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Walking and Watching



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Walking in Africa Without a doubt, there’s no better way to experience Africa‘s wilderness than on foot. You’ll practically always find opportunities for walking, and many camps are

Walking and Watching Description

Walking in Africa

Without a doubt, there’s no better way to experience Africa‘s wilderness than on foot. You’ll practically always find opportunities for walking, and many camps are surrounded by superb walking trails – choose carefully where you visit to get the best out of your walking holiday!
Walking holidays to Namibia
Namibia is great for walking; many camps have excellent walking trails, leading through Africa‘s beautiful scenery. Some can be explore with a knowledgeable guide, other are clearly marked and perfect to explore on your own. Tok Tokkie Trails organises an excellent two-night / three-day walking trip across dunes and mountains in the NamibRand Nature Reserve; the walking at Waterberg and Erongo Wilderness is good, as it is in many parts of Damaraland – the expertly-guided three-night walking trails at Mundulea are fantastic and we rate these as amongst the most fascinating guided walking trips in Africa!

(See more of our favourite places for walking holidays in Namibia…)
Walking holidays in South Africa’s Cape
The Cape offers mountainous walking in high, open areas – topographically similar to gentle British ranges. You can hike independently in the Cedarberg Mountains, whilst the coastal Tsitsikamma area is particularly verdant and spectacular.

(See our top tips for walking holidays in the Cape…)
Walking holidays to Zambia
Zambia has plenty of opportunities for walking, although most camps really offer walking safaris. Mutinondo Wilderness is a great place to explore on foot, with trails leading through verdant woodlands, across clear rivers and past thundering waterfalls.

(See our favourite places for walking in Zambia…)
Walking holidays in Tanzania
Tanzania is very good to walk and explore; in the Ngorongoro area, Gibb’s Farm is the start for a strenuous but stunning 8-hour walk up to the crater’s rim. The walks from Bougainvillea are shorter, lasting from 30 minutes to 3 hours, and can be accomplished with a guide or on your own.

(See more of our favourite walking places in Tanzania…)
Walking holidays with Wild about Africa
Wandering through Africa’s remote wilderness areas is an extraordinary experience. Wild about Africa’s simple and luxury camping safaris to Namibia and Botswana are specifically designed for small groups, and some include superb walking. Please click on the following link to see ideas for small group walking holidays.

Africa: Top Ten Destinations for Bird Watching
) SOUTH AFRICA

The number one country for a first time visit to Africa might well be South Africa. South Africa is an amazingly picturesque country with lots of mountains, beautiful white sand beaches and so much more. The overall experience of being in this country is wonderful and we find that birders often return here as often as they can, even once they’ve seen most of the birds. It’s a big country, though and takes many weeks of pure birding to get to grips with the species, which is of course a good excuse to return and to have another good time in a wonderful country.

South Africa has the Big 5, as well as an amazing diversity of smaller mammals. The Kruger National Park and the Zululand game reserves have considerable numbers of smaller mammal species as well. Given a 2-week birding tour starting in Durban and ending in Johannesburg, one will see all these mammals and also end up with a respectable bird list of around 400 species. Adding the Cape, one of the most scenically spectacular corners of the continent, you might add another 100-150 bird species, whales and more.

South Africa is relatively inexpensive, and has a vast network of friendly and comfortable B&B’s. It’s easy enough to bird the country on a self-drive, but it’s often more efficient to link up with a birding tour operator. For more reading about the essential parts of South Africa that need to be covered, I will post a series of suggested itineraries, below, in the If You Go box. If you have limited time and just want to see the big mammals and a ton of birds, then a tour of the Kruger Escarpment area is an excellent adventure.
Cape Town has some of the world’s best pelagic trips. This is a rare bird in South Africa though, Salvin’s Albatross (photo by Andre Stapelberg)

Cape Town has some of the world’s best pelagic trips. This is a rare bird in South Africa though, Salvin’s Albatross (photo by Andre Stapelberg)

2) TANZANIA

The alternative to starting first in South Africa is to do what my company calls “An Introduction to Africa,” which is a week in Tanzania. In fact, if you have more than about a week, Tanzania is arguably the best country to visit second but giving it at least 2.5 weeks if possible. By birding Tanzania, you’ll add a host of East African endemics, and also most of the 20 country endemics. You can also see your first Miombo (south-central African) endemic birds in Tanzania. And, you’ll see a great many of Africa’s big (and small) animals, along with some of the continent’s most famous sites. These include the Great Rift Valley and its flamingo-filled lakes, the Serengeti with its relatively easy to see Big Cats & Wildebeest migration, Ngorongoro Crater and last but not least, Kiliminjaro, one of the world’s most massive isolated mountains. Africa’s highest mountain rises straight out of the wildlife-riddled plains below, to a dizzying 19,341 feet above sea level.

3) UGANDA

If in the long run you plan on visiting several other African countries as well, 12 days here is enough to generate the essential Ugandan birds (Shoebill, the Albertine Rift endemics, Green-breasted Pitta, etc.) plus mammals (especially Gorillas and Chimps but the country also has magnificent Colobus Monkeys and more). Even 19 days in Uganda would certainly not be wasted! In this little country called “The Pearl of Africa” you’ll find the people fluent in English and even friendlier than in other parts of Africa, and you’ll also see the Albertine (or Western) Rift, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the source of the Nile at Jinja, Africa’s biggest lake (Victoria) and vast Papyrus Swamps inhabited by Shoebill, a monstrous birds placed by some authorities in its own order because it’s so different from any other species on earth.
The monstrous Shoebill is best seen in Uganda but Zambia is also good for it

4) CAMEROON

Next, a West African country is probably in order. Even if you’ve already done the first three countries mentioned above, if you now visit West Africa for the first time you’ll still get literally hundreds of life birds. West Africa is rougher than southern or eastern Africa and you’ll find that accommodation is more basic – but at most birding sites you’ll still get a (barely) adequate level of comfort including hot water showers – if you join an organized birding tour. Cameroon is arguably the best West African starter country, since you’ll see the country endemics, as well as the more widespread West African rainforest species, and also many Sahelian birds. If you’re a serious world birder, you’ll also need to visit one of the Upper Guinea Forest countries at some stage or another in your African birding career. Ghana is probably the best one because its local guides have staked out the birds there more than elsewhere on the Bulge of Africa, and it is English-speaking and all in all rather easy to visit. It is historically rich, but you’ll be sobered since the history is not pretty and is dominated by memories of the slave trade.

Ghana is less strenuous than Cameroon and if you only ever bird a single West African country, Ghana is not a bad one to choose. The third West African country that comes most highly recommended is Gabon. It has Lowland Gorillas, Mandrills, arguably West Africa’s best mammal viewing in general, and a huge diversity of birds, quite a number of which you won’t see in Cameroon or Ghana. It’s a pricey country but many people who are interested in wildlife as a whole rather than specifically birds make it their top West African country to consider. Two of Africa’s richest islands for endemic birds are within Gabon’s offshore territory – Principe and Sao Tome. These islands have many exciting birds found nowhere else in the world.

5) NAMIBIA

Namibia is a must-visit African country since it is so very unique, with the world’s oldest desert including the highest sand dunes in the world, which are a spectacular red color, other massive sand dunes coming right down to the sea, rugged desert mountains along the Namibian Escarpment, desert elephants and rhinos, one of the world’s greatest game parks and my personal favorite of all of Africa’s parks, the vast Etosha National Park. And, last but not least, Namibia has a whole bunch of birds that are only found there or in adjacent Angola.

While in Namibia, it is easy to foray briefly into Botswana to see PEL’S FISHING OWL, one of Africa’s most sought-after birds, Slaty Egret, a Botswana near-endemic, and tons more, in the nearby panhandle of the Okavango Delta. And, since you’re so close to one of the world’s most impressive waterfalls, Victoria Falls, a 2-day foray to this site either from the Zambian or Zimbabwean side is very worthwhile and will anyway add lots of new birds to your burgeoning list. I recommend something like an 18-days tour to bird Namibia/the Okavango/Victoria Falls. By the way, Botswana is the “Gabon” of southern Africa – expensive, not all that strategic for birds (after you’ve spent a couple of days there tacked onto your Namibian tour), but absolutely brilliant for those into general wildlife viewing and photography rather than just birds.
6) ETHIOPIA

Most of this country is open, so the birds are easy to see and it is not very difficult to get a bird list of 550 species in about 3 weeks. And it has a ton of endemics, many of them easy to find around Addis Ababa. One of Ethiopia’s sadder claims to fame is that its home to what is considered the next African bird to go extinct, Liben (Sidamo) Lark, which inhabits a single football-sized piece of arid grassland which is under severe pressure from cattle overgrazing especially during the horrid droughts the Horn of Africa often experience. An entire genus could potentially go extinct since there are only two other species in Liben Lark’s genus – Archer’s Lark also of Ethiopia which is reputed to already be extinct, and Rudd’s Lark of South Africa, which is critically endangered itself.

7) MADAGASCAR

Actually, this enigmatic island could have easily been number one. It’s so unique we call it “The Eighth Continent.” In many a sense, the island is separate from the rest of the Africa and, quite simply, needs to be birded – and of course it is full of other wildlife such as several endemic mammal families (lemurs being the most famous and charismatic), over half the world’s chameleons, and so much more. The Baobab-dotted spiny forests, the “Stone Forest” of Tsingy, the beautiful, remote, tropical beaches and so much more adds flavor to the birding. Bizarrely, Madagascar is sometimes eerily quiet, bird-wise. It has fewer bird species and individuals than almost anywhere else, but (trust me!) this paucity of quantity is more than compensated for by incredible quality. Setting your eyes on a ground-roller, the luminous blue bill of a Helmet Vanga, a Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur or a dancing Sifaka will be an experience you will be unable to forget for the rest of your life. We think 14 days gives you an excellent taste of the island’s wildlife, but to see most of the island’s birds, set aside a full 24-30 days for any tour.

Long-tailed Ground-roller represents an entire genus endemic to a small part of south-western Madagascar and recalls a Roadrunner.(Photo by Ian Merrill)

Long-tailed Ground-roller represents an entire genus endemic to a small part of south-western Madagascar and recalls a

8) ZAMBIA or MALAWI

These countries are surprisingly poorly known but mega-rich bird-wise, also with tons of African megafauna. South-central Africa has a great many endemic birds but very few of them are restricted to any one country. Zambia is the single best country for finding the greatest number of these species, but picturesque Malawi, as well as Mozambique and Zimbabwe, are also great places for these birds. Zambia is also the second most famous country for Shoebill (after Uganda). African Pitta, another of Africa’s most desirable birds, is best sought on its breeding ground in the Zambezi River catchment of Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe or Mozambique.

9) CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

The Central African Republic, where Sangha Lodge has recently opened up Central Africa to birders (and Lowland Gorilla seekers) simply must be on your bucket list. Previously, absolutely vast tracts of central Africa were inaccessible, but now this new lodge provides a safe (but fairly expensive) realistic option. Since Central Africa was almost un-birded until recently, it is not surprising that exciting avian discoveries are being made here at a rapid pace – for example, Picathartes, African Piculet and other classically West African species are being found here hundreds of miles further east than expected. Who knows, you might be part of a group discovering a bird new to science, if you choose to visit a place like this. Odzala Camp in the DRC is another amazing option to consider.

10) EVERYWHERE ELSE YOU MISSED!

Tenth is cleaning up on the rest, and this might take you months and years! For example, Angola has many spectacular endemics especially around the beautiful Gabela Mountains. Sierra Leone is well worth doing to find the handful of Upper Guinea Forest endemics that lurk there and not in Ghana. You’ll need to do Kenya for a few endemics and for some of Africa’s famous sites.

While this rounds out our starter list of the top ten places to visit, there is just so much more. One thing is guaranteed – no visit to Africa will go unrewarded. Prepare for the trip of your life!

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