Kenya and Tanzania: East Africa Extravaganza (June 2014) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Ken Behrens.

This was a custom trip for a group of friends, one of the things that Tropical Birding does best. The Kenya portion of the itinerary was very similar to our set-departure tour. At the end of the trip, we visited the Usambara Mountains of northern Tanzania. This is something that we normally offer as an extension to our northern Tanzania tour, but which worked well as an addition to a Kenya tour. The main aim of this tour was to see as many bird and mammal species as possible, but without maintaining an exhausting pace. On the majority of days, we had some time off at mid-day. With the exception of one simple camp in Tanzania, all the lodges on this tour ranged from fairly nice to ridiculously luxurious.

East Africa has a complex and varied geography, and as a result, a high diversity of birds. Not only are there lots of birds, but most of them are quite easy to see; approachable, and in open habitats. Although East Africa is lower in absolute diversity than some places such as South America, it offers a bounty of easy-to-see birds (and mammals) which is unmatched anywhere else on Earth. Our bird list certainly reflected the region’s mega bird diversity. Despite visiting at a season without any Eurasian migrants, and not doing any birding on the coast, we racked up 628 species of birds. These represented an astounding 88 families of birds, meaning that we saw representatives of 40% of the world’s bird families! We saw 29 species of hawks and eagles, 5 bustards, 8 turacos (an African endemic family), 10 owls, 8 kingfishers, 6 bee-eaters, 9 hornbills, 18 hornbills, 17 bush- shrikes (another continental endemic family), 21 greenbuls, an astounding 46 members of the cisticola family, 14 starlings, 27 sunbirds, 44 weavers, and 22 waxbills. Without a doubt, East Africa is THE place on the continent to visit if you’re only making a single trip to Africa. You can take in a rich cross-section of the continent’s birds and other wildlife, and most of its major biomes, all while staying in very good lodges.

East Africa’s mammal diversity is just as impressive as its bird diversity. We racked up 66 species of mammals, ranging from African Elephant, to Cheetah, to a bounty of antelope, and smaller quarry like squirrels and mongoose. There is nowhere else on earth where a casual naturalist can see so many mammals in such a short time. There were stately herds of giraffes striding across the Masai Mara, a snarling pair of mating Lions, the rarely seen African Palm Civet, ponds full of hulking Hippos, and many other highlights. At Tropical Birding, we don’t ignore reptiles either, and we compiled a list of 22 species on this trip, from massive Nile Crocodiles to the diminutive Usambara Pitted Pygmy Chameleon, which is endemic to one mountain range in Tanzania.

This trip contains over 150 photos, to richly illustrate the diverse creatures and habitats of East Africa.

Click this link to view the full report in PDF format (10 MB file)