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 in November 2018.
If there are any other destinations you think should be on the list below then please feel free to Email us.
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.
The first and arguably most important destination to consider is a Local Patch, somewhere a short walk from home where it is possible to see a wide range of birds and other wildlife any day of the year.
In March 2018 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all travel to areas within 30km of the country’s borders with Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Tunisia and unfortunately the country’s famous endemic bird the Algerian Nuthatch occurs only in the ancient humid forests in the north of the country at Djebel Babor, the Guerrouch Forest in Taza National Park, the Tamentout Forest and the Djimla Forest, all of which are relatively close to each other in the Kabylie of the Babors (Babor Mountains) but all of which are also thought to be used as hide-outs by terrorists. Should the security situation improve Djebel Babor is arguably the most accessible site, a mountain east of Algiers where the best time of the year to visit is May to September when it is also possible to see Levaillant’s (Green) Woodpecker, Moussier’s Redstart, Atlas (Pied) Flycatcher, Tristram’s Warbler and (Tunisian) Coal Tit (ledouci) while the important wetlands along the Mediterranean coast support large numbers of the likes of Ferruginous, Marbled and White-headed Ducks. Algeria is the second largest country in Africa, about 2000 km by 2000 km, and much of the interior, 85% Sahara desert, has yet to be visited by people interested in birds and other wildlife.
Angola has a massive bird list of about 1000 species, of which 13 are endemic; Grey-striped and Swierstra's Francolins, Red-crested Turaco, Red-backed Mousebird, Gabela Akalat, Pulitzer's Longbill, Hartert's (Green-backed) Camaroptera, Angola Slaty Flycatcher, White-fronted Wattle-eye, Braun’s and Gabela Bushshrikes, Gabela Helmetshrike and Angolan (Yellow-bellied) Waxbill, as well as, possibly, Montane (Ludwig's) Double-collared Sunbird and Golden-backed Bishop. 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, Angola Cave Chat, 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.
A striking Gabela Helmetshrike in the Caxito Forest, Angola by Dubi Shapiro.
Whales, dolphins and 40 seabird species from Antarctica via South Georgia to Ascension Island.
Bioko, Equatorial Guinea
Bioko (called Fernando Po during Portuguese colonization) is a rugged mountainous volcanic island rising to 3000 m (nearly 10,000 ft) in the Gulf of Guinea 32 km off the west coast of Cameroon. It is about 70 km long and about 30 km across with many plantations having replaced a lot of the native rainforest. Nearly 200 bird species have been recorded including two endemics: Bioko (Fernando Po) Speirops and Bioko (Fernando Po) Batis; and at least 28 endemic subspecies including those of Mountain Saw-wing, Red-headed (Grey-necked) Picathartes and Ursula’s Sunbird, while other birds present include White-tailed Tropicbird, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Grey-headed Broadbill and Black-necked Wattle-eye. Mammals include White-bellied (Tree) Pangolin, African Linsang and several monkeys; (Bioko) Drill, (Bioko) Black Colobus, Pennant’s Red Colobus, Preuss’s Guenon, and Crowned, (Bioko) Putty-nosed and (Bioko) Red-eared Monkeys. The best time to visit is mid-December to late February.
Many mammals including African Wild Dog, Pel's Fishing Owl and many waterbirds in the Okavango Delta including Slaty Egret and Wattled Crane.
In December 2018 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against all travel to certain parts of Burundi including the main road running west from Kayanza through Kibira Forest NP, and Ruvubu NP, and against all but essential travel to the rest of the country, due mainly to political instability since President Nkrunziza was inaugurated for a controversial third term in August 2015. Should the situation improve the place to head for forest birds is Kibira, contiguous with Nyungwe Forest in neighbouring Rwanda, which supports 21 of the 35 or so Albertine Rift endemics including Mountain Sooty Boubou, Ruwenzori Batis, Red-throated Alethe, Red-collared Mountain Babbler, Ruwenzori Hill Babbler, Black-faced (Mountain Masked) and Ruwenzori (Collared) Apalises, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Stripe-breasted Tit, Blue-headed, Purple-breasted, Regal and Ruwenzori Double-collared (Stuhlmann’s) Sunbirds, Strange Weaver, and Dusky and Shelley’s Crimsonwings, as well as Black-billed and Great Blue Turacos, Narina Trogon, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, White-headed Woodhoopoe, Angola Swallow, Equatorial Akalat, Banded Prinia, Black-tailed Oriole, Slender-billed Starling and Yellow-bellied Waxbill. Other good birding sites in this tiny, densely-populated country include the Rusizi Delta/NP near the capital Bujumbura (lots of waterbirds including African Skimmer); Lake Rwihinda (Papyrus Yellow Warbler and Papyrus Gonolek); Kigwena-Rumonge Forest NP (Owl-faced Monkey), The Congo-Nile Ridge Park, Nyakazu, Mwishanga Forest NP and Ruvubu NP (named after the Hippos there this stretch of the Ruvubu River is good for waterbirds, Red-faced Barbet, Papyrus Yellow Warbler and Papyrus Gonolek). The main wet seasons usually last from February to May and September to November, and the driest times of the year are normally from June to August and December to January.
Several monkeys and lots of birds, including a few endemics, Quail Plover and Red-headed Picathartes.
The Canary Islands which lie about 100 km off the southern coast of Morocco are the tops of a volcanic mountain range lying beneath the Atlantic Ocean and although Pico de Teide rises to 12,198 ft (3718 m) on the island of Tenerife and often has snow on it vast areas of that island and those to the east (Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote) are barren, solidified lava, moon-like landscapes whereas on the wetter western islands El Hierro, Gomera and La Palma there are remnant laurel forests. The islands support at least six 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, and Gran Canaria (rare, maybe less than 200 birds) and Tenerife Blue Chaffinches; 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. Also present on Fuerteventura though 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. On ferry crossings - such as between Gran Canaria and Tenerife, and Tenerife and Gomera - it is possible to see Cory's and Barolo (Audubon's/Little/Macronesian) 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 volcanic archipelago of mainly desert and mountains about 350 miles (570 km) west of Senegal, West Africa, is in the Macaronesia ecoregion along with the Azores, Canary Islands and Madeira, and therefore in the Western Palearctic. It supports just 36 breeding bird species but of the nine seabirds four are endemic breeding species; Cape Verde (Fea’s) Petrel, Boyd’s (Audubon's/Little) and Cape Verde (Cory's) Shearwaters, and Cape Verde (Band-rumped/Madeiran) Storm Petrel, while almost all of the landbirds are endemic species or subspecies, the five endemics being the very rare Cape Verde (Common) Buzzard, Cape Verde Swift, Raso Lark, Cape Verde (Cane) Warbler and Iago Sparrow, and the endemic subspecies including Purple (Bourne's) Heron, Common (Alexander's and Neglected) Kestrel and Barn (Cape Verde) Owl. Other birds present include Bulwer's Petrel, White-faced Storm Petrel (which can be seen during an overnight stay on Ilheu dos Passeros, off Boa Vista), Red-billed Tropicbird, Western Reef Egret, Brown Booby, Helmeted Guineafowl, Cream-coloured Courser, Grey-headed Kingfisher (which occurs nowhere else in the Western Palearctic), Bar-tailed and Greater Hoopoe Larks, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Brown-necked Raven and Spectacled Warbler. The best islands to visit are: Santiago, the most bird rich island, mainly for Bourne's Heron, Cape Verde Buzzard (in the mountainous centre of the island overlooking Sierra Malagueta), Grey-headed Kingfisher and Cape Verde Warbler, although Praia cliffs is a good place for Red-billed Tropicbirds; Sao Nicolau, mainly for Neglected Kestrel, boat trips to Raso Island for Raso Lark (which has to be looked for from a boat because only researchers are allowed to land on the island which has colonies of Red-billed Tropicbirds and Brown Boobies and sometimes attracts roosting Red-footed Boobies), the crossing which is good for Bulwer's and Cape Verde Petrels, Cape Verde Storm Petrel, and Boyd's and Cape Verde Shearwaters, as well as Atlantic and Pantropical Spotted Dolphins, and Short-finned Pilot Whale, and Ponta do Barril, one of the best places for seawatching in the archipelago, good for the aforementioned seabirds along with Red-billed Tropicbird and Brown Booby, with a chance of White-faced Storm Petrel; and Boa Vista, where the Ilheu de Curral Velho, just offshore, supports a breeding colony of Brown Boobies (and once the last breeding pair of Magnificent Frigatebirds in the Western Palearctic), and Ponta da Varadinha (with a 4WD) where it is possible to see Red-billed Tropicbirds. 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.
A great image of a Brown Booby captured in the Cape Verde Islands by Steve Rogers.
Central African Republic
Lowland Gorilla, monkeys and spectacular birds such as Red-headed Picathartes.
After decades of civil war the deserts, arid plains and mountains of Chad are becoming increasingly accessible to foreign visitors in search of somewhere new, remote, beautiful and exciting but in March 2018 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all travel to areas within 30 km of all borders except for the capital N’Djamena and Lake Chad and the parts of Kanem and Lac regions to the west of the towns of Mao and Bol, as well as other regions and against all but essential travel to all remaining parts of the country including the capital, N’Djamena and the town of Faya Largeau, adding that terrorists are very likely to try to carry out indiscriminate attacks and that there is a threat of retaliatory attacks following the French intervention in Mali and due to Chad’s involvement in the regional fight to counter Boko Haram. However, the bird tour company Birdquest enjoyed a successful visit in 2017 in search of Nubian Bustard, Niam-niam Parrot, Black-breasted Barbet, Rusty Bush Lark, African Dunn's Lark, Heuglin's Wheatear and Kordofan (Rufous) Sparrow, and they also saw Scissor-tailed Kite, Arabian Bustard, Black Crowned Crane, Egyptian Plover, Bronze-winged Courser, Abyssinian Roller, Cyprus Wheatear, Blackstart, Brown-tailed Rock Chat, Black Scrub Robin, River Prinia, Pygmy Sunbird, Chestnut-bellied Starling, Desert and Sudan Golden Sparrows, and Sahel Paradise Whydah, some of which are northern Sahel specialities. Zakouma National Park in the southeast where Black Crowned Crane and Black-breasted Barbet occur is arguably the last great wilderness in Western Africa, home to over 500 African Elephants and many different subspecies of mammal to those of East and South Africa such as 'Kordofan' Giraffe, plus more localised full species such as Red-fronted Gazelle and Tiang. Night drives are allowed and a good way to see the likes of Crested Porcupine, Leopard, Serval and Honey Badger. Also present are Cheetah (rare), Lion, Buffalo, Spotted Hyaena (scarce), Roan, Lelwel’s Hartebeest, Loder’s (Buffon’s) Kob and Patas Monkey while reptiles include Black-necked Spitting Cobra, Nile Monitor Lizard and West African Crocodile. This park is normally subject to heavy rains between June and October but at the end of the very dry season impressive numbers of birds and mammals gather around any remaining waters. In the northeast Scimitar-horned Oryx is being reintroduced to the huge Ouadi Rime and Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve where Nubian Bustard and African Dunn's Lark occur. Visiting areas where Kordofan Lark and the near-endemic Chad (Jameson’s) Firefinch (rare in adjacent north Cameroon) have been recorded requires special permission. There are hotels and lodges but to see the best birds in the best places it is necessary to camp with the help of local tour companies equipped with 4x4s during the dry season, especially December to February.
Comoros and Mayotte
There are over 20 and perhaps will end up being over 30 endemic bird species on the volcanic Comoro Islands between Mozambique and Madagascar and just about all of them can be seen by visiting the islands of Anjouan (3 single-island endemics), Grande Comore (8), Moheli (4) and Mayotte (5), actually a department of France rather than politically part of the Comoros, including a blue pigeon, four scops owls, three drongos, one to three thrushes, Humblot’s Flycatcher which is in a unique genus and occurs only on Grande Comore, Comoros Blue Vanga, three white-eyes, four sunbirds and a fody (on Mayotte only). In order to see Karthala (or Grande Comore) Scops Owl and Karthala White-eye it is necessary to camp out near the top of Mount Karthala on Grand Comore which has the largest crater of any of the world’s active volcanoes. Also on this island are Malagasy Harrier, an endemic subspecies of Malagasy (Malachite) Kingfisher and forms of Frances’s Sparrowhawk, Lesser Vasa Parrot, Cuckoo-Roller, Malagasy Spinetail and Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher. Around the coasts of the two main islands of Mayotte it is possible to see White-tailed Tropicbird, Sooty and Bridled Terns, and Brown Noddy, and off the coast of Moheli the endemic temptator form of Persian (or Arabian) Shearwater, Lesser Frigatebird and Masked Booby. The dry season usually lasts from May to November and the end of this period is the best time for birds.
Congo, Democratic Republic of (formerly Zaire)
See Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), below.
(Republic of the) Congo
Although the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to certain regions of Congo its relative political stability in a troubled region means it could become one of Africa’s finest wildlife destinations, especially considering it is possible to see Western Lowland Gorillas in Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the remote northwest where there are two habituated families near Ngaga Camp, accessible by air from Brazzaville the capital, and other camps such as M’boko, set in savannah frequented by Elephants and Buffalos. Eleven diurnal primates also live in the park including Guereza Colobus and Moustached Monkey, and nearly 450 species of bird have been recorded, 330 breeding, including Congo Serpent Eagle, White-bellied Kingfisher, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Grey-headed Broadbill, Angola and Bioko Batises, Eastern Wattled Cuckoo Shrike, Black-throated Apalis, Black-collared Bulbul, many greenbuls including Falkenstein’s, and Yellow-capped Weaver. Congo is a low-lying country on the equator between Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo where over 50% of the land surface is still covered by rainforest and another national park in the far north, Nouabale-Ndoki, which is contiguous with Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic supports the likes of Sandy Scops Owl, Brown Nightjar, Zenker’s Honeyguide and Preuss’s Weaver. In the far south birds characteristic of the flooded forests in the Kouilou region include White-crested Tiger Heron, Maned Owl and Vermiculated Fishing-owl while other species present in the Lower Kouilou Basin bordered by the Atlantic coast include Damara Tern, Black-headed Bee-eater, African River Martin (September-November) and Loango Weaver. The river martin, as well as Rosy Bee-eater breed in Conkouati National Park in the extreme southwest and the Lefini Faunal Reserve on the Teke Plateau in the southeast next to Gabon supports Finsch’s Francolin, Congo Moor-Chat and Black-chinned Weaver with Brazza’s Martin in neighbouring localities. The best time to visit is the beginning of the rainy season which is usually March in the north and October in the south although the coolest months of the year are July and August.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
This huge country supports a tremendous variety of wildlife but it is a very difficult place in which to see much of it. One exception is Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve deep in the heart of the Congo where it is possible to see the mythical Congo Peafowl, one of the shyest and most difficult birds to see on planet Earth. In contrast our closest next of kin the rare Bonobo which also occurs here is easy to see thanks to researchers habituating several groups. Getting there is not easy. Once permits (‘ordres de mission’) have been obtained from different ministries it will probably be necessary to charter a plane for the 700 km flight to Basankusu in the province of Equateur then a dugout for a 170 km river trip then it is a 12 km trek to a clearing where there is no accommodation so all camping gear, food etc. will need to be factored into what is in effect an expedition, or you could just contact the tour company Birdquest who visited in 2015 and 2017. They also saw Congo Serpent Eagle, Forbes’s Plover (Basankusu), Yellow-throated Cuckoo, African Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue-throated Roller, Sladen’s Barbet, Blue Cuckoo Shrike, Bates’s Paradise Flycatcher, Congo Martin (Mbandaka), Congo (Mbandaka) and Violet-tailed Sunbirds, Cassin’s Malimbe, Bob-tailed Weaver (at Basankusu and Mbandaka), Woodhouse’s Antpecker and Grant’s Bluebill, as well as Black Mangabey, Angolan Pied Colobus, Wolf’s Monkey and Red River Hog. September is the time to go even though the wet season in the north of the country usually lasts from April to October.
Seeing an Okapi in the wild is another matter altogether although there is an Okapi Wildlife Reserve run by The Okapi Conservation Project based at Epulu in the northeast. The reserve encompasses 13,700 square kilometers of the Ituri Forest which also supports the largest populations of Chimpanzees and Forest Elephants in the country as well as 13 primates, Bongo and a bucketful of birds.
In November 2018 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) continued to advise against all travel to many provinces of the country especially in the east but there are still tour companies offering tours there to see Mountain Gorillas in Virunga National Park. The Beni region immediately west of Virunga and the Rwenzori Mountains near the border with Uganda has been under siege from the Allied Defence Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group, for many years, and this group is believed to be responsible for the deaths of more than 1500 people and 800 kidnappings since 2014, according to local civil society organizations. In addition, the latest outbreak of the Ebola virus has killed at least 200 people, about half of which were from Beni.
Despite its small size, just 20,000 square km or so, and often intense heat, Djibouti, a former French colony with a continued French military presence, has a bird list of over 360 species, thanks mainly to its location at the mouth of the African Rift Valley, the narrowest point along the Red Sea (the Bab el Mandeb straits) and close to the Arabian Peninsula, just 28 km away. It therefore has a fascinating mix of African and Middle Eastern species and is on a major migration flyway to boot. The 370 km long coastline has areas of mangrove bordered by large mudflats while inland mountains rise to about 2000 m above semi-desert, acacia bush land, savannas and patches of Juniper forest where the birds include the endemic Djibouti Francolin and restricted-range specialities such as White-eyed Gull, White-cheeked Tern, Somali Bulbul, Gambaga Flycatcher, Somali Starling, Arabian Golden and Somali Sparrows, an odd sunbird tentatively named Toha Sunbird and a yellow-breasted and yellow-tailed form of Green-winged Pytilia that may prove to be a distinct species. Other birds present at various times of the year include Persian Shearwater, Greater Flamingo, Abdim’s Stork, Goliath Heron, Pink-backed Pelican, Verreaux’s Eagle, Crab Plover, Sooty Gull, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Nubian Woodpecker, Greater Hoopoe Lark, Grey-headed Batis, Ethiopian Boubou, Blackstart, Black Scrub Robin, Sombre Rock Chat, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Graceful Prinia, Arabian, Basra Reed, Brown Woodland, Menetries’s, Red-fronted and Upcher’s Warblers, Nile Valley Sunbird and Ruppell’s Weaver. There are quite a lot of mammals too, including Hamadryas Baboon, Speke's Pectinator, Dorcas and Soemmerring's Gazelles, Salt's Dik-dik and Klipspringer. The best time for birds is arguably December to February when birds which breed far to the north spend the northern winter in the country.
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, Sooty Falcon, Greater Painted Snipe, Senegal Thick-knee, Crab, Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plovers, Sooty Gull, Saunders's Tern (at a colony near Ras Sedr on the Sinai Peninsula), 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 at Lahami south of Marsa Alam in 2012-2013 and were still present in 2017. One hour south is the site for Lappet-faced Vulture, at El Shalateen on the border with Sudan. 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.
Egypt is the best place in the world to see White-eyed Gull. Image by Michael McKee.
Equatorial Guinea - Bioko
See Bioko, Equatorial Guinea, above
At least half of Ethiopia’s 30 or so ‘Abyssinian 'endemics' also occur in this small country; Wattled Ibis, Rouget’s Rail, White-collared Pigeon, Black-winged Lovebird, White-cheeked Turaco, Banded Barbet, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Abyssinian Black-headed Oriole, Thick-billed Raven, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Ruppell's (Black) Chat, White-winged Cliff Chat, Ethiopian (Winding) Cisticola, White-backed Black Tit, White-billed Starling and White-throated (Abyssinian Yellow-rumped) Seedeater. Near-endemics, restricted to the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and easternmost Sudan), include Erckel's Francolin, Blanford's Lark, White-headed and White-rumped Babblers, Abyssinian Black (Mourning) Wheatear, Somali Starling, Swainson's Sparrow, Ruppell's Weaver, African Citril and Brown-rumped Seedeater, while Collared Kingfisher occurs in mangroves along parts of the 1000 km long Red Sea coastline (the only place in Africa where this otherwise widespread Asian species occurs) and other notable species include Red-breasted (Botta's) Wheatear (which only occurs elsewhere in Ethiopia and Arabia), Menetries’s Warbler (a passage migrant and winter visitor), Pale Rock Finch (a winter visitor) and Cinereous Bunting (an uncommon passage migrant). More widespread birds range from Crab Plover, White-eyed Gull and White-cheeked Tern through Steppe and Tawny Eagles, several sandgrouse, Abyssinian Roller and Black Scrub Robin to Greater Hoopoe Lark. Mammals include Abyssinian Wild Ass (on coastal plains), Caracal, Spotted Hyena, Greater Kudu, Dorca’s and Soemmering's Gazelles, and Hamadryas/Sacred Baboon, while offshore there are Dugongs in the Gulf of Zuba and southern Dahlak Islands (along with three species of turtle), Whale Sharks, Manta Rays and a wide variety of coral reef fish. The best times to visit are during the migration periods (February to April and September to November) although some species are more likely to be seen during the June to October highland rainy season.
Ethiopian Wolf, Gelada Baboon and 30 or so endemic birds including Stresemann's Bushcrow.
The superb Ethiopian (Blue-breasted) Bee-eater in the Jemma Valley, Ethiopia, by David Beadle.
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.
This stunning image of an Abyssinian Roller was taken in Gambia by Nick Cobb.
Several monkeys, and Upper Guinea Forest birds including Yellow-headed Picathartes.
The stunning Blue-breasted Kingfisher occurs across west Africa to Uganda. This image was captured in Mole National Park in Ghana by Dubi Shapiro.
The best overall wildlife experience in the world and therefore A Top Ten Destination.
An aptly-named Superb Starling in Kenya by Steve Garvie.
The tiny, landlocked, mountain Kingdom of Lesotho is a good place to look for the highland Drakensberg avian specialities of southern Africa. The most accessible site in the region for these birds is Sani Pass which although technically in South Africa is a major route into Lesotho and a good place for Drakensberg Rockjumper, Gurney's Sugarbird and Drakensberg Siskin, as well as Grey-winged Francolin, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Eagle Owl, Lammergeier, Cape Vulture, Southern Bald Ibis, Sentinel Rock Thrush, Buff-streaked Chat, Barratt's Warbler, Bush Blackcap and Mountain Pipit, some of which can also be seen at Liqobong on the Mechachaneng Ridge where there is a Cape Vulture colony and other cliff-nesting birds such as Jackal Buzzard (the most numerous raptors at high altitudes, probably due to the abundance of prey in the form of endemic Sloggett's Ice Rats), and at Mafika-Lisiu Pass in the Maluti Mountains, below which lies Bokong NR where there is an ossuary, an area of large slabs of flat rock used by Lammergeiers to drop and break large bones on. Below Bokong look out for Malachite Sunbirds nectaring on red-hot pokers (Kniphofia). In the east of the country Yellow-breasted Pipit occurs in Sehlabathebe NP which is contiguous with South Africa’s Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park.
After many years of civil wars, military coups, ‘blood diamonds’ - supporting the insurgency in neighbouring Sierra Leone with weapons and training in exchange for diamonds - this small West African country was at peace again in the mid-2010s. Along the 600 km Atlantic coastline are mangroves, sandbars and lagoons. Inland the coastal plains rise to rolling plateaux and low mountains and as recently as the early 2000s rich forest still covered some 40% of the land, enough to support all 15 Upper Guinea Endemic Bird Area species and 184 species of the Guinea Congo forest biome, birds which occur at places such as Mount Nimba where large scale ongoing iron ore mining continues to reduce the height of the mountain (from 5748 ft (1752 m)), and remove and degrade much of the remaining forest. Another top birding site is Sapo National Park, Liberia's first and only fully protected area at the heart of the largest remaining block of Upper Guinean Forest in west Africa, providing habitat for species that need to range over large areas such as ‘Forest’ Elephants. The 15 Upper Guinea specialities are White-breasted Guineafowl, Rufous Fishing Owl, Brown-cheeked Hornbill, Western Wattled Cuckoo Shrike, Green-tailed Bristlebill, Yellow-bearded Greenbul, Nimba Flycatcher, Black-headed Rufous Warbler, Sierra Leone Prinia, Sharpe’s Apalis, White-necked Picathartes, Rufous-winged Illadopsis, Copper-tailed Starling, Gola Malimbe and Liberian Greenbul although recent research suggests this latter species is merely a colour aberration. With so much forest intact Liberia also supports the last remaining viable populations of Pygmy Hippopotamus and ‘West African’ Chimpanzee. Wet summers usually last from April to November making birding difficult and dust-laden harmattan winds which often blow across the country from the Sahara between December and March don't help much either.
Lemurs like Indri, chameleons and about 100 endemic birds including five Ground Rollers.
Blue Vanga by Dubi Shapiro, one of many unique and stunning birds on the island of Madagascar.
Pel's Fishing Owl, Boehm's Bee-eater, White-winged Apalis and some mammals.
This large country to the north of Senegal is about two thirds Sahara one third Sahel but the most important site for birds is the Banc d’Arguin National Park which protects 40% of the 750 km long Mauritanian Atlantic coastline between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and has been known to support more than two million migrant shorebirds, the largest concentration of such birds in Africa. However, most visiting birders are after adding several species that have restricted ranges in the Western Palearctic (WP) to their WP lists. Using the epic nine-volume Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa the definition of the WP means that these species must be seen north of 21°N and, bizarrely, in the air above the islands and maritime areas of the Banc d’Arguin. Along the coast the WP specialities are Long-tailed (Reed) and White-breasted (Great) Cormorants, Grey-headed Gull and Royal Tern, while other species include Brown Booby and Western Reef Egret. Inland the WP goodies are African Collared and Namaqua Doves, African Grey Woodpecker, Dunn’s Lark, Cricket, ‘Saharan’ Olivaceous and Western Orphean Warblers, and Sudan Golden Sparrow while other possibilities include Blue-naped Mousebird and other birds present are Lanner Falcon, Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Speckled Pigeon, Laughing Dove, Bar-tailed, Desert and Greater Hoopoe Larks, Black-crowned Finch Lark, Rock Martin, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Fulvous Babbler, African Desert Warbler, Chestnut-bellied Starling, Desert Sparrow and House Bunting, and mammals include Fennec Fox. Two of the best wadis are north of the settlement of Ouadane, a green oasis in the otherwise barren landscape to the east of the town of Atar where it is possible to arrange the required 4WD with driver.
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.
Mauritius Fody by Dubi Shapiro.
See See Comoros and Mayotte, above
Morocco - Southern
The richest birdlife in North Africa, from the Atlantic to the edge of the Sahara.
Bald Ibis in Tamri National Park, Morocco, by Dubi Shapiro.
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.
The striking White-tailed Shrike by Lars Petersson.
Republic of the Congo
See See (Republic of the) Congo, above
See Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues, above
See Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues, above
Mountain Gorilla and possibly Chimpanzee, plus Albertine Rift Endemic birds.
A magnificent silverback Mountain Gorilla in Rwanda by Max Chiswick. Sometimes even fanatical birders have to admit the 'bird-of-the-day' is a mammal.
Sao Tome and Principe
The two small islands of Sao Tome and Principe in the Gulf of Guinea, often included in, or offered as an extension to, tours to Gabon, 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 with local guides to the best remaining forest on Monte Carmo/Carvo in the remote south of the island. The other 13 endemics on Sao Tome are an olive pigeon (most likely high up on the trail to Lagoa Amelia), a green pigeon, a scops owl, Sao Tome (Malachite) Kingfisher, an oriole, a paradise flycatcher, a prinia, a speirops, a thrush, two sunbirds and two weavers. Some taxonomists believe the island forms of Lemon Dove, Chestnut-winged Starling and Sao Tome White-eye (which otherwise occurs only as another race on Principe) are also endemic bringing the total to 20. Other birds present on the island include Sao Tome Spinetail and Principe Seedeater (both of which otherwise occur only on Principe) as well as Island Bronze-naped Pigeon. As well as the island race of Sao Tome White-eye Principe supports 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 thrush and white-eye and it is necessary to travel by boat to the south of the island to look for these. Other species present on Principe include the dryas race of Blue-breasted Kingfisher and African Grey Parrot, both of which are still relatively 'common', as well as a possible new species of scops-owl. Boat trips can be arranged to look for seabirds on offshore islets and volcanic plugs, including White-tailed Tropicbird and Brown Noddy. The best time to visit the islands for birds is July-August. 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.
Seychelles Blue Pigeon, one of several endemic landbirds on the Seychelles, by Brian Field.
Monkeys, a chance of Chimpanzee and spectacular birds such as Egyptian Plover, Yellow-headed Picathartes and Emerald Starling.
The superb Egyptian Plover by Dubi Shapiro.
This island in the Arabian Sea off the Horn of Africa supports some superb dragon tree forests in spectacular scenery where 43 bird species are known to breed, nine of which are endemic; a buzzard, scops owl, cisticola, warbler, sparrow, starling, sunbird, bunting (Dixcem Plateau only) and golden-winged grosbeak. Other special birds which occur on and around the island include Jouanin’s Petrel, Persian Shearwater, Socotra Cormorant, Cream-coloured Courser, Sooty Gull, Saunders’s Tern, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Nubian Nightjar, Forbes-Watson’s Swift, Abyssinian (White-breasted) White-eye, Somali Starling and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, but in March 2018 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all travel to Yemen, including all islands which include Socotra.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to Somalia, including Somaliland except for the cities of Hargeisa and Berbera to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel [mainly because] terrorists continue to plan attacks against westerners in Somalia and Somaliland and yet some tour companies insist Somaliland in northwest Somalia, a former British colony which has since 1991 been separated from the rest of Somalia as (internationally unrecognized) ‘The Republic of Somaliland’ is a largely peaceful pro-western Muslim country, a largely uninhabited wilderness of beaches, volcanic deserts and juniper forests, relatively safe to travel in and therefore making it possible to see many birds with restricted ranges even in the Horn of Africa, including Little Brown Bustard, Collared Lark, Somali Wheatear, Philippa’s (Short-billed) Crombec, Somali Thrush and Somali (Chestnut-winged) Starling, as well as Arabian and Heuglin’s Bustards, Somali Courser, White-cheeked Tern, Somali Bee-eater, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Blanford’s, Short-tailed and Somali Short-toed and Larks, Red-naped Bushshrike, Somali Fiscal, Sombre Rock Chat, Abyssinian Wheatear, Dodson’s Bulbul, Arabian Warbler, Somali Crombec, Yellow-vented Eremomela, Nile Valley Sunbird, Golden-breasted, Magpie, Shelley’s and White-crowned Starlings, Somali Sparrow, Ruppell’s Weaver, Northern Grosbeak-Canary and Brown-rumped Seedeater, while mammals include Beira Antelope, Gerenuk, Dorcas, Soemmering’s and Speke’s Gazelles, Speke’s Pectinator, Caracal, Desert Warthog and Somali Elephant Shrew.
Somalia as a whole has a bird list of 660 or so species of which about 300 are resident and about 10 are endemic although like the rest of the wildlife, especially those which live in the woods and forests, many are likely to be suffering heavy losses since one environmental group warned, in 2002, that Somalia would be a country without trees if they were cut down at the then rate. The endemic birds are Archer’s (Augur) Buzzard, Somali Pigeon, Archer’s (Liben) (Heteromirafra archeri), Ash’s (Collared) (Mirafra ashi), Obbia (Spizocorys obbiensis) and Somali (Mirafra somalica) Larks, Lesser Hoopoe Lark, Somali Golden-winged Grosbeak and Warsangli Linnet, while the many near-endemics include Little Brown Bustard, Chestnut-naped Francolin, African White-winged Dove, Fischer’s Turaco, Forbes-Watson Swift, Mombasa Woodpecker, Blanford’s, Collared, Gillett’s and Rufous Short-toed Larks, Malindi Pipit, Pangani Longclaw, Somali Wheatear, Sombre Rock Chat, Somali Long-billed and Somali Short-billed Crombecs, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Violet-breasted Sunbird, Long-tailed Fiscal, Red-naped Bushshrike, Somali Chestnut-winged Starling, Arabian Golden and Swainson’s Sparrows, Juba Weaver, Fire-fronted Bishop, Donaldson-Smith’s Sparrow Weaver, Northern Grosbeak Canary and Brown-rumped Seedeater.
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.
This landlocked, little kingdom between Mozambique and South Africa is one of the best places to look for the rare Blue Swallow, a few pairs of which occur between late September and March in Malalotja NR on the edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment, and there and elsewhere in the western highlands it is also possible to see Southern Bald Ibis (at colonies June to October), Striped Flufftail, Denham’s Bustard, Black-winged Lapwing, Ground Woodpecker, Buff-streaked Chat, Cape and Sentinel Rock Thrushes, lots of cisticolas and Gurney’s Sugarbird, as well as Black Wildebeest, Blesbok and Oribi. In the north and east at places like Hlane NP and its surrounding reserves it is possible to see Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Rudd’s Apalis, Black-bellied Starling, Purple-banded Sunbird and Pink-throated Twinspot. Mlawula NR on the northeastern border with Mozambique supports White-backed Night Heron, African Finfoot, Bronze-winged Courser, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Black Coucal, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Retz’s Helmetshrike, Grey Sunbird and Pink-throated Twinspot. A good place for mammals is Mbuluzi Game Reserve, part of the wider Lubombo Conservancy, where there are Nile Crocodiles, Hippos, Giraffes, Zebras and Nyalas, and the birds include White-crowned Lapwing, Purple-crested Turaco and Giant Kingfisher. December to February is probably the best time to visit, certainly for Blue Swallow, although it is also the time when resident species and inter-African migrants such as cuckoos, weavers and widowbirds are usually in full breeding plumage.
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.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel and all but essential travel to parts of Tunisia, mainly in the west and far south, and state that there is a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation. Furthermore, a state of emergency was still in effect in the country in March 2018, imposed after a suicide attack on a police bus on 24 November 2015. Since the terrorist attack in Sousse in June 2015, which targeted tourists, the Tunisian government has improved protective security in major cities and tourist resorts but terrorists are still very likely to try to carry out attacks. Tunisia is though one of Africa’s most wealthy and developed countries and one with a wide range of habitats despite being only about 800 km from north to south and 300 km from west to east, with coastal wetlands, vast olive groves, central steppes and mountains, and Sahara Desert, in a climate which is hot and dry from May to September but rather cold and wet from November to March the best month to visit to search for species such as Yelkouan (Balearic) Shearwater (Cap Bon), Barbary Partridge, Marbled and White-headed Ducks, Greater Flamingos (two thirds of the Mediterranean population winters in Tunisia, mainly in the Gulf of Gabes), Long-legged Buzzard, Barbary Falcon, Eurasian Dotterel (wintering in Jebil NP), Cream-coloured Courser, Audouin’s Gull (Cap Bon), Black-bellied, Crowned, Pin-tailed and Spotted Sandgrouse, Egyptian and Red-necked Nightjars, Levaillant’s (Green) Woodpecker, Bar-tailed, Greater Hoopoe, Temminck’s and Thick-billed Larks, Black-crowned Tchagra, Moussier’s Redstart, Black, White-crowned Black and Red-rumped Wheatears, African Desert, Spectacled and Tristram’s Warblers, Fulvous Babbler, Spotless Starling and Desert Sparrow (Jebil NP). Endangered North African mammals include Addax, Scimitar-horned Oryx, Dama and Dorcas Gazelle, and the hamster-like Gundi, all of which occur in Bou Hedma NP.
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!
Zimbabwe is one of the few places where it is possible to see African Pitta; in riverine thickets near Masoka Camp in the Lower Zambezi Valley from mid-November to mid-December/early January, along with African Crake, Lilian’s Lovebird, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Bohm’s Spinetail, Eastern Nicator, Livingstone’s Flycatcher and Arnott’s Chat. To the south, the wetlands around the capital Harare can be great for crakes and flufftails in January-February if there has been enough rain, including Streaky-breasted Flufftail and Striped Crake. There are some good stretches of Miombo woodland nearby where specialities include Miombo Rock Thrush, Boulder Chat and African Spotted Creeper. East of the Harare, remnant patches of montane evergreen forest amongst extensive banana, tea and tobacco plantations on the Vumba (Bvumba) Mountains support three near-endemics; Swynnerton’s Robin, Chirinda Apalis and Roberts’s Warbler (Prinia), as well as Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Livingstone’s and Purple-crested Turacos, Orange Ground Thrush, Barratt’s Warbler, Black-fronted and Olive Bush Shrikes, Blue Swallow (Oct-Mar), Red-faced Crimsonwing, Red-throated Twinspot and Grey Waxbill, while more rarely seen species include Buff-spotted and Striped Flufftails. The eastern lowlands support the rare and localized Zambezi (Green) Indigobird. To the south is Matobo National Park where the high concentration of raptors includes the highest density of Verreaux’s Eagle in the world and other birds include Freckled Nightjar and Boulder Chat. In the far west Hwange National Park supports Three-banded Courser, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Racket-tailed Roller, Bradfield’s Hornbill and Crimson-breasted Shrike, and a good variety of mammals such as Wild Dog, Black Rhino, Elephant, Giraffe, Kudu and Sable. Not far from there is the famous Victoria Falls. Another good place for African mammals is Mana Pools NP where Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Elephant, Buffalo and Hippo may be seen.