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TANZANIA: ULTIMATE EASTERN ARC

Birdquest's Tanzania: Ultimate Eastern Arc birding tour explores 'The Other Tanzania', far from the well-known safari route from Kilimanjaro to Serengeti, but the area where the greatest concentration of Tanzania's endemic and other speciality birds occur. Our Tanzania: Ultimate Eastern Arc tour is the most comprehensive trip available through the 'Eastern Arc' mountains and Pemba Island, and records more of the specialities than any other. What a journey!

Wednesday 3rd October — Tuesday 16th October 2018
(14 days)


Remote Udzungwa Extension: Tuesday 16th October — Wednesday 24th October (9 days)

Leaders: Dani López-Velasco and a local bird guide

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part (but the extension is fairly demanding at times); accommodations are mostly comfortable lodges, but there is some quite comfortable outfitted camping during the Udzungwa extension

Scheffler's Owlet in Mikumi National Park. This individual has a barred rather than plain back – a variable feature in this species! (Nik Borrow)

Scheffler's Owlet in Mikumi National Park. This individual has a barred rather than plain back – a variable feature in this species! (Nik Borrow)

Tanzania, with its wealth of large mammals and remarkably rich avifauna, has long been regarded as a classic destination for both the birder and the wildlife enthusiast. In fact almost 25% of the country is either a national park or a game or forest reserve.

However, there is another side to Tanzania that is often overlooked by those whose images of the country have been formed by the stream of marvellous wildlife films featuring the wonders of the northern parks. For this exciting country is, depending on the taxonomy followed, home to up to 35 or more endemic bird species and also a significant number of near-endemics, many of which are rare or endangered. New discoveries continue to be made, with no less than eight endemic species having been found here since 1981, although two of these are still waiting to be officially described!

The aim of this special tour is to find the great majority of Tanzania’s eastern specialities, including those that require camping in remote areas. During this adventure we will visit some superb areas that are very much off-the-beaten-track, including the ‘Eastern Arc Mountains’ from the Usambara Mountains to the Udzungwa Mountains, the Kilombero floodplain and the small island of Pemba. On this special itinerary we will certainly be treading where few other birders have ventured before and our efforts will undoubtedly be rewarded with views of some of Tanzania’s best kept secrets.

The tour begins at Dar-es-Salaam on the Indian Ocean coast, our jumping off point for a flight to the tiny island of Pemba, famous for its cloves and spices and home to four endemics: Pemba Green Pigeon, Pemba Scops Owl, Pemba White-eye and Pemba Sunbird, as well as such interesting birds as Crab-plover (a monotypic bird family), Sooty Gull and the restricted-range and much sought after White-cheeked Tern.

Our next stop will be the West Usambara Mountains with their old German colonial influences. Here we shall search out Red-capped Forest Warbler, Usambara Akalat, Usambara Double-collared Sunbird and hopefully Usambara Weaver.

Only a four-kilometre wide valley separates this chain from the slightly lower East Usambaras, home to the famous Amani Nature Reserve. In the remnant forest patches situated amongst the extensive tea estates that cloak the mountain tops we shall be hunting out some very special birds. These include Kretschmer’s Longbill, Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird, the rare and extremely localized Long-billed Apalis, Usambara Hyliota and Banded Green Sunbird. A wonderful supporting cast of birds includes rarities such as Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Fischer’s Turaco and Sharpe’s Akalat.

After leaving the Usambaras behind and heading south, we shall arrive at the Uluguru Mountains. Here we will be concentrating on finding such specialities of this mountain island as Uluguru Greenbul, the rare Uluguru Bush Shrike, the beautiful Loveridge’s Sunbird and the skulking but extremely shrill-voiced Winifred’s (or Mrs Moreau’s) Warbler.

Further west lie the little-visited Ukaguru Mountains, where we will be wanting to see the endemic Rubeho Akalat and Rubeho Warbler. We will also have a first chance for Moreau’s Sunbird.

In complete contrast to these cool mountain tops with their lush vegetation are the flat and humid Kilombero floodplains where we will search for three recent discoveries; White-tailed and Kilombero Cisticolas, and Kilombero Weaver.

Mikumi National Park will be our final destination before we end the tour at Dar-es-Salaam, and offers a chance to unwind in a comfortable safari lodge after some montane hiking and forest birding . Mammals will be on show in Mikumi with its southern ‘miombo’ habitat, but our main focus will be on birds such as Dickinson’s Kestrel, Racket-tailed Roller, Pale-billed Hornbill, Cinnamon-breasted Tit and Shelley’s Sunbird.

During the optional extension there is a remarkable opportunity to take part in a real birding adventure that explores a truly remote area, home to some very special endemic and near-endemic birds (two of which are only recently described to science!), yet in comparative comfort!

First we travel from Mikumi southwestwards to Iringa, with Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill and Ashy Starling along the way.

From the Iringa area we will trek into the scenic Udzungwa Mountains where, much to the scientific world’s surprise, a new species of partridge, Udzungwa Forest Partridge, was discovered as recently as 1991. These mountains are also home to Swynnerton’s Robin, the superb White-winged Apalis, the endemic Iringa Akalat, Forest Double-collared Sunbird, Yellow-browed Seedeater (split from Streaky) and yet another recent discovery, the gorgeous endemic Rufous-winged Sunbird, not to mention the secretive Dapple-throat, now placed in its own bird family alongside just two close relatives.

There is also a superb supporting cast that includes many Eastern Arc specialities.

Birdquest has operated tours to Tanzania since 1983.

Remote Udzungwa-only Option: You may opt to take just the Remote Udzungwa section as a stand-alone tour.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are almost all of good or very good standard. At Amani the accommodation is fairly simple but clean and comfortable. During the post-tour extension we shall be camping in remote areas in the Udzungwa Mountains for 5 nights. The camps, which are arranged by our expert local safari outfitters, will be simple but comfortable. Road Transport is by Landrover or Toyota 4x4s with opening roof hatches. Road conditions are variable.

Walking: The walking effort is easy for most of the tour, occasionally moderate, but there will be some moderate to fairly demanding hiking in the Udzungwa Mountains during the extension.

Climate: Most days will be warm or hot, dry and sunny, but overcast conditions are fairly frequent and there is likely to be some rain. At higher altitudes temperatures are cool to warm (it can even get quite cold at night).

Bird/Mammal Photography: Opportunities are quite good.

Eastern Tanzania Tour Prices: Prices in Tanzania, in common with many of the ‘safari’ countries of eastern and southern Africa, are high by the general standard of tour costs in ‘less developed’ countries. There are two main reasons for this. In the first place ‘safari travel’ appeals to a very well-heeled audience from across the globe, not just to birders and wildlife enthusiasts, and this demand, in a part of the world (Eastern Tanzania) where there is often little choice of where to stay, pushes up prices to high levels . Secondly, the high quality way to go ‘on safari’ is to use specially modified 4x4 vehicles, typically Landrovers or Toyota Landcruisers. Import taxes and running costs for these vehicles in Tanzania are very high, and the vehicles take only a small number of people in each, so costs per person are correspondingly steep. The cheaper alternative, still used by some bird and wildlife tour operators, is to put folk into a small minibus (passenger van) that will have less space, a less comfortable ride on bumpy dirt roads and which usually has no 4x4 capability and so can struggle to pass muddy or rutted sections of road (conditions regularly present in Tanzania). If you see a Tanzania tour description and it does not specify 4x4 Landrovers or Landcruisers, check with the tour operator in case they are going to have their clients travel in minibuses.

Tour Price: £5190, €5910, $6800 Dar-es-Salaam/Dar-es-Salaam. Single Accommodation Supplement: £416, €474, $545. Deposit: £650, €780, $850.

Remote Udzungwa taken as an extension: £2990, €3410, $3920. Single Room Supplement: £120, €137, $157. Deposit: £400, €480, $520.

Remote Udzungwa taken as a stand-alone tour: £3090, €3520, $4050. Single Room Supplement: £120, €137, $157. Deposit: £400, €480, $520.

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

Also includes these flights: Dar-es-Salaam-Pemba, Pemba-Tanga.

Remote Udzungwa as a stand-alone tour also includes this flight: Dar-es-Salaam-Mikumi.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.150.

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.

African Buffalo coming to drink in Mikumi National Park (Nik Borrow)

African Buffalo coming to drink in Mikumi National Park (Nik Borrow)

Pemba Green Pigeon is one of four endemics restricted to the island (Nik Borrow)

Pemba Green Pigeon is one of four endemics restricted to the island (Nik Borrow)

Uluguru (Mountain) Greenbul is endemic to this one small range (Nik Borrow)

Uluguru (Mountain) Greenbul is endemic to this one small range (Nik Borrow)

Despite having been discovered in 1986, the endemic Kilombero Cisticola still awaits a formal description! (Nik Borrow)

Despite having been discovered in 1986, the endemic Kilombero Cisticola still awaits a formal description! (Nik Borrow)

We shall be on the look out for the Racket-tailed Roller in Mikumi National Park (Nik Borrow)

We shall be on the look out for the Racket-tailed Roller in Mikumi National Park (Nik Borrow)

Arnott’s White-headed Chat is usually easy to see in Mikumi National Park (Nik Borrow)

Arnott’s White-headed Chat is usually easy to see in Mikumi National Park (Nik Borrow)

Mangrove Kingfishers are common and easy to see on Pemba (Nik Borrow)

Mangrove Kingfishers are common and easy to see on Pemba (Nik Borrow)

The delightful Taveta Golden Weaver is one of many restricted range species that we'll find on this tour (Nik Borrow)

The delightful Taveta Golden Weaver is one of many restricted range species that we'll find on this tour (Nik Borrow)

Many of the flights and 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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