The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Africa Tours

ULTIMATE TANZANIA: THE EASTERN ARC

Saturday 14th November – Friday 27th November 2020

Leaders: Dani López-Velasco and a local bird guide

14 Days Group Size Limit 6
Remote Udzungwa

Friday 27th November – Saturday 5th December 2020

9 Days Group Size Limit 6
Sunday 14th November – Saturday 27th November 2021

Leaders: Pete Morris and a local bird guide

14 Days Group Size Limit 6
Remote Udzungwa

Saturday 27th November – Sunday 5th December 2021

9 Days Group Size Limit 6

ULTIMATE TANZANIA: THE EASTERN ARC: OVERVIEW

Birdquest’s Ultimate Tanzania birding tours explore the Eastern Arc Mountains and Pemba. This is definitely ‘The Other Tanzania’, far from the well-known safari route from Kilimanjaro to Serengeti, but the area where by far the greatest concentration of Tanzania’s endemic and other speciality birds occur. Our Ultimate Eastern Arc, Tanzania birding tour is the most comprehensive tour available that covers both the ‘Eastern Arc’ mountains and Pemba Island in the Indian Ocean, and records more of the Tanzanian bird specialities than any other. What a journey!

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.

Our Ultimate Tanzania birding tour begins at Dar-es-Salaam on Tanzania’s 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 second part of our Tanzania: Ultimate eastern Arc birding tour 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 of the Eastern Arc specialities of Tanzania.

Birdquest has operated Tanzania birding tours since 1983.

Remote Udzungwa-only Option: You may opt to take the Remote Udzungwa section of our Ultimate Tanzania birding tour as a stand-alone tour.

What makes Birdquest’s Ultimate Tanzania’s birding tour special? The high quality way to go on a birding safari in Tanzania is to use specially modified and extended 4×4 vehicles, either Toyota Landcruisers or Landrovers, with large opening roof hatches. These vehicles make the safari experience so much more comfortable.

The cheaper alternative, used by some Tanzania birding tour operators (who can as a result reduce per person costs by up to US$1200 for a safari of this length), is to put folk into small minibuses (passenger vans) that will have significantly less space and a much less comfortable ride on bumpy dirt roads (these are a fact of life on any Tanzanian safari). Furthermore, the minibuses used either have no 4×4 capability or a more limited capability than proper ‘off road’ vehicles like Landcruisers, so they can struggle to pass muddy or rutted sections of road (conditions regularly present in Tanzania). If you see a Tanzania birding tour description and it does not clearly specify that you will be travelling in a Landcruiser or Landrover 4×4, check with the tour operator in case they are going to have you travel in a minibus! In our opinion that tempting reduction in the tour price comes at a very high cost in terms of client comfort.

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 Remote Udzungwa section 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 during our Ultimate Tanzania birding tour is easy for most of the tour, occasionally moderate. There will be some moderate to fairly demanding hiking in the Udzungwa Mountains during the second part of the tour.

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 during our Ultimate Tanzania birding tour are quite good.


PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees. Our tour prices also include all flight costs and 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 US$650. Flights included are: Dar-es-Salaam-Pemba, Pemba-Tanga. Remote Udzungwa as a stand-alone tour also includes this flight: Dar-es-Salaam-Mikumi.

Deposit: Main Tour: £620, $800, €700. Remote Udzungwa Extension/Tour: £350, $460, €400.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates and deposit amount)


2020: £5900, $7290, €6480. Dar-es-Salaam/Dar-es-Salaam.
Remote Udzungwa (taken as an extension): £3390, $4190, €3720. Mikumi/Dar-es-Salaam.
Remote Udzungwa (taken as a stand alone tour): £3550, $4390, €3900. Dar-es-Salaam/Dar-es-Salaam.
2021: provisional: £5900, $7290, €6480. Dar-es-Salaam/Dar-es-Salaam.
Remote Udzungwa (taken as an extension): £3390, $4190, €3720. Mikumi/Dar-es-Salaam.
Remote Udzungwa (taken as a stand alone tour): £3550, $4390, €3900. Dar-es-Salaam/Dar-es-Salaam.

Single Supplement: 2020: £460, $580, €510.
Remote Udzungwa (taken as an extension): £130, $170, €150.
Remote Udzungwa (taken as a stand alone tour): £130, $170, €150.

Single Supplement: 2021: £460, $580, €510.
Remote Udzungwa (taken as an extension): £130, $170, €150.
Remote Udzungwa (taken as a stand alone tour): £130, $170, €150.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

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.

ULTIMATE TANZANIA: THE EASTERN ARC BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Ultimate Tanzania: Day 1  Our tour begins this morning at Dar es Salaam airport (where colonizing House Crows are everywhere), from where we will catch an morning flight across to the island of Pemba for an overnight stay at a comfortable resort. Pemba Island, with its extensive clove plantations, lies about 50 kilometres off the Tanzanian coast and is particularly well known for its superb coral reef diving.

For the birder the main interest of this Indian Ocean island lies in its four endemics – Pemba Green Pigeon, Pemba Scops Owl, Pemba White-eye and Pemba Sunbird. The white-eye and sunbird are both garden birds at our hotel, but the green pigeon may require a little more searching for at a beautifully cool patch of remnant forest, which is also home to the restricted-range Mangrove Kingfisher. This is also where we will be looking for the scops owl, which is quite common here but can take a bit of persistence.

During our stay on Pemba we shall also be on the lookout for the strange Crab-Plover, the sole member of its family, feeding on the sand flats in the company of a variety of shorebirds, while other specialities include the attractive Dickinson’s Kestrel, the restricted-range Sooty Gull and Saunders’s Tern. There is also a good chance here for the restricted-range White-cheeked Tern.

More widespread species we should also encounter include Little Grebe, Western Cattle, Dimorphic and Great Egrets, Striated Heron, Sacred and Hadada Ibises, White-faced Whistling Duck, White-backed Duck (uncommon), African Pygmy Goose, Yellow-billed Kite, African Harrier-Hawk, Great Sparrowhawk, Palm-nut Vulture, Common Moorhen, African Jacana, Water Thick-knee, Grey (or Black-bellied) Plover, Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Common Greenshank, Wood, Common, Curlew and Terek Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Stint, Eurasian Whimbrel, Greater Crested and Lesser Crested Terns, Red-eyed Dove, Brown-headed Parrot, African Palm Swift, African Pygmy and Pied Kingfishers, European Bee-eater, Broad-billed Roller, Crowned Hornbill, Barn and Wire-tailed Swallows, Grassland Pipit, Zitting Cisticola, African Paradise Flycatcher, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Pied Crow, Black-bellied Starling, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, and Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins.

Ultimate Tanzania: Day 2  After some final birding on Pemba we will take a short flight across to Tanga on the nearby mainland. Afterwards we shall head northwest until we reach the West Usambara Mountains. Extensive cultivation and plantations surround the town of Lushoto, an old German settlement, and, as is only too often the case with African mountains, the natural forest has been reduced to just a few remnants on the tops. We will continue past the town to our comfortable, homely guesthouse, situated in a delightful valley somewhat reminiscent of alpine Europe, where we will stay for three nights.

Ultimate Tanzania: Days 3-4  During our stay we will visit some very productive montane forest above Lushoto. Here, at around 1750m, we will find that the temperature is pleasantly mild compared with the hot plains.

We shall need plenty of time in order to find all six of the very special birds that live here. The notoriously shy Spot-throat, although numerous, prefers to stay inside the forest, under the cover of tangled vegetation, and thus requires much patience in order to see it well. A bird of ‘uncertain affinities’ as the taxonomists say, it has alternatively been classed as a thrush or a babbler, but is currently placed in its own family together with two close relatives!

These forests are also home to a plain, but nonetheless charismatic, West Usambara endemic, the Usambara Ground Robin (also a bit of a skulker, but one that has a rather sweet song), the endemic Usambara Thrush (split from Olive) and the lovely endemic Usambara Double-collared Sunbird (split from Eastern). We shall also be looking through the treetops and scouring the mixed bird parties in the hope of encountering the rare endemic Usambara Weaver, a species that only occurs at low densities and sadly appears to be heading for extinction. The secretive, restricted-range White-chested Alethe lives here too, but again will demand much patience if we are to see it well. At least one special bird is definitely easier to see here, and this is the Red-capped Forest Warbler – now considered to be an African species of tailorbird! Another good bird to look for is the near-endemic Stripe-faced Greenbul (split from Stripe-cheeked).

More widespread species we may well find here or in one of the other Eastern Arc ranges include Mountain and Augur Buzzards, Ayres’s Hawk Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Eastern Bronze-naped and Olive Pigeons, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Tambourine and Lemon Doves, Dusky Turtle Dove, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Red-chested, Barred Long-tailed and Klaas’s Cuckoos, Speckled Mousebird, Common and Scarce Swifts, Bar-tailed Trogon, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Olive Woodpecker, African Pied Wagtail, Red-rumped Swallow, Black Saw-wing, Grey Wagtail, Black-headed Mountain, Shelley’s and Placid (split from Cabanis’s) Greenbuls, White-starred Robin, African Stonechat, African Dusky and Ashy Flycatchers, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Bar-throated and Black-headed Apalises, White-bellied Tit, Yellow White-eye, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Forest Batis, Common Fiscal, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Fülleborn’s Black Boubou, Black-backed Puffback, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike, Common Drongo, Kenrick’s, Waller’s, Red-winged and Sharpe’s Starlings, Eastern Olive Sunbird, the dazzling Malachite Sunbird, Baglafecht, Village (or Black-headed) and Dark-backed Weavers, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Southern Citril, Streaky Seedeater and Oriole-Finch. An endangered endemic mammal, Lushoto Mountain Squirrel, may also be seen. At night we may find Usambara Nightjar (split from Montane) around the lodge.

Ultimate Tanzania: Day 5  Today we will leave the West Usambaras, retracing our steps down the Umba River valley to the main road which skirts the somewhat lower East Usambaras, separated from their neighbours by the wide Lwengera River valley. We will stop along the way and we may find Common Buzzard, Ring-necked Dove, White-browed Coucal, White-rumped and Little Swifts, Striped Pipit, Rock Martin, Grey-olive Greenbul, Dark-capped Bulbul (split from Common), White-browed Robin-Chat, Cliff Chat, Red-faced Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Variable Sunbird, Spectacled and African Golden Weavers, and African Firefinch. Eventually we will take the dirt road that leads up to the Amani Nature Reserve for a three nights stay. We should arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Ultimate Tanzania: Days 6-7  In the East Usambaras some extensive forest patches still survive within and around a large tea estate, and during these two days we will explore this exciting part of Tanzania. The old government buildings around Amani, a reminder of colonial days gone by, are slowly crumbling away, along with the memory of the ‘great days’ of the British Empire.

The ‘town’ does, however, happen to be surrounded by beautiful forest and in the flowering and fruiting trees nearby we should see the endemic Banded Green Sunbird, the near-endemic Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird and, if we are lucky, Amani and Plain-backed Sunbirds. Despite its name, the former is a rather irregular visitor in the Usambaras. The recently-split endemic Usambara Hyliota also occurs here, but this active little bird can be remarkably elusive in the canopy and so we shall need to be very attentive to passing bird parties in order to find it.

The panoramic view over the nearby hills gives us an opportunity to look for raptors such as African Cuckoo-Hawk, African Goshawk and the uncommon Southern Banded Snake Eagle. We shall be birding from the tea-estate roads and also along a number of small trails cut specially for walkers and eco-tourists that will allow us to gain access to the otherwise impenetrable forest understorey.

Many special birds occur in this forest and we shall be making a concentrated effort to locate one of the rarest, the near-endemic Long-billed Apalis, at one of its few known localities. In the same area we shall be listening out for the distinctive bulbul-like calls of the skulking Kretschmer’s Longbill. This bird loves vine tangles, and coaxing one into view is never easy. Although the forest can often be quiet, the silence is sometimes broken by the raucous cries of the Fischer’s Turaco and we will enjoy seeing this stunning bird with its brilliant crimson wings and red crest. In the dense forest undergrowth we may well encounter the pretty Sharpe’s Akalat as well as the distinctive local form of the Pale-breasted Illadopsis (which has such a different voice that it is surely a distinct species). At night we shall try to locate the endemic Usambara Eagle Owl, although there is far more chance of finding African Wood Owl.

More widespread birds we are likely to encounter in the Amani area include African Green Pigeon, the gorgeous African Emerald Cuckoo, Green Yellowbill (or Green Malkoha), Mottled and Böhm’s Spinetails, Brown-hooded and Half-collared Kingfishers, Trumpeter Hornbill, Green Barbet, Mombasa Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped and Eastern Green Tinkerbirds, White-eared Barbet, Scaly-throated and Lesser Honeyguides, Eastern Honeybird, Green-backed and Cardinal Woodpeckers, Lesser Striped Swallow, Little, Yellow-streaked and Tiny Greenbuls, Eastern Nicator, Red-capped Robin Chat, Red-tailed Ant Thrush, Kurrichane Thrush, Lead-coloured Flycatcher, Dark-capped Yellow and Little Rush Warblers, Green-backed Camaroptera, Little Yellow and Black-and-white Flycatchers, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Chestnut-fronted Helmet-shrike, East Coast Boubou (split from Tropical), Square-tailed Drongo, Green-headed Oriole, White-naped Raven, Collared and Purple-banded Sunbirds, Green-backed and Peters’s Twinspots, Common Waxbill, Pin-tailed Whydah and Cabanis’s Bunting. The only mammals we are likely to see are Gentle Monkey (the local form sometimes being split as White-throated Guenon) and Zanj Sun Squirrel.

Ultimate Tanzania Birding Tour: Day 8  After some final birding in the East Usambaras we will descend to the lowlands and then head southwards to Morogoro, a small town at the base of the Uluguru Mountains, where we will stay for three nights. We will stop along the way to look for Böhm’s Bee-eater and anything else of interest.

Ultimate Tanzania: Days 9-10  The Ulugurus are a spectacular range rising steeply from the flat plains to about 2600m. On one of our two full days in the mountains a twisty dirt road takes us through open farmland where the localized Bertram’s Weaver can be found, as well as Mottled Swift, Angola Swallow, Trilling Cisticola and Yellow Bishop.

Our four-wheel drive vehicles will only be able to get us so far and then we will be faced with a hike through farmland before we reach the forest. Although the lower slopes of the Ulugurus are largely deforested, there are still a few quite unspoilt patches on the tops which contain some very special birds. The original forest here is a sadly threatened remnant of what was once a more extensive forest dating back some 25 million years.

In particular this marvellous place is home to the endangered Uluguru Bush-Shrike, a species not only endemic to the Ulugurus but with a population thought to number less than 1,000 individuals. The cool, moist forest offers shade as we begin our search for the bush-shrike as well as such specialities as the beautiful endemic Loveridge’s Sunbird. More readily found are the attractive, restricted-range Olive-flanked Robin-Chat, the gorgeous Orange Ground Thrush and the restricted-range Chapin’s Apalis.

More widespread species should include African Hawk-Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Livingstone’s Turaco, African Black Swift, Mountain Wagtail, Mountain Thrush (split from Olive), Willow Warbler and White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher.

We will also visit another area of forest which is good for the distinctive endemic Uluguru (Mountain) Greenbul (one of the products of the splitting of the Eastern Mountain Bulbul complex) and the noisy endemic Winifred’s (or Mrs Moreau’s) Warbler.

Another important focus of our explorations will be the Ukaguru Mountains, situated further to the west, where we will be wanting to see two more endemic specialities of the Eastern Arc, Rubeho Akalat and Rubeho Warbler. The Ukagurus also offer our first chances for additional specialities such as Moreau’s Sunbird and Yellow-throated Greenbul. The local Southern Fiscals here are of the form marwitzi, sometimes split as Uhehe Fiscal. Areas of dry bush en route to the Ukagurus may turn up Eastern Chanting Goshawk and Swahili Sparrow.

Ultimate Tanzania: Day 11  Today our journey will take us southwards through Mikumi National Park. The main road runs right through the park and we will certainly see some large mammals as we pass. We will stop for anything of particular interest en route, but we shall be returning to explore the park later. Our destination is Sanje, situated not far from the border of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, where we will stay overnight.

This afternoon we will continue towards Ifakara and explore the flood plain of the Kilombero River. Here, in 1986, ornithologists surveying for a bird atlas followed up a report from a local doctor that there were some unusual weavers breeding in the inundated grasslands of the flood plain. The team were able to catch several of these birds, which have now been officially described as a new species, Kilombero Weaver.

The weaver was not the only discovery as two different types of cisticola were also trapped, neither of which could be identified at the time. As it turned out both of these proved to be new to science as well! However, they have still yet to be officially described and for the time being they are known as White-tailed Cisticola and Kilombero Cisticola.

With three species new to science found in recent times, the Kilombero area obviously has great potential! We shall concentrate on seeing these three special birds during our visit, but we shall also search for some of the other swamp and open country birds of the area. Along the Kilombero River we should find Coppery-tailed Coucals, here at the northernmost edge of their range, calling noisily from exposed perches. If we are lucky we will see the delicate Red-necked Falcon (which makes lightning dashes, skimming the reed tops, to surprise the abundant seed-eating birds on the open plains). Sand spits along the river provide convenient resting places for the stunning White-crowned Lapwing, and we may also see African Wattled Lapwing, Three-banded Plover and tiny Black Crakes (the latter creeping in and out of the reedy edges). Colourful White-fronted and Little Bee-eaters hawk from exposed perches, while overhead Hooded, White-headed and White-backed Vultures soar.

Depending on the water levels, other birds we could find here or in the surrounding area include Great White Pelican, Reed (or Long-tailed) Cormorant, African Darter, Grey, Purple, Black-headed and Squacco Herons, Black-crowned Night Heron, Intermediate (or Yellow-billed) Egret, Hamerkop, African Open-billed Stork, Spur-winged Goose, Black-winged Kite, Brown Snake Eagle, Bateleur, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, African Fish Eagle, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Common Ringed Plover, Marsh and Green Sandpipers, Little Stint, African Skimmer, Black-and-white and Diederik (or Didric) Cuckoos, Striped, Malachite and Giant Kingfishers, Lilac-breasted Roller, Grey-rumped Swallow, Plain Martin, Arrow-marked Babbler, Sedge, Lesser Swamp and African Reed Warblers, Siffling Cisticola, Red-winged Warbler, Anchieta’s Tchagra (split from Marsh), Grosbeak Weaver, Black-winged Red and Zanzibar Red Bishops, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Parasitic Weaver, Zebra Waxbill and Pin-tailed Whydah.

Ultimate Tanzania: Day 12  After some final birding around Ifakara we will retrace our steps to Mikumi National Park for a two nights stay.

Ultimate Tanzania: Day 13  Mikumi National Park, Tanzania’s fourth largest park, is about 3230 square kilometres in extent and is made up of wooded hills, grassy plains along the Mkata River and areas of miombo woodland (characteristic of a vast swathe of Africa from central Tanzania to Zambia). We shall enjoy the comforts of a wonderfully situated luxury safari lodge overlooking an area of miombo.

Here the birding is in much more open habitat and decidedly easy compared with the montane forests. As we explore Mikumi we will begin to discover a totally different avifauna from the one that has gone before. In particular we will be looking for the miombo specialists such as Racket-tailed Roller, the localized Pale-billed Hornbill, Speckle-throated Woodpecker (split from Bennett’s), Northern Pied Babbler, Arnott’s White-headed Chat, Collared Palm Thrush, Stierling’s Wren Warbler, Cinnamon-breasted Tit (split from Rufous-bellied), the endemic Hofmann’s Sunbird (split from Shelley’s), Jameson’s Firefinch and Orange-winged Pytilia.

The more open areas of the park feature grassy plains with the occasional small waterhole that invariably attracts a variety of birds and mammals. Sometimes it will be a Hippopotamus wallowing, sometimes an Impala coming to drink or perhaps a huge Southern Ground Hornbill that strides by, and there are always the tame Long-tailed Fiscals and the gaudy Superb Starlings. The grasslands hold a wealth of cisticolas, including Croaking and Desert, as well as the aptly-named but bizarre-looking Secretary Bird, numerous Red-necked Spurfowl, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-bellied Bustard, Black Coucal, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Moustached Grass Warbler, Red-headed Quelea and White-winged Widowbird.

Where the bush and scrub is more developed we will look out for Coqui and Crested Francolins, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Crested Barbet, African Penduline Tit, Eastern Black-headed Batis, Black-crowned Tchagra, Blue-eared and Violet-backed Starlings, Southern Cordon-bleu, Yellow-fronted Canary and Golden-breasted Bunting.

Raptors are also much in evidence in this habitat and we may well come across Black-chested Snake Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Grasshopper Buzzard, Steppe, Wahlberg’s and Martial Eagles, and Eurasian Hobby.

Although we are confined to vehicles inside the park, we will visit some fine woodland outside its borders where we are free to walk at will. In these more wooded habitats we could well find Purple-crested Turaco, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Scheffler’s Owlet (split from African Barred), Common Scimitarbill, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Black-collared Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, Bearded Woodpecker, Neddicky, Pale Batis, Retz’s Helmet-shrike, Brubru, White-breasted Cuckoo-Shrike, Black-headed Oriole, Southern Blue-eared Starling (split from Lesser Blue Eared), Yellow-throated Petronia and Red-headed Weaver.

Other birds we may well see during our stay at Mikumi include White, Saddle-billed Marabou and Yellow-billed Storks, African Spoonbill, Egyptian Goose, Knob-billed Duck, Spotted Thick-knee, Blacksmith and Crowned Lapwings, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Levaillant’s, Black, and African Cuckoos, African Hoopoe, Green Wood Hoopoe, African Grey Hornbill, Flappet Lark, Mosque Swallow, Common House Martin, Arrow-marked Babbler, Northern Wheatear, Spotted Morning Thrush, Southern Black, Pale and Spotted Flycatchers, Rattling Cisticola, Yellow-bellied and Green-capped Eremomelas, Red-faced Crombec, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, White-crested Helmet Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Long-tailed Fiscal, Grey-headed and Sulphur-breasted Bush-Shrikes, Black Cuckoo-Shrike, Superb Starling, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, Amethyst, Scarlet-chested and Beautiful Sunbirds, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Lesser Masked Weaver, Red-billed Quelea and Red-billed Firefinch.

At dusk or dawn we may come across Gabon and Fiery-necked Nightjars.

Mammals are very much in evidence here and we should encounter Yellow Baboon, Spotted Hyaena, African Elephant, Burchell’s Zebra, Common Warthog, Giraffe, African Buffalo, Eland, Bohor Reedbuck and Brindled Gnu (or Blue Wildebeeste). Wild Dog occurs in the park, but we will need much luck if we are to see this rare animal during our stay. At night we could see Greater Galago, Ratel (Honey Badger), Common Genet and African Civet around our lodge.

Ultimate Tanzania: Day 14  After some final birding at Mikumi, you will take a flight to Dar-es-Salaam, where the main section of our Ultimate Tanzania birding tour ends this afternoon.

REMOTE UDZUNGWA

Ultimate Tanzania (Udzungwa): Day 1  Those taking the Remote Udzungwa section of our tour will continue southwestwards to the Iringa area for an overnight stay. Along the way we will visit some beautiful habitat in a valley draped in acacias and punctuated by bizarre-looking baobabs. Here we should find two localized Tanzanian endemics, Ashy Starling and the recently split Ruaha (or Tanzanian) Red-billed Hornbill, as well as Grey Kestrel, Meyer’s (or Brown) Parrot, Spot-flanked Barbet, Yellow-bellied Greenbul and Western Violet-backed Sunbird.

Other species we are likely to encounter include African Palm and Little Swifts, Lilac-breasted and Broad-billed Rollers, Swallow-tailed and Little Bee-eaters, African Hoopoe, Green Wood Hoopoe, Von der Decken’s and Crowned Hornbills, Black-collared Barbet, White-crested Helmetshrike, Fork-tailed Drongo, Pied Crow, White-necked Raven, Dark-capped Bulbul, Swahili Sparrow, Red-billed Firefinch and Blue Waxbill (or Southern Cordon-bleu).

Ultimate Tanzania (Udzungwa): Days 2-7  During these six days we will explore the Udzungwa Mountains of eastern Tanzania, camping for a total of five nights (two nights at one location and three at another) in two different locations, with a night at a comfortable lodge in the Iringa area in between the two camping sessions.

The Udzungwa Mountains National Park covers an area of 1900 square kilometres (734 square miles), reaches an altitude of 2579m (8462ft) and supports a biologically diverse flora and fauna. No roads enter the park and the thick and tangled forests do not give their secrets up easily. In order to have a realistic chance of seeing some very special birds we shall need to trek into the heart of the park where we shall set up camp.

The beautiful forested slopes of the Udzungwas hold a number of rare and little-known birds. In 1983 the very attractive endemic Rufous-winged Sunbird was first described from the park. The sunbird is reliant on certain trees being in flower and is usually to be found in different habitat to the partridge. To this day the species has been seen by relatively few people owing to its restricted distribution, hard-to-reach location and its little understood movements, but we have a very good chance of seeing it during our visit.

Notoriously, on 4th June 1991 a new species of partridge was discovered in a cooking pot by some visiting ornithologists at the end of an exciting day in the field! They realized quite quickly that they could not identify what they were about to eat and the hunt was then on to find a live version of the ‘kwale ndogo’ (or ‘small partridge’) that the cooks had earlier caught by the camp and then prepared for the evening meal! It turned out that a local ornithologist was also aware of the existence of this new bird for science. Eventually live birds were found and it has transpired that this endemic gamebird, now formally described and named Udzungwa Forest Partridge, is most closely related to the Southeast Asian hill-partridges. We shall of course be making considerable efforts to see this remarkable bird.

The near-endemic Dapple-throat (formerly Dappled Mountain Robin) is a retiring and skulking denizen of the undergrowth which will very likely demand much patience and determined searching. Nowadays it has a special interest as it has been placed in its own bird family alongside its relatives, Spot-throat and Grey-chested Babbler (formerly known as Grey-chested Illadopsis). It is one of those birds that can be very close while singing, yet very hard to spot, perhaps only dashing out from its hiding place with a whirr of wings before disappearing again.

Other special, restricted-range birds of this part of Tanzania include the pretty Swynnerton’s Robin, the superb White-winged Apalis, Chapin’s Apalis of the race strausae, the rather sombre-coloured, endemic Iringa Akalat, Forest Double-collared Sunbird and Yellow-browed Seedeater (split from Streaky).

Additional Eastern Arc specialities include Usambara Nightjar, the noisy but difficult-to-see White-chested Alethe, the shy Sharpe’s Akalat, the ultra-secretive Kretschmer’s Longbill, Red-capped Forest Warbler (or African Tailorbird), Spot-throat, the attractive endemic Moreau’s Sunbird, Usambara Weaver and the uncommon endemic Kipengere Seedeater.

More widespread species we may well encounter in the mountains or on their drier fringes include Black-winged Kite, European Honey Buzzard, Crowned, Long-crested and Wahlberg’s Eagles, African Goshawk, Common and Mountain Buzzards, Lanner Falcon, African Olive and Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeons, Lemon and Red-eyed Doves, Livingstone’s and Purple-crested Turacos, White-browed Coucal, Klaas’s and Barred Long-tailed Cuckoos, African Grass Owl, Spotted Eagle-Owl, African Wood Owl, Fiery-necked and Square-tailed Nightjars, Speckled Mousebird, Narina’s and Bar-tailed Trogons, Brown-hooded, Striped and Malachite Kingfishers, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Green Barbet, Moustached and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds and Green-backed Honeybird.

Passerines include African Broadbill, Dark and Chinspot Batises, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Fülleborn’s and Tropical Boubous, Southern Fiscal, Square-tailed Drongo, African Paradise Flycatcher, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Shelley’s, Yellow-throated, Stripe-faced, Little, Grey-olive, Placid and Yellow-streaked Greenbuls, Black Saw-wing, Angola and Lesser Striped Swallows, Common House Martin, Yellow-throated Woodland, Willow, African Yellow, Cinnamon Bracken and Evergreen Forest Warblers, Red-faced, Singing, Trilling and Black-lored Cisticolas, Bar-throated and Black-headed Apalises, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, African Hill Babbler, African Yellow White-eye, Slender-billed, Waller’s and Kenrick’s Starlings, Orange Ground Thrush, Abyssinian Thrush, African Dusky Flycatcher, Olive-flanked Ground Robin, Cape and White-browed Robin-Chats, White-starred Robin, African Stonechat, Collared, Olive, Amethyst, Malachite and Variable Sunbirds, Spectacled and Dark-backed Weavers, Red-faced Crimsonwing, African Firefinch, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Red-faced Mannikin, Mountain Wagtail, Southern Citril, Yellow-crowned Canary and perhaps Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle. Areas of heathland are home to Brown Parisoma and Brown-headed Apalis.

The scarce Iringa Red Colobus, now thought to number no more than 450 individuals, occurs in these forests alongside Angola Pied Colobus, and we stand a reasonable chance of encountering both of these striking primates during our visit.

Ultimate Tanzania (Udzungwa): Day 8  Today we leave the Udzungwas behind and travel back to Mikumi for an overnight stay. We are surely going to enjoy our comfortable hotel after our second camping session in the mountains.

Ultimate Tanzania (Udzungwa): Day 9  Early this morning we shall have the chance for some miombo woodland birding around Mikumi. Likely species to come across include Brown Snake Eagle, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Ring-necked Dove, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, African Green Pigeon, Scheffler’s Barred Owlet (sometimes split from African Barred), Southern Ground Hornbill, Pale-billed and Trumpeter Hornbills, Greater Honeyguide (and perhaps Brown-backed Honeybird), Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Pale Batis, Grey-headed and Orange-breasted Bushshrikes, Black-crowned Tchagra, Black-backed Puffback, Brubru, Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Grey Penduline Tit, Moustached Grass Warbler, Red-faced Crombec, Neddicky, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Yellow-bellied and Green-capped Eremomelas, Miombo Blue-eared and Violet-backed Starlings, White-browed Scrub Robin, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Southern Black and Pale Flycatchers, Yellow-throated Petronia and Red-headed Weaver.

Afterwards we shall return to Dar-es-Salaam. We will make a stop at the Ruvu River to look for an interesting weaver. First described by Hartlaub as Ploceus holoxanthus in 1861, it was subsequently lumped in Eastern Golden Weaver P. subaureus and largely forgotten about. With its dark eye and streak between the eye and bill it seems closer to Golden Palm Weaver P. bojeri and is currently being mooted as a species in its own right; Ruvu Weaver. DNA studies are currently in progress.

Other species we may well encounter today include African Sacred Ibis, Western Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, White-backed Vulture, Bateleur, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, European Bee-eater, Eastern Black-headed Batis, House Crow, Sombre Greenbul, Barn Swallow, Purple-banded Sunbird, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Green-winged Pytilia and Yellow Bishop.

Our tour ends late this afternoon at Dar-es-Salaam airport.

ULTIMATE TANZANIA: THE EASTERN ARC TOUR REPORT 2018

by Dani López-Velasco

View Report

ULTIMATE TANZANIA: THE EASTERN ARC TOUR REPORT 2016

by Pete Morris

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ULTIMATE TANZANIA: THE EASTERN ARC TOUR REPORT 2014

by Nik Borrow

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