You will certainly be full of joy if you combine birdwatching in Africa while looking out for the Big 5. If you are traveling to the continent to see the leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo, and lion in their natural habitat, you will be astonished by the diversity and color of the birds you come across on the way. In fact, they might become the unsung highlights of your African trip.
Birdwatching holidays in Zambia truly offer a sublime experience, especially when combined with safaris in quest of the Big 5. The rarely crowded South Luangwa National Park has a hefty population of leopards as well as other members of the Big5 which makes the whole trip an enthralling experience when you set out to seek the sounds and smells of the savannah on foot.
Spread over an area of 9050 square kilometers at the edge of the Great Rift Valley, the park is home to over 700 bird species, which is quite a good number, especially for a country that is land-locked. Some of the sought-after species here are the Pel’s Fishing Own and the African Pitta. If you book wildlife holidays with Naturetrek, you can be assured of expert guides who have fair knowledge of birdlife as well as Big 5.
Kenya offers the whole of Africa in a nutshell, from the bird rich savannahs to the big mammal watching parks. It hardly comes as a surprise when visitors spot more birds and animal species in Kenya than in any other part of Africa.
At Lake Naivasha National Park one can see both the awesome might of the Big 5 and an incredible variety of birds as the geography of the country leads to an unusually high number of feathered beauties. Safari goers have been known to spot as many as 340+ species in just 24 hours. The surrounding woodlands hold star birds like the Narina Trogon, Arrow marked babbler and African Firefinch.
The world renowned Masai Mara is famous for the magpie and the long-clawed shrike, while the rare sunbird and the pink-breasted lark can be spotted in Samburu. Endemics found here include Aberdare cisticola and Hinde’s Pied babbler among others.
The months between October and April bring a lot of dense foliage to the Okavango Delta and with it a massive influx of migratory birds. While this is not considered as the best time to view wildlife, having the right guide on standby can still provide you with ample chances to see the Big5.
There may be no endemic species in Botswana, except the only near-endemic Short-Clawed Lark, but the population of the globally threatened Wattled Crane and Slaty Egret are of considerable significance. Moreover, the wetlands of the Okavango Delta create one of the largest Ramsar site in the world.
Botswana is best visited in October, after the rains, when one can get a chance to see exclusive birds such as the Southern Pied Babblers, Brown Firefinch and swamp Boubou. Northern part of the country consists of primarily untouched tracts of wilderness holding a variety of wildlife.
The Serengeti ecosystem is vast and full of animals and birds. While the Big 5 are usually spotted frequently, the area holds an enviable number of nearly 1388 resident bird species which can captivate the visitor with their behavior and an array of colors. The diverse birdlife here includes the endemic grey crested helmet shrike, Fischer’s lovebird, Usambara Eagle Owl and the Loveridge’s Sunbird.
While the Big 5 are a major safari drawcard, do not be surprised if you come across the cheetah in the open grasslands, hunting down prey with just pure speed. Another compelling animal that is sought after is the African Wild Dog, an amazingly efficient hunter which leads a fascinating social life.
Within Tanzania, one gets a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the annual Great Migration of zebras and wildebeests as they strive to teach greener pastures overcoming encounters with big cats and monstrous crocodiles on the way. The only isolated mountain in the world, Kilimanjaro standing at 19,341′ can also be seen here.
You can be certain of having an inspired bird and animal safari in the vast salt pans of the famous Etosha National Park. With over 500 species of birds and an array of some spectacular wild animals, wildlife lovers can explore the natural beauty of Namibia in relative ease and comfort. Good birding can also be done at the Caprivi Strip, where the Kalahari desert merges with the waterways and swamps of the Linyanti and Okavango rivers.
While birders can hope to find the country’s most elusive endemic, the Herero Chat, other special species such as the Pied Barbet and Augur Buzzard are bound to turn up at some time or the other. Animal buffs can look for rarities like the Angolan Giraffe, South African lion and the red lechwe apart from others.
Zimbabwe is a fabulous country to visit for a wildlife vacation as not only is the country scenically beautiful, but the people are extremely accommodating and friendly. Moreover, the country has had a long tryst with wilderness conservation which has led to the creation of some excellent parks and bio-diverse reserves.
With top class birding in incredible surroundings, the Victoria Falls are like no place on earth. The massive Huange National Park holds the full spectrum of wild animals, including the Big 5, and many special birds such as the totally endemic Boulder Chat, which is a major birding target on any Zimbabwe tour. The Mana Pools is famous area for predator viewing because of the high density of lions, leopards and the rare African Wild Dog.
South Africa is also a best-value birding and animal viewing destination. Outstanding infrastructure, great accommodation, top class food and the excellent local hospitality makes it one of the most joyful countries to go on a safari to. The country’s big and small animals and more than 800 species of birds makes South Africa the ideal place to begin a wildlife safari.
The Kruger National Park, the largest of all the game reserves, itself is home to over 500 different kinds of birds as well as the Big 5-lion, elephant, cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. Birding enthusiasts can seek out the wing-snapping cisticola, long-billed lark, and Denham’s Bustard in the Highveld grasslands of the Verloren Valley Nature Reserve.
South Africa is relatively inexpensive and you can animal watch and bird the entire country on a self-drive tour. The country has a number of a good bed and breakfast lodges and many tailored itineraries to see the Big 5 and the birds in their natural habitat.