Africa offers to travelers countless possibilities for a vacation. If you are a bird enthusiast and you are looking for an unforgettable ornithological experience, let me ask you this: have you ever envisioned going on a birdwatching safari in Africa?
Many African countries enclose a broad variety of bird species. As a result, you will not be able to see all the bird species that Africa harbors in one vacation!
Furthermore, you don’t have to be an ornithologist to appreciate birding!
You can easily include bird watching as part of your safari adventure since a full spectrum of wildlife coexists in the same environment.
Therefore, there is no need to choose between the megafauna and the birds, since they share the same habitat.
I have outlined here, the best countries and listed the places within each country to visit for a memorable birdwatching experience along with the bird species that you might encounter. However, this is just a glimpse of what is out there!
Why Is Africa an Excellent Destination for Birding?
Well, the answer is simple: landscape diversity. Africa encompasses a broad range of landscapes that include: forests, marshes, deserts, mountains, and seashores (the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean), and as a result, Africa encloses a diverse population of birds.
The African Continent harbors about 2,600 species of birds, which can be classified into three categories:
- Endemic species: Birds species are only found in one country in Africa.
- Near-endemic species: Birds species found in three African countries or less.
- Migrant species: Temporary residents. They either come from other regions of Africa (African migrants) or the northern hemisphere (Palaearctic migrants) and usually spend the summer in the region.
The top countries to consider for birdwatching on the Dark Continent are South Africa, Uganda, Botswana, and Tanzania.
South Africa is by far, one of the best destinations for bird lovers with more than 820 species of birds, which include 40 endemic bird species. So, if you want to see a Cape Parrot in its natural habitat, you’ll have to go to South Africa!
The best time for birdwatching in South Africa is during the summer (September to March) and especially during the months of December and January.
South Africa is a big country encompassing many ecosystems, and each ecosystem hosts a wide variety of bird species.
To see all the bird species in South Africa, you’ll need more than one vacation to accomplish that colossal undertaking! So, without further ado, let’s get started!
The Boulders Beach is in the Cape Peninsula near Simons Town. The beach is part of the Table Mountain National Park.
Also, the main attraction is the African penguins, an endangered species.
The colony of African Penguins has more than 2,000 members!
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, formerly known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park is in the KwaZulu-Natal Province and the nearest town is Durban.
If you want to visit the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the best time to do so is between the months of February and April (late summer).
The park features more than 530 species of birds. This impressive number is due to the presence of a diverse landscape throughout the park that ranges from wetlands, savannahs, and subtropical dune forests to sandy beaches, and coral reefs.
Moreover, the species of birds that you might be able to observe within the park are the Mangrove Kingfisher, Swamp Nightjar, Rufous-bellied Heron, and the Flamingos (Lesser and Greater).
The Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is mostly known for its game viewing drives of the Big Five (lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards, and rhinoceros).
However, the park constitutes an excellent safari destination for birdwatching, since it harbors over 500 species of birds. Some of the birds present within the Kruger National Park include the African Fish Eagle, the Brown Snake-Eagle, the Lilac-breasted Roller, and the Kingfishers.
Lammergeier Nature Reserve
The Lammergeier Nature Reserve is in the Eastern Cape Province in the vicinity of Lady Grey. The name of this nature reserve “Lammergeier” means lamb vulture. Thus, the nature reserve is named after a vulture!
Moreover, the Bearded Vulture is quite a character! Like many other vulture species, the Bearded Vulture is a scavenger and feeds on carcasses. However, its diet consists mainly of bones and bone marrow!
Furthermore, this vulture can swallow a bone up to the size of a lamb femur!
However, when a bone is too big to be engulfed, the approach used by this raptor to remedy this problem is quite spectacular. The Bearded Vulture will fly to a height of 160 to 490 ft (50 to 150 m) from where it will drop the bone on the rocks below to break it into smaller pieces. Sounds simple, right?
Actually, not really! It could take up to seven years for the Bearded Vulture to master the art of breaking bones!
Have you watched the video above? You didn’t miss a thing, right? Now, can you imagine missing out on the action while you are on your birding safari just because you forgot to pack a pair of binoculars or didn’t want to buy a good pair of binoculars?
To avoid this and to fully appreciate your birdwatching experience, I strongly recommend that you bring your own pair of binoculars!
Apart from the Bearded Vulture, the Lammergeier Nature Reserve encloses more than 280 species of birds, such as the Crested Crane, Cape Vulture, Jackal Buzzard, and the Black Eagle only to name a few.
Uganda is a birding paradise with more than 1,000 species of birds.
The Grey Crowned Crane is featured on the Ugandan flag since it is the national bird of Uganda. A surprising choice since Fox’s Weaver is the only endemic bird of the Pearl of Africa, consequently a logical contender for being the national bird of the country!
Uganda’s Destinations for Birdwatching Safari
I have listed in the following table some of the best places in Uganda for birdwatching along with the number of species present in each location and also some of the birds that you might encounter on your journey. However, bear in mind, that this is a very shortlist!
|Destinations||# Species||Bird Species|
|Kibale National Park||~ 375||Green-breasted Pitta|
Kingfisher African Gray Parrot
|Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary||138||Great Blue Turaco|
|Bwindi Impenetrable Forest||~ 350||African Green Broadbill |
African Emerald Cuckoo
|Queen Elizabeth Park||~ 600||Shoebill|
Pel’s Fishing Owl
|Kidepo Valley||~ 475 (including 56 species of raptor)||Pygmy Falcon|
|Lake Mburo National Park||Over 300||Grey Crowned Crane|
|Murchison Falls||Over 450||Goliath Heron|
|Mt. Elgon National Park||Over 300||African Blue Flycatcher|
|Rwenzori Mountains National Park||217||Purple-breasted Sunbird|
Botswana is home to nearly 600 species of birds. However, there are no endemic birds in Botswana. The Short-clawed Lark is the only near-endemic species of Botswana (also found in South Africa).
The Kalahari Desert mostly covers Botswana. However, the northern part of Botswana contains the largest inland Delta in the world: the Okavango Delta, the perfect destination for bird lovers.
The Delta region encompasses many ecosystems that include seasonally flooded grasslands, permanent swamps, woodlands, and lagoons.
The Okavango Delta
The best time to visit the Okavango Delta is during the wet season, specifically during the months of November to February.
The rainy season coincides with summer and offers an excellent breeding ground for wildlife.
Many migrant birds (African and Palaearctic) spend their summer in the Delta region.
Two of the most famous residents of the Delta are the Slaty Egret and the Wattled Crane, both endangered species.
Other notables of the region are the White-backed Night Heron, the Pel’s Fishing Owl, and the African Skimmer.
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
The Makgadikgadi Pans are located in the northeastern area of Botswana and southeast of the Okavango Delta and correspond to an area of 12,000 square km.
During the dry season, there is no wildlife present within the Makgadikgadi Pans, because of its arid environment. However, during the wet season, heavy flooding rains will fill the region, leading to the formation of a lake.
The Makgadikgadi Pans are well known for being the breeding ground of the flamingos (Greater and Lesser). However, other birds species visit the region during the wet season and include, but it is not limited to the African Spoonbill, the Great White Pelican, the Caspian Plover, and the Martial Eagle.
The Chobe National Park
The Chobe National Park, named after the Chobe River is well renowned for birdwatching and features more than 400 species of birds. Among them, there are many species of Eagles and Kingfishers.
Furthermore, the Chobe National Park is the perfect safari destination if you want to mix it up a bit! You can combine game viewing drives along with a birding adventure since the megafauna, and the birds share the river banks.
The first thing that comes to mind at the mention of Tanzania is for most people, Mount Kilimanjaro. However, Tanzania has more than 1,100 bird species, and 23 of those are endemic to Tanzania. So, if you are a bird enthusiast, you ought to consider going to Tanzania for a birding safari.
Among the best birding destinations in Tanzania, the Arusha National Park and Lake Manyara should be at the top of your list!
The Arusha National Park
The Arusha National Park encompasses three areas: Ngurdoto Crater, Momella Lake, and Mount Meru. More than 400 species of birds inhabit the Park.
The best place to observe the birds is Momella Lake. Among the birds living around the lake, you will find the Flamingo, the Pelican, the Heron, the Augur Buzzard, and the Verreaux’s Eagle.
Lake Manyara has an abundant birdlife with more than 400 bird species. The Lake is an ideal destination for bird watching because more than 100 different species of birds can be seen on any given day. Here are some of the birds you might spot around the lake: The Grey Crowned Crane, the Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, and the African Jacana.
Africa is the destination of choice for an unforgettable birdwatching experience. The Dark Continent encloses an impressive population of bird species, mainly due to the presence of a wide range of ecosystems throughout the continent.
South Africa and Uganda are well-renowned countries for birding safari, and the number of bird species living in these countries is quite astonishing!
The Okavango Delta offers a sanctuary during the summertime for many migrant birds, either coming from other regions of Africa or other countries.
Tanzania includes an abundant birdlife with more than 1,100 species of birds and is the most popular destination among tourists for game drives, so why not, as the adage says: “kill two birds with one stone” by combining within the same safari adventure, game viewing drives, and bird watching!
Lastly, to fully appreciate your birding safari experience, you need to get your own binoculars. However, don’t rush out to buy any pair of binoculars just yet! If you want to get the best safari binoculars on the market at an affordable price, read my full review by clicking here.
If you have any questions or would like to share stories about birding, please leave a comment below. I will get back to you promptly.