Grimwood’s Longclaw Photo: Frank Willems
Zambia is a wonderfully scenic country in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa with numerous parks and safari areas. It is also unusually diverse biologically, and - although under birded - has one of the largest bird lists in Africa, surpassing 750 species. We’ll visit a range of habitats, each with its own set of species, beginning in the extreme northwest corner on the border of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This remote area, rarely visited by tourists, offers a chance to see many Congo Basin species normally inaccessible to birders. From here we’ll travel south towards Kafue National Park, one of the largest parks in Africa, with its extensive Miombo woodlands interspersed with grassy depressions called “Dambos.” Here we may see the highly-localised Black-cheeked Lovebird and very likely some of Africa’s iconic mammals. Continuing south we’ll stop near Choma for the endemic Chaplin’s Barbet, before spending the last couple of nights in the Lower Zambezi Valley where we’ll target the iconic African Pitta, one of Africa’s most sought-after birds.
Our tour coincides with the best time of year for birding, and we should record a long list of species not typically found on other tours, with new species even for frequent travellers to Africa.
Day 1: The tour begins this evening in Lusaka.
Day 2: Departing early, we’ll drive up the Great North Road to Ndola arriving in time for lunch. The second half of the day will be spent birding the property of our accommodation, which has a bird list of 320 species including an abundance of Schalow’s and Ross’s Turacos, Narina Trogon, African Pygmy-Goose, Temminck’s Courser, African Broadbill, and Arnot’s Chat. Nearby, the Imanda Bird Area, and IBA of Zambia, has a large block of forest on the Copperbelt, holding most of the Zambian mushitu birds, most notably Margaret’s Batis. Night in Ndola.
Day 3: Heading west, we’ll work our way towards Solwezi to our accommodation, which is surrounded by extensive miombo woodlands that offer chances to see miombo specialities such as Bar-winged Weaver, Souza’s Shrike, Black-collared Eremomela, Boehm’s Flycatcher, and Anchieta’s Sunbird. Night in Mutanda.
Days 4-6: Another morning drive will have us reach the Mwinilunga region, which is truly wild and offers a range of habitats from extensive gallery forest to floodplain grassland and miombo woodland. We’ll spend three days in this bird-rich region with its impressive list of highly sought-after species. In the open grasslands our main target will be the localised Grimwood’s Longclaw, which very few birders have seen. We’ll also be alert for Angola Lark, Dambo Cisticola, Bocage’s Weaver, Fülleborn’s Longclaw, Marsh Widowbird, and Black-and-rufous Swallow. If we are lucky, we may stumble upon a Forbes’s Plover or Black-collared Bulbul. Walks in the forest with its very different avifauna may reveal Spotted Thrush-Babbler, Bamboo Warbler, Bannerman’s and Bate’s Sunbirds, Brown-headed Apalis, and Gray-winged Robin-Chat. Nights near Mwinilunga.
Day 7: After successful days birding the northwest corner of Zambia, we’ll retrace our steps towards Mutinda and stay the night. This will allow us some birding in between drives. Night in Mutanda.
Day 8: We’ll continue back east spending a second night near Ndola, which will give us a head start for the next region of Zambia, we will visit. Night near Ndola.
Days 9-10: Departing early, we’ll work our way towards Mutinondo Wilderness, arguably the most scenic birding area in Zambia. Here we will spend two nights on top of the Muchinga escarpment with its vast miombo woodlands, granite outcrops, gallery forest, and scattered dambos on our doorstep to explore.
The Miombo woodlands play host to desired species such as the unique Bar-winged Weaver, Green-backed Woodpecker, Anchieta’s Barbet, Long-tailed Cisticola, Souza’s Shrike, Reichard’s Seedeater, and Orange-winged Pytilia along with several species of sunbird, most notably Western Violet-backed, Anchieta’s, and Eastern Miombo.
While the rock outcrops host Western Miombo Sunbird, Striped Pipit, and other rock-living species, the nearby gallery forest offers excellent birding for the shyer denizens of these forests including Bocage’s Akalat, Grey-olive Greenbul, Laura’s Woodland-Warbler, and the gaudy Ross’s Turaco. With luck, nearby damp grasslands may yield the highly secretive Chestnut-headed Flufftail, which very few birders have recorded. Nights at Mutinondo.
Day 11: Departing Mutinondo, we’ll work our way south birding along the way. To break up our long drive, we’ll spend the night at a comfortable lodge north of Lusaka, where we can relax, bird the gardens, and prepare for our birding in the southern part of Zambia. Night north of Lusaka.
Day 12: Departing early, we’ll travel to the Lower Zambezi Valley. Upon arrival, we’ll find another unique woodland habitat dominated by open-canopied mopane trees and crossed by the occasional streams lined with riparian vegetation. This woodland, much favoured by Savanna Elephant, also hosts Meves’s Starling, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver and, with luck, Lillian’s Lovebirds. Nights near Chirundu.
Day 13: African Pitta is one of Africa’s most sought-after species and certainly one of the most difficult to find. We’ll visit one of the easiest places in the world to see this enigmatic bird, which is most vocal during the first two hours of daylight. We will depart before dawn to be on site just as the sun rises, and hopefully our efforts and patience will be rewarded with a sighting of this intriguing and beautiful African endemic. Later we’ll concentrate on the other marvellous birds to be found here, including Barred and African Emerald Cuckoos, African Broadbill, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, and Bearded Scrub-Robin. Night near Chirundu.
Day 14: If we’ve missed seeing African Pitta yesterday, we’ll have another chance this morning to spot it, as well as the other special birds of the region. In the afternoon we’ll head to Choma, where we’ll be within the fig-tree savanna biome, home to the only true Zambian endemic, Chaplin’s Barbet. Night near Choma.
Day 15: We’ll have the full day to bird around Choma and continue our search for the Chaplin’s Barbet if we’ve missed seeing it the evening prior. Other birds that will distract us include Lesser Moorhen, Lesser Jacana, Allen’s Gallinule, and Cuckoo Finch on the flooded grasslands; Three-banded Courser in the savanna; Narina Trogon and Schalow’s Turaco in riparian woodland; and African Barred Owlet and the stunning Pennant-winged Nightjar on our night drive. Night near Choma.
Day 16: Today we’ll transfer to the town of Livingstone, which is only 15 minutes from the world’s largest waterfall. We’ll have the full day to revel in the remarkable Victoria Falls and bird the surrounding area. Plunging 300 ft into the gorge below, the spray from the falls has created a lush rainforest around its border where we hope to see Schalow’s Turaco and Trumpeter Hornbill. Not far from the falls we have the chance to see Half-collared Kingfisher, Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah, Collared Palm Thrush, Dusky Lark, Rock Pratincole, and African Finfoot. Night near Livingstone.
Day 17: With a packed breakfast, we’ll have an early departure to spend the day around the Machile Important Bird Area. This remote area of mopane forests provides an excellent chance to find the endemic Black-cheeked Lovebird along with several other dry land species we haven’t seen earlier in the trip. Night near Livingstone.
Day 18: The trip concludes today with transfers to Livingstone airport. If time permits, we will bird the accommodation grounds or somewhere nearby.
Updated: 16 April 2021