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Malawi Birding Tours

While its well known beautiful lake fills the southern end of the Rift Valley, Malawi's variety of other habitats supports remarkable bird diversity. This land-locked country the size of Portugal has an astonishing bird list of 650 species. Many are widespread in southern Africa, but a mouth-watering array of endemic specials make a dedicated Malawi birding trip essential. See our recent trip report, or read on for an introduction to the birding sites we recommend.

We recommend birding at the following sites:
• Miombo woodlands at Dzalanyama
• Viphya Plateau
• Nyika Plateau National Park grasslands and highland forest
• Senga Bay wetlands
• Liwonde National Park
• Zomba Plateau
• Thyolo Mountain and highland forest
• Lilongwe Sanctuary

One key site is the forested inselbergs and table lands of southern Malawi. Most are now denuded or covered in tea plantations, but a few accessible remnants support such rare gems as Green-headed Oriole, Thyolo Alethe, White-winged Apalis, Yellow-throated Apalis & Green Barbet.

The western border country is also vital to any itinerary. Here, vast miombo woodlands, fed by crystal clear streams, clothe granite hills. The number of miombo endemics is overwhelming, and include Stierling’s Woodpecker, Whyte’s Barbet, Sousa's Shrike, Miombo Pied Barbet, Pale-billed Hornbill, Olive-headed Weaver, Anchieta’s Sunbird, Red-capped Crombec, Miombo Scrub-Robin & Rufous-bellied Tit.

The far north is dominated by the mighty Nyika Plateau, a huge tableland cloaked in misty grasslands and dark rainforests. One of the highlights of any Malawi tour, it offers many birds and mammals not seen elsewhere in the country. Some can be seen elsewhere in East Africa, such as Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Baglafecht Weaver and Yellow-crowned Canary, but others are endemic to the Eastern Arc Mountains complex of Tanzania and northern Malawi, including Rwenzori Nightjar, Black-lored Cisticola, Olive-flanked Robin-Chat, Fülleborn's Boubou, Forest Double-collared Sunbird, Yellow-browed Seed-eater & Montane Widowbird. And then there are one or two really range-restricted species we may see, such as Ludwig's Double-collared Sunbird, White-winged Apalis & Babbling Starling.

The low lying region in the southern Rift Valley offers excellent riverine and woodland birding. Here we find the localized Brown-breasted Barbet and a host of other specials such as Böhm's Bee-eater, Lillian's Lovebird, Livingstone's Flycatcher, Racket-tailed Roller & Western Banded Snake-Eagle. Liwonde National Park is one of the more reliable spots for the elusive Pel's Fishing Owl & White-backed Night-Heron.

Malawi’s political stability and friendly inhabitants, combined with superb birds and scenery, make it a wonderful holiday destination and one of south-central Africa’s best-kept secrets.

Featured Leader: Michael Mills

Michael recommends: This tour is well suited to world listers, keen birders and mammal enthusiasts.

Michael Mills has led 2 trips to Malawi and gained intimate knowledge of the key birding areas and logistics. Michael grew up in the Kalahari Gemsbok and Kruger National Parks and has travelled extensively in Africa, Asia, South America and Antarctica.

He obtained a Masters degree in Conservation Biology after which he continued conducting bird research, particularly in Angola. Besides birds, he has a strong interest in mammals, particularly in small carnivores and African primates.

Michael designs and leads tours for Birding Africa to Ghana, Uganda, Gabon, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, Madagascar and Angola.

Boehm's Bee-eater photographed at Liwonde National Park on a Malawi tour © Jon Hemp
Böhm's Bee-eater photographed at Liwonde National Park on a Malawi tour © Jon Hemp.

What participants say...

Please have a look at what participants say about our tours led by Michael Mills ...

'Thanks to the meticulously detailed efforts of Birding Africa I have great memories to keep me energized until my next trip with you. How you planned everything down to the tiniest detail was amazing. The accommodations, meals and general trip were excellent. Michael was beyond belief.' BR, USA

'Michael was first class on every aspect.'FH, UK

'Mike was amazing... he stayed cool and collected all the time [on the Angola trip]. DW, South Africa

'.... tours were excellent. The trips certainly lived up to my expectations and we saw a large number of incredible birds. Michael did a great job and is an outstanding tour guide. His skill at finding birds in all habitats and his knowledge of bird calls is nothing short of amazing.' JC, UK

'... his spotting skills and ability to pick out the faintest calls but also his continual energy and enthusiasm to maximise our birding experience.
.'ND, UK

African Broadbill photographed in Lilongwe Sanctuary on a Malawi tour © Jon Hemp
African Broadbill photographed in Lilongwe Sanctuary on a Malawi tour © Jon Hemp

Bar-tailed Trogon is a special of the forest patches within the Nyika Plateau National Park © Deirdre Vrancken & Callan Cohen
Bar-tailed Trogon is a special of the forest patches within the Nyika Plateau National Park © Deirdre Vrancken & Callan Cohen
African Citril reaches the southern most limit of its distribution in Malawi © Callan Cohen
African Citril reaches the southern most limit of its distribution in Malawi © Callan Cohen

Practical tour information: Malawi

Please also visit our tour calendar and trip reports.

Focus For keen birders and mammal enthusiasts. Designed to see as many as possible endemic birds, but while on the walks we spend a lot of time looking for other aspects of wildlife such as mammals. We can also customise any itinerary to suit to the keen birder, the wildlife enthusiast or both.
Photography Many participants on our trips are amateur wildlife photographers. And when we get excellent views of a bird or mammal, some time is usually spent watching and photographing it. However, this is not a photographic tour and once the majority of the people have felt that they have absorbed the animal or bird to their satisfaction, then we move on in search of the next encounter. Thus, while the photographic opportunities are very good, the group will only occasionally wait for somebody who wants to spend even longer getting better photos.
Fitness No fitness is required. The few walks are generally in relatively flat areas with occasional small inclines.
Timing Birding is good all year round. Some species are more difficult to find in the dry season, but navigation is easier then as the roads are less muddy. Our tours usually go in November.
Climate Warm to hot
Comfort A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and small hotels.
Transport We travel by minibus or four wheel drive vehicle.
Group Size This depends on the specific tour. Please enquire.
Top birds

Very diverse birding, from montane to woodland specials: Böhm's Bee-eater, African Broadbill, Thyolo Alethe, Bar-tailed Trogon, Green-headed Oriole, White-winged Apalis, Yellow-throated Apalis, Chapin's Apalis, Green Barbet, Whyte’s Barbet, Miombo Pied Barbet, Souza's Shrike, Stierling’s Woodpecker, Pale-billed Hornbill, Olive-headed Weaver, Baglafecht Weaver, Red-capped Crombec, Miombo Scrub-Robin, Rufous-bellied Tit, Anchieta’s Sunbird, Ludwig's Double-collared Sunbird, Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Yellow-crowned Canary, Pel's Fishing-Owl and Babbling Starling.

Top mammals African Palm Civet, Bushpig, African Elephant, Greater Kudu, African Buffalo, Banded Mongoose, Eland, Roan, Sable, Blue Duiker, Tanzania Mountain Squirrel, Mutable Sun Squirrel, Side-striped Jackal, Spotted Hyaena, Leopard and Blue Monkey.
Booking Your booking can be secured with a booking form and deposit. You will receive confirmation and our tour information pack with practical information on what to expect and how to prepare for the tour. The balance is due 150 days before the tour. Contact us to enquire about availability.

About Birding Africa

Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders. We combine interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, botany and other natural history aspects and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. Our guides' knowledge of African birds and birding areas is our greatest strength and together we have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations with the birding community and had a fun time exploring our home continent. †We've even written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds. Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle, and we are dedicated to making professional, best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit.

For feedback from our guests, please see our Client Comments. Please also browse our Latest News and Trip Reports.

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Black Harrier photograph courtesy of Keith Offord.
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[African Tailorbirding CC (CK2003/020710/23) trading as Birding Africa]
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