Tanzania Birding Tours

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Many birders, wildlife photographers, and other outdoor enthusiasts think of the Serengeti National Park when they think of Tanzania. And rightly so. This is indeed one of Africa’s greatest wildlife destinations. The vast grasslands and savannas of the Serengeti (and the adjacent Maasai Mara in Kenya) are teaming with dazzling, colorful bird species as well as Leopard, Cheetah, Lion, smaller cats (e.g. Serval and Caracal) and all the other megafauna that make Africa so famous. Birdwatching among the beasts is one of the most surreal experiences possible. And, of course, there’s also the great wildebeest (gnu) migration. The Serengeti is at the heart of this spectacular wildlife phenomenon. The wonderful thing about the Serengeti is that it also contains a bunch of desirable bird species. Small flocks of Fischer’s Lovebirds forage on the ground, rest and chatter among themselves in acacia trees, or can be seen flying low over the grassland. Superb Starlings, Rosy-patched Bushshrikes, and other gorgeously colorful East African birds abound. Scarcer and more localized within the park are East African endemics such as Grey-crested Helmetshrike and Red-throated Tit. So there’s a lot more than just big game to keep you occupied in the Serengeti (and Kenya’s Maasai Mara just across the border). Strangely, there are some Tanzanian endemics that don’t quite make it across the border into Kenya. So in addition to the classic East African bird species one also encounters endemic birds restricted to northern Tanzania alone, such as Ashy Starling and Rufous-tailed Weaver. Then the Serengeti also boasts some of Africa’s most iconic birds, including the world’s heaviest flying bird, Kori Bustard, Secretarybird, eight vultures, owls, and birds of prey including Africa’s largest eagle, Martial Eagle, and the acrobatic, colorful Bateleur (also one of Africa’s most characteristic eagles).

But most of Tanzania’s endemic birds (along with range-restricted birds that also get into Malawi, northern Mozambique, etc.) lurk in the Afromontane forests of the beautiful Eastern Arc Mountains to the south of the classic tourist routes. While most nature lovers and wildlife photographers stay in the northern parts of the country, where the tourism infrastructure is particularly well-developed and a huge diversity of dazzling birds mix with the big game, we also venture southwards on many of our Tanzania birding tours, including our main 19-day one. A lot of the avian endemics of Tanzania occur in beautiful montane forests on the slopes of superb ranges forming part of the Eastern Arc Mountains chain. Being typical forest birds, they take more effort to find than the acacia woodland species of the Serengeti Plains, Tarangire National Park, and other northern game parks.

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So on many of our Tanzania trips we include both the classic northern routes as well as the endemic-rich central parts of Tanzania. We also offer extensions to Zanzibar Island and the much wilder Pemba Island, which is inhabited by four Tanzanian endemics. While we certainly focus on birds (although we stop for other wildlife too) during our tours, a walk around Stone Town in Zanzibar (usually with at least one overnight on this picturesque tropical island) is something we often arrange as a pre-trip or extension for birders joining our Tanzania tours.

We certainly don’t want to forget mention of the other famous birdwatching and wildlife sites of Tanzania, many of them (again) in the northern parts of the country. A lot of people visit Arusha National Park when they first arrive in the country, as Kilimanjaro International Airport, the gateway to the famed wildlife sites of Tanzania, is nearby. It’s a convenient, bird-rich (and mammal-rich) place to spend some time in before heading to the truly world-famous sites such as the incomparable Ngorongoro Crater and, of course, Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, one of Planet Earth’s most massive isolated peaks. Kilimanjaro certainly dominates the great plains below it, which are riddled with wildlife. Those wishing to climb this mountain part or all the way to the top (5,895 meters or 19,341 feet above sea level) can be rewarded with views of Scarlet-tufted Sunbird feeding from giant lobelia flowers.

Then there are the red elephants of Tarangire National Park, one of the most beautiful parks on the whole continent of Africa and also the best site for the Tanzanian endemic Yellow-collared Lovebird and some other target birds of this country.

Last but certainly not least, is the Great Rift Valley, one of East Africa’s iconic features and home to huge flocks of Lesser Flamingos and Greater Flamingos. Lake Manyara is one of the more famous Rift Valley lakes we often visit.

This is also a good opportunity to give some advice about the timing of a birding (or for that matter, mammal viewing) visit to Tanzania. The timing of the wildebeest migration is one of the key items to discuss, as most birders want to be in Tanzania when these beasts are migrating through Tanzania rather than through Kenya on the Maasai Mara side. We actually run our main 19-day annual set-departure bird tour (as opposed to our week-long “introtour”) in April, which used to be considered the “rainy season” (although rain is rarely a big or real problem in this relatively arid country even in the rainy season; Tanzania is well worth visiting year-round). Due to a changing climate we have found that April has been dry for some years now, and it’s less expensive (and crowded) than later in the season, when most wildlife photographers and birders visit. April has also proven really good for catching up with the wildebeest migration on all the tours we’ve operated to date. While both the weather and the wildebeest are unpredictable from year to year (which is part of the excitement; this is not a zoo!), we’re able to drive to wherever the wildebeest are on the vast plains of the Serengeti so as not to miss them. As indicated, April is also good month to visit Tanzania because it’s not as crowded with nature tourists as it is during the June through October period. This (June to October) is the classic dry season of Tanzania, but please note that much of the rain that does fall in the period of “long rains” (which used to be considered March to May but often seems to be mainly March these days) falls as afternoon thunderstorms, which don’t interrupt the birding for long and cool things down nicely. November and December are considered the season of the “short rains”, but (once again) this is usually not in reality a huge problem. Tanzania is actually good to visit all year round!

So, why not join one of our upcoming Tanzania birding tours? You’ll add a whole lot of East African endemic birds, and if you join our main (19-day) trip you’ll also be able to see a good number of the 20 country endemics and other localized birds (some crossing into Mozambique etc.) of the Afromontane mountain forests. To see all the endemics, which include some more difficult birds such as the once almost-mythical Udzungwa Forest Partridge, you’ll need to join a more remote Tanzania bird tour. Please ask us if you want us to arrange a customized endemics tour or any kind of tailor-made tour to Tanzania that you want (e.g. cats and birds, or whatever you prefer). We do also sometimes combine Tanzania and Kenya, and of course we can also arrange a birding mega-tour if you want that, e.g. we could also include nearby Uganda or Ethiopia.

Finally, it would be remiss of us not to mention that in Tanzania you can also see your first Miombo (south-central African) endemic birds.

The birds of Tanzania are “in your face”. Like Kenya, there are just so many easy to see, colorful, spectacular bird species, and you can see a lot of them against the backdrop of Ngorongoro Crater, the great plains of the Serengeti, or the breathtakingly beautiful Eastern Arc Mountains ranges. Choose from the birding tour offerings below, or ask us about a bespoke tour.

Tanzania: 19-day Birding Safari April 2021/2022/2023

Tanzania: 19-day Birding Safari April 2021/2022/2023

2023-04-11

Tanzania: 8-day Introduction to Africa April 2021/2022/2023

Tanzania: 8-day Introduction to Africa April 2021/2022/2023

2023-04-30

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