Day 1- Lilongwe
Arrive in Malawi and transfer to the Kumbali Lodge. A walk into the endemic forest area on the farm is available for those who wish, in the afternoon. Overnight Kumbali Lodge on BB basis.
Our main target birds will include African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron, Schalow’s, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Broadbill, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Mountain Wagtail, Golden Weaver and Pied Mannikin.
Day 2 – Lengwe National Park.
A fairly early start – we drive southwards along the Mozambique border, stopping along the way. We drive through Blantyre and then down into the Lower Shire, with splendid views of the vast plains below. Lengwe National Park is an 887 sq km wilderness of dense thickets and mixed open woodland. Our overnight chalets are comfortable and spacious, all with en suite facilities.
Here we stay in Nyala Lodge on an all inclusive basis.
A wide variety of typical woodland species occur here and our trip list should grow considerably. Apart from Lengwe’s special birds [see tomorrow], a good variety of more widespread species should include Western Banded Snake Eagle, Brown-headed Parrot, Crowned Hornbill, African Golden Oriole, African Paradise Flycatcher, Retz’s [Red-billed] Helmetshrike, Southern [Miombo] Blue-eared Starling, Variable [Yellow-bellied] Sunbird, African Yellow White-eye, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and Red-headed Weaver.
Day 3: Lengwe
Full day spent birding in the thickets and woodlands. Overnight Nyala lodge on Full board basis.
Lengwe’s special birds are found in the dense, low-lying thickets and include Crested Guineafowl, Tambourine Dove, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Boehm’s Bee-eater, Green-backed [Little Spotted] Woodpecker, Square-tailed Drongo, Cabanis’ and Grey-olive Greenbuls, Eastern [Yellow-spotted] Nicator, Rudd’s Apalis, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Black-and-white Flycatcher, Woodward’s Batis and Grey Sunbird.
Day 4: Thyolo
It’s a 3 hr drive to Thyolo, back through Blantyre and Limbe. On arrival at Satemwa we check in the delightful old colonial house on the estate, with the afternoon free to explore this rich habitat. We will spend the remainder of the day walking in the forest. Thyolo mountain [1462 m] is the most prominent feature of the Shire Highlands. The mountain extends north and south in long ridges, dropping sharply to the Shire River in the west, and undulating gently down to the Thuchila and Ruo Rivers in the east. Isolated pockets of a once-extensive forest mosaic remain, but are becoming increasingly threatened by illegal felling. We will be staying in the delightful, well positioned colonial houses of a big tea estate on an all meals inclusive basis. For those who wish, a visit to the working tea factory is possible.
A number of highly range-restricted species occur here and our targets will include Green Barbet, the near-endemic Thyolo Alethe and White-winged Apalis. Other montane forest specials could include Green-headed Oriole, Spotted Ground Thrush, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Cabanis’ Greenbul, Grey-olive Greenbul, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Black-headed Apalis, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Bar-tailed Trogon, White-eared Barbet, Bertrand’s Weaver, Green-backed Twinspot and African Citril.
Day 5: Zomba
After our early morning walk, we return to the house for a delicious breakfast, then depart for the 2 hr drive to Zomba. A visit to the local market is interesting, after which we ascend the plateau to Ku Chawe Inn – This hotel is beautifully positioned on the edge of the escarpment with superb views of the plains below –Walks around the endemic forest will deliver species like Starred Robin, Schalow’s Turaco, a variety of Greenbuls [including Placid] Red-faced Crimson wing, Green Twinspot and Warblers with the localized Thyolo Alethe and perhaps the rare White-winged Apalis & Black-headed Apalis.
Day 6 – Liwonde National Park.
After breakfast, we continue northwards and we enter Liwonde National Park – a 548 sq. km wilderness of swamps, grasslands and mopane woodlands in the upper Shire River valley. We will be staying at Mvuu Camp, a tented camp set beautifully overlooking the Shire river.Overnight Mvuu Camp on Full board basis.
The afternoon game activity should add many waterbirds to the list, possibly including specials like White-backed Night-Heron, White-backed Duck, African Pygmy Goose, Lesser Jacana, White-headed Lapwing, Long-toed Lapwing, Gull-biled Tern, African Skimmer, Black Coucal and Southern Brown-throated Weaver.
Day 7 – Liwonde National Park.
A day of river safaris, drives and bush walks should reveal a good diversity of wood and and riverine forest birds. Overnight Mvuu Camp on Full board basis including game activities.
Our main target birds will be Boehm’s Bee-eater, Brown-breasted Barbet, Lilian’s Lovebird and Livingstone’s Flycatcher, with other specials including Bat Hawk, African Cuckoo Falcon, Red-necked Falcon, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Red-necked Spurfowl, Yellowbill [Green Coucal], African Barred Owlet, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Mottled Spinetail, Eastern Nicator, Collared Palm Thrush, Meve’s Long-tailed Starling and Broad-tailed Paradise-Whydah. Among these will be more typical woodland species such as Brown-headed Parrot, Purple-crested Turaco, Green-capped Eremomela, Pale Flycatcher, Southern Black Flycatcher, Black-crowned Tchagra, Tropical Boubou, Grey-headed Bush Shrike and White Helmetshrike.
Day 8,9 – Dzalanyama Forest Reserve
From Liwonde, it’s a drive up the Golomoti escarpment and Dedza through Lilongwe then an hour and half to Dzalanyama forest reserve. Arrival at Dzalanyama will be mid afternoon. The days here are spent exploring various locations to spot the specialties of the area. Overnight Dzalanyama forest Lodge on all meals inclusive basis.
Days birding the rich miombo woodlands. Some of the many target birgs will include Pale-billed Hoenbill, Whyte’s Barbet, Miombo Pied Stierlng’s Woodpecker, Miombo [Central Bearded] Scrub-robin, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Rufous-bellied Tit, Boehm’s Flycatcher, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Souza’s Shirke, Anchieta’s [Red and blue] Sunbird, Shelly’s Sunbird, and the rare Olive-headed Weaver. Along with these should be a number of typical miombo birds such as Green-backed Honeybird, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Spottede Creeper, Miombo Grey Tit, Retz’s [Red-billed] Helmetshrike, Wood Pipit, Miombo Rock Thrush, Southern [ Mashona] Hyliota, Peters’ [Red-throated] Twinspot, Breaod-tailed Paradise Whydah, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird, Western Violet-backed Sunbird, Black-eared Seedeater and Cabanis’ Bunting.
Day 10 – Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve
An early morning drive northwards on the M1, over the Viphya Plateau through Mzuzu to Vwaza Marsh. Arrival at Vwaza will be late afternoon.Overnight Vwaza Tented camp on all meals included basis.
Viphya will hopefully produce a number of endemics like White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Miombo Rock Thrush, African Spotted Creeper, Trilling Cisticola, Brown Parisoma, Rufous-bellied Tit, Miombo [Northern Grey] Tit, Anchieta’s [Red and Bule] Sunbird, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird and Reichard’s [Stripe-breasted] Seedeater.
Day 11 & 12 : Nyika
A 3 hr birding walk, returning for breakfast, then we continue to Nyika. A short stop will be made to search riparian forest at Thazima Gate [entrance to Nyika National Park] for the highly localised Black-backed Barbet. Two days birding the mountain grasslands and forests of the Nyika Plateau. We will overnight at Chelinda Camp in the chalets, with commanding views of the surrounding grasslands. Overnight Chalets with all meals provided.
Nyika and Viphya Plateau have a host of birds that are scarce or absent elsewhere in Malawi. Some of our target birds will be Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, Red-winged Francolin, Denham’s [Stanley’s] Bustard, Rwenzori [Mountain] Nightjar, Angola Swallow, Jackson’s Pipit, Black-lored [Mountain] Cisticola, Churring Cisticola, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Red-tufted Malachite Sunbird, Mountain Marsh Widow and Streaky Canary. Aside from these, we could also find Shelley’s Francolin, Common Quail, Blue Swallow, Wattled Crane, Augus Buzzard, Malachite Sunbird, and a number of common grassland birds. Hopefully some of the monatne evergreen forests near the Zambian border and the forests on the eastern rim of the plateau. A bewildering array of new birds await, hopefully including Dusky [Pink-breasted] Turtle Dove, Waller’s Starling, Slender-billed Red-winged Starling, Olived-flanked Robin-chat, White-chested Alethe, Brown-headed Apalis, Chestnut-throated Apalis, African Hill Babbler, shape’s Greenbul, Green-headed Sunbird, Baglafecht Weaver, and a number of more widespread forest specialists such as Schalow’s Turaco, Bar-tailed Trogon, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Fuelleborn’s Boubou, Malawi batis, White-starred Robin, [Olive-breasted] Mountain Greenbul, Orange Ground Thrush, Evergreen Forest Warbler, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, and others. The eastern forests have several birds not found elsewhere on Nyika, namely Mountain Illadopsis, Sharpe’s Akalat and Oriole Finch.
Day 13 – Chintheche
After an early morning’s birding walk and breakfast we pack our things and head off to the shores of Lake Malawi. We arrive in the early afternoon at Makuzi Beach, south of Chintheche. Our comfortable chalets are on the beach overlooking the lake. Overnight Makuzi Beach Lodge on Dinner, bed and breakfast.
Remnants of Lowland evergreen forest en route support East Coast Akalat, Red-capped Robin-chat, Green-backed [Little Spotted] Woodpecker, Eastern Sawwing, Grey-olive Greenbul, Purple-banded Sunbird, Yellowbill [Green Coucal] Yellow-spotted Nicator, African Broadbill and Eastern Olive Sunbird. If time permits we will also search for Lemon-breasted Canary on the floodplain
Day 14 – At Chintheche at leisure and exploring the surroundings.
Day 15: Transfer 4 hrs along the lakeshore to Lilongwe in time to catch your return flight.