Welcome to East Africa's top Birding specialty Tour Operator

Tanzania Safari Ideas FAQ

Safari Ideas and FAQ

What’s the difference between birding and birdwatching?
Birding and Birdwatching means the same thing. It is all about the sport and activity of observing wild birds.

What do people do when they go birding?
Birdwatchers observe wild birds in their natural habitat. Birdwatching means learning to identify the birds and understanding what they are doing.

Where do you watch birds?
Birding is something you can do in your own back yard (it’s a natural habitat too), your local park, anywhere you travel or on trips you take specifically to watch or study birds that live in a certain environment, such as the National parks, reserves and wildlife forests. See our Important Bird Areas (IBA’s) in Tanzania on this website.

Who watches birds?
People of all ages watch birds. It’s an activity you can keep doing all your life, in any part of the world.

Birding is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in America. According to a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 51.3 million Americans report that they watch birds. And more are taking it up all the time.

Why birds?
Birds have always delighted people all over the world because of their beauty and their power of flight. Historically, they used to be considered omens. The ancient Romans believed that the flights and calls of birds could foretell the future.

Today, modern science still uses birds as a kind of oracle. Changes in bird populations can reflect the health of the environment.

Some birds are indicator species. They forecast environmental conditions. The knowledge of birds can help us plan a better, more sustainable relationship with nature.

What’s in it for me if I start birding?
Many things to include:-

Fun. Big fun. Something deep seems to get fulfilled. A connection is made with the immense beauty of nature. The Birds.

Satisfaction. Birding invokes our primeval hunting instincts. It delivers all the satisfaction of the hunt, even though the prey itself escapes unharmed. Birding is the perfect sport for the coming century.

Health. Birding gets you vertical. It gets you outside and walking. But it’s effortless because your attention is on the birds. Nevertheless, after a little birding, you’ve usually covered quite a bit of ground.

Family. Birding unites people across generations. By taking up birding, parents or grandparents can introduce their children to an interest in nature that will stay with them all their lives.

Companionship. Birding is the ideal social activity. A birder need never be lonely. Nearly every community has a birding club of some sort. And because birders love to share their knowledge, newcomers are always welcome.

Solitude. Birding is also the ideal solitary sport. There’s a special pleasure in going out alone to bird. Your mind settles down. Your senses open up, and all nature seems to become your friend. Birding is a sport of many moods, and it serves the causes of companionship and solitude equally well.

Does birding contribute to science?
Birding also fulfills another basic instinct – the quest for knowledge. Birding is about acquiring knowledge. Not just about birds’ names, but also about their songs, their behaviour, and how they relate to the rest of nature. It’s a perfect opportunity to enjoy a unique human pleasure – the successful exercise of lore.

In fact, amateur birders often get to make real contributions to scientific knowledge. Today, much of what ornithology knows about birds has come from the observations of ordinary but dedicated birders.

What do I need to start birding?
Not much. A pair of binoculars, a field guide, and a hat. Maybe a little notebook to carry in your pocket. For the Field guides of birds of East Africa, we recommend the following:

“Field guide to the Birds of East Africa”

(Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi) by Terry Stevenson.

Or you may also have:

“Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania” by Dale Zimmerman.

Anything else?
Yes. Birding is a quest. You set out to see birds – but the prize you come back with can only be described as happiness. Learning to bird is like getting a lifetime ticket to the theatre of nature.

What are the Tours Like?
Observing birds and wildlife in their natural surroundings is the main focus of our tours, and the itineraries are designed to provide the best opportunities to encounter birds and mammals. We also strive to understand a bit of the bigger picture, such as how birds and wildlife go about their daily lives and integrate into the environment. The quality of your experience is our number one priority and above all, our field experience is what makes us unique.

We are always based in comfortable lodging, or generally the best available in the most remote parts of the country. The days are sometimes long, but usually at a relaxed and easy pace, with plenty of opportunities for comfort stops, meals, and photography. Depending on the areas or sites scheduled, bird breaks and walks will be part of the day. The daily details of each tour are provided in each individual tour itinerary. Please request your detailed Itinerary.

Who goes on these Tours?
Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts of all ages have participated in the tours that Birding & Beyond Safaris run. These people share a common bond of enjoying the outdoors, and a willingness to share their experiences with others. While no special skills are required to participate in our tours, it helps to have enthusiasm and a sense of adventure. For some tours, there may be some physical considerations, such as the amount of walking, or the number of boat trips. If you have any questions about a specific tour, please contact us directly. Many of our Tours are for typical Birdwatchers but we often combine Birding and Big game viewing, People and Photography.

What kinds of Tours do you offer?
Observing birds and wildlife in their natural surroundings is the main focus of the tours. Some tours are designed to focus on smaller geographic areas and may be based at only a few locations, while other tours are designed to provide a more complete survey of larger areas and may be based at multiple locations. Otherwise, the duration of each tour entirely depends upon your requests and also based on how long you may wish to spend at a particular site or even what sites you are interested in seeing.

How do I know what a specific Tour is like?
The tour description and itinerary are designed to answer most questions that you may have about a tour, but please don’t hesitate to contact us. If any itinerary of your choice is not posted on our website, we will be happy to customize one for you since most of what we have up on our website are just samples among the many logical ones. We can usually send you one via email or regular mail. Feel free to get back to us.

Is Group Travel for Me?
Group travel provides opportunities to share the excitement of seeing and hearing birds and wildlife with like-minded people. Everyone brings their own knowledge, experience, and unique perspective with them, and this enriches the tour for all. From a practical standpoint, more eyes and ears help to locate more birds and wildlife for all, and travel to remote areas may feel less intimidating. However many of our Tours depart in small private groups and many are guided as individuals. For tours that have scheduled departure dates calling upon joiners, please see our schedules for the Tanzania Safaris. Where we have a group departing, the tour will be guaranteed a departure with at least THREE participants as a minimum and SIX as maximum. Any number below THREE participants shall be regarded as a private tour and can be re-scheduled to depart at dates of own choice or even have the Itinerary altered to suit private personal interests.

I’m a new birder. Are your Tours appropriate for me?
Yes. Our guides are teachers and we want to ensure that everyone on a tour sees all the birds and learns to identify them. For example, our specially trained Bird Tour Guides are willing to spend time with you explaining or describing a particular bird species.

I’m concerned about long days in a van when I really want to be outdoors. How have you arranged travel?
Taking into consideration the nature of some rough roads in Africa, we generally try to plan itineraries where no more than 200 miles are covered in a day – and always with stops for some exercise or activity before we continue again. There are a few sites, however, where hauls of more than 200 miles in a day are unavoidable. In such cases, the destination in question is worth the drive from the birding point of view, and in most cases, we will stay there a night. On most of our tours, we plan to spend two nights at a location. But again this will depend on the amount of time the tour participants have requested to have on the entire Holiday.

What kind of accommodations do you select?
We like to be comfortable, but depending on requests and budget, we may opt for the following categories:

(a) Upper Market Properties and Top Luxury Tented Camps
(b) Standard Tourist Lodges
(c) Mid Budget Lodges
(d) Permanent Tented Camps
(e) A mix of Standard Tourist class Lodges with Permanent Tented Camps
(f) Budget Mobile Camping.

Apart from the Budget Camping, many of the properties are attractive lodging Properties with private baths and erected at spectacular views or located on the migration route of the Birds and Big game. Where such Properties and facilities are not available, we take the best available in the area. Lodging is based on double occupancy, although a participant can select to room alone with a single occupancy supplemental fee (the amount varies with each Property).

What luggage should I bring?
Through years of travel, our best advice is “travel light!” Many of our trips are casual. Essentials are your binoculars, slacks, shirts, waterproof light jacket, comfortable shoes, and socks. In your day pack, you should go with anything you want to access during the day. You will be responsible for your own luggage, so be sure you can lift and carry it comfortably. We will send a more specific list of what to pack for Africa which is appropriate for the tour you have selected, about 60 days prior to arrival.

How strenuous are your Tours?
Most of our trips are easy going. Where there is a walk or hike, this is not meant to be strenuous and above all it is optional. This is your holiday so you may choose not to participate in any day’s activity, just let your guide know about it the evening before. However, if you need several hikes, you need to let us know at the initial stages of planning your final Itinerary.

How many Birds and Game can I see on your Tours?
Our Guides will use their best skills and experience to let you see as much as possible. However, there is usually no guarantee of the total number of birds or game that you are likely to see on your Safari as these all depend on the following factors:

– Enthusiasm of the trip participants
– Ability of the participants in engaging in the days’ activities
– Weather each day
– Luck
– Duration of the trip
– Sites and general habitats covered on the Itinerary
– Time of the year.

However, a two weeks trip in East Africa should be able to give an average of 400 Species of Birds and most of Africa’s Big Game.

When is the best time of the year to visit Africa?
It usually depends on which part of Africa you are intending to visit. However for East Africa, the most popular time of the year to visit is mid-June through March. (From the end of March through May it is a season of long rains, hence not highly recommended.)

What is a typical day on Safari with both birdwatching and Big Game viewing?
Usually, each day will begin with either an optional bird walk in the hotel grounds at 06:30, followed by a breakfast at 07:00 or 07:30. Where an early breakfast is indicated, this is at 06:30, and we hope to get moving by 07:00 – 07:30. In most forest areas, we will opt for the early breakfast, and hope to start birding by 07:30, as prior to this the birds don’t move much, as it is dark in the under storey.

Daylight hours are 06:30 – 19:00, and for safety reasons, we try to avoid driving after dark wherever possible.

Exact times of arrival and departure at Lodges/Hotels usually depend upon how good birding is before departure from an area. We will endeavor to take lunch between 13:00 and 14:00, which will often be a packed lunchbox, although again, this will vary with location as it is always better to take lunch while birding around.

In the evening, the meal will usually be at about 19:30 – 20:00, and the tour leader will run through a log of the day’s birds either before or after this for those who are interested.

For the Big game lovers, Game drives are scheduled when the animals are most active. You should appreciate the side effect that birdwatching brings in, thus birders are usually at a slower pace than any other visitors and they usually take time looking at a particular bird species, and often in such moments, an unusual mammal is bound to cross by or you get to even witness one of the rarest actions in the wilderness. The following schedule is however typical for the big game safaris:

6:00 Wake-up with tea/coffee
6:30-9:00 Morning game drive
9:00 Breakfast at leisure
12:30-14:00 Lunch
15:30-18:30 Afternoon game drive
19:30 Dinner

What kind of Vehicles do you use? Do you use expert guides/Leaders?
We use Standard Safari Minibuses with pop up roofs for Game viewing and photography in Kenya and Uganda. Because of the rough and very difficult terrain in Tanzania, we stick to Four-wheel-drive safari vehicles which are custom-built land cruisers, Minibuses, and Land Rovers. Many of our trips are escorted and guided by an experienced Bird guide locally available in the area and has more than 90% of the birds in the area on his fingertips. It is however not mandatory to have an escort or guide on the regular Mammal Safari as we trust our Drivers can handle all the Mammal spotting on safari. Many of our Drivers and Escorts are trained in Wildlife Management, Ornithology, First Aid, Flora, Geography and People of the areas where the Itinerary criss-cross. ABOVE ALL, OUR DRIVERS ARE TRAINED TO BE PATIENT AND NEVER ZOOM. They will provide introductory briefings and safari lectures, accompany you into the bush and are generally available to field questions or provide necessary help as you may wish.

Can children travel on your Safaris? If so, what age?
Yes, Children are encouraged to come and discover the world with us. Just let us know the age group and we will provide the possible requirements and advise.

What vaccinations are required to travel to Africa?
Yellow Fever will be required if you are traveling from a yellow fever country of Origin into East Africa, otherwise, this will not be required.

Contact your local health department or your travel agent for current details for individual countries.
As required vaccinations constantly change, we suggest you consult your health professional or a travel health clinic for further details.

As a first-time visitor to Africa, where will I see the most Birds and Animals?
In terms of BirdLife, Kenya has the highest number of Birds but again Tanzania has a wider range of special and rare avian life, some of which are recent discoveries while others await naming as new species. Visit our website to view the different Bird Checklists for Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda so as to have a comparison. Tanzania and Kenya have great game viewing definitely. Tanzania however, tends to have a greater number of animals if the Itinerary is designed with optimum time at each site without rushing through. We would suggest considering Tanzania for your first trip if you have not been to Africa before but a combination with Kenya is highly recommended too.

OK, BUT… BUT… The Price?

Yes, it is time we looked at this. Prices are normally regulated by the following:

– Duration of the trip

– Number of Participants on the trip (size of the group), for example the smaller the group the higher the price, and the bigger the group the lower the price. In other words, each extra person in the group should be able to make the price lower.

– Number of Children

– Type of accommodation used. Naturally, you would expect a trip with upper market accommodation to be higher than a Budget Camping Trip.

– Special arrangements such as Handicapped or Commercial Filming.

– Lodges charge differently at different times of the year. So it would be better if you let us know the time of the year you are planning to travel.

What is covered in your trip fees?
Our fees tend to be as all-inclusive as possible.

Fees include:
All lodging as per selected Itinerary, all meals, ground transport with services of a driver, Airport Transfers/Border crossings where applicable, bottled water, guide services with a professional Bird Guide, Park Entrance fees, Conservation fees where applicable, Government Taxes and Gorilla Tracking Permits where applicable.

Fees Exclude:
All Flight Fares, Visas, Tipping, Health and Travel Insurance, all items of personal nature. etc

How do I get the reference of someone who has gone birding with your Organisation?
We have an endless list of happy visitors who have traveled with us in the past and recently. Email: tours@tanzaniabirding.com for a recent list of clients who have traveled with us.

Can I book my trip via your Website or do I have to do it over the phone?
Yes. You can start your travel adventure online by dropping us a line via email and to confirm availability of tours or our small range of expert bird guides. Drop us an email at tours@birdingsafaris.co.tz / tours@tanzaniabirding.com

A guideline shall be sent to you in return. It is that easy!!

More questions?

Please feel free to contact us with any questions using the address above.