Rubeho & Udzwanga Forest Partridges
7-18 November 2024
Tour length: 12 days
Group size limit: 6
Julien Mazenauer and a local leader
Day 1: Arrivals into Dar-es-Salaam International Airport (DAR) for overnight nearby.
Day 2: This morning, we will take a flight to the small island of Pemba, where we will stay for one night. We will focus on the four island endemics – Pemba Scops Owl, Pemba Green Pigeon, Pemba White-eye and Pemba Sunbird – but also visit various habitats for other species like the much-wanted Crab-plover, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Mangrove Kingfisher, Saunder’s Tern and Sooty Gull.
Day 3: After some final birding on Pemba, we will fly to Tenga, from which we transit to Lushoto in the West Usambaras. There will be some birding on the way, including to find Coastal Cisticola and Zanzibar Red Bishop. We’ll then continue onwards to spend three nights in the West Usambaras targeting all endemics and near-endemics!
Day 4-5: With two full days of birding in the West Usambaras, our focus will be on “Usambara” Montane Nightjar, the skulking Spot-throat, White-chested Alethe, Usambara Akalat, Usambara Thrush, Usambara Double-collared Sunbird, Usambara Weaver, Red-capped Forest Warbler and Stripe-faced Greenbul. Other more widespread species may include Hartlaub’s Turaco, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Bar-tailed Trogon, Shelley’s Greenbul, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Oriole Finch, amongst many others.
Day 6: Today we will transit to the East Usambaras, where we will spend the next three nights. We will make a few stops on the way to connect with more widespread species and will have time for some initial exploration.
Day 7-8: Two full days of birding in the remaining montane forest patches of the East Usambaras should leave us ample time to connect with all regional specialties, like Fischer’s Turaco, “Usambara” Fraser’s Eagle Owl, the Critically Endangered Long-billed Forest Warbler, Kretschmer’s Longbill, Usambara Hyliota, “Usambara” Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Sharpe’s Akalat, Banded Green, Amani, Uluguru Violet-backed and Plain-backed Sunbirds.
Day 9: Today will mostly be a transit day to Morogoro, at the base of the Uluguru Mountains, but we will make some strategical stops and detours on the way to connect with a few more restricted range birds like stunning Böhm’s Bee-eater, Coastal Cisticola and the rare Ruvu Weaver. We will be spending four nights at Morogoro.
Day 10-12: Three full days to exploring various sites in the north and south Ulugurus. We will have to hike a fair bit through plantations to reach good forest in the north, where Uluguru Bushshrike is known to occur. This species is thought to number less than 1000 individuals, so we’ll need a bit of luck to find it, so it is good to have three days here as many people have been missing it on their first attempt recently! Many other species occur in this submontane forest, like Livingstone’s Turaco, White-chested Alethe, Sharpe’s Akalat, Loveridge’s Sunbird, Olive-flanked Robin-Chat, and Betram’s Weaver, amongst others. We will also visit a different site for two more endemics, Mrs. Moreau’s Warbler and Uluguru Mountain Greenbul, which are not found at the previous site.
Day 13: Leaving early this morning we head west, towards the Ukaguru Mountains. We will spend the morning there, giving chances to connect with more endemics like Rubeho Akalat and Rubeho Warbler. There will also be extra chances for some trickier Eastern Arc specialties like Yellow-throated Mountain Greenbul. After that, we’ll have a long drive down to Sanje for an overnight stay.
Day 14: A few decades ago, in the mid 80’s a Swiss medical doctor (but also birder!) working in the Kilombero Basin noticed that weavers and cisticolas along that river were different to the other described species. He got in touch with local birdwatchers, and now three different endemics have been described from this locality! Kilombero Weaver, White-tailed Cisticola, and Kilombero Cisticola, all of which we will target this morning. Lots of other widespread species occur in these wetlands, and we might well find Coppery-tailed Coucal, Red-necked Falcon, White-crowned and African Wattled Lapwings, African Skimmer, White-fronted and Little Bee-eaters, Parasitic Weaver, Zebra Waxbill, plus many more. We will also attempt to find the rare Lesser Seedcracker, recorded regularly in this area. After our morning session, we transfer to the huge Mikumi National Park for a two-night stay.
Day 15: We will have a full day of birding to do Mikumi’s vast savannas and woodlands justice! A number of Mombo specialties occur here which can be hard to find elsewhere, such as Pale-billed Hornbill, Racket-tailed Roller, Speckle-throated Woodpecker, Northern Pied Babbler, Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Hofmann’s Sunbird and Orange-winged Pytilia. Ruaha Chat has also been sighted in the area in recent years, so with a bit of luck we might find this difficult species.
Birding these vast plains will contrast starkly with the tough times we will have had finding all the forest specialties! Birds are abundant, and mostly show very well! HHighlight speciies may include Coqui Francolin, Black-bellied Bustard, Martial Eagle, Secretarybird, “Scheffler’s” African Barred Owlet, Brown-necked Parrot, Purple-crested Turaco, Pale Batis, Retz’s Helmetshrike, Jameson’s Firefinch, and Red-headed Quelea, amongst many others.
Additionally, mammals are a strong feature of Mikumi, so we might well see Giraffe, Spotted Hyenas, Elephants, Burchell’s Zebra, Wild Dogs (with some luck!), Gazelles or a Honey Badger. A great and comfortable way to end this main tour!
Day 16: After some final birding, those flying home will take a road transfer back to Dar-es-Salaam International Airport, where the tour will end late afternoon. Those continuing on the extension will make their way southwards towards Iringa.
UDZWANGA & RUBEHO EXTENSION
Day 1: The extension will start at Mikumi. A transfer to Mikumi from Dar-es-Salaam will be arranged for those joining the extention only. From Mikumi, we will make our way towards Iringa, and stop on the way to look for some localised specialties. In particular, the endemic Yellow-collared Lovebird, Ashy Starling and Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill will be targeted, plus more open-country specialties. One night will be spent in a lodge near Iringa.
Day 2: This morning, we make our way to our first camp in the southern Udzungwas where we will spend two nights. We will make some stops on the way for Brown-headed and White-winged Apalises, Black-lored and Churring Cisticolas, Forest Double-collared Sunbird or Yellow-browed Seedeater. We will then have to hike up to our camp, birding all the way up. There are a few steep bits, but overall it is an enjoyable hike and we will have our first chances for specialties like stunning and most-wanted Rufous-winged Sunbirds, Tanzanian Illadopsis, Swynnerton’s Robin, the weird Dapple-throat and Iringa Akalat.
Day 3: We’ll have a full day to find all targets, plus more widespread birds like Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle, Livingstone’s Turaco, Mountain Buzzard, Bar-tailed Trogon, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Shelley’s, Yellow-throated Mountain and Stripe-cheeked Greenbuls, Waller’s Starling, Oriole Finch and maybe Spot-throat or Usambara Weaver.
Day 4: After some final birding, we will make our way back to Iringa for an overnight at our lodge. This afternoon, we will visit a swamp not far away to look for the scarce Locustfinch.
Day 5: Today we will make our way to our second campsite, this time in the northern Udzungwas, where we will camp for 3 nights, to give us ample time to find all endemics.
Day 6-7: Two full day of birding in the N Udzungwas will allow us enough time to look for the recently discovered and mythical Udzwanga Forest Partridge, actually closely related to the asian Arborophila partridges! They are shy and hard to see, but we will do our best. Other good birds here include African Grass Owl, Montane Nightjar, the seldom-seen Kipengere Seedeater (whose song was not recorded before 2022!), White-chested Alethe, Spot-throat, Moreau’s Sunbird, Lesser Seedcracker, Yellow-throated Mountain Greenbul, Olive-flanked Ground Robin, Usambara Weaver and more widespread species like Green Barbet, African Broadbill, Brown Parisoma, Dark Batis, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Kenrick’s Starling, Red-faced Crimsonwing and more.
Day 8: After some final birding around our camp, we will make our way to Mikumi for an overnight stay.
Day 9: We will drive early morning from Mikumi to the Rubeho Mountains for a two-nights stay, camping in the forest.
Day 10: We will have one full day of birding in the forested slopes of the Rubeho Mountains, mainly to look for the recently discovered Rubeho Forest Partridge (only photographed for the first time in the field a few years ago!), Skye Double-collared Sunbird, a new Sunbird discovered here by Ross Gallardy back in 2021 and Rubeho Akalat. Many other more widespread speices occur here, like Bar-tailed Trogon, Green Tinkerbird, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Red-capped Forest Warbler, Black-lored Cisticola, Evergreen Forest Warbler, African Hill Babbler, Olive-flanked and Cape Robin-Chats, White-starred Robin, White-chested Alethe, Betram’s Weaver and many more.
Day 11: After some final birding in the Rubehos, we will slowly backtrack to Morogoro for an overnight stay.
Day 12: We will make our way to Dar-es-salaam for the tour end, with some stops on the way for Böhm’s Bee-eater, Coastal Cisticola or Ruvu Weaver. End of the tour late afternoon.
MAIN TOUR 2024:
Cost: $ 8,200
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 700
Cost: $ 4,900
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 250
Accommodation: Mostly good accomodation through the main tour, several days camping on the extension.
Walking difficulty: Mostly easy to moderate on the main tour. A few hours of easy to moderate trekking required to reach the partridges on the extension.
Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.
Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.