraser’s Rufous Thrush, African Thrush, Grey-winged Robin-chat, Laura’s Woodland, Bamboo and Evergreen Forest Warbler, Buff-throated and Grey Apalis, Black-collared Bulbul, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Dambo and Stout Cisticola, Bannerman’s and Bates’s Sunbird, and many more.
• 4 day extension to South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia. This park is the home of the walking safari and the “Leopard capital” of the world, has some incredible riverside scenery and boasts over 400 species of birds. Specials you could see here include Lilian’s Lovebird, Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Skimmer, Racket-tailed Roller, Goliath Heron, 5 species of kingfisher, Western Osprey, African Spoonbill, Great White Pelican, Southern Ground Hornbill, Saddle-billed and Yellow-billed Stork, Narina Trogon, Böhm’s and Mottled Spinetail, large colourful flocks of Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, 39 birds of prey and many more. The park also boasts four of Africa’s Big Five and many special antelope species. It really is one of Africa’s top wildlife reserves.
• 3 day extension to the Lower Zambezi area in the south of the country. We will base ourselves in the town of Siavonga on the shores of the beautiful Lake Kariba, the world’s largest man-made lake. This Important Bird Area is blessed with thick riparian thickets, perfect habitat for the stunning but crazily difficult-to-see African Pitta. It is a bird very high up on world birders’ lists and one of Africa’s top avian superstars. It will require sharp ears, very early mornings and a good dose of luck to find it, but seeing this species will make up for the hard work! Other top birds we could find include Barred Long-tailed and African Emerald Cuckoo, Purple-crested Turaco, Crested Guineafowl, Crowned Eagle, Crowned Hornbill, Böhm’s and Mottled Spinetail, African Broadbill, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Sombre Greenbul, Bearded Scrub Robin, Eastern Nicator, Red-capped Robin-chat, Thrush Nightingale and Livingstone’s Flycatcher.
Do you have a quick question about this birding tour? Speak to a specialist at