SHOEBILL STORK BIRDING SAFARI
10-Day Birding Safari to Zambia
This birding tour will visit Zambia’s remote Bangweulu Wetlands (685+ bird species) in search of the Shoebill Stork. Sporting a seven foot wingspan, this enigmatic bird is very desirable. Bangweulu will be followed by South Luangwa National Park (450+ bird species). Both are Important Bird Areas (IBA). We will bird in the same wetlands where the BBC’s Natural History Unit captured Shoebill nesting footage for the Savannah Episode of the epic 2013 Africa nature series. Zambia has a rich avian heritage of 734 species and 42 IBAs.
Learn more about our other birding safari options and Jordan Price, birding specialist and tour leader for this trip.
Pioneer Lodge & Camp is a relaxed place to recover from the long flight to Zambia. Situated on a 25 acre wooded property in the outskirts of Lusaka, the camp has several chalets and cottages. Accommodations are comfortable and have en-suite bathrooms with flush toilets.
DAYS 2 – 5 – BANGWEULU WETLANDS: After enjoying breakfast at Pioneer Lodge & Camp, we will return to Kenneth Kuanda International Airport. Depending on the size of our group, we will utilize either one or two chartered aircraft for the 2 hour flight from Lusaka to Bangweulu. Seeing Zambia from the air is a wonderful experience! If we were to drive, it would take us over nine hours to reach our destination.
After arriving at the airstrip in Bangweulu, we will be transferred to Nkondo Safari Camp. The trees and vegetation around the camp are a perfect refuge for many birds.
Bangweulu Wetlands is a most extraordinary place. It has staggering avian diversity and reliable Shoebill Stork sightings from June through August. We will bird in the same wetlands where the BBC’s Natural History Unit captured Shoebill nesting footage for the Savannah Episode of the epic 2013 Africa nature series. Sporting a seven foot wingspan, the five feet tall Shoebill Stork is one of the world’s most enigmatic birds. Breeding in select tropical African wetlands, this bird commits siblicide and beheads its prey, devouring fish, baby crocodiles, and other bird species. Even appearing in the artwork of Ancient Egyptians, the Shoebill has long been a highly desirable bird.
Other specialties in Bangweulu include the highly specialized Papyrus Yellow Warbler, Collared Pratincole, Blue-breasted Bee-eater and several species of Flufftails. Bangweulu also holds over 10% of the world’s population of Wattled Crane. In terms of mammals, puku, zebra, sitatunga, southern reedbuck, tsessebe, and oribi are frequently spotted. This is the only place on earth with black lechwe (endangered).
We will spend two full days looking for the Shoebill Stork. Using flat bottomed boats and/or canoes staffed by an expert guides, we will be quietly poled through the wetlands. Our third full day will be spent outside of the swamps and alongside the edge of the wetlands. The wildlife and atmosphere in this remote park is truly unique.
Situated at the headquarters of Bangweulu Wetlands, Nkondo Safari Camp has six safari tents, each with an en-suite bathroom and a flushing toilet. Tucked into a miombo forest, the camp is a 2.5 hour drive from where canoe and/or jonboat searches for Shoebill can begin. With spectacular panoramic views over the swamps, this camp has comfortable accommodations, each with a shower and flushing toilet. We will have all of our meals at the camp (or in the bush).
Bangweulu is managed by African Parks Network. African Parks is a non-profit conservation organization that assumes complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks and protected areas in partnership with governments and local communities.
DAYS 6 – 8 – SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK: After our last breakfast at Nkondo Safari Camp and another morning of birding, we will be driven to the airstrip for our second Zambian flight. Our flight from Bangweulu Wetlands to South Luangwa National Park’s Mfuwe airport is around an hour. This is another beautiful flight as there are mountains, forests, and the Muchinga Escarpment en route. When we arrive at Mfuwe, we will be picked up by a driver from Thornicroft Lodge. Our lovely lodge is 20 miles from the airport.
South Luangwa is probably one of the most natural habitats remaining in Africa. It has some of the highest concentrations of animals on the continent including lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants, hippo, and all the typical large and small game. Birds include Western Banded Snake Eagle, Lilian’s Lovebird, Collared Palm Thrush, Fire-crowned Bishop, Arnott’s Chat, and the Racket-Tailed Roller. Two specialty mammals restricted to the Luangwa Valley are Cookson’s wildebeest and Thornicroft’s giraffe. Crawshay’s zebra is also present.
Upon arrival at Thornicroft Lodge, we will get settled in and head into the park in the late-afternoon for our first safari in the Luangwa Valley. Our lodge is about five minutes from the park entrance. When we return to the lodge, the cook will serve a delicious dinner. After dinner you can enjoy a cool drink at the bar or listen to the sounds of the night in the lounge, around the firepit, or on your private veranda.
The next two days, we will wake early in the morning for a light snack with tea & coffee. Around 6:00 AM we will depart for a morning drive. Thornicroft’s 4x4s are open vehicles, granting us maximum visibility in the cathedral forests, woodlands, savannahs, and floodplains of the valley. Remnant oxbow lagoons are plentiful and support teeming wildlife in and around the park. Depending on our sightings, we will return to the lodge around 10:00 AM for brunch. After an afternoon rest, swim, and/or tea, we will return to the park for an afternoon game drive, returning at 8:00 PM for dinner. South Luangwa National Park allows night drives and we will take advantage of this!
Thornicroft Lodge is surrounded by the African bush and is situated between a lagoon and the banks of the broad Luangwa River. The lodge is a few minutes from the entrance to South Luangwa National Park. Each of the nine chalets has a bathroom with flush toilet and shower. Chalets also have breathtaking views across the river. The main lodge is a spacious thatched area which houses the dining room, lounge, and bar. With a traditional roof, stone walls, and gnarled wooden colonnades, the lodge has been designed to fit in with the natural environment.
DAY 9 – LUSAKA: On our final day at Thornicroft, we will have breakfast and go on our last bird safari inside South Luangwa National Park before boarding our flight. The flight from Mfuwe to Lusaka is approximately 2 hours.
The remainder of the day is free to explore Lusaka on your own or relax at Pioneer Lodge & Camp. Lunch options can be discussed by the group. We will have dinner at Pioneer Lodge.
DAY 10 – DEPART: After breakfast at Pioneer Lodge & Camp, we will be driven to Kenneth Kuanda International Airport to begin our return flight to the US.
Individuals who have signed up for extensions will continue onward on their African vacation!
Interested in this Safari? Give us a call or drop us an email.
Moderate lodges and tented camp
Guided birding boat rides, game drives, night drives
Value I Deluxe I Luxury
Call for pricing
*$ = >$4,999; $$ = $5,000 – $9,999; $$$ = $10,000+
All pricing per person based on double occupancy. Price includes all accommodations, meals, tips, guides, group airport transfers, internal flights, park fees, and activities as indicated, and a $25 donation to a worthy African charity. Price excludes international flights, visas, beverages, bottled water, snacks, inoculations, travel insurance, and anything not specified above. We accept Visa, Master Card, Discover & AMEX. No refunds—see terms & conditions for details.