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Rwanda: Akagera & Nyungwe, the Jewel in the Crown

March 11, 2011
Red-collared Babbler is only accessible in Rwanda © Ray Tipper

Red-collared Babbler is only accessible in Rwanda © Ray Tipper

The Albertine Rift forests support 35 endemic birds, more than any other Endemic Bird Area in Africa, and 25 of these can be seen in one park: Rwanda’s montane Nyungwe Forest. This jewel in Africa’s crown holds all but one of the Albertine Rift Endemics of Uganda’s Bwindi National Park. Highly desired birds include Red-collared Babbler, Albertine Owlet (both are only accessible in Rwanda), Ladgen’s Bushshrike, Neumann’s Warbler, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Kungwe Apalis and Purple-breasted Sunbird. Eleven species of diurnal primates occur here, including the recently discovered Owl-faced Monkey, Golden Monkey and Chimpanzee. The park straddles 1000 km2 of montane forest, bamboo and heathland and is easily reached on tarmac roads from Kigali.

Nyungwe forest, Rwanda © Callan Cohen www.birdingafrica.com

Nyungwe’s forest and heathland form part of Africa’s largest protected high-altitude rainforest. © Callan Cohen http://www.birdingafrica.com

The lower lying Akagera National Park boasts 525 species, some confined to the Lake Victoria Basin. With habitats as diverse as savannah, grassland, woodland, rocky ridges, lakes and papyrus swamps, the park harbours top birds such as Shoebill, Ring-necked Francolin, Red-faced Barbet, ‘Ruaha’ Chat, White-winged Swamp Warbler, Miombo Wren Warbler, Tabora Cisticola and Papyrus Gonolek. The park spreads to almost 1100 km2, offers luxury accommodation and is easily reached on tarmac roads from Kigali.

Ruwenzori Apalis lives in tangles along Nyungwe's forest edge © Callan Cohen www.birdingafrica.com

Ruwenzori Apalis lives in tangles along Nyungwe’s forest edge © Callan Cohen http://www.birdingafrica.com

A one-week visit to Rwanda makes an ideal introduction to Albertine Rift birding. One can see almost 300 species with 20 Albertine Rift Endemics, while enjoying good roads, hospitable people and comfortable accommodation (read the publication by C. Cohen et al in ABC Bulletin 17(2)).

Birding Africa, in association with the African Bird Club, is offering a bird watching tour to Rwanda to sponsor the African Bird Club Conservation Fund. The tour will run from 10 to 17 July 2011, during the main dry season, and focus on Nyungwe and Akagera National Parks. To join, please contact leaders Callan Cohen or Deirdre Vrancken on info@birdingafrica.com or +27 21 531 9148.

l'Hoest Monkey can easily be seen at Nyungwe roadsides © Callan Cohen www.birdingafrica.com

l’Hoest Monkey can easily be seen at Nyungwe roadsides © Callan Cohen http://www.birdingafrica.com

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