Birding Tour Zimbabwe and Mozambique November 2018

Tour Details

Duration: 15 days
Group Size: 2 – 9
Spaces Available: 5
Date Start: November 21, 2018
Date End: December 05, 2018
Tour Start: Harare, Zimbabwe
Tour End: Beira, Mozambique

We usually limit the group size to 8, only rarely are there 9 participants.

Tour Costs

Price: US$4,801 / £3,926 / €4,415 per person sharing assuming 6-9 participants,
US$5,642 / £4,614 / €5,189 per person sharing assuming 4-5 participants,
US$6,534 / £5,343 / €6,009 per person sharing assuming 2-3 participants.

Single Supplement: US$719 / £588 / €662

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

Price includes:
Meals
Accommodation
Guiding fees
All transport while on tour

Price excludes:
All flights
Personal insurance
Alcoholic beverages
Gratuities
Laundry service
Personal expenses such as gifts

Dylan's BioDylan's Bio

Eastern Zimbabwe and Central Mozambique 2018

Zimbabwe and Mozambique combined show the highest diversity on the planet in terms of 30 different avian orders represented. They also share with coastal West Africa and Tanzania and Uganda the second-highest count of different families, only surpassed by northern India. This tour easily yields more than 400 species out of this incredible avian biodiversity. It also leads through varied and extremely beautiful scenery. Combined with excellent infrastructure in Zimbabwe and ever improving conditions in Mozambique, this is a delightful and exciting tour for the avid world birder.

Beginning the tour in Harare on Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland Plateau, we almost immediately start searching for a host of south-central African endemics, largely confined to Miombo woodland and occurring in neither South nor East Africa. Many of these birds have this unique woodland type in their name, such as Miombo Tit, Miombo Rock Thrush, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird, and a lot of others. After a couple of days birding around Harare, we head eastwards to the beautiful mountains straddling the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique, en route hoping to find the unusual Boulder Chat, a species almost confined to Zimbabwe.

Here in the Eastern Highlands evergreen forests hold some very localized endemics such as Chirinda Apalis and Roberts’s Warbler, as well as several birds that are more easily found here than in other countries, including Swynnerton’s Robin. We also bird mountain grasslands for the vulnerable Blue Swallow, and with luck we might find Striped or Buff-spotted Flufftail, Scarce Swift, and other birds that are fairly widespread but never easy to find.

After a few days in this idyllic mountain paradise, we eventually cross the border into the steaming lowlands of Mozambique and head to the sprawling delta area of the Zambezi, one of Africa’s greatest rivers. Here we hope to find the dazzling African Pitta displaying (we try our best to time the tour right for this). We also hope to find a rich array of other specials, such as East Coast Akalat, White-chested Alethe, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Lowland Tiny Greenbul, Mangrove Kingfisher, and tons more.

The wide coastal plain is interrupted by Mount Gorongosa, where we stop for three days in search of Green-headed Oriole, Blue Quail (with luck), Pallid Honeyguide(difficult to get visuals on!), Speckle-throated Woodpecker, Pel’s Fishing Owl (if we’re lucky), Red-winged Warbler, and many others.

We end the tour in the port city of Beira. Nearby, at Rio Savane, we hope to find some excellent waterbirds (Rufous-bellied Heron can be surprisingly common here), but the number of waterbirds depends on how much rain has fallen.

All in all, this tour includes some of the richest parts of Zimbabwe and Mozambique for birds, encompassing an amazingly wide range of habitats. Starting the trip in Harare and ending it in Beira means that we can minimize driving time and maximize birding time. Given just 15 days, this is the route to take if you want to find the greatest number of tough and localized birds, along with an extremely respectable total bird list.

This tour can be combined wuth our pre-trip, North-eastern South Africa 2018 or with our Namibia, Okavango, and Victoria Falls 18-day Birding Adventure 2018, which could be preceded by our 16-day Subtropical South Africa Birding Adventure October 2018 and even, preceding that, with our Western Cape South Africa 8-day Birding Adventure October 2018 for a stunning Southern African mega tour.

 

Itinerary (15 days/14 nights)

Day 1. Arrival in Harare, Zimbabwe
Our international flights arrive in Harare, Zimbabwe (usually around midday), and we transfer to a guest house within this city’s suburbs, where we spend two nights. The gardens sometimes host Variable Sunbird, barbets, and other dazzling species. If this is your first trip to Africa, prepare to be swamped with new birds, many of them brightly colored. In the afternoon, time permitting we can head to nearby wetlands such as Monavale and Marlborough vleis. In years of good rainfall these wetlands support some rare crakes and other water-associated birds, but more usually we see a selection of relatively common species such as Yellow-mantled Widowbird and various others.
Overnight: Crake Cottage or similar, Harare

Day 2. Birding Harare’s wetlands and woodlands
Today we spend much of the day visiting Miombo woodland sites, where we hope to find African Spotted Creeper, Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Whyte’s Barbet, Miombo Rock Thrush, Miombo Blue-eared Starling, Boulder Chat, and quite a big range of other species. Visits to sites with blooming flowers such as the Botanic Gardens sometimes generate a lot of sunbirds, including Miombo Double-collared Sunbird, White-bellied Sunbird, and with luck Western Violet-backed Sunbird or Copper Sunbird.
Overnight: Crake Cottage or similar, Harare

Day 3. Transfer to Aberfoyle Lodge, woodland birding en route
Today we plan to leave early and embark on a half-day drive to the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe near the border with Mozambique, followed by a two-hour drive down a long winding road to the low altitude Honde Valley, which is contiguous with the Mozambican coastal plain. We have a lot of distance to cover today, but en route we’ll be sure to spend some time birding around Gosho Park, just east of Marondera, for any miombo birds we might have missed near Harare.
Eventually we reach our lodge for the night, where feeders attract some strikingly beautiful birds such as Red-throated Twinspot and Red-faced Crimsonwing. Nearby riverine forests are home to Pallid Honeyguide, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, White-eared Barbet, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, African Broadbill, Square-tailed Drongo, and as always a lot of others. Ayres’s Hawk Eagle is often seen in the area. A small colony of Scarce Swift can be accessed nearby, but this usually requires a walk of a kilometer or two (depending on the condition of the track above the lodge). Keeping an eye skywards might also generate this bird, along with Mottled Swift and a number of other swifts and swallows. Lesser Seedcracker is the most sought-after bird here in the Honde Valley, and while we’ll allocate a good amount of time looking for it, this remains one of the toughest trip birds and it’s certainly easy to miss.
This, the Honde Valley, is a scenic area, with huge tea estates punctuated by some villages, subsistence farmland, and small patches of attractive riverine forest. The Mutarazi Falls can be seen in the distance as they plummet an impressive 762 meters down from the Nyanga Highlands towering above this fertile valley.
Overnight: Aberfoyle Lodge, Honde Valley

Day 4. Aberfoyle Lodge to Nyanga National Park
After spending the morning birding the Honde Valley (continuing to look for the species mentioned for the previous day), we ascend to the mountains above Aberfoyle. These mountains, which reach 2,600 meters, are protected within the splendid Nyanga National Park. This park is one of the few places within the species’ range where Blue Swallow is still common. If enough rain has fallen, drainage lines can support the mega-elusive Striped Flufftail. Here we also hope to get a head start on some forest birds, to take pressure off when we bird the Bvumba. And, as always, there are tons of more widespread species to look for, such as Cape Grassbird. A colony of Mottled Swift can be seen from our hotel. There is, of course, always a chance of finding something really tricky, such as a “Mackinder’s” Eagle Owl (a distinct subspecies of Cape Eagle Owl ).
Overnight: Pine Tree Inn, Nyanga area

Day 5. Birding Nyanga National Park and the Bvumba Highlands
After birding during the morning at Nyanga National Park, we head via Mutare to the Bvumba highlands, a couple of hours to the south. We will spend three nights here, birding around Mutare and in the evergreen forests of the Bvumba Highlands.
Overnight: Seldomseen Cottages, Bvumba Highlands

Days 6 – 7. Birding the Bvumba Highlands area
These forests are phenomenally productive for some of the region’s star specials, including the likes of Swynnerton’s Robin, Orange Ground Thrush, Chirinda Apalis, Roberts’s Warbler, Barratt’s Warbler (what a skulker!), White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Livingstone’s Turaco, Buff-spotted Flufftail (widespread but relatively easy to actually get visuals on here – although still needing a very large amount of luck!), and many others. Sometimes Gurney’s Sugarbird can be found here, away from its main population in South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. We can also look for any temperate forest or Miombo woodland birds we may have missed previously. The Miombo woodlands of this particular area are very good for Cabanis’s Bunting, Miombo Tit, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird, and many others.
Overnight: Seldomseen Cottages, Bvumba Highlands

Day 8. Bvumba Highlands to M’Phingwe Camp, Mozambique
In the early morning we will be birding around Seldomseen. We depart after breakfast for Mozambique, entering Mozambique through the Forbes Border Post, Mutare. Then we travel via Chimoio and Inchope to M’Phingwe Camp near Caia. This is the Zambezi Delta area, which is another absolute treasure-chest for special birds – including a whole new suite of species we won’t yet have seen. While we spend a lot of time traveling today, we are still likely to add several new birds to our growing list.
Overnight: M’Phingwe Camp, Catapu.

Days 9 – 10. Birding M’Phingwe Camp and surrounds
Two days are spent birding in woodlands and lowland forests, among them the renowned Coutada 12. We spend a lot of our time birding along a track that gives access to some pristine lowland forest, which is where the bulk of the special birds we’re after are found. These include African Pitta, Lowland Tiny Greenbul, Mangrove Kingfisher (in this area away from mangroves), East Coast Akalat, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo and other cuckoos, three helmetshrike species including Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike (all three sometimes mixing in the same flock!), Plain-backed Sunbird, White-chested Alethe, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, and more. Finding all these specials, many of them real skulkers, takes time. So, we have two full days here, searching for the birds mentioned above. We can also visit the bridge over the Zambezi River at Caia for a completely different habitat, which is sure to augment our bird list a fair amount.
Overnight: M’Phingwe Camp, Catapu.

Day 11. M’Phingwe Camp to Gorongosa National Park
After early morning birding around Caia we travel via Gorongosa town to our rustic but well-positioned “lodge”, Gorongosa Aventuras camp at the entrance to Gorongosa National Park. After our arrival we may have time for some afternoon birding in the expansive grounds of Gorongosa Aventuras.
Overnight: Gorongosa Aventuras

Day 12. Mount Gorongosa and birding the Gorongosa area
Today we embark on a real adventure, driving part-way and walking the rest of the way up the slopes of Mount Gorongosa. This is an isolated massif rising majestically from the otherwise flat Mozambican coastal plain. The mountainside contains some evergreen forest, which hosts Green-headed Oriole (an endemic subspecies), Pallid Honeyguide, and a lot of other good birds. En route to this forest patch we hope to stop in the scrub for a host of exciting possibilities, which include the likes of Marsh Tchagra, Blue Quail, Moustached Grass Warbler, Magpie Mannikin, Lesser Seedcracker (if we missed it at Aberfoyle), and Pale Batis. We return to camp around lunchtime. The rest of the day is spent birding in Miombo woodland around Gorongosa Aventuras. A night drive can, with a little luck, generate three Nightjar species, Fiery-necked, Square-tailed, and the miraculous Pennant-winged, and other night birds.
Overnight: Gorongosa Aventuras

Day 13. Birding the Gorongosa area
We spend the day around the lodge, where several species lurk that are tough to find anywhere. These include Red-winged Warbler, Speckle-throated Woodpecker, Pel’s Fishing Owl with luck (in some years we find roost sites), Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, and various Cuckoos, including the scarce Thick-billed.
Overnight: Gorongosa Aventuras

Day 14. Gorongosa to Beira
Early morning departure for Beira. We arrive mid morning and spend the rest of the day birding wetlands and grasslands around Beira. Rufous-bellied Heron, African Marsh Harrier, and various other birds are usually present in good numbers. Locust Finch, Blue Quail, Short-tailed Pipit, Cuckoo-finch, Eurasian Bittern, Senegal Lapwing, and others are typically less predictable, and their presence depends on various factors such as the amount of water around. The declining Great Snipe is occasionally seen.
Overnight: Hotel in or near Beira

Day 15. Birding Beira, departure
For part of the morning we bird around Rio Savane and Beira. Then we head to the Beira airport for our international flights home.

Hopefully we will have cleaned up on all the specials (whether localized, or whether more widespread but easier to find here than elsewhere, such as African Pitta). We certainly will have birded a very rich variety of habitats from the mountains to the steaming lowlands, so we should have a very good bird-list by the end of the trip.

Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors.

Download Itinerary

Important explanation about the default vehicles we use on our southern African tours:

Whereas the standard birding-tour vehicle in East Africa is the popup-roof stretch Land Cruiser, in southern Africa these are extremely rare and not usually legal except within some parks. Open safari vehicles, on the other hand, are commonly seen in southern African parks but can’t be used outside the parks, and they are extremely unpleasant to be in when the weather is bad even inside the parks. The only tried-and-tested tour vehicle available in southern Africa that allows us to cover the ground we need so we can find the greatest diversity of birds (and other wildlife), and which is comfortable in all weather, is legal, has proper air conditioning, and does not make the overall tour price exorbitant, is the 13-seater Toyota Quantum when we have 6-8 (rarely 9) tour participants (or similar 7-10-seater vans when we have smaller group sizes). In areas where we are not restricted to the vehicle during the tour (such as in the Cape) we usually use unmodified standard Quantum vans – everyone gets out of the vehicle when we see a good bird or animal. In areas in which we are at times restricted to the vehicle because of the presence of dangerous megafauna including lions, elephants, and more (such as the Kruger National Park) we typically use a Quantum van with modified windows for better viewing of birds and other wildlife. In Kruger (and sometimes in Etosha) National Parks we usually do include a day or two in open safari vehicles as part of the tour price. Optional night drives (at nominal cost) in open safari vehicles are available at most southern African parks (including Kruger) for those who have less of a focused interest in birds (as these are operated by the park’s guides, who usually focus mainly on the “Big 5”). You can speak to the tour leader about joining these night drives, but in our experience some tour participants prefer not to join them, and hence we leave them as an optional extra for those willing to pay a (small/nominal) extra fee.

Even the tried-and-tested Toyota Quantum (or similar) vans we use fall far short of being ideal (small windows that are quite low, etc.), and we truly wish there were something better available without breaking the bank. But we use the best available vehicles, and we ensure that everyone has a fair turn in and near the front of the vehicle – we typically swap seating positions daily, but in the parks we can swap positions four times a day as necessary. The vehicles we use are by far the best vehicles available at a reasonable price. All the birding tour companies use the same vans unless their tours have a narrow focus just around Kruger/nearby or another park. It’s a big problem in South Africa that the East African style safari vehicles are, simply, unavailable, except for a handful of very old, shaky ones (and usually in East Africa they don’t have air conditioning anyway, are extremely slow between sites, and, in short, have a different suite of disadvantages). We use the very best vehicles we can without making our trips much more expensive than anyone else’s, but we also feel we have to be clear about what to expect before the tour, hence this note. If you are worried about the vehicle then please:

  • kindly ask further questions (before booking the tour)
  • consider a private tour which will be a lot more pricey, but since you’re not sharing with other tour participants you can always sit at a large window. If a whole group wishes to upgrade a tour and is willing to pay a large extra price, if given enough notice we are able to rent a very special vehicle – the cost is extremely high so the tour becomes a premium, rather than a standard, tour.

While we generally allow a window seat for every passenger and like to have at least a couple of free seats available for birding gear etc., it’s better to ask us about the specific tour to be sure what is the case. For photography trips the per-person price is higher because we leave more empty seats available as more tour participants have bulky camera gear!

It is our philosophy only to have one vehicle per tour as it invariably gets very frustrating when one vehicle sees a bird or animal and the other vehicle misses it! And our group sizes are small – maximum of eight (rarely nine). The tour prices would be very high and uncompetitive if we had a second vehicle and driver-guide with twice the guide’s accommodation, food, fuel and toll costs, considering the small group sizes on our tours. Again, if you request a private tour, we can take two or even three vehicles or absolutely whatever you request – a private tour is different. (It is illegal for us to have any person without a local driver’s license and professional driving permit to drive passengers who are paying to be on a tour, so we can’t even suggest that a tour participant drives a second vehicle to allow more space and window seats).

Zimbabwe and Mozambique Trip Report 2016

This is a sample trip report. Please email us (info@birdingecotours.com) for more trip reports from this destination.