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African Birding Safaris & Tours

Africa offers some of the best birding safaris in the world. Birds are an integral part of the African landscape. Even on an ordinary safari, you can expect to see colorful bee-eaters and rollers, proud eagles and ostriches. Because it’s dominated by open savannah rather than dense rainforest, Africa tops the list for seeing a large number of species in the course of an ordinary holiday. Many leading African safari destinations boast a checklist of more than 500 bird species. These include Serengeti National Park (Tanzania), Kruger National Park (South Africa) and Queen Elizabeth National Park (Uganda). If you’ve been bitten by the birding bug, a specialist guided safari will maximize your sighting opportunities.

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1-20 of 41 African birdwatching tours, packages, trips, holidays and vacations

6 Questions About Birding Safari Tours

 
 

6 Questions About Birding Safari Tours

Answered by Philip Briggs

Why should I choose a birding safari?

“Obviously because you want to do a safari that will focus on birds, not the Big Five and other furry fauna. Africa supports a wonderfully varied and colorful birdlife. While you will see plenty of larger species on an ordinary safari, you are likely to double (even triple) the trip list on a bird safari. A well-constructed bird-watching tour will maximize the area’s potential in several ways. The safari will use expert birding guides, concentrate on locations that support interesting species and ignore all but the most special animal sightings. You will be out and about in the early morning and late afternoon, when avian activity tends to peak. These are all good reasons for serious enthusiasts to choose a dedicated bird-watching tour. However, be warned that the single-minded focus of a specialist bird tour might be a turn-off for safari-goers looking to balance birding with wildlife-viewing. ”

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Do I need to be a birder to do a birding safari?

“Yes and no. It would be strange to book onto a bird-watching tour unless you had a strong interest in birds. So, certainly you would at least need to be an aspiring birder and carry suitable birding equipment such as a pair of good binoculars. Ideally, you would also have a field guide to the destination in question and the right frame of mind for birding. Otherwise, no real birding expertise is required from participants. Almost all birding tours will be led by an expert guide who’ll take responsibility for spotting and identifying the local bird species. In addition, there will most likely be a few experienced birders on the tour. They will delight in helping new birding safari-goers sort out the larks from longclaws. Learning in the field is all part of the fun. ”

2

Can my non-birding partner join me on a birding safari?

“Tough question. If your partner has no interest in birds and isn’t a particularly patient birdwatcher, they are likely to become very frustrated on a birding safari. More so if the safari concentrates on areas that also offer good general wildlife viewing. Birdwatchers are notoriously focused on looking for new birds to ‘tick’. They are prone to drive right past wildlife sightings – lions mating, cheetahs on a kill, elephants on the march. You should be fine if your partner is keen to start learning about birds or is just a very chilled person.”

3

Will there be an expert birding guide on a birding safari?

“There should be. If one isn’t advertised, you should certainly inquire before booking the tour. There are three different types of experts. The first type are international birders with a broad-ranging knowledge of African (and possibly other) birds. However, they don’t necessarily have any great experience of the destination. The second type are national bird guides who might lack the international experience or qualifications. But these guides do all, or most, of their guiding in the country you’re visiting and have a high level of local expertise. Third are local guides who work at one specific park or destination. They know the birds there so intimately they can identify difficult species at a glance. They also often know exactly where to locate eagerly sought local specialties. The ideal set-up to maximize the trip list would be an international birding expert paired with a competent national driver/guide. Both of whom would enlist the support of local specialist guides at key birding sites. ”

4

Is a birding safari more expensive than a general safari?

“As a rule, yes. The main reason for this is that almost all birding tours include an expert birding guide. The operator needs to pay that guide for their services. They also need to cover the guide’s travel expenses, including international flights if the guide is from outside the destination. In addition, many bird-watching itineraries cover quite remote areas to seek out unusual localized species. These areas are usually not visited by non-specialist tours. To help manage costs, many birders camp or stay at more basic accommodation since their priority is seeing birds, not hanging out in luxurious resorts and hotels. ”

5

What should I consider when choosing a birding safari?

“Ideally, join a safari run by a specialist birding company that uses recognized international birding specialists as guides. This will be relatively expensive. Budget-conscious birders could consider other options; for example, booking a standard non-birding package and asking for a national guide with a good knowledge of birds. Or local guides travel around, so try to secure a good local guide on the spot. Come prepared. Good binoculars are essential (I’d favor 10 x 50 lenses. A compact 10 x 40 is also good but, in my opinion, lower magnifications such as 8 x 40 have too many limitations for birds.) It is also worth buying a local field guide before you travel. Read up about the special birds associated with the parks and other destinations you will be visiting. ”

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