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 localized 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 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 travelers to Africa.
Day 1: The tour begins this evening in Lusaka, Zambia.
Day 2: We’ll fly to the town of Solwazi and drive west to Mwinilunga in the extreme north-western corner of Zambia between Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Night near Mwinilunga.
Days 3-6: The Mwinilunga region is truly wild and offers a range of habitats from extensive gallery forest to floodplain grassland and miombo woodland. We’ll spend four 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 localized 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’re 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: We’ll drive back south, birding on the way. We’ll stay overnight near Mutanda, which is surrounded by extensive miombo woodlands that host Bar-winged Weaver, Souza’s Shrike, Black-collared Eremomela, Boehm’s Flycatcher, and Anchieta’s Sunbird. Night in Mutanda.
Days 8-9: Departing Mutanda, we’ll continue south to our lodge on the banks of the Kafue River, where we’ll stay for two nights. Kafue is one of the most significant Important Bird Areas in Zambia, and we hope to find Black-backed Barbet, Bocage’s Akalat, and Laura’s Warbler, as well as the more common Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, Little and Cabanis’s Greenbuls, Gray Apalis, Green-headed Sunbird, Red-throated Twinspot, and Gray Waxbill. There is also excellent birding close to our lodge, where the many miombo woodland specialists include Racket-tailed Roller, Miombo and Anchieta’s Barbets, Miombo Rock-Thrush, Red-capped Crombec, Southern and Yellow-bellied Hyliotas, Miombo Scrub-Robin, Cinnamon-breasted and Miombo Tits, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Weaver, and Cabanis’s Bunting. If we’re lucky, we may even stumble upon the cryptic African Spotted Creeper. Nights at Kafue River Lodge.
Day 10: Leaving Kafue River Lodge, we’ll travel to the Lower Zambezi Valley targeting the localized Black-cheeked Lovebird along the way. Upon arrival to the valley, 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 favored by Savanna Elephant, also hosts Meves’s Starling, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, and - with luck —Lillian’s Lovebirds. Night near Chirundu.
Day 11: 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’ll 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 marvelous birds to be found here, including Barred and African Emerald Cuckoos, African Broadbill, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, and Bearded Scrub-Robin. Night near Chirundu.
Day 12: If we missed 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 13: We’ll have the full day to bird around Choma where we will continue our search for the Chaplin’s Barbet if we missed 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 14: Today we’ll transfer to the town of Livingstone, which is only 15 minutes from the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls. These impressive falls are twice the height of Niagara Falls. Night near Livingstone.
Day 15: 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 16: The trip concludes today with transfers to the airport. If time permits, we’ll bird the accommodation grounds or somewhere nearby.
Updated: 19 November 2020