AFRICA’S RICHEST BIRDWATCHING AWAITS IN UGANDA
(Posted 11th May 2017)
(Uganda, besides being Africa’s top ranked birding destination is also the most affordable gorilla destination in Eastern Africa)
Home to more than half of Africa’s bird species, Uganda is the continent’s richest birding destination. Birders from around the world flock to Uganda hoping to get a glimpse of 1,072 species, including several found nowhere else on earth. These birding enthusiasts are in luck as, with the right itinerary, it is possible to identify as many as 200 species in a single day.
Much of Uganda’s premier birdwatching takes place in the Albertine Rift, one of the most biodiverse regions in Africa and home to 24 endemic bird species. In this strip of mountains and volcanoes in the west that borders Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the black-rumped buttonquail, African skimmer, Chapin’s flycatcher, black bee-eater, and handsome francolin are just a few species birders are likely to encounter. The area is also home to more than half of the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and a large population of chimpanzees in Kibale National Park and Budongo Forest. Four of the “Big Five” – lion, leopard, elephant, and Cape buffalo – can be found in Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is also a designated Important Birding Area by Birding International. Many tour companies pair birding with gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking, and game drives for an unforgettable wildlife adventure.
There are many birds to be spotted in this relatively small country, but a few stand out as top attractions. Birders seeking to significantly grow their life list in Uganda can begin planning their trip with the following species in their sights:
These large, slow-moving birds are found only in the wetlands of tropical East Africa. Shoebills are widely considered one of the most desirable bird sightings in all of Africa, and their prehistorical appearance makes them unmistakable for any other creature. One of the best spots for sighting these giants are Mabamba Swamp on Lake Victoria. Its location less than an hour from Entebbe International Airport makes it an ideal starting point before heading deeper into Uganda.
The green-breasted pitta is a fairly common bird, though it is often difficult to spot because it camouflages well with the lowland tropical forests where it lives. The best location to find these small, colorful birds is in Kibale National Park.
AFRICAN GREEN BROADBILL
This eye catching bird can only been seen two places in the world – the Itombwe Mountains in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Sightings are rare as the African green broadbill’s numbers are declining due to deforestation and habitat loss.
The black bee-eater can grow to be eight inches long and is predominantly black, with a scarlet chin and throat, a streaked breast, a pale blue eyebrow, and blue belly. One of the most intriguing places to spot this species is on a boat safari down the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park, where passengers also get up close and personal to some of the park’s more than 1,600 hippopotamuses.
Undoubtedly one of the world’s rarest birds, the Shelley’s crimsonwing can be found on most bird bucket lists. Its population is vulnerable, and only a few photos of this bird exist. This elusive finch species makes its home in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Kibale National Park.
Known as the ‘Pearl of Africa‘ is Uganda located across equatorial East Africa. The country offers some of the continent’s most diverse wildlife viewing, dramatic landscapes including the fabled Mountains of the Moon, the Source of the Nile and one of Africa’s widest cultural experiences.
Uganda is home to more than half the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas, and trekking to observe these gentle giants in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the world’s top “bucket list” travel activities, besides being the most affordable place to track these gentle giants.
Uganda is also the only country where two gorilla national parks are found as Mt. Mgahinga NP is also open for gorilla tracking too besides Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP.
Safari opportunities abound in savanna, forest, and wetland settings throughout 10 national parks, 12 game reserves and a dedicated rhino sanctuary at Ziwa – located enroute to or from Murchison Falls NP. This makes Uganda a “The Big Five” country – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo – as well as cheetahs, Rothschild giraffes, zebra, chimpanzee – Uganda is home to 14 primate species overall – hippopotamus, the infamous Nile crocodile and more than half of all bird species found in Africa.
Among Uganda’s extraordinary natural attractions are Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest freshwater lake and rainforests like Maramagambo in Queen Elizabeth NP, the Mabira Forest and Kidepo Forest, all of them home to endemic bird species.
Daily or multiple weekly connections to Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport are available on carriers including Brussels Airlines, KLM, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, Kenya Airways, South African Airways, Egypt Air and RwandAir among others.