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Zimbabwe Highlands and Lowlands 2021

11 to 24 October 2021

At 390,624 sq km, Zimbabwe is three times as large as England and about half the size of Texas. This land-locked country is a true paradise for birders, with a total of more than 650 species having been recorded. Although there are no endemics in Zimbabwe, the country boasts more than 50 species of birds that do not occur in South Africa.

Many of these “specials” can be found in the focus area of our trip as we have carefully selected those destinations that will afford us the best chance of seeing the targeted species. Most of the miombo woodland birds are resident and birding is usually good throughout the year.

THE DESTINATIONS

Marondera

The town of Marondera lies some 80km south-east of the capital. The area boasts some 380 species and is home to some extremely sought-after Zimbabwean specials.  Although best known for its miombo woodland birds, grassland and water birds are well represented. The combination of high rainfall and warm to hot summers has created ideal conditions for the growth of the miombo woodlands, which are a feature of the Mashonaland Plateau.

Nyanga highlands

The Nyanga area boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in Zimbabwe. Mountains, rivers and gorges, montane grassland and forest, exotic and miombo woodland and man-made dams, all within a wide range of altitudes reaching up to 2500m, make this a most invigorating birding area. The highest waterfall in Zimbabwe, the Mtarazi Falls, is reached via lovely montane forest.

Honde Valley

The Honde Valley, a prime birding destination, is one of the most picturesque areas in Zimbabwe.  It offers a wide range of species difficult to find in other parts of the region. The low-lying valley (850m) is in an area of high rainfall and one of the major tea producing regions of Zimbabwe. Habitats are varied and include montane forest (fast disappearing), riverine forest, marsh, miombo woodland, tea plantations and cultivated lands.

Bvumba highlands

The Bvumba highlands lie approximately 25km above the city of Mutare and offer exciting and varied birding opportunities.  The “Mountains of the Mist” are an apt name for this part of the eastern Highlands. So often the early morning starts with the mist but clears by mid- morning. The area is probably best known as one of the main breeding areas of Swynnerton’s Robin which lives and breeds in small patches of forest. Habitats within this area are varied and include montane grassland, montane forest, miombo woodland and exotic plantations.

Chirinda Forest

Chirinda Forest is the southernmost area of tropical rainforest in Africa, covering the two rounded hilltops of Mount Selinda. It is situated 30km south of Chipinge town, and is easily accessible along a tar road. It is one of the best researched forests in Zimbabwe, with scientific collections of flora and fauna being made as early as 1900. This spectacular forest, controlled by the Forestry Commission, is well known for its magnificent trees. Over 100 species occur in the forest, the most famous being the remains of an enormous red Mahogany Khaya nyasica.

Gona-re-zhou National Park

Gona-re-zhou National Park is situated in the south eastern lowveld of Zimbabwe and covers an area of more than 5 000 square kilometres.

The Park is the second largest National Park in Zimbabwe, cutting a swathe of sandstone cliffs, scrub and baobab trees along the country’s south-eastern border with Mozambique. Largely undiscovered by the outside world, this striking land is one of the last great pristine wildernesses in Africa and takes in a huge diversity of habitats. It consists mainly of open grasslands and dense woodlands. Gonarezhou means ‘Place of many Elephants’. There are several large and spectacular pans supporting an excellent variety of waterbirds, including herons, storks, egrets and ducks.

Lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, hyena, buffalo, hippo and giraffe can all be seen within the boundaries of the Park but this country is known, first and foremost, as the Land of the Elephant.

BIRDING ATTRACTIONS

Marondera

Lanner Falcon, African Wood-Owl, Marsh Owl, Freckled Nightjar, Shelley’s Francolin, African Golden Oriole, Boulder Chat, Wood Pipit, Miombo Rock-Thrush, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Spotted Creeper, Green-backed Honeybird, Stierlings’s Wren-Warbler, Green-capped Eremomela, Western Violet-backed Sunbird, Black-eared Seedeater, Streaky-headed Seedeater.

Rosy-throated Longclaw, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Broad-tailed Warbler, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Cuckoo Finch, African Qualfinch, Orange-breasted Waxbill.

Nyanga highlands

Scarce Swift, Mottled Swift, Augur Buzzard, Roberts’s Warbler, Chirinda Apalis, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Bronzy Sunbird.

Honde Valley

Palm-nut Vulture, Marsh Tchagra, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon,  Pallid Honeyguide, Green-backed Woodpecker, African Broadbill, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Moustached Grass-Warbler, Red-winged Warbler, Red-throated Twinspot, Green Twinspot, Singing Cisticola, Short-winged Cisticola, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Black-winged Bishop.

Bvumba (Seldomseen, Bvumba Botanical Gardens, Cecil Kop NR, Mutare)

Ayre’s Hawk-Eagle, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Swynnerton’s Robin, Orange Ground-Thrush, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Chirinda Apalis, Roberts’s Warbler, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Bronzy Sunbird, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Variable Sunbird, Orange-winged Pytilia,  Mottled Swift, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Spotted Creeper, Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Miombo Tit, Cabanis’s Bunting, Southern Hyliota, Miombo Rock-Thrush, Whyte’s Barbet.

African Spotted Creeper
African Spotted Creeper

Chirinda Forest

Swynnerton’s Robin,White-starred Robin, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Livingstone’s Turaco, Narina Trogon, Olive Bush-Shrike, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Grey Cuckooshrike, Crested Guineafowl, Lemon Dove, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, White-eared Barbet, Dark-backed Weaver, Chirinda Apalis, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Black-throated Wattle-eye.

Narina Trogon
Narina Trogon

Gonarezhou National Park

Boulder Chat (en route), Martial Eagle, Dickinson’s Kestrel, African Barred Owlet, Southern Ground Hornbill, Grey-headed Parrot, Senegal Lapwing, Collared Palm-Thrush, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Bohm’s and Mottled Spinetails, Narina Trogon, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Green Malkoha, Eastern Nicator, Red-throated Twinspot, Allen’s Gallinule.

The 14-day tour departs from Johannesburg. We travel in an air-conditioned VW Caravelle, 4-wheel drive Microbus.

Itineraries

Day 1

Date : October 11, 2021

Johannesburg-Harare-Marondera

Mid-morning departure from OR Tambo International, arriving in Harare around lunchtime. Head for Marondera for some miombo woodland birding. Overnight at farm guest house, Marondera.

Day 2

Date : October 12, 2021

Marondera

Day spent birding in Gosho Park and Marondera wetlands. Overnight in Marondera.

Day 3

Date : October 13, 2021

Marondera-Nyanga

Early morning birding on farm. Depart after breakfast for Nyanga, arriving around lunchtime. Afternoon spent birding and sightseeing in the magnificent Nyanga highlands. Overnight at Rhodes Nyanga Hotel.

Day 4

Date : October 14, 2021

Nyanga-Honde Valley

Early morning birding around Nyanga. Depart after brunch for Honde Valley, arriving mid-afternoon. Overnight at Aberfoyle Lodge, Honde Valley.

Day 5

Date : October 15, 2021

Honde Valley

Day spent exploring and birding in various habitats in area. Overnight at Aberfoyle Lodge.

Day 6

Date : October 16, 2021

Honde Valley-Bvumba

Early morning in lodge grounds. Depart after breakfast for Bvumba highlands, arriving mid afternoon. Overnight at Seldomseen Cottages, Bvumba.

Day 7

Date : October 17, 2021

Bvumba area

Day spent birding around Bvumba and Mutare. Overnight at Seldomseen.

Day 8

Date : October 18, 2021

Bvumba area

Day spent birding around Bvumba and Mutare. Overnight at Seldomseen.

Day 9

Date : October 19, 2021

Bvumba-Chirinda Forest

Early morning birding around Seldomseen. Depart after brunch for Chirinda Forest near Chipinge. Afternoon birding in forest and overnight on farm near Chipinge.

Day 10

Date : October 20, 2021

Chirinda Forest

Day spent birding in and around Chirinda Forest. Overnight on farm.

Day 11

Date : October 21, 2021

Chirinda Forest-Gonarezhou National Park

Early morning birding on farm. Depart after breakfast for Gonarezhou, birding en route. Arrive at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge after lunch. Afternoon birding and overnight at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge.

Day 12

Date : October 22, 2021

Gona-re-zhou National Park

Morning game drive in Gonarezhou Park in open safari vehicle. Afternoon birding in forests and woodlands around lodge Overnight at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge.

Day 13

Date : October 23, 2021

Chilo-Soutpansberg

Early morning birding around lodge. Depart after breakfast for South African border. Late afternoon birding and overnight at lodge in the Soutpansberg.

Day 14

Date : October 24, 2021

Soutpansberg-Johannesburg

Early morning birding around lodge. Depart after breakfast for Johannesburg. Mid-afternoon arrival in Johannesburg.

Includes

Flight from Johannesburg to Harare.

Ground transport, all meals and accommodation, guiding, specified activities and entrance fees.

Excludes

Alcoholic beverages, gratuities and items of a personal nature.

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