People here is a wonderful opportunity being offered from Africa Geographic Expeditions along with our very own Vanga as a guide
The small landlocked nation of Malawi has to be one of the top birding destinations in Africa. Added to the diverse avian life is a wonderful blend of culture, wildlife and scenic landscapes that makes safe travelling through this country a pleasure. Malawi further affords incredible birding opportunities and is home to several Southern Rift endemics and many species restricted to south-central Africa.
A special 8-day trip has been put together for this December to explore the extraordinary montane area of Nyika National Park in the north of the country with its wide range of birding habitats, from miombo woodland, wetlands and montane forest pockets to high-altitude grasslands. "Rolling, folding grass-covered country; deep in the heart of Africa and filled with animals of Africa, yet covered with the grasses, the flowers, the colours of Europe"...This is how Lauren’s Van der Post flamboyantly described the scenic splendour of the Nyika Plateau in his 1949 expedition to Malawi, documented in his book Venture to the Interior. Anyone visiting today will find that very little has changed. Three full days are available to explore the delights of Nyika. Notable summer grassland species present include Montane Widowbird, Blue Swallow (largest breeding population in Africa with around 300 pairs!), Black-lored and Churring Cisticola, Angola Swallow, White-headed Saw-wing, Hildebrandt’s Francolin, Mountain Yellow Warbler and Montagu’s Harrier. Other specialities include Augur Buzzard, Red-winged Francolin (endemic sub-species), Bar-tailed Trogon, Dusky Turtle Dove, Southern Mountain Greenbul, Chapin’s Apalis, Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Moustached Tinkerbird, Fülleborn’s Black Boubou, White-chested Alethe, Rwenzori and Pennant-winged Nightjar, Malawi Batis, Wallers Starling, Tree Pipit, White-winged Black Tit, Jackson’s Pipit and Olive-flanked Robin-Chat to mention just a few! In miombo woodland areas of Nyika chances are very good in finding specials such as Rufous-bellied Tit, Souza’s Shrike, Collared Flycatcher, the stunning White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Pale-billed Hornbill, Woodland Pipit, Spotted Creeper, Whyte’s Barbet and Miombo Pied Barbet. Birding is interspersed with ample mammal viewing and photographic opportunities of impressive herds of eland and roan antelope, Crawshay’s zebra, bushbuck, bushpig, side-striped jackal, spotted hyaena, leopard, serval and even possibly elephant! In summer, the botany is an added highlight. Nyika is one of Africa’s hidden gems!
Nyika is not the only exciting birding destination on this trip however. We will also visit the Viphya Plateau – part of the second largest montane complex in Malawi. Although much of this region is commercial plantations there are still some wonderful tracts of miombo and mixed woodland as well as open wetlands and forest at Luwawa itself. The birding is extremely productive and target species are many here and include Short-winged Cisticola, Moustached Grass-Warbler, Evergreen Forest-Warbler, Bronzy Sunbird, Cabanis’s Bunting, Bertrand’s Weaver, Red-rumped Swallow, Eurasian Marsh Harrier and White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher.
After the heady heights of Nyika and the Viphya then travel down to the central lakeshore of one of Africa’s Great Lakes – Lake Malawi. Bird watching in lowland forest is very productive and can produce many new species on this itinerary. These could include Blue-spotted Wood-dove, East Coast Akalat, Narina Trogon, Green Twinspot, Palmnut Vulture, Green Malkoha, African Barred Owlet and African Broadbill. A juvenile Pel’s Fishing-Owl was even recently seen in the large trees of the lodge where we will be staying here! Snorkelling amongst the Lake’s equally famous cichlids is another possibility. Interesting mammals could include four-toed elephant shrew, mutable sun squirrel and samango monkey.
After the main trip an optional 5-day extension takes in the Zomba Plateau and the lush lowlands of Liwonde National Park. Zomba Mountain, a huge granite outcrop rising to over 2000 metres offers open mountain grassland, pristine forest and tranquil streams. Target species include Scarce Swift, Mountain Wagtail, European Blackcap and the highly localised White-winged Apalis and Tchyolo Alethe. Undoubtedly another top birding spot in Malawi, Liwonde’s wide range of habitat includes the languid Shire Rive with its extensive floodplains, deciduous thicket, riverine forest, seasonal wetlands and mopane woodland – over 350 bird species have been recorded here. The park simply abounds with specials including Lilian’s Lovebird, Brown-breasted Barbet, White-backed Night-Heron, Spur-winged Lapwing, Bat Hawk, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Pel’s Fishing-Owl, Gull-billed Tern, Speckle-throated Woodpecker, Collared Palm-thrush, Eastern Nicator, Bohm’s Bee-eater and Livingstone’s Flycatcher. There is even a shot at African Pitta depending on the rains!! This Park also boasts good mammal densities including healthy numbers of African elephant, waterbuck, sable antelope, buffalo and black rhino. Two full days are allocated to explore the tapestry of habitats and ecotones found here. Activities include walking, birding and game viewing drives in open 4X4 vehicles and boat trips on the Shire River itself.
Malawi is very different to birding other regions in Africa. Prices for this trip are also very reasonable considering where we are staying! Drop a mail to
for a detailed itinerary and prices. Group size is limited to six people only and three have confirmed already so space is rather limited! Hoping you can join us for this very special exploration of Malawi!
All photos and text by Martin Benadie
» 2 Comments
at Sunday, 18 September 2011 18:32
A mouthwatering collection. Some real gem spp. Love the Bohm's! Both with food, both sharp and virtually at eye level. Well done Martin!
2"hello my greeting"
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