BIRD WATCHING IN EAST AFRICA
OUR TOP 7 DESTINATIONS
If you’re an avid reader of our blog (which we hope you are), you might have noticed East Africa is popping up a lot. Of course, being based in Southern Africa, it will always have a special place in our hearts but it’s difficult to ignore the magnetic pull of East Africa.
It’s home to everything we love about Africa – wild and untouched landscapes, golden savannahs, luscious forests, white-sand tropical beaches, and of course incredible wildlife. It’s also one of the best birding destinations in the world. Of course, places like the Serengeti and Maasai Mara are renowned for excellent bird watching. However, we thought we’d focus on the lesser known areas, from the green, tropical Rwanda to the tropical islands, here are our top spots for birding in East Africa.
1. Murchison Falls, Uganda
Murchison Falls is a hidden African gem, especially for birders. This national park, located in north-western Uganda, is home to beautiful waterfalls, Nile river cruises and over 451 species of birds. Martial eagles, lesser flamingos and giant kingfishers can all be spotted. The park is also home to the extremely rare Shoebill. What makes it special is the variety of viewing options – game drives, nature walks and even river cruises.
Best time to visit: Year-round but January to March (the dry season) is the best time for birding.
2. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is best-known for being home to the mountain gorillas. However, it is also one of Africa’s top birding destinations. It is one of Africa’s largest forest areas and a birder’s paradise, with 348 species of bird. Birders may be lucky enough to spot the Green Broadbill, Grauer’s Warbler and the Short-Tailed Warbler – the only three surviving representatives of their respective genera.
Best time to visit: March to May and September to November. These are the rainy seasons but best for birding due to the high number of migratory birds.
3. Lake Nakuru, Kenya
Characterised by its mass of pink flamingos, Lake Nakuru is one of the best birding spots in Kenya. However, despite spotting over 1 million flamingos, birders have the chance to see up to 450 different species of birds. This includes the Madagascar Pond-Heron, Lesser Flamingo, Pallied Harrier, Greater Spotted Eagle and Grey-Crested Helmet Shrike, which are all globally threatened species.
Best time to visit: There is great bird watching opportunity throughout the year. However, November to April is breeding season and the best time to spot migrating birds.
4. Indian Ocean Islands
Perhaps not as well-known as inland Africa for bird watching, the Indian Ocean Islands of Seychelles, Madagascar and Mauritius are not be ignored. Five endemic bird families and huge seabird colonies all call these tropical paradises home. Madagascar itself is home to 120 endemic species. It’s the chance to view a number of beautiful birds, such as the endangered Thyolo alethe, the blue and red double collared sun birds, the tiny greenbul and the mangrove kingfisher.
5. Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda
Rwanda is home to over 600 bird species, and you can spot half of them in Nyungwe Forest National Park. It is the best of Rwanda’s national parks for birding, as well as chimpanzee tracking. Despite having over 310 bird species, they can be difficult to spot. Due to the thick, dense vegetation of the forest, many of the birds stay on top of the canopy. We recommend using a guide as they tend to know where the various bird species can be found. Avid birders will be excited at the possibility of some of the Albertine Rift endemic species such as red-collared mountain babbler and Albertine owl.
Best time to visit: The forest is open throughout the year but the best time for forest birding is during the wet months – October to May.
6. Akagera National Park, Rwanda
Second to Nyungwe, Akagera National Park is one of Rwanda’s top birding destinations. Akagera is a savannah park with rolling hills, wetland, woodlands and lakes. It is a more traditional Big Five safari experience compared the chimpanzee tracking of Nyungwe. 490 Species of bird have been spotted in the park, including the red-faced barbet, white-winged swamp warbler, grey-crowned crane, the shoebill and the papyrus gonolek.
Best time to visit: Birding is good year round. The dry season (June to September) is best for francolins, wetland birds, nightjars and owls. February to July is good for spotting breeding waterbirds such as herons, storks and ibises. Migratory birds are spotted from November to April.
7. Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania
Another African bird watching paradise, Selous has over 440 bird species. This Tanzanian national park is arguably one of the best on the continent. Selous Game Reserve is twice the size of the Serengeti, three times the size of Kruger National Park and has a wonderfully complex ecological system – in short it’s a must-visit destination for birders and non-birders alike.