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Malawi Birding Tours: our Malawi bird watching holiday explores one of the less-often birded countries in Southern Africa. Malawi is scenically attractive and has a rich avifauna, as well as some interesting mammals. Our Malawi birding tour produces a large bird list, including the country’s specialities, and interesting wildlife.

Monday 1st November — Sunday 14th November 2021
(14 days)

Leaders: Nik Borrow and a local bird guide

Group Size Limit: 6

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and mostly comfortable accommodations

Malawi, a small narrow country bordered by Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania is best known for its vast lake, the third largest in Africa, but from a birding viewpoint it remains one of Africa’s best kept secrets.

It is not Lake Malawi that draws the birder to this warm heart of Africa but the rich upland evergreen forests and extensive miombo woodlands. Within this small country habitat diversity is carried to an extreme and as a direct consequence Malawi boasts a bird list of over 650 species recorded from a comparatively small area. For anyone used to birding in the drier regions of Southern Africa, Malawi’s avifauna is very different. Due to its inland location and small size it only possesses one endemic, the endangered Yellow-throated Apalis but this easy-going country also has many other spectacular or fascinating species, some of which have quite restricted ranges, which are more readily found here than in any other part of Africa.

The two major habitats we will cover during our visit are miombo woodlands and montane evergreen forest, and both of these provide exciting potential. Miombo is the Swahili name used for Brachystegia woodland, which must rate as one of Africa’s most interesting birding habitats. It can be very quiet at times, but once an active and noisy bird party is found moving through this open deciduous woodland the adrenalin will be working overtime on even the most seasoned birdwatcher. Here one finds drongos and tits leading the bird parties whilst cuckoos, woodhoopoes, woodpeckers, orioles, thrushes, warblers, flycatchers, creepers and weavers follow closely behind. The montane evergreen forest is no less exciting with tantalizingly exotic calls emanating from thick tangles where alethes, robins and thrushes are lurking.

Travel in Malawi is a constant pleasure as the roads are good; the highlands are composed of dense forest pockets or by grasslands sprinkled with an astoundingly wide variety of orchids and alpine-like flowers and the views across the Great Rift Valley are stunningly beautiful with hazy blue mountain inselbergs looming above the distant horizon.

Our explorations in Malawi will take us initially from Lilongwe, the capital, to the miombo woodlands of Dzalanyama, where we will be looking in particular for Pale-billed Hornbill, Whyte’s Barbet, the localized Stierling’s Woodpecker, Miombo Grey and Rufous-bellied Tits, Miombo Rock Thrush, Miombo Scrub Robin, the restricted-range Boulder Chat, Red-capped Crombec, Stierling’s Barred Warbler, the strange Böhm’s Flycatcher, Souza’s Shrike, Anchieta’s or (Red-and-blue) Sunbird, Reichard’s and Black-eared Canaries and perhaps the uncommon Shelley’s Sunbird, secretive Lesser Seedcracker or even the rare Olive-headed Weaver.

Leaving Lilongwe, we shall look for the restricted range Vincent’s Bunting before heading further south where we will visit some areas of highland forest. The Thyolo (or Cholo) Alethe, a near-endemic that also occurs just over the border in neighbouring Mozambique, occurs in this habitat where it is restricted to small isolated patches of montane forest: seeing this secretive species will present one of the greatest challenges of the tour but we have sites where we stand a good chance of seeing this species well. We will also search for Buff-spotted Flufftail, the gorgeous White-winged Apalis (perhaps Africa’s most beautiful warbler), the endemic Yellow-throated Apalis, Olive-headed Greenbul, Cape (sometimes split as Malawi) Batis, Green-headed Oriole, Orange Ground Thrush and Forest Double-collared Sunbird: many of these birds with restricted ranges.

As we return northwards we will explore the wide, meandering Shire River, the largest river in Malawi, which drains Lake Malawi at its southern extremity and eventually joins up with the mighty Zambezi in Mozambique. The river cuts through expanses of mopane woodland and open Borassus palm savanna and creates wide floodplains rich in game and waterbirds. To drift downstream on a launch in the twilight listening to the night sounds taking over whilst searching the banks for a Pel’s Fishing Owl or White-backed Night heron is truly one of the delights of Africa – and all this with a sundowner in the other hand! Here too are such spectacular birds as Racket-tailed Roller, Böhm’s Bee-eater and Brown-breasted Barbet and the beautiful Southern Sable Antelope.

Heading still further north, we come to the enormous Lake Malawi where Narina Trogons and elusive East Coast Akalats inhabit the remnant patches of evergreen forest behind the shoreline. At the northern end of the lake is the Nyika Plateau, an area of upland moorland dotted with forests, small lakes and marshes that is part of the western rim of the Great Rift Valley. The endangered Blue Swallow is easy to see here and we shall also be looking for Denham’s Bustard, Black-browed and Sharpe’s Greenbuls, Black-lored and Churring Cisticolas, the stunning Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Ludwig’s Double-collared Sunbird, Montane Widowbird and the restricted-range Yellow-browed Seedeater, as well as some skulking inhabitants of the forest such as Olive-flanked Ground Robin, Sharpe’s Akalat, White-chested Alethe and Chapin’s Apalis.

To end up our travels through Malawi, a visit to the Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve offers a good chance of seeing the unique Babbling Starling and Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Weaver.

Birdquest has operated tours to Malawi and Zimbabwe since 1987.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are mostly of good or very good standard. Road transport is by 4x4 safari vehicle and roads are mostly good (dirt roads in some areas).

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy.

Climate: Mostly hot, dry and sunny but overcast conditions are not uncommon and it may well rain at times. At higher altitudes it will be cool in the early mornings, although warm later in the day.

Bird/Mammal Photography: Opportunities are quite good.


Birdquest Inclusions: our tour prices include all tipping, including tips for local guides and drivers. Some bird tour operators do not do this, yet for participants these costs are an unavoidable part of the tour. The value of these inclusions on this Birdquest tour amounts to approximately $210.

Price is provisional

£4520, €5170, $6100 Lilongwe/Lilongwe. Deposit: 10%.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Single Room Supplement: £401, €459, $542.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Many of the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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