Specialists in Watamu Holidays and Kenyan Safaris

Bird Watching

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Bird watching in Coastal Kenya.

The Kenyan coastal strip is a very important area both economically (it accounts for about 47% of the income from tourism) and in ecological terms. Beyond the beaches, in the Indian Ocean, is a 480km strip of coral reef which is rich in marine life and supports a correspondingly large population of seabirds. The Kenyan Government have designated significant areas of this reef and the surrounding waters as Marine Reserves and these are administered by the Kenya Wildlife Service. They include Malindi Marine National Reserve, Watamu National Park, Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve, Kiunga Marine National Reserve, Kisite Marine Park and Mpunguti Reserve. Inland there are mangrove swamps, seasonal ponds, estuaries and rain forests. All in all this is a must visit place for bird watchers.

 The South Coast.

The South Coast extends from the Tanzanian border north to Mombasa and includes the well-known Shimba Hills Reserve, which is about 15-20km inland from the coast. This is famous mostly for its Sable Antelope, (it has the last remaining breeding population in Kenya), but it also has a very rich variety of fauna featuring species such as Fischer’s Turaco, the Southern Banded Snake Eagle, East Coast Akalat and Sokoke Pipit.

The South Coast has other attractions for bird watchers. These include the Diani Forest, a 12km strip of deciduous coral rag which is home to the Little Yellow Flycatcher, Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Fischer’s Turaco, Spotted Ground Thrush and Plain-backed Sunbird.

Nearby Dzombo Hill forest (mixed coastal forest) is home to the rare Sokoke Pipit and the African Crowned eagle. Offshore, the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park hosts a large population of Roseate Terns among the scrub on the low coral Kisite Island.

Diani Forest is very close to Diani Beach which is a popular holiday destinantion with a large number of hotels to choose from.

Mombasa to Malindi

Along the Mombasa-Malindi stretch of coast are a number of truly amazing birding areas. Starting just north of Mombasa you have the Bamburi Quarry Nature Park. It is a reclaimed cement quarry which was so saline that experts said nothing could ever grow. However a Swiss agronomist called Haller was brought in and he transformed the area creating a commercially viable forest and a collection of green meadows. This coastal stretch includes the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest which is less than 10km from Malindi and is bordered by the main Malindi-Mombasa road. This is an important area for the Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Fischer’s Turaco, Sokoke Scops Owl, Spotted Ground Thrush, Sokoke Pipit, East Coast Akalat, Amani Sunbird, Plain-backed Sunbird and Clarke’s Weaver. It is very accessible and offers excellent guides who will take you around the forest.

Not far from the forest are Mida Creek, Whale Island and Watamu which are excellent places to see waders and are important congregatory areas for Crab-plover, Lesser and Greater Sandplover, as well as Roseate and Saunder’s Tern. Still in the same area you have the Gede National Ruins (an area of Coastal semi-deciduous forest) which are home to Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Fischer’s Turaco, Spotted Ground Thrush, Sokoke Pipit and Plain-backed Sunbird.

Just north of Malindi is one of the “must see” places for birders, the Sabaki River Estuary. This is not only the best area to see the Malindi Pipit (an endemic with a very small range) but it is also an important area for Madagascar Pratincole, Sooty Tern, Saunder’s Tern and Lesser Crested Tern. The species count for this area is significant and the area itself is beautiful, quiet and a wonderful place to wander and watch birds. It contains one of our favourite places to stay, Sabaki River Camp and Cottagewhich used to be known as Malindi Camp and Cottage. This is located on top of one of the large dunes and is very clean, basic accommodation. From here you can walk across the dunes to the Indian Ocean and then along the beach to the estuary, along the estuary for a distance before looping back to the cottage through the dunes.

This is also a good base from to explore other areas like the Dakatcha Woodland which is home to Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Fischer’s Turaco, Sokoke Pipit and Clarke’s Weaver (in fact it may even be the breeding area for this species although little is known about its breeding habits and the nest site hasn’t yet been identified). You can also reach Gongoni Ponds (which are settling pools for the salt works) and see a variety of waders and salt tolerant species such as Greater Flamingo.

North Coast

North of Malindi and Sabaki you have the Tana River Delta which is a roughly triangular area covering Lake Bilisa at its apex and with its base a 50km stretch of coastline from Kipini to Mto Kilifi. This is rich mix of lakes and streams (fresh and brackish), grasslands and wetlands (saline and freshwater), beaches, mudflats, dunes, woodland and forest. Such a diverse habitat has an equally diverse range of fauna and among the species found in this area are Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Malindi Pipit and Basra Reed Warbler. It also hosts internationally important levels of Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Lesser Crested Tern Saunders’s Tern, Pink-backed Pelican, Yellow-billed Egret, Great Egret, Open-billed Stork, Yellow-billed Stork, African Spoonbill, Lesser Sandplover, Little Stint and Marsh Sandpiper.

Away from the Delta along the last 65km of the Tana River you have the Tana River Forest which is home to Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Fischer’s Turaco, Malindi Pipit, East Coast Akalat, White-winged Apalis, Tana River Cisticola, Basra Reed Warbler and Plain-backed Sunbird.

Further north of the Tana Delta is the Lamu Archipeligo an area with a rich history and some ancient settlements. This area includes the Kiunga Marine National Reserve, a series of calcareous offshore islands extending 60km south from the northern most point of the Kenyan coast. This reserve is another area which hosts large numbers of Crab-plovers and Roseate Terns. Adjacent to Kiunga, but inland, are Dodori and Boni National Reserves neither of which have accommodation within the park but they host a variety of interesting bird species including Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Brown-breasted Barbet, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Honey Buzzard and Violet-breasted Sunbird.

If you are interested in escaping from the tourist spots to enjoy the relaxation but excitement of bird watching for these special species please contact us so we can insist on tailor making a trip to meet your requirements.



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