I just returned from a marvelous tour to Mozambique in conjunction with Maans Booysen of WETO TOURS. I got 10 people from the south and we join Maans in Pretoria. We managed to tick 361 species from Pretoria to Pretoria. Some of us were driving to Pretoria and back and added another couple of birds.
We left on 16 July and headed for Bells Pass Guest House outside Winburg. Notable birds along the way were Short-toed Rock Thrush, Blue Cranes, lots of Long-tailed Widowbirds with “short tails”, Wattled Starlings and raptors like Jackal Buzzard, Greater & Rock Kestrel and Sth Pale Chanting Goshawks.
Bells Pass GH is a nice overnight stay and we saw Green Woodhoopoe, Black-chested Prinia, Orange River White-eye, Ashy Tit, Red-headed Finch, etc. here. The next day towards Pretoria we had inter alia Goliath Heron & Great Crested Grebe at a dam and a Wattled Lapwing along the N1 high way. We stayed at Sonia’s Cosy Cottage in Centurion and close to our departure point the next day.
We left Pretoria the next morning at 04:30 and headed for Komatipoort. Not much birding along the way but we saw Long-crested Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Ground-scraper Thrush and at the border post Grey-headed Bush Shrike. We passed quickly through the SA side and landed in a chaotic border on the Moz side. People understanding very little English and you need to use a “runner” if you not want to stay there for a long time. After about an hour we were through and can start birding seriously. Maans is excellent with the Moz birds and knows all the back roads for good birding. We were heading for Xai-Xai via a gravel road and picked up Bateleur, Natal Robin-chat, Red-faced Cisticola, Grey-rumped Swallow, Lizard Buzzard, Black Heron, Sth Black Flycatcher and Little Sparrowhawk to mention just a few.
We stayed at Honeypot outside Xai-Xai which is good accommodation and had a very good restaurant with excellent food at a good price. Unfortunately a power crash hit the area and we had to go to bed with candles.
Next morning we were out early in a real misty morning and headed for the Limpopo floodplains. As we reached the floodplain, the sun broke through and we had some of the best birding of the trip. There were birds everywhere with the highlights a Eurasian Bittern that we flushed and 2 Baillon’s Crakes right next to the road. Other highly soughed birds were Rufous-bellied Heron, Fulvous Duck, Pygmy Goose, Hottentot Teal, Collared Pratincole and heard a Lesser Jacana. We actually put down about 80 bird species in the about 3 hours we were here.
We headed towards Inharrime and visiting the Panda area in the afternoon. Maans just know the right spot in this Miombo woodland and shortly after arrival we had a bird party including the target species, Olive-headed Weaver with lovely views, Golden-tailed & Bearded Woodpecker, Grey Penduline Tit, Black-eared Seed-eater, Southern Hyliota, Pallid Flycatcher, Pale Batis, Racket-tailed Roller, Brubru, Red-faced Crombec and White-breasted Cuckooshrike to name a couple.
We headed back to Imharrime and overnight at Zavora Lodge along the sea. The chalets are very good and the restaurant as well.
Next day we headed for Inhambane but before we left we had a Western Reef Heron along the waves. Other birds around the lodge include Collared Sunbird, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Lemon-breasted Canary and Red-backed Mannikins.
On the way to Inhambane we saw Purple-banded & Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Greater Honeyguide, Dark-capped Yellow-Warbler, Rufous-winged Cisticola and Greencapped Eremomela. We stayed at Barra which is situated at a peninsula with a large estuary. On the estuary we saw Greater Flamingo, Common Tern, Common Whimbrel and Curlew Sandpiper. The tides were not in our favour and very little terns and waders were spotted. Birding on the peninsula gave Little Rush-warbler, Black Coucal, Lesser Honeyguide, African Swamphen, White-backed Duck and Lesser Jacana.
There are good lodges in Barra. We stayed at Makolo Bay Lodge which was good.
After 2 nights at Barra, we drove further north to Inhassoro. Near Maxixi we saw a lovely Cuckoo Hawk, got some Neergaard’s Sunbirds and had Böhm’s & Mottled Spinetails flying overhead. Other birds included Grey Waxbill, Thick-billed Weaver, Mosque Swallow, Horus Swift, Pygmy Goose and Madagascar Bee-eater.
In Inhassoro we stayed at Seta Hotel which is situated along the sea and has very good facilities. The chalets are very comfortable and the food good. The town can actually very noisy on a Friday & Saturday night.
Proceeding the next morning to Beira, we had some early lifers like Red-winged Warbler, Red-throated Twinspot, Black-winged Bishop and Cabanis’ Bunting. Just before the bridge across the Save River, 2 Dickinson’s Kestrels were roosting in the little village. A stop at the Pungwe River delivered Yellow White-eye, Tambourine Dove, Grey-headed Parrot & Yellow Weaver. On the way further north we had a Southern Banded Snake-Eagle with flying Mottled Swifts.
The road from Ichope to Beira is severely potholed and all the vehicles are driving zig-zag across the road. Some potholes are so deep and wide that you have to stop before going through. Not many birding on this busy road. In Beira we stayed at Motel Bispa in the outskirts of the town.
The next morning we headed towards Rio Savanne across the Pungwe floodplains. First stop was at the Bat Hawk site where the 2 Bat Hawks roosting in a large marula tree. On either side of the tree is a huge bee colony. The grassy areas produced Black-winged Bishop, Sth Banded Snake-Eagle, Afr Marsh Harrier and Rufous-winged Cisticola. A patch of indigenous forest produced another special, Black-capped Apalis, Tiny Greenbul, Green Malkoha and Collared Sunbird.
We went up to a grassy plain near Rio Savanne to look for Locust Finch. We walked around to flush it, but in stead flushed a Flappet Lark and Short-tailed Pipit. Rio Savanne gave us Red-headed Weaver and Mangrove Kingfisher. A visit to the prawn farm produced Wood Sandpiper, Pink-backed Pelican, Yellow-billed Stork and Little Bee-eater.
Beira itself is a large squatter camp. Most buildings are still as the Portuguese left it behind and except for handful buildings along the beach, Shoprite is the most modern building in town.
Monday morning we headed to the rice fields towards the sea. New birds were scarce, but we tracked down Cuckoo Hawk, Orange-breasted Waxbill, African Quailfinch and Olive Sunbird.
Our next destination was Mphingwe Lodge near Caia. We took the bad road via Ichope again and saw some Blue-spotted Doves beyond Ichope. Other birds along the way were Ret’z Helmet Shrike, Black Kite, Yellow & Village Weaver, Red-faced Crombec, Pale Batis, Ovambo Sparrowhawk and Eastern Nicator.
Mphingwe Lodge is excellent with very good food. Birds are plentiful around lodge and during the night we heard Barred, Afr Scops, and Barn & Pearlspotted Owls. The next morning we headed for the Coutada forest and on the way saw a couple of Livingstone’s Flycatchers, Bearded Scrub-robin, Chestnut-fronted Helmet Shrike and Swallow-tailed Bee-eater. Inside Coutada we had a Woodward’s Batis and Plain-backed Sunbird.
We had a long search for Gunning’s Robin, but succeed at last. While looking for the robin, we ran into a beautiful Afr Broadbill. We also found a Crowned Eagle, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Sth Ground Hornbills, Trumpeter Hornbill and a flock of Silvery-cheeked Hornbill to name a few.
The next morning we paid a visit to the Zambezi River and crossing the 2,3 km long bridge. Close to the bridge we found an Anchieta’s Tchagra which gave excellent views. We turned around towards Gorongosa and saw our only vultures, White-headed Vulture. Probably not much food in Mozambique! A stop along the road turned up Brown-throated Weaver, Jameson’s Robbin and Black and White (Vanga) Flycatcher. We took a gravel road towards Gorongosa finding Dark Chanting Goshawk and Moustached Grass-Warbler.
We stayed at Environtrade Camp which offers good tented accommodation. We were welcomed by a Narina Trogon sitting on one of the tents. The camp offers fantastic food.
We left the next morning at 4:00 am for Mount Gorongosa, guided by the 16 year old Gerbie and a local guide. It took more than 3 hours to reach the parking place and then the walk began. We were met by Variable Sunbirds and in the first couple of hundred meters saw some Singing Cisticola. We found the first Green-headed Oriole in tall trees before we reached the rain forest. It gave good views. Further up the mountain we got Livingstone’s Turaco, Blue-spotted Dove, Black Cuckooshrike, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher and more Green-headed Orioles. On the way back we had Pallid Honeyguide.
The afternoon we birded around the lodge, adding Short-winged Cisticola, Southern Hyliota, Racket-tailed Roller, Arnott’s Chat and Pallid Flycatcher.
Next morning and we were off to Vumba in Zim. Close to the lodge we had our first Miombo Blue-eared Starlings, followed by Violet-backed Sunbird. Other birds in the party were White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Red-faced Crombec, Violet-backed Starling and Yellow-breasted Apalis.
We reached the border post and had no hassles to get through. We went to Seldomseen to look for Swynnerton’s Robin and were guided by the well-known Peter. We heard the robin, but couldn’t see it. We found Buff-spotted Flufftail, Orange Ground Thrush, Striped-cheeked Greenbul, Yellow White-eye and Robert’s Prinia.
We stayed in White Horse Inn which is a well-run hotel with good food. Personnel are very friendly and helpful.
The next morning we went to another place to look for Swynnerton’s. First we had excellent views of Livingstone’s Turaco and then the robin which came to within 2 meters of us. We saw more Robert’s Prinia, Chirinda Apalis, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Singing Cisticola and Bronzy Sunbird.
We drove to Lion and Elephant Hotel close to Beit Bridge. A detour to Lake Mutirikwi gave us some Miombo Rock Thrush and Miombo Tit.
Lion & Elephant Hotel gave excellent accommodation and food. Leaving for SA we picked up Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Purple Roller and on SA side Mocking Cliff-chat.
It was an excellent trip which gave me 27 lifers and Maans did an excellent job. It is very important that when you are going to Mozambique to go with someone who is familiar with the area.