Northern Tanzania: West Usambaras & Dry Country Specialties Extension: Mar 06—14, 2017
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Participants taking both the Northern Tanzania tour and the Western Usambaras & Dry-Country Specialties Extension can expect a combined trip list of 450–500 species of birds and around 50 species of mammals, including the possibility of some special nocturnal mammals at Ndarakwai.
The Eastern Arc is a chain of thirteen ancient mountain ranges, extending in an arc from the Taita Hills of Kenya at the northeastern limit, southwest through much of eastern Tanzania. The upper elevational zones of the component mountain ranges support remnants of ancient forests once connected to the great forests of West Africa and the Congo Basin. Isolated from the lowland forests for millennia, the constituent mountain blocks collectively represent a major area of endemism—indeed, most of the individual mountain ranges comprising the arc can boast of flora and fauna that are unique to that range. Our extension will focus on one particular hotspot of endemism, the West Usambara Mountains. Based out of a comfortable mountain lodge, we’ll bird along lightly traveled dirt roads and jeep tracks through the lush forests of various nearby forest reserves in search of such specialties as Usambara Nightjar, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Olive Woodpecker, Usambara Akalat, White-chested Alethe, Spot-throat, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, African Tailorbird, Fülleborn’s Black Boubou, Black-fronted Bush-shrike, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Usambara Weaver (rare), Red-faced Crimsonwing, Oriole Finch and many more.
Upon leaving the West Usambaras, we’ll head to Mkomazi National Park, an exceptionally birdy but lightly visited jewel in Tanzania’s park system. Here, and for the remainder of the extension, we’ll search for a number of dry country specialties not found or seldom seen on the main Northern Tanzania tour. Among these are Buff-crested Bustard, White-headed Mousebird, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Black-throated Barbet, White-crested Helmetshrike, Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Pringle’s Puffback, Pink-breasted Lark, Northern Crombec, Red-fronted Warbler, Scaly Chatterer, Tsavo Purple-banded Sunbird, Shelley’s and Fischer’s starlings, Golden Pipit, Pangani Longclaw, Somali Golden-breasted Bunting, Southern Grosbeak-Canary, Parrot-billed Sparrow and Black-necked Weaver. A visit to the “Lark Plains” north of Arusha will focus on seeing the recently described and critically endangered Beesley’s Lark, one of the rarest species on the continent.
We’ll conclude the extension with two nights at Ndarakwai Ranch, situated in the rain shadow west of Kilimanjaro. This luxurious tented camp is the perfect spot to end a safari—the birding is superb, there is a nice mix of mammals, and the food and accommodations are excellent. Night drives here also afford us chances at some special, seldom-seen mammals, such as Spring Hare, Aardvark, White-tailed Mongoose, Lesser Galago, Wild Cat, and Striped Hyena.
Accomodations range from adequate (1 night at Same) to good (3 nights in the West Usambaras) to excellent (1 night at Ngare Sero and 2 nights at Ndarakwai); mixture of birding on foot (easy walking along gravel roads and jeep tracks) at several locales and from safari vehicles at a few spots; climate varies from pleasantly cool mornings and evenings in the West Usambaras to warm (likely daytime highs 80-90º F) and dry in the lowlands.