What I need to pack and know about birding in Rwanda
What I need to pack and know about birding in Rwanda : Rwanda is one of the blessed countries in East Africa with incredible opportunities for birding. In the case of Rwanda or even Uganda, birdwatching can start as soon as you come out of the airport or even in the large cities. Although serious birding is done in swampy areas and forest areas of Rwanda such as the national parks. Rwanda is an excellent birding destination with over 640 species of birds of which 30 are endemic to the country. Birdwatching can be done in all the 3 national parks of Rwanda including the Akagera National Park, Nyungwe National Park, and the Volcanoes National Park, Lake Kivu. Other birding spots include the suburbs in Kigali and the various smaller waterbodies, wetlands/swamps, marshlands and agricultural plantations. The main species to look out for are those endemic to the Albertine Rift and the Virunga ranges. The intriguing Shoebill stork can also be sighted in wetlands and marshes of Akagera. You can also visit the Nyabarongo wetland to spot little egrets, spur winged geese, squacco turaco and yellow billed stork. Mount Kigali is also an excellent spot for birding in Rwanda. Here you can see red chested cuckoos, African paradise and southern black flycatchers among many others.
What to pack for a birding experience in Rwanda?
For any serious birder, there are items you need to know in order to have an excellent birding experience in Rwanda. Travelers must travel well prepared with high quality equipment in company of a knowledgeable and experienced local guide. Some of the items to carry on a birding safari in Rwanda include;
The binoculars – these are a must carry item for birders. It is one of the most important items to think of getting when planning for a birding tour in Rwanda. The birds in Africa are relatively shy and most will fly off if you come too close or if they notice any attention from intruders. One reason for this excessive fear of humans is that they are or were often hunted for meat by human populations in many parts of Africa. The best way to spot them is to come with high quality binoculars that can be adjusted to give clearer views.
Hides and other clothing – Hides are special camouflage clothes used by birders to appear like they are part of the surrounding without attracting the attention of the birds. These special clothes can help one approach the birds without being noticed. Having a good set of hides is especially important if you are planning to spot some of the elusive species that take off as soon as sense human presence. Apart from the hides, you also need comfortable clothes that are suitable for the jungle or wetlands. A good trouser, long sleeved and light shirt will help protect you from insects and the African sun. Light cloths are recommended.
Birding books/birding check-in – Bird identification books are important to help you identify the species you spotted. The books can be acquired/bought from Akagera national park offices and other major birding spots or book shops. The book should have a complete collection of the birds (including their pictures) in the area you are planning to visit because it will help you know the species encountered.
Camera – A good camera is essential for a great birding experience. Just like how a birding safari is nothing without a camera, so is a birding trip in Rwanda nothing without a binocular. We recommend that you get the best camera with great lenses for amazing photos of Rwanda and her beautiful birds. The photos will also help you compare notes with those in the books and see how successful your expedition turned out to be.
A Portable voice recorder – Birds make different call signs/sounds which can be very intriguing. The best way to record these sounds is with a good portable voice recorder. This will also help you identify the different birds when back in your room comparing notes.
Drinking water and food – Sometimes birding expeditions go on for long hours leaving you thirsty and exhausted, a better way to relieve yourself is by taking your snacks and drinking water? Most of the birding spots are in remote areas with no restaurants or shops. It is wise to go out prepared so that you don’t get thirsty and hungry while out in the jungle.
Insect repellent – Birds thrive in areas where insects are in plenty. After all, insects are their main food apart from fruits and grain. Some of these insects have painful stings like wasps, bees, mosquitoes and tsetse flies, so you need to carry your insect repellents to be conformable on your trip and to keep them off.
While on a birding safari, there are codes of conduct that are required of a birder while on a birding safari in Rwanda. While in the national parks or birding sanctuaries, you need to follow certain rules and codes of conduct. You need to respect the birds and the environment in which they live in.
Do not act in a way that will endanger the well-being of the birds or disturb them in any way. A good birder should never chase birds or try to flush them out from where they are hiding. Let them come out at their own free will.
Be careful while recording the birds and avoid the use of flash cameras if possible especially in areas with many birds and during the breeding season. Keep a good distance away from known nesting colonies so as not to alert the birds or expose the chicks to danger. Unless you are a researcher, do not touch eggs. Many species abandon their eggs if touched by humans.
Respect the environment in which you find yourself in. Don not litter bird sanctuaries. Avoid trampling and leave bird habitats as you found them. Do not trespass on private property while birding before asking for permission. You don’t want to spoil the image of the wider birding community.
Try to find out any specific rules or regulations pertaining to a specific birding place. If possible, move in a smaller manageable group to avoid damaging the environment or alerting the birds so as to know What I need to Pack and know about Birding in Rwanda!