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The Mathews Forest, dubbed a ‘biological bonanza’ by the BBC, is one of the great stretches of Kenyan forest wildernesses. Scientists call this mountain forest a ‘sky island’, which rises up out of the surrounding sea of arid lowlands, to an altitude of 2200 metres. This ancient mountain forest is a stronghold for a wide range of plant and wildlife species, such as Melanistic leopard, also known as the black panther, lion, forest elephant and antelopes, buffalo, the rare De Brazza monkey, Colobus monkey, greater kudu, waterbuck, giant forest hog as well as Africa’s endangered wild dog.
Over 200 bird species have been counted in the area, together with more than 150 species of butterflies, representing more than twice the amount of butterfly species found in the UK. Stretching for 150km, the mountains are covered in a 300km2 dense indigenous forest interspersed with giant cedars and a rare species of ancient cycad, one of the oldest plant types on the planet, endemic to the Mathews forests.
The real attraction of this remote area is its striking beauty and the opportunity to explore the forest on foot in complete privacy as well as to experience unique social interactions with the local Samburu and Ndorobo people.
To the south of the Mathews Mountains lie the Sarara Plains, approximately 75,000 hectares, home to the Samburu tribe’s people, who are a group of semi-nomadic pastoralists who have for long shown tolerance for the wildlife that co-exists alongside their cattle.
Kitich Camp is a truly remote and private location in a stunning forest glade on the upper slopes of the Mathews Mountains. At night, the atmosphere is magical, and the glade is lit for guests to observe the cautious trail of nocturnal visitors, including Melanistic (black-coated) leopard, elephant, bushbuck, and buffalo – all of which come to drink and hunt by the river.
With just six tents situated under a dense tree canopy, overlooking the stunning Ngeng River, this camp is a low-key classic. At Kitich, the lodge provides old fashioned safari comforts, including soft & fresh linen, comfortable double beds, iced drinks, and gracious dining – all in a wonderfully peaceful setting.
Night Game Viewing: Being a forest camp, and in the style of “Tree Tops”, the cosy lounge overlooks the floodlit open river glade, and at night guests can watch elephant, buffalo, bushbuck and occasionally leopard emerge from the forest at night to drink from the river, or dig for natural salts.
Guided Walks: Taking advantage of the pristine wilderness, Kitich Camp avoids traditional game drives, instead encouraging guests to explore these wild environs on foot, guided by the “masters of the forest”, the Ndorobo Samburu guides.
Swimming in Rock Pools: With crystal clear cool waters, flowing out of a spring in the mountains, enjoy swimming with nature in this magical forest paradise.
Cultural Visits: The people of Kitich and their families within the village of Ngalai are a colourful, traditional, gentle and friendly people whose only interaction with the wider world is with the guests from Kitich.Guests are hosted by the local people when they stay at Kitich, but guests are also welcome to drive down and visit the market and school in the village. (School visits entail a donation).
Guides: The guides at Kitich Camp are Ndorobo / Samburu, a semi-nomadic pastoralist community closely related to the Masai. Originally hunters, and sought after for their tracking and bush skills, some joined the Kenya Wildlife Service as trackers, before returning to Kitich. The guides at Kitich are the masters of the forest, they know the trails intimately, and can almost sense wildlife before any of the most proficient guides are aware of an animal presence. These are a gentle, happy and colourful people, who love their “work” of sharing the secrets of the forests with guests.
Conservation: Kitich Camp is situated in the 800,000 acre Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy established in 1995 by the local communities to promote wildlife conservation and socio-economic development through sustainable utilization of natural resources. The conservancy is facilitated by the Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT), who provide capacity building at grassroots level to empower elected community trustees to effectively manage their own conservancy, increase security for wildlife, protect natural resources, resolve grazing conflicts and establish sustainable enterprises. Kitich is a key tourism partner for Namunyak, employing 80% of its staff from the surrounding communities and paying conservation fees coll ected from guests on a US$40 per person per night basis. 60% of this income is used to fund community development, while 40% is used to fund annual operations costs of Namunyak.
Sustainable tourism: Kitich Camp has been awarded “Gold Level” by the internationally recognised Ecotourism Kenya in recognition of its high level of environmental responsibility. The camp achieves environmental best practice by combining old fashioned safari camp know-how with latest technology, relying entirely on solar power and using only LED lighting. Rubbish is responsibly disposed of or recycled. Glass is separated and sold to the recycling plant ‘Central Glass’ in Nairobi.
“The Mathews Range… rises from the arid brown plains of northern Kenya like a green tropical island” – BBC
The Londolozi photographic Safari: The Londolozi photographic safari is where ancient wisdom, modern technology and nature converge. Londolozi has long been recognised as a superb location for wildlife photography, specialising in the big cats. Incredible light, diverse scenery and a plethora of African wildlife set the stage for unsurpassed photographic theatre. The Londolozi Photographic Studio is very popular with the guests, who are able to direct and produce their own creative work. With tuition from a qualified ‘Light Room’ instructor, you can spend time between game drives editing and printing your best safari shots.
Rent Photographic Equipment: The Photographic Studio also offers guests the chance to rent a multitude of professional level photographic bodies, lenses and accessories. Gone are the days of lugging heavy camera gear around the world. Now it’s as simple as pre-booking your gear and finding it ready for use upon your arrival at the lodge. First-time photographers can also try out the latest telephoto lens and body setups by requesting the equipment at the lodge. If you want to capture a close-up of a leopard in a tree, a fish eagle in flight or zebras grooming each other, the photographic studio has the right lens to get you the perfect shot.
The Photographic Studio: Londolozi’s guests are warmly invited to visit their onsite Photographic Studio, where they offer one-on-one post-production tuition and the opportunity to print images on wide-format canvas.
Londolozi Photographic Studio at a Glance
The Private Vehicle: A private safari vehicle can be reserved for individuals and families. A dedicated ranger and tracker team will focus on tailoring the safari experience around the guest’s specific needs and interests (e.g. birding, botany, big cats, etc.). This is ideal for experienced safari-goers or those who enjoy a little more privacy. Included:
The Complete Photographic Experience: While most of the rangers have a natural flair for photography, several Londolozi rangers are highly regarded photographers in their own right. For this safari option, we will pair you with one of these ‘photographic rangers’ and also bring in a professional photographic guide to be your private instructor. Your guide will assist you both in the field and in post-processing and editing. Included:
*The photographic safari experience is limited to four guests per vehicle and a minimum of two nights.This safari type should be booked prior to arrival.
Bird watching holidays in Africa are unique, with around 2300 bird species found in Africa, you'll be kept busy almost every moment of your birding holiday. The standard of guiding is superb throughout the continent and you can be sure of a great experience. There are scheduled birding safari departures to specific destinations, but private custom bird watching tours are also available.
From Zambia with over 400 species of bird occurring in The Luangwa Valley, this is a stunning destination for any ornithologist. One of the top raptor spotting destinations in Africa is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, shared between Botswana and South Africa.
Large populations of both Lesser and Greater flamingos breed in some of the Rift Valley Lakes, particularly Lake Nakuru in Kenya. The Rift valley also forms a “flyway’ for many species of migrant moving from southern Africa to Western Asia and eastern Europe.
In central Africa the Albertine Rift Valley of Rwanda and Uganda offers specialist tropical birds with many endemics. Uganda alone has a national checklist of more than 1000 species. “Special sightings” include the Ruwenzori Apalis, Ruwenzori Turaco and the Green-breasted Pitta. Uganda is also a good place to look for the enigmatic Shoebill.
Madagascar is another birding hotspot – of the approximately 290 species recorded on the island just over 100 are endemic – in other words they are found nowhere else on earth.
Further places to explore would be The Bale Mountains in Ethiopia; Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, the Cape Coastal areas, the Kwa Zulu Natal reserves and the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the Okavango Delta in Botswana and Etosha in Namibia to name a few.
When should we go birding?
The best time to see birds in Southern Africa is between November and March. These countries are all excellent destinations with many birding Safaris available: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi.
In East Africa, the best time to go birding is January - March. Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia are all very popular birding destinations during these seasons.
West Africa offers a huge and exciting variety of birds and the best time to visit Cameroon, the Gambia and other destinations is during the European winter from November to March.
How to get a good bird’s eye view:
There are two elements essential to the enjoyment of any African birding safari – plenty of birds, and excellent guiding. When asked by guests, what is needed for birding, a simple answer is a good pair of binoculars, a sun hat and a notebook if required.
More than anything you will need a good pair of bins / binos or for the uninitiated binoculars, as well as a bird field guide specific to your safari area. Every naturalist using binoculars has an opinion on magnification, and there is never a shortage of advice as to what constitutes the best magnification for safari goers and birding. Taken from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology here are 6 steps to choosing the correct binoculars
Review additional features and warranties. Pay attention to field of view and close focus, two measures that affect how much you’ll see. Also pay attention to durability, waterproofing, and warranty—many major optics companies now offer excellent warranties.
Recommended Birding books:
The green season months are the most exciting for birding in Zambia. The migrants are present and many local birds are in full breeding plumage and are singing. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded in South Luangwa National Park and some of the highlights include Western Banded Snake Eagle, Lilian's Lovebird, Collared Palm Thrush and the stunning Fire-crowned Bishop in its summer finery.
In addition to the regular game drives birding guests will also venture out on foot specifically listening for bird calls. There will be an emphasis on exploring the wide variety of different habitats to be found in the Luangwa Valley.
As well as mixed riverine woodland with its lagoons and backwaters you will visit mopane forests home to species like the Arnot's Chat and Racket-Tailed Roller which will not be seen elsewhere. One day will be spent driving across the Park to the Mchinga Escarpment (weather and roads allowing!). You will drive through brachystegia and other woodlands until you reach the escarpment to look for Pale-Billed Hornbills and other very rare Luangwa sightings.
The birding guides offer an unequalled knowledge of Luangwa's birdlife and there is always an opportunity for guests not only to see many new species but also to learn a lot about the physiology, behaviour and distribution of birds.
Choose from either a family Lodge or the luxury of Chinzombo for this adventure.
Day 1Meet your designated representative in Lusaka Airport where you will be escorted to your connecting flight to Mfuwe, your gateway to the South Luangwa National Park. This flight takes just over an hour. On arrival at Mfuwe Airport, you will be transported to Chinzombo, where you can settle into your chalet. This afternoon after an excellent afternoon tea, you will participate in your first game viewing activity, exploring the surrounding area on the back of a 4X4 vehicle with an expert birding guide.
Days 2 -7 Over the course of the week there is the opportunity to go on an all-day drive, allowing you the chance to explore deeply into the Park. Taking a picnic lunch with you, lunch can be set up in the shade of a gorgeous old tree, with the sounds of the bush and the birds a symphony in the background. On other days, you will set off early to catch the morning light and enjoy afternoon/evening drives where you’ll get to see magnificent skyscapes and sunsets, a wealth of migratory birds, lions and leopards on the hunt and occasional dramatic tropical downpours.
Day 8 This morning you will enjoy one final hearty breakfast at your camp, and then make your way to Mfuwe Airport for your domestic flight back to Lusaka.
Best for: Those interested in seeing migrant bird species and breeding plumage; the budget conscious traveller who want great value and stunning photography opportunities Included: This safari is sold on a fully inclusive basis with: accommodation, all meals, standard bar drinks, laundry, Mfuwe Airport transfers to/from our camps, inter-camp transfers and two guided safaris per day.
Please click here to contact one of our consultants to assist you with a comprehensive itinerary
Lying in the southwestern corner of Lake Victoria, the whole of Rubondo Island is given over to conservation. It is Africa’s largest island national park (26 kilometres long and varying from 3 to 10 kilometres wide). Over three-quarters of its 25 000 hectares are blanketed in untouched equatorial forest – an unusual protected habitat for Africa’s wildlife.
It’s a rare privilege to set foot on Rubondo. Bar a handful of park wardens, wildlife researchers and camp staff, the island is uninhabited by humans and has been set aside as a refuge for threatened chimpanzees, families of elephant and the shy sitatunga antelope. The surrounding waters of Lake Victoria are a crucial breeding ground for tilapia and the enormous Nile perch. This unique corner of Africa is a sanctuary to be enjoyed by only a handful of fortunate – and intrepid – travellers.
The camp – the only lodgings on this verdant island – immerses you in this lush and unspoilt ecosystem. From its lakefront location to the eco-friendly design of the eight fabulous cottages, the camp offers unrivalled access to this one-of-a-kind destination, where elephant roams wild, colourful birds and butterflies flit through the pristine indigenous rainforest and the waters teem with hippo, crocodile and the iconic Nile perch.
East Africa’s birdlife is quite simply stunning and very plentiful. This itinerary will take you through vibrant swamps and mighty rivers to discover the water birds before moving to the higher altitude of the Upper Rift Valley and then to the rolling grasslands of the Serengeti. Explore the lakeshore of Rubondo Island, an ornithologist’s dream, before ending in Ruaha to view both northern and southern species in the same area. Itinerary offers:
Days 1 & 2: Rivertrees Country Inn, Arusha Once an old coffee estate, Rivertrees is now a charming country inn nestled in abundant foliage with the Usa River flowing by. Set in the foothills of Mt Meru, conveniently close to Kilimanjaro International Airport and a short drive to Arusha, its location proffers a wealth of natural wonders to explore. Activities: Game drives; Canoeing; Mountain biking; Cultural & community visits.
Days 3 & 4: Oliver’s Camp, Tarangire National ParkDiscover Tarangire, a park with over 500 recorded species of birdlife. With varied habitats ranging from vibrant swamps to rolling grasslands and acacia woodlands there is a bird diversity to match, and ashy starlings and yellow-collared lovebirds, endemic to Tanzania, can both be found here.Activities: Game drives; walking safaris; Fly camping
Day 5: Serena Manyara, Lake Manyara National Park Stop off at Lake Manyara, a water-birdlover’s paradise that’s home to herons, egrets, storks and spoonbills. And of course the elegant pink flamingo that congregate around the shores of the shallow, alkaline lake of the same name, alongside huge populations of pelicans. Activities: Game drives; Boating; Cultural & community visits
Day 6: Plantation Lodge, Ngorongoro Conservation Area With easy access to the world-famous Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Plantation Lodge is a wonderful base from which to discover the birds of the Upper Rift Valley. The tropical gardens around the lodge also attract colourful birds and butterflies for some viewing closer to home. Activities: Game drives; Cultural & community visits
Days 7 – 8: Dunia Camp, Central SerengetiExplore the heart of the Serengeti from Dunia, a tranquil tented camp with expansive views of the pristine wilderness. With a varied habitat of grasslands dotted with acacia groves and the vast granite protrusions, the Moru Kopjes, the resident birdlife is superb and sightings spectacular.Activities: Game drives; Balloon safaris; The Great Migration (May/June and November/December)
Days 9 – 11: Rubondo Island Camp, Rubondo Island, Lake Victoria Explore Africa’s largest island National Park, Rubondo, and the phenomenal birdlife hiding in the equatorial forest and lakeshore papyrus. Over 400 endemic and migratory species have been recorded on its shores, and darters, cormorants, egrets and pied kingfisher are common. Activities: Game drives; Forest walks & hikes; Canoeing & boating; Fishing
Day 12: Onsea House, ArushaJust outside Arusha on the drive from Kilimanjaro Airport is Onsea House. Owner-managed and run, the house has an intimate and friendly feel. Add to this the superb staff and a reputation for culinary excellence and Onsea House is a wonderful place to spend your first night in Tanzania.
Days 13 – 14: Kwihala Camp, Ruaha National Park The last stop is the iconic Ruaha, a park with 580 species of recorded birds and an interesting mix of northern and southern species. Of note are the substantial populations of black-collared lovebirds and ashy starlings as well as a number of water birds on the banks of the great Ruaha River. Activities: Game drives; walking safaris
Cost: From US$ 11 042.00per person sharing
Please click here to contact one of our consultants to assist youwith a comprehensive itinerary including flights and transfers
One of Hartley’s favourite destinations is a luxury eco-reserve close to the Southern tip of Africa tucked between mountains, forest and sea. With 118 different bird species, Grootbos is uniquely positioned to offer both avid birders and curious novices a rich and varied birding experience. Glimpse the vivid orange of a Sunbird’s breast, see a Cape Sugarbird sipping on nectar or spot a rare Black Harrier.
Cool Afromontane forests, the rocky coastline and serene estuaries provide a magnificent backdrop to our birding outings. Our experienced guides will share fascinating facts while helping you spot rare and endemic birds feeding and breeding in these different ecosystems.
What’s on offer?
Standard 3 nights Package Day 1 - OverviewAfter a celebratory drink on arrival, enjoy a delicious lunch either in our restaurant or on the deck outside. After lunch, check in to your suite and make yourself comfortable before taking a trip to the pristine nearby Walker Bay beach, where dramatic rock formations and a vivid blue ocean provide the perfect backdrop to your historical cave tour. Back at Grootbos, enjoy the most decadent six-course dinner paired with award-winning local wines.
Day 2 - Overview Enjoy breakfast in our restaurant or on the outside deck, before gearing yourself up for a morning of adventure. Experience the adrenalin rush of a personal encounter with a great white shark during a once-in-a-lifetime shark cage diving excursion. Alternatively, experience the Marine Big 5 first hand on a boat based trip when you spot whales, sharks, penguins, dolphins and seals. In the afternoon, embark on a horseback adventure through the reserve before ending your day with another sumptuous six-course dinner.
Day 3 - Overview Explore the unique Cape Floral Kingdom on a revitalising 4x4 tour through the reserve as you soak up the fresh air and natural beauty that surrounds you. During the trip, our specialised guides will tell you facts about this rare flora in ways that will amaze and fascinate you. After lunch, learn more about our Green Futures and Growing the Future Colleges which help with the upliftment of local communities. After a busy morning, relax with a full body massage in our Forest Spa, surrounded by ancient Milkwood trees. End the day off with another six-course dinner and retire to your suite sun-kissed and sated.
Day 4 - Overview On your last morning at Grootbos, join one of our guides on an early morning walk through the magical Milkwood forest as the dappled light and gnarled ancient branches create a mysterious setting. After a final breakfast in our restaurant, depart Grootbos with a host of memories you won’t soon forget.
Cost: From R 9100.00 per night per 2 adults sharing in a luxury suiteThese rates include luxury 5 star accommodation ; full English breakfasts,3 course lunches and 6 course dinners; guided walks and hikes; nature, marine & coastal drives; horse-riding; and a variety of land-based guided adventures.
This trip is designed for 6 participants only with over 20 Namibian near-endemics including Rockrunner. Guests experience the Namib Desert and Skeleton Coast and the world-famous Etosha Pan mammals. Spend 3 nights in Botswana on the Okavango River which is the best place for Pel’s Fishing Owl and view the Carmine Bee-eater breeding colonies. Possible other sightings included are 9 species of owls, 6 species of bustards and 12 species of eagles.
This tour has been designed to have the best chances to see Namibia’s endemics, near endemics and regional specials, including the elusive Pel’s Fishing Owl, plus a wide diversity of African mammals and reptiles.
You will see from the itinerary that there are multiple opportunities to find some of the tricky bird species (especially the desert larks and other desert-adapted species), giving us the best chances of success. The reason we have done this is to avoid the temptation of rushing around trying to get the biggest list. Instead we allow you to focus on the birds that you will always remember and can only see here. However, having said that, we will be in some of Africa’s best birding areas and when birding we'll focus on all the available species (within reason) and will see a huge diversity.
A species list will be handed as part of your tour booklet and is available beforehand upon request. This is a dedicated birding tour with early starts and lots of time in the field. We will also search for and watch mammals and reptiles; Namibia has a fantastic diversity and we are likely to have some great sightings. Lion, African Elephant, Southern Oryx, Burchell’s Zebra, Hippopotamus, Banded Mongoose, to name a few, and perhaps even chameleons, geckos and many other creatures may capture our attention.
The tour is timed to coincide with the presence of mammals and large flocks of sandgrouse at the Etosha waterholes, the breeding season of Southern Carmine Bee-eater and the return of the summer migrants. The day may be hot, cooling off in the evening and we’ll travel in an air-conditioned mini-bus.
Meet the Tour leader:
Tertius Gouws leads birding tours in 9 African countries and has a special interest in mammals, volunteers as a wildlife vet and is an accomplished bird photographer. He has that rare balance between showing people good birds and sharing his photographic insights. His sharp eye and gentle nature are key in making his tours such a success.
On this Birding Africa Namibia Okavango Tour, we'll explore the scenic Erongo Mountains for Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Short-toed Rock-thrush and the endemic Rockrunner, before driving west to Walvis Bay with its abundant shorebirds on one of Africa’s richest estuaries. Here we’ll stay for two nights.
We’ll then head north east via Spitzkoppe, premier site for Herero Chat, and the Brandberg inselberg where the surrounding gravel plains are home to a variety of endemics including the recently described Benguela Long-billed Lark. We may also be lucky enough to glimpse the rare desert-adapted African Elephant.
From here we continue north to Etosha National Park for four days (staying in rest camps within the park or just outside the park, depending on availability), before heading north towards Rundu and the well-watered Caprivi region. Crossing the border into Botswana, we will stay three nights at Shakawe on the Okavango Panhandle (one of the best places to see Pel’s Fishing Owl).
Finally, we’ll visit Mahango Game Park and the Waterberg Plateau Park before our journey concludes at Windhoek airport.
When: Dates (17-day tour) 15 Sep - 1 Oct 2017Cost: Guaranteed Price: From $5460.00 per 2 pax and $590.00 for a single, including transfers, drinks and tips.