Working for birds in Africa

Visiting

Tue, 02/05/2013 - 16:22 -- abc_admin
Shikra_Zimbabwe

Shikra Accipiter badius paddling in the birdbath in front of the reception area at Main Camp.

Image Credit: 
Chris Magin
Zimbabwe_Lodge
Image Credit: 
Chris Magin

Birding tours

BirdquestBirding EcotoursLetaka Safaris, Rockjumper and Safari Consultants organise tours to Zimbabwe.

Guides

There are a number of excellent lodges where birds and birding are considered very important - The Hide at Hwange and Imbabala above the falls immediately spring to mind.

There are a number of excellent local bird guides including Buluwesi Murambiwa at Seldomseen in the Bvumba and Basi Abbasi in the Honde Valley. There are also several general guides who are really good on birds as well. Check with BirdLife Zimbabwe for an up to date list of Bird Guides.

Trip reports

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe – Short Trip Report. November 2011 contributed by Chris Magin in February 2012.

In November 2011 I made an all-too-short two day trip to Hwange NP accompanied by Chip Chirara of BirdLife Zimbabwe. At the recommendation of Zimbabwean vulture guru Peter Munday and his wife Verity who we bumped into at Halfway House (an inn halfway as its name suggests between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls) we stayed at Miombo Lodge. Just outside the Park boundary, near Main Camp Gate, the beautifully appointed lodge is run by Mike Sherren.

Having done the formalities, we went straight to Nyamandlovu Pan. Hwange was fearsomely hot, and in the grip of a dreadful drought, and the carcasses of dead elephants were scattered around the waterhole. There were so many dead animals throughout the park that the massive concentration of vultures that one might expect at such a feast was conspicuously absent. One fresh carcass had however attracted 13 Hooded Necrosyrtes monachus and White-Backed Vultures Gyps africanus.

More than 20 Yellow-billed Oxpeckers Buphagus africanus were on the backs of two Giraffes. We saw a few water birds that included Burchell’s Sandgrouse Pterocles burchelli before hurrying back to get out of the park before the mandatory 18.30 hrs gate closure. To cap a fine day, we were welcomed back to Miombo Lodge by a Pennant-winged Nightjar Macrodipteryx vexillarius displaying at dusk over the Lodge and swimming pool. After a fantastic meal the night’s entertainment consisted of watching (on foot) the continuous traffic of elephant and buffalo to the Lodge’s waterhole.

The next day we drove outside the park to the Sinamatela gate, and worked our way back inside the 120 or so km to Main Camp. We saw no less than 98 species of birds  - not bad for two rather indifferent birders - and a good number of mammals, including sable and roan antelope, and hundreds and hundreds of elephants. There were very few little brown jobs to frustrate us with identification. Interesting sightings included the Spotted Thick-knee Burhinus capensis, White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis, Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruberand Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus. We had to rush through the last few pans so that we could reach Main Camp on time.

What a fantastic day we had had! We returned to the very comfortable and interesting Miombo Lodge (see photo above). Mike Sherren was waiting for us and we had dinner together. Miombo is a very impressive lodge with a waterhole right in front of the chalets. The miombo woodland provides good birding during the day, with specials such as the Crimson-breasted Gonolek Laniarius atrococcineus and Southern Pied Babbler Turdoides bicolor readily observable. The next time you go to Hwange, go to Miombo Lodge, mention that you are an ABC member, and Mike will give you a 10% discount! Mobile phone : +263 77 467 1366.

Birdwatch Zimbabwe 1991 by Derek Solomon and Jacko Williams, comprehensive guide with detailed descriptions of all main areas with maps, site guides, accommodation directions, checklist and many line drawings.

Logistics

Zimbabwe can be reached by international flights from Europe. There are also frequent flights from Johannesburg to Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. Air Zimbabwe connects Harare and Bulawayo with Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park. Popular land borders include the Victoria Falls / Kazungala crossing between Zimbabwe and Botswana from where you can continue through Chobe National Park to Namibia, the Victoria Falls / Livingstone crossing to Zambia, and the road and rail links to South Africa via Beitbridge. Travelling by road from South Africa to Zimbabwe via Beitbridge required two and a half hours to get through all the formalities at this border crossing in November 2012. The majority of the roads which we used in Zimbabwe were paved and well-maintained.  

On the African Bird Club tour in 2012, we were able to buy fuel in Zimbabwe without difficulty. Flying into Victoria Falls for a visit to Hwange and the upper Zambezi Valley is still feasible. Flying to Harare for Marondera and Bvumba should also be possible and Bulawayo for the Matobos is easy.

There are safari firms operating who can help - check with Zimbabwe Association of Tour and Safari Operators (ZATSO).

Zimbabwe uses the $US as its currency. 

Safety

There were no safety issues during our tour in November 2012. One should be aware however that there are regular police blocks on the roads for checks of paperwork. The best approach was to be extremely polite and friendly and as a result, we had no problems at all. 

Most safety and health issues are no different from those in many African countries. 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 two websites or your own local embassy website for the latest safety and travel information: US Travel and UK FCO.

It is worth checking the latest situation with both BirdLife Zimbabwe and ZATSO before visiting — see Contact section for details.

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