Preparation for birdwatching

Wattled Lapwing (Vanellus senegallus)

Learn about expected birds before arriving:

Since you will probably see many new species in quick succession it is always advisable to do a bit of research about the birds you are likely to encounter before you arrive. You can download a checklist of the birds at Victoria Falls and you can scan it for birds of your particular interest. We recommend the following checklists:

If you want to purchase a field guide that covers the birds of Zimbabwe well then, we recommend “Birds of Southern Africa” by Ian Sinclair. If you don’t want to bring a bird book, we highly recommend that you download the mobile phone App “Birds of Africa” by the African Bird Club. In this excellent and free App, you can download the birds of Zimbabwe and learn about them before your trip. What you can also do is simply type the names of birds you are interested in into google image search and take a screenshot. You will be able to browse through your screenshots in the field and is an easy way to get familiarised with the appearance of the birds you are likely to encounter.

Bring appropriate clothing:

During the winter months (May to October) early mornings and evenings are rather chilly but by midday sunny and warm. You will need something like a fleece jacket to keep warm. Bring clothing with natural fabrics as they work best in tropical climates. Sunscreen, mosquito repellent and a brimmed hat are essential all year round. For protection from mosquitoes, we recommend wearing long clothing. The colour of clothing also should be considered. Whereas dark and camouflage clothing is less disturbing to wildlife it has the disadvantage that it attracts mosquitoes slightly more (mosquitoes have learnt that they are less visible when sitting on dark colours). If you are on a boat during high water season (March to May) then a simple raincoat will protect you from lots of spray that comes from the Victoria Falls. 

Other equipment to bring:

As you will know, other essential equipment for birdwatching are binoculars and/or a scope. The App “Birds of Africa” by the African Bird Club can replace a printed field guide but if you plan to go on multiple birdwatching trips a printed hardcopy field guide will probably be more convenient. We recommend the following field guide: “Birds of Southern Africa” by Ian Sinclair

A camera is optional but great if you plan to improve your bird list at home later and use pictures as a reference to improve the list. For decent pictures of birds, you will need at least a 400mm lens. For mammals and bigger birds such as Secretarybird a 135mm lens can already give you good results but only on game drives as there you can get closer to the animals.

Finally, if you want to keep records of the species you saw, it is always good to carry a notebook or make notes on your phone. If you are using your phone to keep track of species seen be aware that in the bright sunlight, your battery might drain quickly as you are forced to push display brightness to the maximum. A power bank will be useful.