Zambia has an abundance to offer—from wonderful birdlife, stunning wildlife, and jaw-dropping landscapes and terrains. On this Zambia birding tour, we not only focus on Zambia’s two endemic bird species, the Chaplin’s Barbet and Black-cheeked Lovebird but also its near-endemics and the sought-after African Pitta. Of course, you’ll see plenty of glorious big game.
This tour was designed to highlight the absolute best of Zambia by visiting its top birding spots and natural wonders. From Lusaka, we journey northeast to Kasanka National Park, home to regional bird species and a remarkable bat migration of around 10 million African Straw-tailed Fruit Bats—the largest mammalian migration on earth! Next, we explore Mutinondo Wilderness, seeking special birds like Dickinson’s Kestrel and Anchieta’s Sunbird in diverse landscapes. Moving eastwards to the Kafue basin, we meet striking birds like Chaplin’s Barbet before visiting Livingstone for Victoria Falls. Then, we head east to seek out the elusive African Pitta.
On arrival at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, a Sustainable Birding representative will meet you at arrivals and do a quick meet and greet, before transferring you to your hotel in Lusaka, so you can relax and get some sleep ready for a great adventure ahead.
Where you will be staying: Wild Dogs Lodge
The tour begins this morning in Lusaka, where we embark on a lengthy drive northeast to Kasanka National Park for an overnight stay. During this season, Kasanka becomes a haven for around 10 million African Straw-tailed Fruit Bats, drawn to feast on the local figs. This extraordinary migration of bats, traveling great distances to Kasanka, stands as the most significant mammalian migration on the planet—an awe-inspiring spectacle to behold!
Where you will be staying: Wasa Lodge
In the early morning, we’ll spend an hour observing the bats as they come in and then we’ll head to Tuta Bridge, where our main target is range-restricted Katanga Masked Weaver.
We’ll then transfer to Mutinondo, which will take approximately 4.5 hours. We’ll be doing lots of birding along the way.
Where you will be staying: Mutinondo Lodge
Over the next few days, our tour will lead us to Mutinondo Wilderness, a breathtaking private reserve encompassing woodlands and scattered rocky inselbergs. Hosting an impressive count of over 360 bird species, this area boasts many specialities. At Mutinondo, the prized Miombo woodlands house a remarkable array of Miombo specialists. Our key targets include the elusive Whyte’s Francolin, the vocal Pale-billed Hornbill, the stunning Black-backed Barbet, Bushveld Pipit, Miombo Scrub Robin, Arnot’s Chat, Long-tailed Cisticola, the charming Black-necked Eremomela, the understated Böhm’s Flycatcher, Rufous-bellied Tit, and Black-eared Seedeater.
Additionally, we’ll be on the lookout for the elusive Miombo Rock Thrush, Anchieta’s Barbet, and the delightful Bar-winged Weaver. We’ll also aim to spot the Miombo Wren-Warbler, Red-capped Crombec, the exquisite Anchieta’s Sunbird, and Western Miombo Sunbird.
Where you will be staying: Mutinondo Wilderness
Following our last morning at Mutinondo, we’ll drive westwards to the Mkushi area, where we’ll spend the night at the charming Forest Inn.
The appealing Miombo woodland surrounding the Forest Inn presents an excellent opportunity to get three excellent sightings: Southern Hyliota, African Spotted Creeper, and Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Weaver.
Where you will be staying: Forest Inn
The following morning, we’ll embark on a drive to Nkanga Conservation Area—a long journey that promises great rewards. Upon arrival, we’ll engage in some birding, dedicating the next day entirely to exploring this magnificent location.
Our primary focus at Nkanga Conservation Area lies on seeing the striking endemic Zambian Barbet (Chaplin’s Barbet). This threatened species is exclusive to a confined region in Zambia. While its habitat spans several thousand square kilometres, its presence tends to be inconsistent at the edges, with consistent sightings often confined to a few hundred square kilometres. The bird heavily relies on the Ficus sycomorus, making it vulnerable when these trees are cleared for cultivation. Our search involves scanning the scattered fig trees across the open grasslands, seeking out bright white dots that might ultimately reveal the elusive endemic.
Beside birding, the mammal sightings are interesting offering rare finds such as the Sable Antelope, Puku, and Common Tsessebe.
Where you will be staying: Golden Pillow Lodge
After concluding our birding session at Nkanga, we journey westward to Livingstone, a city nestled on the Zambezi River in southwestern Zambia, where we’ll spend the night. Our morning begins with a visit to the world-renowned Victoria Falls. This breathtaking location, as stunning in person as in films or photographs, leaves a profound impact. The falls, declared by David Livingstone himself as sights angels must have admired, span nearly two kilometres before plunging vertically downwards. As we approach, dense water vapour clouds hover, and the thunderous sound of millions of tons of water cascading into chasms over 100 meters deep is truly awe-inspiring.
Among rainbows arching over fine spray, Rock Martins and Red-winged Starlings flit through, disappearing into the gorge’s shadows. While the national park area is smaller than the Zimbabwean side, the deafening rumble of the falls often masks bird songs. Once a habitat for the rare Taita Falcon, disturbances have driven these birds into the inaccessible downstream gorges. Notably, the African Black Swifts of the paler race hollidayi, endemic to Victoria Falls, are among the fascinating birds found here.
We’ll also be taking a boat ride onto the Zambezi to look for species such as African Finfoot, Rock Pratincole, Half-collared Kingfisher. There’s even a slim chance of spotting the rare, restricted-range Slaty Egret.
Today takes us to the Mopane woodland northwest of Livingstone, the habitat of the charming Black-cheeked Lovebird. This delightful parrot is now considered a Zambian endemic, with records outside the country considered be vagrants. The species particularly thrives in mopane woodland, and its presence in southwestern Zambia is limited to the region between the Zambezi and Kafue Rivers, with a population totalling no more than 10,000 individuals. The habitat in this area forms part of the Zambezi floodplain, featuring shallow pools, thorny thickets, and stands of mopane, offering diverse distractions along our route. While traversing, we’ll keep an eye out for other restricted-range species like the Coppery-tailed Coucal, as well as Meves’s and Burchell’s Starlings.
Where you will be staying: Shackletons
After an early breakfast, we’ll depart for a full day drive to the Zambezi Valley region, which will take approximately 6-7 hours with birding stops. This remote area bordering Zambia is an important stronghold for the elusive African Pitta, our top target bird here. Upon arrival in the late afternoon, we’ll check into our lodge and discuss pitta survey plans for an early start the next morning.
The following morning, we’ll set off early as pittas become active only after dawn. We’ll spend the early morning hours slowly walking forest trails, listening and watching for any movement in the undergrowth. The striking African Pitta is shy and difficult to observe as it forages on the forest floor. However, this area offers one of our best chances to encounter this highly sought-after species. We’ll dedicate most of the day to surveying trails throughout the valley, taking breaks during the midday heat when bird activity slows. Other species we may encounter include the Rock Pratincole, Pale-billed Hornbill, and Half-collared Kingfisher. If we are lucky enough to observe the pitta, be ready with cameras! After a full day in the field, we’ll return to the lodge to compile our sightings list and enjoy a well-deserved dinner.
Where you will be staying: Gwabi River Lodge
The following morning, our journey leads us back to the capital, where this incredible Zambia birding tour sadly will be ending. We’ll arrange your transfer to Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, ensuring you reach your flight home.
Slow/Medium – designed to ensure enough time is spent at each birding destination to get target species.
Easy/Medium – in terms of birding, it’s rather easy with lots of on-foot birding excursions but nothing too strenuous. Long drives are to be expected – Zambia is a vast country and targets are far between.
Secure your place on this trip with a 25% deposit.
The above cost is based on a group of 6 people. Please get in touch if you’d like us to arrange a private tailor made tour
Best time of year to visit:
The best period for birding in Zambia is between November and April, during the wet season, affectionately termed the ‘Emerald Season’. During this time, the wetland expanses burst to life, becoming fertile breeding grounds for birds. The resident species thrive amidst the flurry of activity, joined by significant flocks of migrants. It is important to note that while this season offers unparalleled birding opportunities, certain areas may become challenging to access, and many lodges might close their doors during this period. It’s also worth noting that the best time to see the elusive African Pitta is in December.
At Sustainable Birding, our goal is to ensure that every birding holiday we create contributes positively to bird conservation efforts and local communities. Our determination to promote sustainable travel led us to become founding members of Tourism Declares Climate Emergency. As part of this commitment, we have established the world’s pioneering carbon scoring and offsetting framework for tailor-made holidays. Feel free to request us to carbon score your individual trip!
The Sustainable Birding Company is a subsidiary of Far and Wild Travel, a tailor-made tour company based in Cumbria, UK. Far and Wild Travel offer sustainable, luxury, tailor-made tour itineraries throughout Africa and around the world.