The aptly-named Superb Starling, just one of the numerous spectacular starlings in Africa, by Steve Garvie.
The destinations listed and linked below are the ones we believe are the best in Africa. They have been chosen very carefully and for a multitude of reasons, but mainly based on personal experience of some of them and on dreams of visiting the rest, dreams resulting from what we have heard, read or seen.
It is our intention to update this list regularly as we add destinations and it was last updated on the 13th of September 2016.
If there are any other destinations you think should be on the list below then please Email us. Those that have not made it so far include The Comoros, Mali and Tunisia.
The destinations are listed alphabetically with very brief, usually one-line, summaries for those linked to more detailed pages (to reach these pages click on the destination name). Those not linked to more detailed pages are described in a bit more detail here, in italics.
Angola has a massive list of over 980 bird species, of which about 17 are endemic; Grey-striped and Swierstra's Francolins, Red-crested Turaco, Red-backed Mousebird, Gabela Akalat, Angola Cave Chat, Pulitzer's Longbill, Hartert's (Green-backed) Camaroptera, Angola Slaty Flycatcher, Montane (Ludwig's) Double-collared Sunbird, White-fronted Wattle-eye, Braun’s and Gabela Bushshrikes, Gabela Helmetshrike, Golden-backed Bishop, Landana (Pale-billed) Firefinch and Angola (Swee/Yellow-bellied) Waxbill. There are many near-endemics too, including Finsch's Francolin, Damara Tern, Anchieta's Barbet, White-headed Robin-Chat, Angola and Margaret's Batises, Bocage's Akalat, Damara Rockjumper (Rockrunner), Bocage's Sunbird, White-tailed Shrike, Bocage's, Gorgeous (Perrin's) and Monteiro’s Bushshrikes, and Cinderella Waxbill, while widespread spectacular species include Greater and Lesser Flamingoes, Palm-nut Vulture, Great Blue Turaco, Giant Kingfisher, Black, Blue-breasted and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, Blue-throated and Lilac-breasted Rollers, Yellowbill (Blue Malkoha) and Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye. Don't expect to see any grazing mammals or their predators though - they are all shot for food in this very poor country. There are a few monkeys and they include the tiny Angolan (Southern) Talapoin. The best time to look for birds is September, usually before the rainy season kicks in.
Whales, dolphins and 40 seabird species from Antarctica via South Georgia to Ascension Island.
Many mammals including African Wild Dog and many waterbirds in the Okavango Delta.
Several monkeys and lots of birds, including a few endemics, Quail Plover and Red-headed Picathartes.
The seven Canary Islands support five endemic bird species: Bolle's (Tenerife and other western islands) and Laurel (Tenerife, Gomera and La Palma) Pigeons, Canary Islands Chat (Fuerteventura), Canary Islands Chiffchaff (Tenerife and other western islands) and Blue Chaffinch (Tenerife and Gran Canaria); near-endemic Plain Swift, Berthelot's Pipit, African Blue Tit and Island Canary; and many endemic subspecies of more widely distributed birds, including Houbara Bustard (fuertaventurae on Fuerteventura and Lanzarote) and Goldcrest (teneriffae on Tenerife and Gomera). Tenerife supports the greatest diversity of endemic and near-endemic birds but Canary Islands Chat occurs only on Fuerteventura where it can be seen at several sites. Also present on Fuerteventura are Egyptian Vulture (majorensis), Cream-coloured Courser, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Lesser Short-toed Lark and Trumpeter Finch, with the bustard, courser, lark and finch also on Lanzarote where it is also possible to see Eleonora's Falcon. On ferry crossings - such as between Gran Canaria and Tenerife, and Tenerife and Gomera - it is possible to see Cory's and Little Shearwaters, Bulwer's Petrel and even White-faced Storm-Petrel (especially in July when seabird numbers and diversity usually peaks), as well as Short-finned Pilot Whale, Bottlenose Dolphin and Loggerhead Turtle.
Cape Verde Islands
This windy archipelago about 450 km west of Senegal supports just 36 breeding species, nine of which are seabirds. There are four endemic landbirds; Cape Verde Swift, Raso Lark, Cape Verde Warbler and Iago Sparrow, and endemic subspecies of Purple (Bourne's) Heron, Common (Cape Verde) Buzzard, Common (Alexander's and Neglected) Kestrel and Barn (Cape Verde) Owl (the endemic subspecies of Peregrine is very rarely recorded and the endemic subspecies of Black Kite is thought to be extinct). Amongst the seabirds there is Fea's Petrel, which is almost an endemic breeding species (it also breeds on Bugio in the Desertas Islands off Madeira) and three endemic breeding subspecies; Little (Boyd's) Shearwater, Cory's (Cape Verde) Shearwater and Madeiran (Cape Verde) Storm Petrel, as well as Bulwer's Petrel and White-faced Storm Petrel (which can be seen during an overnight stay on Ilheu dos Passeros, off Boa Vista). Other birds present include Red-billed Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Booby, Grey-headed Kingfisher (which occurs nowhere else in the Western Palearctic), Bar-tailed and Greater Hoopoe Larks, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark and Brown-necked Raven. To see the endemic species and subspecies, some of the seabirds and the Western Palearctic specialities it is necessary to visit the following islands; Santiago, the most bird rich island, mainly for Bourne's Heron (at the reservoir Barragem de Poilao which is also good for vagrant waterbirds), Cape Verde Buzzard (rare), Grey-headed Kingfisher and Cape Verde Warbler; Sao Nicolau, mainly for Neglected Kestrel, access to Raso Island for Raso Lark and the boat trip there and back which is good for Fea's Petrel, and Boyd's and Cape Verde Shearwaters (all three of which may also be seen at one of the best places for seawatching in the archipelago, Ponta do Barril Lighthouse); and Boa Vista, where the Ilheu de Curral Velho, just offshore, supports a breeding colony of Brown Boobies and the last breeding pair of Magnificent Frigatebirds in the Western Palearctic. The best time to visit is during the driest time of the year, December to June, especially March-April, when Humpback Whales can also be seen on whale-watching trips.
Central African Republic
Lowland Gorilla, monkeys and spectacular birds such as Red-headed Picathartes.
The main tourist attractions in Egypt are the Great Pyramids and Sphinx of Giza, the Egyptian Museum which hosts Tutankhamun’s treasures, the Temples of Karnak and Luxor, and the tombs of the Valley of the Kings, but visitors interested in birds may wish to turn their eyes elsewhere, especially those interested in birds which are difficult or impossible to see elsewhere in the Western Palearctic, birds such as White-eyed Gull (which is difficult to see anywhere else in the world!), Goliath and Striated Herons, Yellow-billed Stork, Brown Booby, Pink-backed Pelican, Lappet-faced Vulture, Sooty Falcon, Greater Painted Snipe, Senegal Thick-knee, Crab, Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plovers, Sooty Gull, African Skimmer, Chestnut-bellied and Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse, African Collared and Namaqua Doves, Senegal Coucal, Hume's Owl, Hooded Wheatear, African Pied Wagtail, Nile Valley and Palestine Sunbirds, Sinai Rosefinch, Red Avadavat and Streaked Weaver. There is even an outside chance of seeing the elusive Yellow Bitterns which were discovered breeding in mangroves along Egypt's southern Red Sea coast south of Marsa Alam in 2012-2013! The spring (especially mid-April to early May) and autumn (September-October) migration periods are the best times to visit, with the possibility of large numbers of storks, raptors, shorebirds and passerines, especially at the migration bottlenecks of Suez, Hurghada and Zaranik. The Red Sea is rich in marine life and there are many places where scuba-diving and snorkelling can be spectacular experiences.
Ethiopian Wolf, Gelada Baboon and 30 or so endemic birds including Stresemann's Bushcrow.
Lowland Gorilla, a chance of Chimpanzee and Mandrill, and great birds like African River Martin.
Easy birding in a small country with Egyptian Plover, plus possibly Patas Monkey.
Several monkeys, and Upper Guinea Forest birds including Yellow-headed Picathartes.
The best overall wildlife experience in the world and therefore A Top Ten Destination.
Lemurs like Indri, chameleons and about 100 endemic birds including five Ground Rollers.
Pel's Fishing Owl, Boehm's Bee-eater, White-winged Apalis and some mammals.
Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues
Since Mauritius was discovered by modern man in the late 1500s all but 3% of the natural vegetation has been destroyed and several species have become extinct, notably the Dodo which was wiped out by the 1660s. Most of the surviving endemic birds are endangered too, especially the kestrel, the pigeon and the parakeet, while the other five endemics are all declining; a rare cuckoo shrike, a rare bulbul, a rare white-eye, a relatively 'common' white-eye and a rare fody. Other birds present on the island include Mascarene Swiftlet, Mascarene Martin, the rare Mascarene (Mauritius) Paradise Flycatcher (which also occurs on Reunion) and several introduced species. One of the best places to see the endemic landbirds is Black River Gorges National Park although Bras d'Eau National Park is better for the paradise flycatcher. Seawatching is arguably best from La Roche qui Pleure on the south coast where the possibilities include Barau's, Herald/Trinidade/Round Island and Mascarene Petrels. From the north coast it is possible to telescope Gunner's Quoin Island although it is better to hire a boat to visit the island and the surrounding waters in order to see both tropicbirds and Masked Booby. Other possible seabirds around the island include Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Brown and Lesser Noddies, and Sooty Tern. Offshore, Round Island, which can be viewed by boat, supports nesting Herald/Trinidade/Round Island Petrels, the largest colony of Red-tailed Tropicbirds in the Indian Ocean (2000-2500 pairs), lesser numbers of White-tailed Tropicbirds and large numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, as well as an endemic boa and skink.
The heavily degraded island of Rodrigues supports two endemic landbirds; a warbler and a fody, both of which are rare in some high vegetated gulleys, as well as Rodrigues (Golden) Flying Fox.
The forested volcanic mountains of Reunion are where Barau’s and Mascarene (Reunion Black) Petrels nest, and they also support six endemic landbirds; a harrier, a cuckoo shrike, a bulbul, a stonechat and two white-eyes, all of which can be seen in remnant natural forest along the trail from La Roche Ecrite, about half an hour by road from St Denis. Other landbirds present there include Mascarene (Reunion) Paradise Flycatcher, while seawatching near dusk from the the St. Etienne rivermouth area may reveal Barau's and Mascarene Petrels, and Audubon's (Tropical) Shearwaters, massing before flying inland to their nesting sites high among the volcanic peaks. The best time to visit these islands is October-November.
Morocco - Southern
The richest birdlife in North Africa, from the Atlantic to the edge of the Sahara.
Manta Rays, Whale Sharks and spectacular birds such as African Pitta.
Mammals including Black Rhinoceros, birds like White-tailed Shrike and some stunning desert scenery.
See Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues, above.
Mountain Gorilla and possibly Chimpanzee, plus Albertine Rift Endemic birds.
Sao Tome and Principe
These two small islands in the Gulf of Guinea support up to 30 endemic bird species and it is possible to see all of them during a short visit although some are very rare. The hardest to see on Sao Tome are (Dwarf) Olive Ibis, Bocage's Longbill (Sao Tome Short-tail) and, especially, Sao Tome Fiscal and Sao Tome Grosbeak. All four are most likely to be seen on a camping trip to the best remaining forest on Monte Carmo, although the grosbeak also occurs at Xufe-Xufe. The other 13 endemics on Sao Tome are Maroon Pigeon (most likely high up on the trail to Lagoa Amelia), Forest Dove, a green pigeon, a scops owl, an oriole, a paradise flycatcher, a prinia, a speirops, a thrush, two sunbirds and two weavers. Some taxonomists believe the island forms of Malachite Kingfisher, Chestnut-winged Starling and Sao Tome White-eye are also endemic, bringing the total to 20. Two species occur on both islands; Sao Tome Spinetail and Principe Seedeater. On Principe, as well as the island race of Sao Tome White-eye, there may be as many as eight more endemics, seven of which can be seen around the luxurious Bom Bom Island Resort which caters mainly for scuba diving and Marlin fishing; Principe (White-bellied) Kingfisher, Dohrn’s Thrush Babbler, a glossy starling, Principe (Velvet-mantled) Drongo, a sunbird, a speirops and a golden weaver. The tricky ones to see are the white-eye and especially Principe Thrush although the latter is possible on Pico Mesa. Other species present on Principe include the dryas race of Blue-breasted Kingfisher and African Grey Parrot, both of which are still relatively 'common'. Boat trips can be arranged to look for seabirds on offshore islets and volcanic plugs, including White-tailed Tropicbird and Brown Noddy, while Black Noddies and Sooty Terns nest on their thousands on the more distant Tinhosas Islands. The best time to visit the islands for birds is July-November. The best time for Green and Leatherback Turtles nesting on the beaches is December to March.
Waterbirds, bustards, Black Crowned Crane, Swallow-tailed Kite and Egyptian Plover.
Rare endemic landbirds like a paradise flycatcher, and seabird colonies.
Monkeys, a chance of Chimpanzee and spectacular birds such as Yellow-headed Picathartes.
South Africa - Eastern
Mammals including White and Black Rhinoceroses, and Meerkat, plus lots of birds.
South Africa - Western
Great White Shark, Southern Right Whale, Meerkat and endemic birds.
Tanzania - Northern
The greatest diversity and numbers of large mammals on Earth make this A Top Ten Destination.
Tanzania - Southern
Many mammals in some of the wildest places left on Earth.
Gorilla, Chimpanzee and many birds including Shoebill make this A Top Ten Destination.
In this part of northwest Africa currently administered by Morocco it is possible to see a few birds which are difficult or impossible to see elsewhere in the Western Palearctic and a few mammals which are difficult or impossible to see anywhere else in the world. The main town Dakhla is accessible by air or road (over 1200 km south of Agadir) from Morocco. Birds in the huge Dakhla Bay include Royal Tern and a few Atlantic Humpback Dolphins survive in this bay. Inland, alongside the Dakhla-Aousserd Road it is possible to see Golden Nightjar (Oued Jenna) and Cricket Longtail (Oued Jenna), as well as Crowned and Spotted Sandgrouse, Dunn's Lark, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Fulvous Babbler, African Desert Warbler and Desert Sparrow, and possibly Pharoah Eagle Owl and Sudan Golden Sparrow (especially at Oued Jenna). The numbers of birds in the often windy desert seems to depend on winter rainfall, with the highest numbers usually after plenty of rain. Mammals present alongside the same road include African Wild and Sand Cats, Golden Jackal, Fennec and Ruppell's Foxes, (Saharan) Striped Polecat, Desert Hedgehog and Lesser Egyptian Jerboa, all of which are most likely to be seen while spotlighting at night. The best time to visit is March to September.
Many mammals, millions of bats and some great birds and Victoria Falls!
Don’t know which country/countries to visit? Why not take a look at Where to watch birds in Africa written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course, having been published by Helm in 1995, but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since it was published.
Reviews of the six books in the 'Where to Watch Birds' series written by this website's author, and covering most of the world, can be read at Reviews (pdf 236KB).