Zimbabwe Ornithology

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Bird Watching in Zimbabwe

The varied habitats in Zimbabwe, from bush to riverine, from lakeshore to mountain topography, give rise to a rich profusion of birdlife. Over 400 different species have been recorded in the Hwange National Park alone and some 350 at Mana Pools. Real rarities are to be found, particularly in the Eastern Highlands. Specialist operators offer tours specifically tailored to the demands of the ornithologist. In general the best birdwatching months are from December to April.

Bird safaris

Hunyani bird safaris specializes in running bird watching safaris from their base on Gombera Ranch in Zimbabwe. The ranch consists of 37,000 acres of superb bird watching.

The Eastern highlands of Gombera ranch is an important avian habitat for a variety of birds whose range extends down in to Zimbabwe from Mozambique. Examples are black fronted bush shrike, rameron pigeon and swynertons robin.

Zambezi valley

Zambezi valley is host to many different species of birds, including carmine and European bee eaters, marabou stork and water birds such as Egyptian Geese and white faced duck.Birdlife is absolutely outstanding during the whole year. Floodwater is best at Victoria Falls from March/ April, and March to May is the prime time for butterflies.

Larvon Bird Gardens

The distinctive call of the fish eagle invariably greets you as you cross the ornamental bridge over the lake into Larvon Bird Gardens, a lovely wild-bird orphanage just beyond the western outskirts of Harare. The orphanage, similar in many ways to Bulawayo's animal orphanage, serves as a sanctuary for 240 species. Some of the birds have been hand-reared from eggs; others brought to the aviary because they have been wounded or abandoned.

Signs direct you to the Soaring Raptor Aviary, home to eight species of eagle and five species of vulture, including Cape vultures. The tiny pearl-spotted owl is one of 11, which stare at passing visitors from across the way. A pleasing aspect of the orphanage is the fact that most of the species, including such birds as Goliath herons, crowned cranes, marabou storks , Indian mynahs and ostriches, have their own spacious gardens. Other attractions include a flamingo pool, parrot house, and a walk-through aviary with a delightful assortment of trees, shrubs and tiny pools. There are 640 species of bird in Zimbabwe, and the Larvon Bird Gardens is the ideal spot to begin learning about their habits and habitats.

Hot Springs

Rainbow-coloured bee-eaters hover and hunt insects as you sit in the shade of ilala palms and acacia trees at the lake of Hot Springs Resort. This lovely bushveld spa overlooking the Karoo-like Maranke Hills in the west, lies in the lee of the mighty Chimanimani Mountains, in an area quite famous for its delicious honey and its hard-working peasant bee farmers.

Hot Springs is justly proud of its dazzling variety of bird species, attracted by the continuous flow of warm water, and of its profusion of tall exotic and indigenous trees. The medical alkaline waters of Hot Springs take 40 years to percolate down through the rock from their source high on the Chimanimani plateau. They descend for about five kilometers before the earth's hidden pressure brings them bubbling to the surface again. Hot Springs, with its inviting lakeside restaurant and its attractive thatched chalets, is one of only two developed hot spring sites in the country.

The piping-hot waters, which have a mineral-mix second only to Rotorua in New Zealand, fill a 30-m open pool surrounded by lawns, gracious trees and unique forest root carvings. A cold splash pool flanks the main baths.Stone-Age tools found in mint condition near the resort indicate that its balming waters were used by hunter-gatherers thousands of years before today's bathers came to refresh body and soul among the avenues of bougainvillea, sedge, pawpaw, flame trees and butterflies that divide the chalets from the magical springs. Local folk in this remote resort recall a more recent legend in which mythical woodcutter spirits would sometimes be heard chopping the wood that stokes the spring's cauldron fires. Travel 85 km south from Mutare on the Birchenough Bridge Road. The resort lies 19km sough of the Cashel turn-off, and 53km north of the bridge. There is an airstrip 9km from Hot Springs.


Open year-round. Entrance fee charged. Facilities include equipped conference room, aromatherapy, Chimanimani hiking trails, tennis, squash, bowls.

Vumba Botanical Gardens

There is a lovely garden in the Vumba Mountains in eastern Zimbabwe a Garden of Eden that bares its soul in an exquisite tapestry of lakes, flowers and verdant forests. Perched near the edge of a 1000m drop overlooking Mozambique and Lake Chicamba Real, the Vumba Botanical Gardens are a sanctuary for thousands of flowering plants, including such species as azaleas, fuchsias, hydrangeas, cycads, orchids and countless other exotic and indigenous flowers, trees and plants. It is surrounded by evergreen and seemingly endless rainforest (the Vumba Botanical Reserve). Green-fingered English exile Fred Taylor from Manchester lovingly created the park between 1920 and 1950.

National Parks are now in charge of these gardens, where the bird life is one of the most prolific in Zimbabwe.The Bunga Forest, on either side of the road leading down to the Botanical Gardens, is particularly attractive, with its huge, mossy trees. Details: Open 07h00-17h00 daily. Admission fee charged. Camping/caravan sites. Swimming pool, gold course at Leopard Rock, nearby tennis court. Tea garden. Basic provisions and petrol nearby.

Haroni and Rusitu Forest Reserves

These remote forest reserves are located on the southernmost border of Chimanimani National Park. They are Zimbabwe’s only rainforests and are home to a great diversity of birdlife which includes chestnut-fronted helmet shrike, eastern honey-guide, slender bulbul, Pel’s fishing owl, black-headed apalis, blue-spotted dove, green coucal, Angola pitta and Vanga flycatcher.

Matobo National Park

Located near to Bulawayo, Matobo offers an impressive collection of raptors. Along with the African hawk eagle and rare Cape eagle owl is the world’s largest concentration of black eagle nesting sites. The wooded valleys, marshlands and streams support about 175 species in all.

Gonarezhou National Park

Located down on the Mozambique border, the Tambohanta Pan area of the park becomes an extensive wetland area during the rains and over 230 species of birds, including egrets, storks and wild ducks, flock here.

Other Areas

With vegetation ranging from Kalahari fringe landscapes, mopane woodland, open meadows and rivers, has over 400 recorded species of birds.

Lake Kariba

The safari islands, including Spurwing Island and Fothergill Island, of Lake Kariba have rewarding birdwatching. The nearby Matusadona National Park supports over 240 bird species.

Mana Pools National Park

Has over 350 recorded species including hornbills, kingfishers, jacanas, vultures, eagles and bee-eaters. The Park is closed from December to April.

Last Updated on Thursday 26th November 2009