From thick forests to lush wetlands, there is no shortage of African destinations for birdwatching holidays. As a bonus, these are all either easy to pair with safari parks or safari destinations in their own right – so there’s no need to compromise with anyone you’re travelling with. Whether you’re a novice birder or an experienced twitcher, you’ll surely be inspired to visit one, if not all, of our top destinations for birdwatching holidays.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
A haven for wildlife generally, the Okavango Delta hosts great birdwatching holidays. You can spot hundreds of species at any time of the year: winter (June to September) is when flocks of birds congregate around the waterholes and summer (December to March) is when the migrating birds arrive in the delta. Generally speaking, summer – when it’s wetter – is the best time to visit for birdlife.
Bird species include: wattled cranes, slaty egrets, woodland kingfishers, Pel’s fishing owls, African skimmers, white-backed night herons, lesser jacanas, swamp boubous and brown fire finches.
Western Cape, South Africa
The Cape Floristic Region in the Western Cape, the world’s only floral kingdom contained in one country, is home to a vast amount of birds. In fact, South Africa has the highest number of endemic birds in mainland Africa. Head to a fynbos nature reserve, such as Walker Bay or De Hoop, with a birding guide to help you locate and identify some of these beautiful species.
Bird species include: Cape sugarbirds, Hottentot buttonquails, Cape siskins, Cape vultures, protea canaries, orange-breasted sunbirds, blue cranes, African fish eagles and African paradise flycatchers.
Bird Island, Seychelles
As its name implies, Bird Island is the best place for birdwatching in the Seychelles. The island was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1986 and has an extremely large breeding colony of sooty terns. The Seychelles islands have 12 endemic species, including the Seychelles black parrot, the Seychelles black paradise flycatcher and the Seychelles scops owl. The Indian Ocean islands also see lots of migrant and ocean-going birds.
Bird species include: Seychelles blue pigeons, frigatebirds, fairy terns, white-tailed tropicbirds, blue-cheeked bee-eaters, red-back shrikes, crab plovers, barred ground doves and sooty terns.
Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique
This national park, recently restored and rewilded after years in the cross-fire of a long civil war, is one of the best places for birding on the continent. The vast wetlands of the park are the ideal environment for many species; it’s possible to spot over 150 different species in a single day during November, when migratory birds arrive. A highlight is Gorongosa’s green-headed oriole, which isn’t found anywhere else in the world.
The rare green-headed oriole filmed on Mount Gorongosa. Credit: Federico Pardo / The Field Museum.
Bird species include: green-headed orioles, grey-crowned cranes, lilac-breasted rollers, yellow-billed storks, African openbill storks, secretary birds, African pygmy kingfishers, Mozambique nightjars and martial eagles.
Lake Turkana, Kenya
Kenya is one of the best countries for birding in the whole of Africa, housing an incredible 11% of the world’s bird species (that’s 1,089 species). There are many areas that are great for birding, but Lake Turkana offers those famously huge flocks of pelicans and flamingos, in addition to hundreds of other species.
Bird species include: greater flamingos, pink-backed pelicans, little stints, saddle-billed storks, banded snake eagles, spur-winged plovers, grey herons, little egrets and African sacred ibis’.
Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda
Although most people will think only of gorillas when it comes to Rwanda, the birding here is fantastic, with over 600 species to be spotted. Nyungwe National Park is recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International and it’s undoubtedly the best place for birding holidays in Rwanda. Here you can spot 25 species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Even better, when you visit a national park other than gorilla trekking destinations (such as Nyungwe) for three or more days between November and May, you get 30% off your gorilla permit.
Bird species include: Albertine owlets, red-collared mountain babblers, collared apalis’, Grauer’s rush warblers, Neumann’s warblers, Chapin’s flycatchers and Rockefeller’s sunbirds.