Working for birds in Africa


Tue, 02/05/2013 - 15:57 -- abc_admin

Chaplin’s Barbet Lybius chaplini

Image Credit: 
Birding Africa

Wattled Cranes Bugeranus carunculatus, Bangweulu, Zambia

Image Credit: 
John Caddick

Birding tours

Birding & BeyondBirding AfricaBirding Ecotours, Birdquest, Letaka Safaris, Lawson'sRockjumper, Safari Consultants and Safariwise are all sponsors of the African Bird Club and operate tours to Zambia.


The internet and email have made private trips to Zambia a lot more feasible but be aware that many Zambian addresses will be accessed through unreliable phone lines so don't expect immediate replies and don't send large attachments without asking first.

Maps and navigation
Excellent, detailed maps (both 1:250,000 and 1:50,000) covering the whole of Zambia can be bought cheaply from the main government map office at the Ministry of Lands in Lusaka. This is in the basement of Mulungushi House by the corner of Independence Avenue and Nationalist Road. These maps are highly recommended, particularly if you intend to visit some of the more remote sites in this book. In a few areas, driving off-road is inevitable and in such situations a GPS (Global Positioning System) can be very useful.

Zambian public transport services connect most of the main regional towns and taxis are often a reasonably cheap way of reaching areas nearby. Hitch-hiking is acceptable, though lifts are normally paid for.

Reaching many of the sites listed in this book will require you to use your own vehicle. Zambia's road network is not well developed. Tarred roads, in varying states of repair, connect many District headquarters (Bomas) to Provincial headquarters, all of which are linked by tarred road to Lusaka. Most other roads are gravel or dirt. Getting to most sites will involve driving on such roads and therefore high-clearance vehicles are important. Four-wheel drive is less important, though it is necessary when driving on Kalahari sand in the west and occasionally during the rains when driving conditions can become difficult. Note that some roads become impassable at this time. Driving at night is not recommended. Although supplies are reasonably widespread, it is worth carrying some extra fuel and a selection of spares and tools (including a tyre mending kit and pump), particularly when visiting more remote areas. Gravel roads can be deceptive and the smoother they are, the faster you are tempted to drive and the greater the chance of skidding, so avoid driving faster than 60kph on gravel roads. In sand, four-wheel drive is important. To avoid getting stuck, keep your revs high, maintain your momentum, avoid braking suddenly and lower your tyre pressures if necessary. A common problem in the early dry season when the grass is tall is engine overheating due to the radiator filling up with grass seeds. In such situations, ensure you remove seeds at regular intervals. If you are exploring distant, remote and unfamiliar areas, it is advisable to travel with two vehicles. Car hire is still expensive in Zambia and it is often easier and cheaper to hire vehicles in South Africa, Botswana or Namibia and travel on from those countries.

Outside National Parks, it is generally possible to camp anywhere and Zambia abounds in beautiful, wild and remote areas that are perfect for camping. However, where appropriate, it is advisable and polite to seek the permission of the local landowner or village head before doing so. A courteous explanation of the reasons for your visit will invariably grant you a warm welcome. If you intend to leave a camp or vehicle whilst you explore on foot, it is wise to leave somebody to act as a guard. Employing a full-time guard and helper on a trip into the bush is highly recommended. Furthermore, local villagers are often keen to act as guides or porters if you choose to travel any distance on foot. Suitable payment should be negotiated, but not issued, before departure.


Zambia is a safe country and the safety issues encountered are no different to those in any other African country. Guidebooks, travel companies and websites provide much of the advice one needs, but key points warrant repetition here: (1) be aware of the risk of malaria and seek current advice, sleep in a sealed tent or under a net and take prophylaxis as recommended; (2) always ensure you have sufficient water and some method of purification (even if this comprises a pot and a campfire for boiling); (3) do not underestimate the danger of being in the sun for too long, ensure you use sun-block, drink plenty of water and wear a hat; (4) be aware of the risk of AIDS; (5) ensure that you take a reasonably-equipped first-aid pack with you including supplies of hypodermic and suturing needles. See the following 2 websites for the latest safety and travel information: US Travel and UK FCO.

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