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...Birds of Northern and Coastal Tanzania!...
tanzania fotomation

Oliver's Camp Birding Safari (photos to come)

by Paul Oliver

In January of 2001, I spent three weeks leading a bird watching safari in Northern Tanzania. I would like to share some experiences with you. Our trip visited Tarangire National Park, Arusha National Park, the lower Kilimanjaro Forest Reserve near Sanya Juu, the Mkomazi Game Reserve, the West and East Usamabra Mountains and the coast just south of Pangani at Ushongo.

What a wonderful safari is was! We recorded over 400 different species of birds and I finally saw my first Greater Frigate bird at Usongo, near a tree full of Carmine Bee-eaters, whilst walking along the coast there. Apart from the extraordinary bird life we saw, our trip was enhanced by camping at Tarangire, Mkomazi and near Amani in the East Usambaras as well as the lodges we satyed in. Firstly our camping experiences. Tarangire's campsites are well known but Mkomazi's and Amani's perhaps not so. The main reason for our choice to visit Mkomazi was that it represents a distinctly different habitat to the Maasai Steppe dry country, and the Pare and Usambara Mountains, acting as an ecological barrier. Many birds there are not found on the land South and East of these Mountains and this rich bushland habitat did not disappoint. We added 60 new species for our list in four days! Tony Fitzjohn had cleared the campsite for us and we thank him and his staff for that. We could see most of the reserve from that campsite as well as views into Kenya and Tsavo National Park. The roads were in good shape and we had no problem getting around. Great birds like Shelly's Starling, Fisher's Starling, Somali Long-billed Crombec and a Spotted Redshank were easily seen. The Golden-breasted Starlings eluded us unfortunately.

Camping at Amani, was nothing short of dramatic. Beyond the town of Amani, near Kwamkolo we camped with the forest all around and a spectacular view of the Maasai Steppe below us. Grey Cuckoo-shrikes surrounded our camp. I highly recommend camping at both Mkomazi and the East Usambaras in the forest reserve. If camping is not your style then in Arusha National Park stay at Oldonyo Orok Lodge. In the West Usambaras at Grant Lodge, and at the coast Emayani Beach Lodge. The food at all of these lodges was exceptional. Oldonyo Orok is well known and my favourite lodge close to Arusha, but what of Grant Lodge? Grants had moved since the last time I visited a number of years ago, so that was a shock. But the new lodge was a real highlight of the whole trip. The food was so good we had to walk each day to work it off! The staff were nothing short of wonderful. Our evenings spent by the fireplace will never be forgotten. For a weekend getaway for Arusha residents I highly recommend it.

After the Usambara Mountains we had chosen to see more bird species by visiting the coast. We needed mangroves, a river entering the ocean and a nearby coastal forest to see a large number of bird species. We found it all at and around the Emayani Beach Lodge. This 24 bedded lodge has 12 beautifully built cottages that promote the flow of the sea breeze. You can walk for miles on the wild beach, explore the mangroves, watch hundreds of shorebirds bathe at sunset at the nearby river mouth, visit the nearby sand island to see large flocks of terns (and have fun sorting them out !) and visit the coastal forest (4 km away). Too much to do in three days we felt and we could easily have stayed for longer! It was the perfect end to a wonderful safari. Little and Sauder's Terns next to each other were a real highlight, but I will never forget turning to look up shore one afternoon and seeing a bird I have looked for, for so long! A seven foot wingspan glided towards me and from a full mile away, a mature female Greater Frigate glided in our direction. We stood rooted to the spot as the bird banked turned, soared over us and I sat down enthralled.

Get out and about, visit these wonderful places, enrich your lives and enjoy these campsites and lodges. But take your binoculars!

Happy Birding!
Paul Oliver.


What To Expect!!

Oliver's Camp is sited amongst ancient rocky outcrops overlooking Tarangire's large swamp system. These swamps support a wonderful variety of wildlife and are seasonally the refuge of this area°¶s migration. Huge herds of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo and elephant concentrate around this swamp and the Tarangire River from June to December each year. In January these herds disperse over the surrounding Maasailand as the new grasses help lactating females to produce milk for their new born. It is a dynamic system, a wild and beautiful area to explore.

Small camps offer intimacy and personalized service. Oliver's Camp is traditional in style, yet very comfortable. Food served is some of the best in Africa and Tanzania's hospitality is gaining deserved fame. Our staff are some of the friendliest people you will meet anywhere. We use open vehicles and explore a land of vast proportions. To the east of the Camp stretch the Simanjiro plains where Tarangire's zebra and wildebeest give birth.To the west of the camp are Tarangire's river and swamps, which during the dry season are second only to the Ngorongoro Crater for wildlife concentrations in all of Africa. There are more mammal and birds species than almost anyone can remember. our concession lies at the very heart of this ecosystem and we know it better than most, having contributed a great deal to what is known of this fascinating area. We have explored it well and love to share with guests its dynamic struggle for survival and its wilderness secrets.

Facing South east, Oliver°¶s Camp overlooks the wildlife migration routes from Maasailand into and out of the Park. Our 20 bedded camp is made up of nine large tents; 5 twins, two doubles, two triples and one very special honeymoon tent are built into rocky outcrops. Each has a view to die for! Only two tents are close to each other, providing convenience for family groups with children. Every tent has beautifully made local furniture and is decorated with dried flowers and African fabrics. Each has its own private en-suite shower and toilet.

From Oliver's Camp, extended stays in Private Mobile and Walking Safari Camps are a worthwhile option, all led by trained guides. We use open vehicles for game drives Our emphasis is on slowing down and having a relaxed, in-depth natural history experience with well informed guides.

We operate longer walking safaris eastwards into Maasailand as wildlife migrates out of the park in the December - February season. These 3 to 5 day walks are along such migration paths and one of our favourite activities as the new rain regenerates the land and wildlife gives birth. People play a major role in shaping this land. During these walks we learn how people move with the seasons just as wildlife does. Interactions with local pastoralists are spontaneous and natural, and many a visitor's highlight.

The owner/host, Paul Oliver, is very often in camp and can be hired to join your group. Prices range from US$ 250 -US$ 550 per person / per night, depending on the type of camp, the activities requested and type of guide selected. Please check out our web-site for more details and wonderful images of our camp.

Oliver's Camp is a bold conservation experiment. A low impact facility that has, since the late eighties, worked with local leaders, development professionals, wildlife authorities and wildlife researchers. The aim is to create a sustainable future for out- of- park Wildlife Areas that can provide a development income for local communities. Those communities are the encouraged to protect migration routes and wildlife dispersal areas, vital to the future of Tarangire's wildlife while also contributing to the National Park income base and their work in conserving these beautiful parks. We were the first permanent facility to experiment with this idea in Northern Tanzania. Thankfully, our lead has encouraged others.

If you only come to East Africa once, don't miss the night sounds! Stay in a small tented camp or, even better, as part of a private group in a Mobile Camp. Get close to the land, you won't regret it. Add to that some walking, if only for a morning, and you will realize why the savannahs of Tanzania have stolen so many hearts. Getting close to Africa's wildlife, it's people and it's landscape, is best done in experience hands. Be guided by someone committed to that land, someone who shares their knowledge and experience and enthusiasm with you.

Camping in Africa's wildlife areas is a privilege. To stay in a lodge surrounded by glass and cement seems disrespectful, its presence out of keeping, and we believe a missed opportunity.Solar lighting and water conservation should be part of any wilderness facility. Contribute to the future of this land, seek out those with commitment and a proven long-term involvement.

Seek out Oliver's camp!
Oliver's Camp Limited.
PO Box 425 Arusha Tanzania.
Tel./Fax : _27-2508548.
Mobiles -0744-381993(Joyce), 20

-0741-328687(Tito), -0741-510924(Paul).
E-Mail : olivers@habari.co.tz

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