Stork walking through water in Tanzania

Bird Watching in Africa

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Niarra Travel

There’s nowhere quite like Africa for wildlife watching; on a continent this diverse, captivating and so full of intriguing and wonderful creatures, it’s not a surprise that it’s a prime destination for bird watching too. In fact, around a quarter of the world’s winged species live in or migrate to Africa, sheltering in any of the huge range of habitats and ecosystems that are found throughout the vast wilderness. With such an abundance of birds to spot, from raucous colonies of African penguins to lone, primal shoebills, Africa is a twitchers paradise.

It is an indisputable fact that bird watching in Africa is an adventure that takes ornithological experiences to the next level. Here are our favourite destinations to help you do just that.

One of the big birds of Africa

Uganda

There are many excellent reasons for Uganda to be on your bird watching in Africa bucket list. Thanks to a rich and diverse range of habitats, a massive 1073 (recorded) species call the country home, including around 50% of all the bird species found in Africa. All this is in an area that is roughly the size of the UK, so plenty of easy spotting for eager birders. Head to the Murchison Falls National Park for over 550 species, including some of the big birds of Africa - the park is a key habitat for the shoe-billed stork, a rare, prehistoric looking bird that stalks swamps and lakes, and the grey crowned crane, Uganda’s national bird.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where open plains meet mountain forests, is another top spot for birds (as well as a strong population of gorillas), with Albertine Rift endemics like the purple-breasted sunbird, dwarf honeyguide and Shelley’s crimsonwing, as well as hornbills and turacos spottable among its densely wooded landscapes.

Rare shoebill spotted at Entebbe, iconic for bird watching in Africa

Zambia

Zambia is the place for birders with a sense of adventure, and has two incredible annual events for those who are seeking it. First, in August and September, head to South Luangwa National Park to witness thousands of carmine bee-eaters descend on sandy banks of the Luangwa River to dig breeding tunnels. Best observed from a boat, their joyful chorus and vibrant colours are an astounding way to begin or end the day. Then, between October and December, Kasanka National Park is the place to be thanks to the African straw-coloured fruit bat migration. Millions of bats converge on the park’s swamps and with them come the big predator birds of Africa like bat hawks, eagles and vultures.

Other great birding spots include the savannah and river banks, particularly good for waders, of the Zambezi National Park, where you can also see the African pitta in the wet season, and the wetlands of Kafue National Park for pelicans, storks and cranes.

Eagle in flight, capturing the essence of big birds of Africa

South Africa

When looking at top spots to go bird watching in Africa, South Africa is a strong contender. With its diverse ecosystems, it boasts over 900 species and has the highest number of endemic birds of any country on the continent. And, really, where else in the world can you see the best-known of the big birds of Africa, the ostrich, after breakfast and penguins before dinner? The spectacular Kruger National Park is a safe bet for all wildlife and is home to an array of birds, including kingfishers, bee-eaters and bateleur eagles.

The fynbos landscapes of the De Hoop Nature Reserve on the opposite side of the country offer something still richly diverse but completely different. Here, look out for fish eagles, pied avocets and Caspian terns. The UNESCO-listed iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a paradise of coastal wetlands, lakes and forest is also a hotspot where you can check off gorgeous bush-shrikes, Livingstone’s turaco, saddle-billed stalks and rufous-bellied herons among many, many more.

Kingfisher perched near Victoria Falls, a gem for bird watching in Africa.

Tanzania

With a list of world-renowned birding destinations as long as your arm, Tanzania is a necessary pilgrimage for anyone set on going bird watching in Africa. Within the country’s numerous national parks and protected areas nestle a range of different microclimates and topographies which shelter over 1,388 bird species. For true endemic species, both avian and mammalian, you’ll need to be intrepid and head into isolated parks like the Udzungwa Range National Park or the more accessible Amani Nature Reserve where spots include the long-billed forest warbler, Amani sunbird and the Usambara Eagle-owl.

The better-known parks, though, still have plenty to show off – the meandering waterways of the Selous Reserve are the perfect place for a birding cruise, with malachite kingfishers and yellow-billed storks fishing among the reeds. Secretary birds struct across the savannah of the Ngorongoro Crater, African fish-eagles soar the skies over Lake Victoria and huge salmon-pink flocks of flamingos wade the lakes of Lake Manyara National Park.

Flamingos at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, showcasing birds of Africa

Botswana

The birds of Africa flock to this untamed wilderness. With wildlife havens like the Okavango Delta and the Kalahari Desert within its borders, it is an exceptional place to watch any kind of animal in their natural habitat, including birds. While it may not be home to any endemic species, if you have the likes of southern pied babblers, brown fire finch and melodious larks on your list, this is the place for you.

The Moremi Wildlife Reserve on the eastern edge of the Okavango offers a magical safari experience and chances to see slatey egrets, Pel’s fishing owls, lesser jacana and giant eagle owls. The landscapes of the Chobe National Park, encompassing lush floodplains, sweeping grasslands and skeletal leadwood forests area also teeming; come here for lilac-breasted rollers, African fish eagles and African spoonbills. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve has some treats for avid birders, with black-chested snake eagles, kori bustard, pale chanting goshawk and martial eagles on its packed rostrum.

A bird flying towards a tree in the Moremi Game Reserve

If you are interested in booking a bird watching experience in Africa that you are sure to remember, get in touch with our team on +44 (0) 20 3821 5994 (UK), +1 (833) 215 9353 (US) or at explore@niarratravel.com and begin crafting your dream African adventure today.

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