The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Africa

ULTIMATE TANZANIA: From the Serengeti to Pemba and the Eastern Arc Mountains

Saturday 14th November – Friday 27th November 2020

Leader: Dani López-Velasco and a local bird guide

14 Days Group Size Limit 8
Remote Udzungwa Extension

Friday 27th November – Saturday 5th December 2020

9 Days Group Size Limit 8
Thursday 7th October – Thursday 21st October 2021

Leader: Pete Morris and a local bird guide

15 Days Group Size Limit 8
Northern Endemics Extension

Sunday 3rd October – Thursday 7th October 2021

5 Days Group Size Limit 8
Remote Udzungwa Extension

Thursday 21st October – Friday 29th October 2021

9 Days Group Size Limit 8

ULTIMATE TANZANIA: 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 Tanzania 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 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 (or African Tailorbird), 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 Bushshrike, 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.

For those who have not experienced the full wonder of Birdquest’s extraordinary Northern Tanzania tour, and who would welcome the chance to see the Northern Tanzanian endemics in a much shorter time-frame, we have a 5-day extension that explores the Arusha and Tarangire areas before continuing west over the Ngorongoro uplands to the southeastern plains of the vast Serengeti ecosystem.

Star endemic and near-endemic attractions here are Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Fischer’s and Yellow-collared Lovebirds, the remarkable Beesley’s Lark (the rarest and, with the exception of Raso Lark, the most restricted-range lark in the world!), Ashy Starling and Rufous-tailed Weaver.

Finally, for those willing to trek twice up into the remote Udzungwa Mountains, 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!). Camping for 5 nights is necessary but is quite comfortable in our fully outfitted camps.

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 to two different sites. At one of these, 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, the endemic Kipengere Seedeater, Yellow-browed Seedeater 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 more widespread Eastern Arc specialities of Tanzania.

Birdquest has operated Tanzania birding tours since 1983.

What makes Birdquest’s Ultimate Tanzania’s birding tour special? Firstly an extraordinary, unequalled itinerary for Tanzanian endemics!

Secondly, 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 greatly reduce per-person costs), 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 a good or very good standard. At Amani, the accommodation is fairly simple but clean and comfortable. During the Remote Udzungwa 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 quite comfortable. Road transport is by Landrover or Toyota 4x4s with opening roof hatches. Road conditions are variable.

Walking: The walking effort during the main section of our Ultimate Tanzania birding tour is easy for the most part, occasionally moderate. The Northern Endemics extension is easy. However, there will be some fairly demanding hiking during the Remote Udzungwa 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 during our Ultimate Tanzania birding tour are quite good.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • An adventurous tour aiming to see as many of the endemics and regional specialties as possible in some little visited localities
  • A visit to the island of Pemba for a suite of endemics; Pemba Green Pigeon, Pemba Scops Owl, Pemba White-eye and Pemba Sunbird
  • Watching rare Usambara Weavers in trees swathed with Usnea high above Usambara Akalats and Spot-throats in the undergrowth
  • Birding the remnant forests at Amani where the rare Long-billed Apalis can be found by day and the impressive Usambara Eagle-Owl by night
  • Climbing high in the Uluguru Mountains to find the endemic Uluguru Bushshrike, beautiful Loveridge’s Sunbird and shrill-voiced Winifred’s Warbler
  • Three recently discovered species in the open flats of the Kilombero floodplain; White-tailed and Kilombero Cisticolas, and Kilombero Weaver
  • A host of restricted-range sunbirds, ranging from Hofmann’s Sunbird in Mikumi National Park to the unusual Rufous-winged Sunbird in the Udzungwa Mountains
  • An expedition to find the recently discovered Udzungwa Forest Partridge in the Udzungwa Mountains
  • Hunting in the Udzungwas for retiring species such as Iringa Akalat, Kipengere Seedeater and the secretive Dapple-throat, all of which present some exciting challenges
  • Traversing the ‘lark plains’ in the company of our Maasai guide in search of the endemic Beesley’s Lark
  • Delightful endemic Yellow-collared Lovebirds and Ashy Starlings amongst the impressive baobabs of Tarangire National Park
  • The awesome vista across the huge Ngorongoro Crater, a world of wildlife in miniature
  • Yellow-throated Sandgrouse crouched right beside our vehicle
  • Staying at lovely Ndutu, where endemic Fischer’s Lovebirds and Grey-breasted Spurfowl are high on the wanted list
  • Watching a Cheetah hunt a Thompson's Gazelle or a young wildebeeste and feeling the 'Wheel of Life' turning inexorably

OUTLINE ITINERARY

  • NORTHERN ENDEMICS PRE-TOUR EXTENSION
  • Day 1: Morning tour start at Kilimanjaro airport. Drive to Arusha area. Visit plains north of Arusha.
  • Day 2: Drive via Tarangire and Ngorongoro to Lake Ndutu in southeast Serengeti.
  • Day 3: Lake Ndutu area.
  • Day 5: Return to Arusha area.
  • Day 6: Drive to Kilimanjaro airport to rendezvous with main tour arrivals.
  • MAIN TOUR
  • Day 1: Morning tour start at Kilimanjaro airport. Drive to Same.
  • Day 2: South Pare mountain, then drive to Lushoto.
  • Days 3-4: Exploring the West Usambaras. Overnights at Lushoto.
  • Day 5: West Usambaras, then drive to Amani.
  • Days 6-7: Exploring the East Usambaras. Overnights at Amani.
  • Day 8: Drive to Tanga airport. Flight to Pemba Island.
  • Day 9: Pemba Island, then flight to Dar-es-Salaam. Drive to Morogoro.
  • Days 10-11: Exploring the Ulugurus and Ukagurus. Overnights at Morogoro.
  • Day 12: Drive to Sanje. Visit Ifakara/Kilombero River.
  • Day 13: Ifakara/Kilombero River, then drive to Mikumi.
  • Day 14: Mikumi National Park.
  • Day 15: Mikumi National Park. Flight to Dar-es-Salaam for afternoon tour end.
  • REMOTE UDZUNGWA EXTENSION
  • Day 1: Drive to Iringa area.
  • Days 2-7: Exploring the West and East Udzungwa Mountains. 5 nights camping and 1 night Iringa area.
  • Day 8: East Udzungwa Mountains, then drive to Mikumi.
  • Day 9: Mikumi National Park. Flight to Dar-es-Salaam for afternoon tour end.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

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PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include these flights: Tanga-Pemba-Dar-es-Salaam.

Deposit: 10% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

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


2020: £5350, $7290, €6050, AUD10060. Dar-es-Salaam/Dar-es-Salaam.
Remote Udzungwa Extension: £3070, $4190, €3470, AUD5780. Mikumi/Dar-es-Salaam.
2021: £5650, $7690, €6380, AUD10610. Arusha/Dar-es-Salaam.
Northern Endemics Extension: £1430, $1950, €1610, AUD2690. Arusha/Arusha.
Remote Udzungwa Extension: £3070, $4190, €3470, AUD5780. Mikumi/Dar-es-Salaam.

Single Supplement: 2020: £420, $580, €480, AUD800.
Remote Udzungwa Extension: £120, $170, €140, AUD230.
Single Supplement: 2021: £460, $630, €520, AUD860.
Northern Endemics Extension: £190, $260, €210, AUD350.
Remote Udzungwa Extension: £120, $170, €140, AUD230.

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: BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

NOTE: The 2020 main tour itinerary follows first. Then the 2021 main tour itinerary, as it differs.

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 a 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, African 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., where colonising House Crows are everywhere. 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 and the lovely endemic Usambara Double-collared Sunbird. 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.

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 African 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 Tinkerbird, Olive Woodpecker, African Pied Wagtail, Red-rumped Swallow, Black Saw-wing, Grey Wagtail, Black-headed Mountain, Shelley’s and Placid 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, Southern Yellow White-eye, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Forest Batis, Southern Fiscal, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Fülleborn’s Boubou, Black-backed Puffback, African Hill Babbler, Grey Cuckooshrike, Fork-tailed Drongo, Kenrick’s, Waller’s, Red-winged and Sharpe’s Starlings, 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 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, 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 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 Long-crested Eagle, 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, Green and Yellow-rumped 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, African Yellow and Little Rush Warblers, Green-backed Camaroptera, Little Yellow and Black-and-white Flycatchers, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike, East Coast Boubou, 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 Bushshrike, 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 bushshrike as well as such specialities as the beautiful endemic Loveridge’s Sunbird. More readily found are the attractive, restricted-range Olive-flanked Ground Robin, 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, Cape Robin-Chat, Willow Warbler, Dark Batis and White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher. We may also encounter Spotted Eagle-Owl.

We will also visit another area of forest which is good for the distinctive endemic Uluguru (Mountain) Greenbul 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, as well as Abyssinian Thrush. 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 the restricted-range 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, 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 the endemic Hofmann’s Sunbird, Racket-tailed Roller, the localized Pale-billed Hornbill, Speckle-throated Woodpecker, Northern Pied Babbler, Arnott’s White-headed Chat, Collared Palm Thrush, Stierling’s Wren Warbler, Cinnamon-breasted Tit, 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, Miombo 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, Common Scimitarbill, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Black-collared Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, Bearded Woodpecker, Neddicky, Pale Batis, Retz’s Helmetshrike, Brubru, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Black-headed Oriole, 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 Helmetshrike, Red-backed Shrike, Tropical Boubou, Grey-headed and Sulphur-breasted Bushshrikes, Black Cuckooshrike, 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 Wildebeest). 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.

 

2021 MAIN TOUR ITINERARY

Ultimate Tanzania: Day 1  Our tour begins this morning at Kilimanjaro airport, situated between the towns of Arusha and Moshi.

Providing the weather is clear, we should see the majestic peak of Mount Kilimanjaro rising high above the plain. From here we will drive southeastwards to Same for an overnight stay.

This afternoon we will explore the dry, hot, bush country of the Pare plains. Here the avifauna is akin to that of Tsavo West National Park in Kenya, although, as we happily face no restrictions here on having to stay in our vehicles, looking for some species is distinctly easier.

In particular, we shall be hoping to find the furtive Scaly Chatterer and Pringle’s Puffback, as well as the amazing-looking but localized White-headed Mousebird and Tsavo Purple-banded Sunbird.

The thick acacia scrub should be alive with birds this morning. Comical-looking White-bellied Go-away Birds and Northern Red-billed, Von Der Decken’s and African Grey Hornbills perch up prominently. Glittering Eastern Violet-backed, Hunter’s, Variable and Beautiful Sunbirds should be easy to find as they flit from one flowering bush to another. Pink-breasted Larks, Zanzibar Sombre Greenbuls, White-browed Scrub Robins and Northern White-crowned Shrikes may also be found perched in the larger bushes and small trees, while the branches of the larger acacias are regularly inspected by roving Abyssinian Scimitarbills. Spotted Morning Thrushes sing joyfully and the loud calls of Slate-coloured Boubous sound from the depths of the thickets, while Red-fronted Tinkerbirds ‘poop’ away through the heat of the day. Beautiful Blue-capped Cordon-bleus and Purple Grenadiers search for food beneath these same bushes.

If we are reasonably fortunate we will also find such desirable species as the striking African Bare-eyed Thrush, Pygmy Batis, the distinctive cathemagmena form of the Rosy-patched Shrike, the incredible Golden-breasted Starling, Southern Grosbeak-Canary and Somali Golden-breasted Bunting. If conditions are right then we may also see Straw-tailed and Steel-blue Whydahs in breeding plumage, and we will keep an eye open for Fire-fronted Bishop, an irruptive and irregularly seen species that is occasionally found here.

The presence of a large reservoir nearby adds diversity to the birdlife and additional species that we coulkd well find during our visit to the Same region include Pink-backed Pelican, Long-tailed and White-breasted Cormorants, Western Cattle, Little and Great Egrets, Black, Squacco, Striated (or Green-backed) and Grey Herons, Marabou, Yellow-billed and Woolly-necked Storks, Sacred and Glossy Ibises, African Spoonbill, White-faced and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Egyptian Goose, Red-billed Teal, Osprey, Eastern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Common and Augur Buzzards, African Fish Eagle, Tawny and Long-crested Eagles, Lanner Falcon, African Jacana, Water Thick-knee, Black-winged Stilt, Blacksmith and Spur-winged Lapwings, Kittlitz’s Plover, Common Greenshank, Ruff, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Grey-headed Gull, Gull-billed, White-winged and Whiskered Terns, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Namaqua, Red-eyed, Ring-necked and Laughing Doves, African Orange-bellied Parrot, White-browed Coucal, African Palm and Little Swifts, Blue-naped Mousebird, Grey-headed and Pied Kingfishers, European and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, European and Rufous-crowned Rollers, Green Wood Hoopoe, Black-throated, D’Arnaud’s and Red-and-yellow Barbets, and Nubian Woodpecker.

Passerines include African Pied and Western Yellow Wagtails, Grassland Pipit, Barn and Lesser Striped Swallows, Dark-capped Bulbul, Northern Brownbul, Northern and Isabelline Wheatears, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Spotted and African Grey Flycatchers, Eastern Olivaceous and Upcher’s Warblers, Winding, Rattling and Ashy Cisticolas, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Grey Wren-Warbler, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Red-fronted Warbler, Northern and Red-faced Crombecs, Abyssinian White-eye, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit, Isabelline Shrike, Long-tailed Fiscal, Sulphur-breasted Bush-Shrike, Common Drongo, Pied Crow, Superb and Wattled Starlings, Swahili Sparrow, Yellow-spotted Petronia, White-headed Buffalo Weaver, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Vitelline, Chestnut, Lesser Masked and Black-necked Weavers, Red-billed Quelea, Red-billed Firefinch, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Black-faced Waxbill, Green-winged Pytilia, African Silverbill, Village Indigobird, Pin-tailed Whydah, Reichenow’s (or Yellow-rumped) Seedeater and White-bellied Canary.

Ultimate Tanzania: Day 2  Now that South Pare White-eye is treated as a full species, we will ascend South Pare Mountain this morning until we find this highly localized Tanzanian endemic.

We will also have time to look for some more dry bush country birds before we head southeast 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 and the lovely endemic Usambara Double-collared Sunbird. 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.

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 African 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 Tinkerbird, Olive Woodpecker, Red-rumped Swallow, Black Saw-wing, Grey Wagtail, Black-headed Mountain, Shelley’s and Placid 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, Southern Yellow White-eye, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Forest Batis, Southern Fiscal, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Fülleborn’s Boubou, Black-backed Puffback, African Hill Babbler, Grey Cuckooshrike, Fork-tailed Drongo, Kenrick’s, Waller’s, Red-winged and Sharpe’s Starlings, 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 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, 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 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 Long-crested Eagle, 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, Green and Yellow-rumped 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, African Yellow and Little Rush Warblers, Green-backed Camaroptera, Little Yellow and Black-and-white Flycatchers, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike, East Coast Boubou, 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  Today we will descend to the lowlands and then travel to the coastal town of Tanga.

From Tanga airport (where colonizing House Crows are everywhere), 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, African 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 9  After some final birding on Pemba we will take a flight to Dar-es-Salaam and then head westwards 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 10-11  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 Bushshrike, 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 bushshrike as well as such specialities as the beautiful endemic Loveridge’s Sunbird. More readily found are the attractive, restricted-range Olive-flanked Ground Robin, 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, Cape Robin-Chat, Willow Warbler, Dark Batis and White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher. We may also encounter Spotted Eagle-Owl.

We will also visit another area of forest which is good for the distinctive endemic Uluguru (Mountain) Greenbul 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, as well as Abyssinian Thrush. 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 the restricted-range Swahili Sparrow.

Ultimate Tanzania: Day 12  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.

Eventually, we will reach 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, Grosbeak Weaver, Black-winged Red and Zanzibar Red Bishops, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Parasitic Weaver, Zebra Waxbill and Pin-tailed Whydah.

Ultimate Tanzania: Day 13  After some final birding around Ifakara we will retrace our steps to Mikumi National Park for a two nights stay.

Ultimate Tanzania: Day 14  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 the endemic Hofmann’s Sunbird, Racket-tailed Roller, the localized Pale-billed Hornbill, Speckle-throated Woodpecker, Northern Pied Babbler, Arnott’s White-headed Chat, Collared Palm Thrush, Stierling’s Wren Warbler, Cinnamon-breasted Tit, 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, Miombo 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, Common Scimitarbill, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Black-collared Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, Bearded Woodpecker, Neddicky, Pale Batis, Retz’s Helmetshrike, Brubru, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Black-headed Oriole, 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 Helmetshrike, Red-backed Shrike, Tropical Boubou, Grey-headed and Sulphur-breasted Bushshrikes, Black Cuckooshrike, 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 Wildebeest). 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 15  After some final birding at Mikumi, you will take a flight to Dar-es-Salaam international airport, where the main section of our Ultimate Tanzania birding tour ends this afternoon.

 

NORTHERN ENDEMICS PRE-TOUR EXTENSION

(Note: many bird species that we will also encounter during the main tour are not mentioned under this extension.)

Ultimate Tanzania (Northern Endemics): Day 1  The tour starts this morning at Kilimanjaro airport, from where we will drive the short distance westwards to the Arusha area for an overnight stay at a very comfortable lodge.

After we have had the chance to wash and change we will head off to some open grassy plains not far from Arusha in search of the highly localized endemic Beesley’s (or Pygmy Spike-heeled) Lark. This Tanzanian form is so geographically isolated from the range of the Spike-heeled Lark in Southern Africa that it is no surprise that genetic studies have shown it deserves specific status. It is only known from a tiny range and there may be as few as 250 individuals in total!

This is wonderful lark habitat and we should also encounter Rufous-naped, Foxy, Red-capped, Athi Short-toed and Short-tailed Larks, and Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark. Also frequenting the area are the interesting goodsoni form of the Plain-backed Pipit (which may represent a distinct species) and the smart Capped Wheatear. Careful searching should turn up Temminck’s Courser.

Nearby are extensive areas of thornbush where we could well find such species as Banded Parisoma, Greater Blue-eared Starling, the restricted-range Kenya Rufous Sparrow and the smart Grey-capped Social Weaver. Along the highway from Arusha we should encounter Speckled Pigeon and Abyssinian Wheatear (the local form schalowi may represent a distinct species; Schalow’s Wheatear).

Ultimate Tanzania (Northern Endemics): Day 2  We will set off early and drive westwards, first through rolling, partly cultivated landscapes and then through steadily drier bush country, until we reach the edge of Tarangire National Park.

Tarangire has a rich avifauna and the prime specialities here are two Tanzanian endemics, Ashy Starling and Yellow-collared Lovebird, both of which are usually easy to find. (Populations of the lovebird in Kenya derive from escape cagebirds.) We will only have a short time here, but we are sure to add a number of new birds to our list.

From Tarangire we will cross the Great Rift Valley and then climb up a spectacular escarpment, with wonderful views out across the vast shimmering expanse of Lake Manyara and its fringing groundwater forest, before travelling through the rich agricultural lands of the Crater Highlands. Beyond Karatu we enter the Ngorongoro Conservation area and all of a sudden montane forest is all around us.

We will pass along the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, stopping to admire the awesome view. Gazing down from the observation area, where Hunter’s Cisticolas and Eastern Double-collared Sunbirds can usually be observed, one can see the entire crater laid out below one like a map, and even make out distant African Elephants, Black Rhinos and herds of antelopes and African Buffalos!

Soon we will start to descend into the shortgrass plains that cover a huge area of the southeastern part of the vast Serengeti ecosystem, keeping a lookout for such new birds as Taita Fiscal along the way. This is Masai country and from time to time we will encounter these proud cattle herders with their traditional red cloaks and spears.

Eventually, we will reach our comfortable safari lodge at Lake Ndutu, where we will spend two nights.

Ultimate Tanzania (Northern Endemics): Day 3  Lake Ndutu is situated right on the border between the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park. Birdlife is rich and varied in the Ndutu area, due to the juxtaposition of grasslands, woodland and two saline lakes, Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek.

At the lakes, we can drive relatively close to Greater and Lesser Flamingos and many other waterbirds, including Cape Teal, Pied Avocet and Chestnut-banded Plover.

Amongst the woodland, open grassy areas and scrub we should easily find our two major targets here in Serengeti, the endemic Grey-breasted Spurfowl and the pretty little endemic Fischer’s Lovebird (the latter species is only ‘native’ to Tanzania, populations in Kenya are of escaped cagebirds). Even the surroundings of our pleasant lodge are very birdy, with near-endemic Rufous-tailed Weavers and many other birds coming to drink at a small pool, often making for great photographic opportunities.

Other likely birds around Ndutu include Gabar Goshawk, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Great Spotted Cuckoo, the impressive Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl (if we are fortunate), Slender-tailed Nightjar, Von der Decken’s Hornbill, the restricted-range Usambiro Barbet, Red-fronted Barbet, Black-lored Babbler, White-browed Scrub Robin, Buff-bellied Warbler, Silverbird, Chin-spot Batis, Magpie Shrike, Red-throated Tit, the restricted-range Hildebrandt’s Starling, Marico Sunbird, the restricted-range Swahili Sparrow, Chestnut Sparrow, Speckle-fronted Weaver and Crimson-rumped Waxbill. If we are fortunate we will come across Steel-blue Whydah.

Out on the shortgrass plains, the avifauna is quite different, and here we will be looking for Common Ostrich, Abdim’s and White Storks, Rüppell’s Griffon and Lappet-faced Vultures, Greater and Lesser Kestrels, Kori and White-bellied Bustards, Black-winged Lapwing, Double-banded Courser, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, the attractive Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Banded Martin, Pectoral-patch Cisticola and Wattled Starling.

Needless to say, the Ndutu area is one of the finest parts of the Serengeti plain and we can expect to see a good variety of plains mammals, even during a short visit devoted largely to birding. Likely sightings include Common Zebra, Brindled Gnu (or Blue Wildebeest), Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles, Common Warthog, African Elephant, Masai Giraffe, Olive Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Lion, and Black-backed and Common Jackals. Less frequently encountered species (during a short visit) include Eland, Coke’s Hartebeest, Steenbok, Bat-eared Fox and Cheetah.

In the woodland, Kirk’s Dik-Diks (surely the most endearing little antelope in Africa), Impala and Scrub Hares are quite common, while at night, Common Genets come right into the dining room at our lodge, sitting on the roof beams and waiting for a handout, or scampering around the floor as if they were pets! There is an outside chance of a Leopard.

Ultimate Tanzania (Northern Endemics): Day 4  After some final birding on the Serengeti plain we will return to the Arusha area for an overnight stay.

If we have time, we will make a short stop en route at the famous Olduvai Gorge, where the Leakey family have discovered so much about our earliest ancestors.

Ultimate Tanzania (Northern Endemics): Day 5  Before dawn we may locate the attractive African Wood Owl and, if we are fortunate, the delightful Small-eared Galago (one of the bush babies) close to our lodge. The restricted-range Taveta Weaver occurs close by. After breakfast, we will travel to Kilimanjaro airport to meet up with those arriving for the main tour.

REMOTE UDZUNGWA EXTENSION

Ultimate Tanzania (Remote Udzungwa): Day 1  Those taking the Remote Udzungwa section of our tour will continue southwestwards from Mikumi 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 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.

Ultimate Tanzania (Remote Udzungwa): Days 2-7  During these six days we will explore the Udzungwa Mountains of eastern Tanzania, camping for a total of five nights (three nights at one location and two 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 twice 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, Yellow-browed Seedeater and the uncommon endemic Kipengere Seedeater.

More widespread species we may encounter in the mountains or on their drier fringes include Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle, African Grass Owl, Square-tailed Nightjar, Narina’s Trogon and Green-backed Honeybird, although all these are rather uncommon. More reliable are African Broadbill, Singing and Black-lored Cisticolas, Slender-billed Starling, Abyssinian Thrush and Yellow-crowned Canary. 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 (Remote 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 (Remote Udzungwa): Day 9  After a final morning’s birding at Mikumi we will take a flight to Dar-es-Salaam international airport, where our tour ends this afternoon.

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