South and North of Zambezi River and Southern Malawi
I have lead several trips through S and C and have
long wanted to venture further north to explore…..
and now finally have to time to do so. Join me on this
exploratory to the exciting north of Mozambique.
                                                                                             Rod Cassidy
Mozambique has an enigmatic appeal to birders as it has vast unspoilt areas and is almost totally unexplored. The regions south of the Zambezi are becoming very well understood by now and although we spend some time here looking for specials like African Pitta, Green-headed Oriole (montane), East Coast Akalat, White-breasted Alethe, Chestnut-fronted Helmet Shrike, and Vanga Flycatcher, it is really the unexplored north that hold all the attraction for me.
In the North we hope to find Namuli Apalis and Dapple-throat [both of which will be lifers for the leader], Thyolo Alethe, Bar-tailed Trogon, Green Barbet, Red-rumped Swallow, Olive-flanked Robin, and Bertrand’s Weaver.
We will end by spending some time in Malawi and could add White-winged Apalis, Yellow-Throated Apalis, Southern Mountain, Placid and Olive-headed Greenbuls, Stierling’s woodpecker, Miombo Pied Barbet, Pale-billed Hornbill, Bohm’s Flycatcher, White-Tailed Blue Flycatcher, Bohm’s Bee-eater, and Brown-Breasted Barbet. We will need to be largely self-sufficient in terms of camping equipment, water and extra fuel as well as long towropes, spades, an axe for clearing fallen trees (more common than one might imagine) and a high-lift jack.
What follows is a suggested itinerary, based on the last trip's route and some  reports, though we assess the conditions as we head north and may have to alter to suit the conditions.
Day 1. The trip begins with a long drive north from Pretoria to Mutare in Zimbabwe where we will spend the night.
Day 2-3. An early morning departure for the border where we will cross into Mozambique, and our first night will be spent in Gorongoza National Park. Gorongoza National Park (the site of one of the historical records of Bohm’s Bee- eater) and a great area of fantastic birding and where on previous trips we have seen good birds like, Vanga Flycatcher, Ballions Crake, Red-necked Falcon, Collared Palm-thrush, and a large variety of good water birds.
Day 4. After a mornings birding we head north on the new road to the Zambezi valley. We will make it all the way to Catapu Camp near Inyamatunga, where we will camp the night. In the morning we bird the woodland around the camp where we could find birds like Orange-winged Pytilia, African Broadbill and Mosque Swallow.
Day 4,5,6 We head into the wilderness area south of Morremou, an area of hunting concessions with few roads and a real wilderness. Our time will be spent in this extremely interesting area of wilderness looking for specials like Angola Pitta, Gunnings Robin, White-chested Alethe, Black-headed Apalis, Blue-throated Sunbird, Slender Bulbul, Red Throated Twinspot, Chestnut-fronted Helmet Shrike, Barred Cuckoo, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Green Coucal and much more in the forest. Pygmy Geese, thousands of Lesser Jacana, Lesser Moorhen, Saddle-billed Storks, Common Squacco and more on the pans and Violet-backed Sunbird, Racquet-tailed Rollers, Mashona Hyliota and the rare Yellow-bellied Hyliota in some of the surrounding Miombo woodlands.
Day 7-13. Now we start the real exploratory part of our tour, heading across the mighty Zambezi at Cai. After crossing we enter the unknown and the trip here will be as flexible as possible for the next week. Our aim is to reach Mount Namuli. Mount Namuli is the second highest mountain in Mozambique and as such is the centre of endemism in the region. We hope to leave our vehicles and track up to the Montane forest on the slopes where if possible we will spend one or two nights. Here in these forests we will be looking for the endemic Namuli Apalis as our primary target species followed by Dapple-throat [both of which will be lifers for the leader], other birds we can hope for include Thyolo Alethe, Bar-tailed trogon, Green barbet, Red-rumped Swallow, Olive-flanked Robin, and Bertrand’s Weaver.
En route to Namuli we will pass through tracts of Miombo woodland with its attendant specials, and we will hopefully have time to explore some of these as well.
Day 14-19 Crossing into Malawi our program will depend on how well we have done in N. Mozambique, and may change from this, but we hope to spend our first night or two, camped at Zomba, where early morning birding could find us the White-winged Apalis, the most beautiful Apalis in the world, as well as Yellow-throated Apalis, Southern Mountain, Placid and Olive-headed Greenbuls.
Heading from here we spend a night in Liwonde National park where we will look for a species common here such as Bohm’s Bee-eater, Brown-Breasted Barbet, Lillian’s Lovebirds, Livingstone’s flycatcher, Western–banded Snake eagle, and a host of other species associated with Rift Valley floor birding. From here our final stop in Malawi will be the Miombo woodland at Dzalanyama, where all the attendant Miombo specials occur but and also include several that do not occur south of the Zambezi, like Stierling’s Woodpecker, Miombo Pied Barbet, Pale-billed Hornbill, Bohm’s Flycatcher, White-Tailed Blue Flycatcher, while other species which are very rare south of the Zambezi like Olive-headed Weaver, Shelley’s Sunbird, Souza’s Shrike, and Red-capped Crombec.
Day 20-23. Starting on our long trek home we cross once again into Mozambique and start our long drive south towards Mutare where we will cross into Zimbabwe. And head on south into South Africa, and home!
Giving ourselves at least two nights to cover this distance, we hope to reach Chicamba Dam near Manica in Mozambique for our first stop and then the Lion and Elephant Motel for our second night.
Day 24. Arrive in Pretoria.
Although this is a “self drive tour” we might have limited space available for people without their own vehicle. The trip is limited to 5 vehicles with 3 or 4 people in each. We will ask that passengers rotate in the vehicles, although we don’t expect to split up couples.