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Birding in Tanzania

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Tanzania is an extensive, untouched wilderness and has the second largest lake in the world; Lake Victoria – a freshwater lake, home to 400 species of bird, and one of the seven summits, Mount Kilimanjaro. It is also considered one of the best places for wilderness viewing in the world including Arusha, Serengeti, Norongoro Crater, Tarangire and Manyara National Parks.

The National parks in Tanzania are made up of a variety of landscapes including open savannah grassland, bush and scrub with large rivers running through them. This means that these parks host an incredible array of birdlife including the Secretary Bird, numerous vultures, eagles and hawks, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Bare-faced Go-away Bird, Gabon Nightjar, Lilac-breasted Roller, Ground Hornbill, Red-throated Tit, Sooty Chat, and a wide variety of larks, pipits and widowbirds. The thick riverine forest bordering the Mara and Talek rivers hold African Finfoot, Livingstone’s & Ross’s Turaco, Giant Kingfisher, Blue Flycatcher, Double-toothed Barbet and the rare Pel’s Fishing Owl; while the feeding ground for the largest concentration of Lesser Flamingo’s on the planet (being about 2 million) is found at Lake Natron.

Tanzania Top Birding destinations

Arusha National Park

The verdant grassy hills surround the tranquil beauty of the Momela Lakes, all shimmering in shades of green and blue. Their shallows sometimes host Pink Flamingos in their thousands. These lakes support a rich selection of resident and migrant waterfowl, and shaggy waterbucks line the watery fringes. Giraffes lope along the grassy hills between dazzling zebra herds, while pairs of wide-eyed Dik-Dik dart into scrubby bush like overgrown hares on spindly legs.

Lake Victoria

This Lake is home to over 400 species of birds, which makes it easy to view them in a few days. White and Pink-backed Pelican, Cormorant and Long-tailed Cormorant, Little Bittern, Goliath, Purple and Squacco Heron, Little, Yellow-billed and Great-white Egrets, Hammerkop, Yellow-billed Stork, Sacred Ibis, African Spoonbill, Fish Eagle, Black Crake, Allen’s and Purple Gallinules, Jacana, and Pied and Malachite Kingfishers are all residents. With a surface area of just under 70 000 km², Lake Victoria is the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. But despite its size, it is fairly shallow, only reaching 75m at its deepest.

By NASA – NASA World Wind, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.phpcurid=42445846

Mount Kilimanjaro

This is the world’s tallest freestanding mountain, the summit of which is 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level. Highland species here include several extremely uncommon birds such as Green Ibis, Rufous Sparrowhawk, Mountain Buzzard, Crowned Eagle, Jackson’s Francolin, Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-fronted Parrot, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Scarce Swift, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Montane Oriole, Alpine Chat, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Sharpe’s Longclaw, Slender-billed Chestnut-winged Starling, and 13 species of sunbirds including the Northern Double-collared, Golden-winged, Tacazze, Green-headed and Scarlet-tufted Malachite.

Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve across the border in Kenya, protect the largest and most diverse collection of terrestrial wildlife on Earth, and remains one of the last great migratory systems still intact. The Serengeti is the jewel in the crown of Tanzania’s protected areas, which calculated together, make up some 14% of the country’s land area. This is a conservation record that few countries come close to.

Usambara Mountains

These mountains and tropical forests are considered incredibly significant ecologically and as a Biodiversity hotspot. There are protected zones throughout the range which are still being expanded and contributed to by the Tanzanian government, associated NGO’s and research teams, and donor countries. The Usambara Mountains are fairly unique in East Africa with their natural areas still being cloaked in tropical forests, which are otherwise seen primarily in Western Africa.

If you are looking at one of these popular destinations for your birding tour, consider our experienced guides to get you in the best spots to see that bird you have been waiting to see. You can get in touch with us from our website.

Sources: Fatbirder, Go2Africa, Nasa

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Birding tour vehicles

The end of 2019 is approaching at the rate of knots with very little birding planning time left this year. It seems that 2020, along with the golden rays of opportunity, are floating tantalizingly close. So in an effort to thwart the stress of needing a holiday from your holiday early next year, we decided to present you with some tours that could bring you a welcome reprieve from the busyness of a new year.

Booking a tour can be stressful. But once you are on the tour, you realise that it was worth the minor inconvenience of checking and rechecking documents and luggage as you leave home and drive to the airport, before you get on the plane.

Some handy tips to help make sure you are covered on your birding tour can be found in our blog articles on Endemic bird species in Tanzania and Technology and Gear to get your excited about birding.

Top Tanzania Tours

Tanzania is our home and speciality destination. Tanzania Birding offers a range of safari tours to help you have a great birding trip. They range in length and activity, and can also include photography and big game tours. This makes it easy to fit your adventure in with your schedule, hobbies and budget. 

7 Days Northern Tanzania – 7 days birding express

Birding, wildlife and photography. A 7-day private tour. Depart from anywhere. Your size and your style. Includes Arusha area Endemics, Tarangire NP and a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater and Ngorongoro Highlands. This tour is available year-round.

7 Days North-Eastern Tanzania – Birding on Borrowed Time

7 Days private birding tour with wildlife and photography. Depart from anywhere with your size and style group. Includes Arusha area Endemics, Mkomazi Dry Country Specials and West Usambara Endemics. Can be taken all year round.

Tanzania Birding and Cultural experience – 12-day experience 

The featured destinations are Arusha Maasai Steppes, Masai Cultures, Lake Manyara and Village cultural Walks, Ngorongoro Highlands Hike, Hadzabe Traditional hunters and gatherers tribesmen, Datoga Black Smith smelters, Lake Eyasi, Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge Museum and the Serengeti Plains. The tour includes cultural, birding and photographic opportunities and can be taken all year round, except for April and May.

Tanzania Birding the North – 12-day tour

This tour visits Serengeti, Ndutu region, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Arusha and Tarangire National Parks, and includes Wildebeest migration and calving, the Big Five, and Birding and Photographic opportunities. This tour is available year-round at your pace, with your size party.

Tanzania Birding the South – 14-day tour

The featured areas of this tour are Selous Game Reserve, Mikumi, East Udzungwas, Ruaha National Parks, Kilombero Flood Plains and Miombo woodlands Birding. The tour is available all year except – Mid April to Mid May. The tour is a birding safari with lots of wildlife and photography opportunities.

Tanzania Birding in Luxury – 14-day slow pace birding, photography and big game safari

This tour visits Ndarakwai Private Ranch, Serengeti, Ndutu region, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Parks with Big Five, slow pace Birding and Photographic opportunities. Take this tour any time of year with your size party.

birding
Photo: Timothy Kadlecek

Best of Northern Tanzania Birding and Big Game Photographic safari – 14 days

This 14-day tour can be taken at leisure with the best of photographic opportunities, visiting Arusha National Park, Lake Victoria, Central Serengeti, and Tarangire Park, to name a few. This tour is available all year round.

East and Southern Tanzania Birding – 18-day tour

This is a fixed departure tour which leaves each year on:

14 – 31 March

14 – 31 July

02 – 19 December.

This tour visits Arusha, Mkomazi NP, South Pare Mountains, West and East Usambaras, Amani Nature Reserve, Mikumi NP, East Udzungwas, Ruaha National Parks, Kilombero Flood Plains and Miombo woodlands Birding, and Ruaha NP with birding, Big Game and Cats Photographic Opportunities.

Lake Victoria to the East Coast – 21-day tour

This is a fixed departure tour which leaves each year on:

07 – 27 January

04 – 24 May

October 20 – 18 November

The tour features Lake Victoria, Serengeti, Ndutu region, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire, Arusha, Lark Plains, Mkomazi NP, West and East Usambaras, and Pemba Island Endemics and Beach, taking in plenty of birding, game and photographic opportunities.

The Grand Tanzania Anniversary route – 31-day tour

This grand tour takes in Lake Victoria, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire, Arusha, Lark Plains, Mkomazi NP, West and East Usambaras and Pemba Island Endemics and Beach, Mikumi NP, Udzungwas, Kilombero Flood Plains, Miombo Woodlands, and Ruaha National Park, with incredible birding, photographic and Big 5 opportunities. The tour is customised to the group and its style.

To book your exciting 2020 birding safari, get in touch with us at https://www.tanzaniabirding.com/contactus.html

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Birding photography

Going on safari is a feast for photographs. It usually conjures up images of golden light at dusk with sunset hanging in the air as all manner of creatures finish off the day around a watering hole and greet the coming night.

This may be a little exaggerated, but the truth of the tale is that your safari is remembered in the best light, with the perfect images of birds playing through the slideshow in your brain has put together. Then you reach for your photographs and wonder what went wrong.

We decided to put some points together to help you make the most of your photographs on your birding safari.

Bird Knowledge

Your bird knowledge can really help you here. Having the right equipment to be photographing the birds is important, but knowing what their behaviour is and where to find them, will help a great deal. If your bird knowledge is good and your guide’s knowledge is extensive, this will help you get the kind of photo you are looking for, eg. as a bird bursts into flight, where the bird is likely to be at different times of the day and how it will interact with the environment around it.

Camera

Having access to a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera is essential for the ease of use with multiple modes for different circumstances and being able to view your shots. Both Canon and Nikon make a range of these cameras to suit most budgets, but Sony and Olympus also have introduced reasonable models too. There are two big factors affecting your decision: the ISO rating (the sensor’s sensitivity to low light) and your shutter frame rate (how many frames per second can be captured). 

Focusing

Your camera will allow you to choose between a couple of modes for focusing:

  • One-Shot AF – one-shot captured when the focus is locked
  • Continuous / AI Servo AF – when the shutter is half-pressed you will continue to capture shots as long as you track the subject.

Due to birds being creatures that move around considerably, the latter is more likely to be useful in photographing your feathered friends.

Eye Level

If you are able to, shoot at eye level. It changes the focus quite dramatically and means that the foreground and background can be blurred while your subject is in focus.

Photography lens

Wind Direction

Birds rely on wind direction for flight. They will try to fly into the wind because this gives them the lift they need to keep steady. Raptors especially rely on the wind to lift their heavier frames on the thermals.

If you wish to capture the birds flying head-on, it is a good idea to position yourself upwind of the bird.

Use support

Bean bags, monopods and tripods are all great forms of support to use if you are using larger lenses to capture your bird. They come in handy during different situations. 

Monopods can be a great help in keeping you steady when you may need to move around or have restricted space. Beanbags are superb for hides and vehicles to ensure a steady shot. When shooting long exposure or low light shots, tripods will provide the stability you need for a crystal clear shot.

Remote Triggers

These are super handy if you have skittish birds to photograph. You are able to place the camera in the necessary position and retreat to a quiet spot so that the birds can settle in. 

With a bit of luck, from your hidden area, you will be able to get some close-up shots without frightening the birds off. 

The most important tip of all is that you need to be comfortable and familiar with your equipment. Spend some time practising before you head off on safari to make sure that you come back with incredible photos to match your memories.

If you want to book an African Bird Safari, look at the exciting packages we offer and get in touch with us for your safari experience on tours@tanzaniabirding.com

Sources:

Africa Geographic, Go 2 Africa.

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view early morning

Is Tanzania a good destination for birding? 

The short answer: Most definitely! The long answer: Read this blog post so that we can tell you why …

Although most tourists visit Tanzania for the mammals, even the most Big Five-focused safari-goer can’t help but notice the constant birdsong, fluttering wings and beautiful bird sightings in Tanzania. 

At 945,097 square kilometres, Tanzania is the largest country in Eastern African – a little larger than Texas, and seven times the size of England. Tanzania is home to vast, unspoiled wilderness as well as Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world, and the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro. 

In terms of birdlife, it is estimated that Tanzania is home to: 

  • 1123 bird species;
  • of which 24 are endemic;
  • 52 are globally threatened;
  • with 4 species that have been introduced. 

The high number of species of birds in Tanzania is a result of the country’s diverse geographical regions and climates:

  • Mountain forests
  • Tropical coastline
  • Deserts
  • Open savannah grasslands
  • Lowland forests
  • Bush and scrub
  • Lakes
  • Mudflats
  • Permanent swamps.

All of these different biomes attract different species of birds, so a wide variety of habitats results in a diverse array of species within the country.

Top species in Tanzania include: 

  • Secretary Bird
  • Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, 
  • Bare-faced Go-away Bird, 
  • Gabon Nightjar
  • Lilac-breasted Roller
  • Ground Hornbill
  • Red-throated Tit
  • Sooty Chat
  • Numerous vultures, eagles and hawks
  • A wide variety of larks, pipits and widowbirds
  • African Finfoot
  • Livingstone’s & Ross’s Turaco
  • Giant Kingfisher
  • Blue Flycatcher
  • Double-toothed Barbet
  • Pel’s Fishing Owl.

The critically-endangered Long-billed Forest-warbler

The Long-billed Forest-warbler, endemic to Tanzania, is one of the world’s rarest birds. However, the bird seems to be responding positively to conservation efforts that involve working with farmers to allow re-growth of vegetation necessary for the birds. As a result of these efforts, the birds have been able to recolonise some areas, providing new hope for the species’ small population.

When is the best time for twitchers to travel?

For birders, one of the best times to visit Tanzania is arguably between November and April, when masses of migratory birds arrive.

Tanzania has so much to offer!

With beautiful beaches, spectacular safaris, the highest mountain in Africa – and more! – you can bring a whole new dimension to your birding holiday. 

Ready to go twitching in Tanzania? Take a look at some of our tours: 

See the full list of Tanzania tours here: https://www.tanzaniabirding.com/tanzania-safaris/tanzania-safari/

Contact us to find out more or to book your tour: https://www.tanzaniabirding.com/contactus.html