Posted on the 4th April 2012


All the pre-planning for the trip went down the tubes 2 weeks before leaving when I found out by accident that Kenya Airways had cancelled our flight and booked us on an alternative which departed Joburg before my Kalula flight arrived. We did overcome that at an extra expense of 900 Rand by re-scheduling from Cape Town.

Day 1

A very early departure from Hermanus at 0345 saw us into Joburg in time for our Kenya Airways departure to Nairobi and which saw us travelling Business Class by complaining about the fact we didn’t get told of the flight change. Overnight in Nairobi.


Yellow-collared Lovebird


African Orange-bellied Parrot








Day 2

Another early departure, this time for Killimanjaro. The pilot treated us to a very close encounter with the mountain top (19,000 feet ASL) from a distance of about 5 kilometres. Our guide Clarence met us on arrival and we set off for Tarangire National Park, some 4 hours away. I always like to start the bird list from the airport, albeit with common species like Pied Crow, Superb Starling and Cattle Egret. First lifer came at the park entrance with an Ashy Starling. Plenty of Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu, Black Kite and White-headed Buffalo Weaver. We had lunch at SopaTarangire and then drove slowly to our accommodation at Tarangire Tree Tops. The park is well known for it’s prolific bird count and with European migrants as well it was hoped to do well. Good sightings of White-crowned and Grey-backed Shrike, Kenya Rufous Sparrow, Secretarybird, Pied Wagtail, Bare-faced Go-away Bird and another lifer with Yellow-collared Lovebird. Silverbirds were a far more common sighting than 2 years ago when we were here. Orange-bellied Parrot and Trilling Cisticola, Yellow-necked Spurfowl (lifers), Flappet Lark and Eastern Pale-chanting Goshawk with it’s yellow beak. The lodges were set high up in the trees on stilts. Scops Owl and Fiery-necked Nightjar completed the day. 64 species.

Eastern Pale Chanting Goshawk


African Grey Flycatcher







Day 3

Parks here don’t allow movement before 0600 so 0700 starts were a luxury and gave the birds a bit of time to warm up after a cold night.

The park is not large (2850sq km) and has diverse vegetation. The Masai also graze their cattle here as there are no predators. We covered large areas of the park to-day. Purple Grenadier, White-bellied Go-away Bird, White-browed Coucal, Grey Kestrel (lifer), D’Arnaud’s Barbet, White-bellied Bustard and Augur Buzzard. After a picnic lunch we continued on towards the wetlands hoping for migrant ducks. None around but did see many Open-billed Stork. Sooty Falcon was a good sighting, Long-tailed Fiscal, Yellow-rumped Seed-eater, Winding Cisticola (lifer), African Grey Flycatcher, Mottled Swift and Eastern DC Sunbird.

Only drawback was the poor road in and out of the Tree Tops Lodge and once the rains come would be almost impassable. 45 species.

Straw-tailed Whydah


Spotted Morning Thrush









 Day 4

After 2 nights at Tarangire, it was time to move on to Ngorongoro Crater via Lake Manyara. Whilst quite small (330 sq km) it is host to over 400 species. Flamingos can number 3 million at their highest concentration.

The park was busy but birding was good. Straw-tailed and Steel-blue Whydah, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Village Indigobird and all before lunch. There is a large Hippo pool and grassland area plus the indigenous forests. Both species of Flamingo reside here but with water levels low they were a long way from the normal shoreline.

The afternoon brought some really nice species, like Grey Woodpecker, Black Bishop, Spotted Morning Thrush and Black-bellied Sunbird.

From Lake Manyara we travelled by tarmac road towards Ngorongoro, staying at Manor @ Ngorongoro. What a beautiful place set in 1500 Acres of an Arabika coffee plantation with all the lodges built like Cape Dutch houses. A superb cuisine is served here and the garden is host to numerous good species, like Red-capped Robin-chat, Grey-capped Warbler, Baglefecht Weaver, Streaky Seed-eater and Klaas’s Cuckoo. 34 species.

Day 5

Off to the crater itself to-day and rather than use the main entrance we drove the rim around to the Eastern Gate so we could transit the crater floor with the sun behind. The journey from the rim to the crater was through diverse vegetation. Golden-winged Sunbird, Ashy and Tiny Cisticola (all lifers), plenty of Augur Buzzards again, Grassveld Pipit and Ant-eating Chat just on the journey down. Once at the crater floor there were Kori Bustard, Yellow Wagtail, Greater Kestrel, Brubru, Northern Wheatear and Levaillant’s Cuckoo. There is the main pan plus some small vleis. Grey-headed Gull and Saddle-billed Stork plus Pectoral-patch Cisticola (lifer). There were off course the lion, rhino and numerous Hyena and the picnic site is always good for Black Kite, Rufous-tailed Weaver and Hildebrandt or Superb Starling. 35 species.

Black Bishop


Nubian Woodpecker female







Day 6

After 2 nights at Manor @ Ngorongoro, we set off for Lake Masek in the Southern Section of Serengeti National Park but not before a final look around the garden. Southern Boubou, African Citril, Bronze Sunbird completed the count.

Whilst waiting at the Park entrance for clearance we saw White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Black-fronted Bush-shrike and Grey-backed Cameroptera. Lake Masek and Lake Nduti are hosts to plenty of shore birds, like Red-billed, Cape and Hottentot Teal, Ruff, Pied Avocet, many Sandpipers and small plovers, like Chestnut-banded and Gull-billed Tern (lifer). The lodge and accommodation overlook Lake Masek. Within the grounds you can see Black-faced Waxbill, Beautiful Sunbird, Lesser Masked and Black-headed Weaver and Banded Parisoma. Once again vegetation is diverse hosting Spotted Thicknee, Plain-backed Pipit, Fischer’s Lovebird and Great-spotted Cuckoo. 22 species.

Lesser Flamingos


Bloodied Ruppell's Vulture







Day 7

The morning began with a visit to Lake Nduti. On the way we came across a fresh carcass of a Wildebeest, where Ruppell’s Vulture (lifer) and Lappet-faced Vulture were enjoying breakfast watched over by Maribou Stork.

At the lake edge 9 lions were enjoying basking in the sunshine or looking for shade under a safari vehicle. There were many Collared Pratincole here along with Yellow-throated Longclaw. We continued to explore the Masek area. Raptors had been scarce but we did see Dark Chanting and Gabar Goshawk, Long-crested Eagle and Rock Kestrel during the morning.

We finished the day off with Tawny-flanked Prinia, Crimson-rumped Waxbill and 3 Cheetahs. 21 species.

Day 8

We head off to the Central Serengeti now across the plains, The Wildebeest are forming up for the migration with Zebras joining them. Almost every female has a youngster of which 60% will perish during the migration. We estimate some 500,000 animals – you can hardly see grass for bodies. This is only 25% of the number which actually migrate but it is a spectacle to remember.

It is a long journey to the Central Serengeti if you actually want to see things so we set out early.

We take in the 2 lakes again and get Water Thicknee. Across the plains there are Red-capped Lark and Cape Crows. At the Park entrance we see Red-throated Tit (lifer).

We were scheduled to have 3 nights at Serena Seronera Lodge but an overbooking meant 2 and a shift to MbuzeMawe for the last night which suited us as we have stayed there before and it is smaller. Serena Seronera Lodge with 170 beds is too large and is mainly a transit stop for those heading farther afield. We arrived around 2.00pm and Clemence and I went out at 4.00pm. The intention was to get back to the main road, just 8km from the lodge but we were continually held up by birds and had to turn around after 90 minutes to be back by 6.00pm when traffic must cease within the park. Still it was a worthwhile outing with Usambara Weaver (lifer), Chinspot Batis, Grey-capped Silverbill and Ruppell’s Long-tailed Starling. 11 species.

Grey-capped Buffalo Weaver


Speckle-throated Woodpecker







Day 9

The Lodge is busy as people get away to pastures new. We leave before them so at least get some peace on the one road in and out to pick up on new species.

It is a good start with Little Sparrowhawk, Long-billed Crombec, White-winged Widowbird, Desert and Rattling Cisticola and Verreaux’s Eagle. Kingfishers have been few and far between, not one Pied in 9 days but we do see Woodland, Grey-headed and Striped this morning. The Hippo pool offers up Black Crake and Margaret spots a Lesser Honeyguide. Well done to her. We took a picnic lunch and the rest area is always good for Dwarf Mongoose, Grey-capped Social Weaver, Slaty-coloured Boubou and Speckled-fronted Sparrow on occasion. They journey back gave me 3 lifers – Tree Pipit, Short-toed (Athi) Lark plus Speckle-throated Weaver and a Red-faced Cisticola. 19 species.

Day 10

To-day we head for MbuzeMawe which is situated in the Western Corridor of the Serengeti. It is an all day journey at our pace. Grey-backed Shrike, Yellow Canary and Cardinal Quelea start our day. New species become more difficult and White-bellied Canary, Brown-hooded Kingfisher and African Cuckoo is about all we can muster in the afternoon. Golden-rumped Tinkerbird and White-browed Scrub-Robin enjoy the Lodge garden. 7 species.

Day 11

It is back to Hermanus today. 2 hours to the airstrip and then 3 flights to Nairobi and a further 2 to Cape Town.

Still 3 more species early morning with Shikra, Green-backed Heron and Common Quail.

So not a bad trip with 261 species and a good number of Endemic lifers. Birds we expected to see like Darter, Pied and Malachite Kingfisher, Cormorants were sadly missing, I guess because of the low water levels. But we made up for that with birds that weren’t expected.

Lake Manyara and Tarangire are a must if you go nowhere else. You could spend a week in each.

Next trip – 4 parks in Zimbabwe commencing 31st May. Watch this space.

Streaky Seedeater

Collared Pratincole










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