Hartley’s Safaris UK
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Hartley’s South Africa
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Hartley’s top destinations in Africa for birding safaris
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: