Join us on a Tanzania Birding Tour of a lifetime, as we go in search of Tanzania’s huge list of endemic species
This Tanzania birdwatching tour has been carefully crafted for you to experience the very best of Tanzania in 29 Days, with a special focus on Tanzania’s wonderful endemic species
Second only to the DRC, Tanzania has largest species lists of any country in Africa. Just let this sink in a moment: 1,155 individual bird species, 800 resident species with just under 200 migrants. In addition, there are 43 endemic species unique to Tanzania and a further 53 near-endemic species, restricted to Tanzania and neighbouring countries.
If that didn’t get your attention, then I don’t know what will! Pack your bag and let’s go birding!
Brief Tour Itinerary
Just a short drive from Kilimanjaro International Airport, we’ll be starting our mega trip at Arusha National Park. It’s a beautiful park, that hosts a wide variety of landscapes, ranging from vast savannah and rainforest through to acacia woodlands and up to alpine vegetation on the higher reaches of Mount Meru. On arrival, we’ll be transecting the park in our safari vehicle and birding along the way. We’ll also be doing some on-foot birding in certain areas of the park, which will be a highlight. With a lovely mix of both wildlife and avifauna, it’ll be a great way start the tour.
On our second day, we’ll be visiting Lark Plains where we’ll be on the lookout for the Tanzania endemic Beesley’s Lark. These dry plains attract a large array of specialist dry country avifauna, so we’ll be very busy doing lots of on-foot birding. These plains are typically dry throughout the year, but experience large downpours from March to May allowing vegetation to quickly flourish and in turn, attract many passerines, raptors and ground dwelling species. We’ll also be on the lookout for the near endemics Athi Short-toed Lark, Red-throated Tit and Short-tailed Lark, among many others.
On Day 3, we will be visiting the beautiful Tarangire National Park. Bursting with large game and avifauna, we’ll be having a lot of fun here! The park itself, is named after the perennial Tarangire River, a life source to the all the surrounding wildlife – especially in the dry season, where large congregations of wildebeest and zebra come, among others. It’s a gorgeous park teeming with birdlife (over 500+ species recorded), so we hope it get a large list here over a short period.
Our next destination takes you to perhaps Africa’s most iconic national park – the Serengeti. Iconic for a reason, this vast ecosystem is one of the world’s last true wildernesses. With vast plains sprawling across the landscape as far as the eye can see and home to immense congregations of mammals, it is truly unmatched. Most famously, it’s renowned for the Wildebeest Migration, where over 1.5 million wildebeest form huge travelling herds by following the rainclouds, which give life the grasses below. For that alone, there’s no doubt you’ll fall in love with this incredible park. Nevertheless, the avifauna in this park is nothing short of outstanding. Over 500 different species have been recorded here with one endemic, the Grey-breasted Spurfowl and many near endemics such as Abyssinian Wheatear, Red-throated Tit, Rufous-tailed Weaver, Grey-crested Helmetshrike. Other species we’ll be on the lookout for include: White-crested Helmet shrikes, Meyer’s Parrot, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Zitting Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, Desert Cisticola, White-headed Sawwing, Black Sawwing, Long-crested Eagle, Brown Snake-eagle, African Hawk-eagle, Eastern Paradise Whydah, Pin-tailed Whydah, Straw-tailed Whydah to name a few.
We’ll be spending two days here slowly transect this vast wilderness and soaking everything up as we go along.
Day 6 – Transfer to Arusha (birding along the way)
On Day 6, we’ll make a U-Turn and head back to Arusha, as we prepare for the next leg of our journey – the endemic-rich Northeastern Tanzania. We’ll take our time driving to Arusha and birding along the way.
Day 7 & 8 – South Pare Mountains
On Day 7, we’ll be taking a short drive to the beautiful South Pare Mountains, where we hope to find two endemic species – South Pare White-eye and Usambara Double-collared Sunbird. We’ll also be on the lookout for other regional species, with Bar-throated Apalis, Hunter’s Cisticola, Purple-banded Sunbird and East Coast Boubou being a few of them.
We’ll take our time here taking in the stunning scenery and adding to our current extensive checklist.
Day 9, 10 & 11 – Usambara Mountains, Western Usambara Range
Our ninth day takes us to the impressive Usambara Mountains, where we’ll start on the West Usambara range. This mountain range was formed 2 million years ago and are part of the Eastern Arc Mountains, which stretch all the way into Kenya. They are one of the most important sites on the African mainland for the conservation of globally threatened birds holding and incredible 7 endemic species (Usambara Eagle-owl, Usambara Hyliota, Usambara Thrush, Usambara Weaver, Usamabara Akalat, Usambara Greenbul and Usambara Tailorbird) and 7 near endemics (Sokoke Scops Owl, Long-billed Tailorbird, Amani Sunbird, Usambara Double-collared Sunbird, Taveta Golden-Weaver, Spot-throat & Dapple-throat).
Expect scenic tropical rainforest paths and lots of fun!
Day 12, 13 & 14 – Usambara Mountains, Eastern Usambara Range
The next few days takes us to the East Usambara range, where we’ll be on the lookout for regional species such as: Ayres’s Hawk-eagle, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Purple-banded Sunbird, Amani Sunbird, Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird, Green Barbet, Spotted Eagle-owl, Usambara Eagle-owl, Half-collared Kingfisher, Gorgeous Bushshrike to name a few. We’ll also be looking for two endemic species found here, the Usambara Hyliota, Usambara Tailorbird. A highlight of the tour.
Day 15, 16 & 17 – Pemba Island
The next morning, we’ll drive to Tanga, where we’ll be taking a domestic flight to the tropics of Pemba Island. On arrival, by midday, you’ll be treated to some of the best white sand beaches in the world. Unlike Zanzibar, its neighbour down south, Pemba Island receives a lot less visitors per year, and as such remains relatively unspoilt. You’ll feel as if you have the whole island to yourself at times. It’s also loaded with endemics, so you’ll love your time spent here.
Our time on the island, will be relaxed as we search for two other endemic species – Pemba Sunbird, Pemba White-eye and Pemba Scops Owl in a variety of different habitats. We should also get to see the endemic Pemba Vervet Monkey, which is recognised as a subspecies from its relative from the mainland. We’ll also be visiting Ngezi Forest, where we’ll be on the lookout for the gorgeous Pemba Green Pigeon, along with a good chance of seeing the Pemba Flying Fox, a rare fruit bat endemic to the island.
Day 18, 19 & 20 – Uluguru Mountains Forest Reserve
Our next leg of the journey takes us to the stunning Uluguru Mountains – another staggering endemic hotspot. With an incredible mix of habitats ranging from montane, submontane, grasslands and swampland, these incredible mountains hold 4 endemic bird species, 11 reptile endemic species, 2 mammal endemic species and 26 endemic plants species. To say this place is like no other, is truly an understatement.
We’ll spend three days here transecting the reserve, targeting the bird endemics – Uluguru Mountain Greenbul, Mrs. Moreau’s Warbler (Winifred’s Warbler), Loveridge’s Sunbird, Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird and Uluguru Bush-shrike, among many other rare and localised bird species.
Day 21 & 22 – Ukaguru Mountains & Rubeho Mountains
Next stop is visiting the huge plateau of Ukaguru Mountains. This enormous plateau, covering an expanse of 1258 km2 (480 m2), is exceptionally diverse and is an area of high endemism of flora, fauna and avifauna. It’s an IBA and hosts two bird endemics which we will be targeting – Rubeho Warbler and Rubeho Forest Partridge. The habitat found here is diverse comprising of Miombo woodlands, montane forest, montane grassland and open woodland. No doubt, we’ll have a fun day transecting this large plateau.
The next morning, we’ll be visiting the nearby and infrequently visited Rubeho Mountains, which is ‘next door’ to the Ukaguru Mountains so to speak, with Mkondoa River separating the two ranges. Also, sighted as IBA, this range hosts 4 endemic species – Rubeho Akalat, Rubeho Double-collared Sunbird, Rubeho Warbler and Rubeho Forest Partridge, among many near endemics and localised species. This will be our target of the day to add to our ever-expanding checklist.
Day 23 – Kilombero Swamp and Ramsar site
The next day, we’ll be visiting Kilombero Swamp. Located in the Kilombero Flood Plain, it’s globally important wetland site as it holds a staggering amount of threatened flora and fauna – 350 plants and 300 bird species, including 3 endemic species – Kilombero Weaver, Kilombero Cisticola, and White-tailed Cisticola, which will be our main objective of visiting here. It also holds 75% of world’s Puku population, which will be a nice addition.
Day 24 & 25 – Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Over the next couple of days, we’ll be transecting across Udzungwa Mountains National Park. An impressive park that holds the title of Africa’s second most diverse national park. An IBA in the eastern arc, 400 bird species (2 endemic species – Udzungwa Forest Partridge and Rufous-winged Sunbird, plus many more near endemics) have been recorded, along with 2,500 plant species (25% of which are endemic), 6 species of primates (5 endemic species, with 2 only found here – Sanje Mangabey and Udzungwa Red Colobus). The typical habitat here varies from tropical rainforest, montane forest, grassland, steppe and Miombo woodlands.
The birdlife of Udzungwa Mountains is unrivalled and is an absolute must visit for any serious birder. If time allows, we will also visit the nearby Magombera Forest to look for the Fishing Owl and Lesser Seedcracker.
Day 26 & 27 – Iringa Highlands
The next couple of days, sees us birding along the Iringa Highlands, part of Tanzania’s Southern Highlands. It’s a beautiful region that holds exceptional diversity. We’ll be taking our time here, as we transect slowly through this beautiful landscape. We’ll of course, be on the lookout for the endemic species Iringa Akalat, Kilombero Weaver and Kipengere Seedeater, among many other localised species.
Day 28 & 29 – Mikumi National Park
Our final days of the tour, sees us head back up north to Tanzania’s fourth largest national park – the stunning Mikumi National Park. The park borders Selous Game Reserve on the south, with the two areas forming a unique and important ecosystem It also border the Udzungwa Mountains and Uluguru Mountains, from where we have just visited.
The landscape of Mikumi is often compared to that of the Serengeti, with sweeping savannah and grasslands. It is jam-packed with large mammals and many photogenic bird species, so is perfect for the photographer amongst you. It’ll be a lovely way to end this unforgettable birding tour of Tanzania.
*There is an option of extending this tour by spending a few days in the outstanding Selous Game Reserve, so please do let us know if this is something that appeals to you.
Key Bird Species
Popular species on this tour: Udzungwa Forest Partridge, Rufous-winged Sunbird, Iringa Akalat, Kilombero Weaver, Kipengere Seedeater, Kilombero Cisticola, White-tailed Cisticola, Rubeho Akalat, Rubeho Double-collared Sunbird, Rubeho Warbler, Rubeho Forest Partridge.
Below is a list of species likely to be encountered on this tour:
Athi Short-toed Lark, Red-throated Tit and Short-tailed Lark, Abyssinian Wheatear, Red-throated Tit, Rufous-tailed Weaver, Grey-crested Helmetshrike, White-crested Helmet shrikes, Meyer’s Parrot, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Zitting Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, Desert Cisticola, White-headed Sawwing, Black Sawwing, Long-crested Eagle, Brown Snake-eagle, African Hawk-eagle, Eastern Paradise Whydah, Pin-tailed Whydah, Straw-tailed Whydah, Hunter’s Cisticola, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Lyne’s Cisticola, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Thick-billed Seedeater, White-headed Barbet, Schalow’s Turaco, Shelley’s Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Kori Bustard, Secretarybird, Rosy-breasted Longclaw, Northern Pied Babblers, Rosy-patched Bushshrike,
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