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Chimanimani and Haroni/Rusitu

Modified: 2008/11/06 10:50 by guygibbon - Categorized as: Zimbabwe
The Chimanimani Mountains lie at the southern end of the eastern Highlands and forms much of the international border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The landscape is very rugged and the Chimanimani National Park includes most of this mountain range. Despite this ruggedness, the habitat is varied with patches of evergreen forest below 1500m, riparian forest along the rivers and streams, and miombo woodland on the lower slopes. In the mountains the dominant habitat is open grassland with some marshy areas in the poorly drained valley bottoms. There are also extensive areas of scrubland dominated by Phillipia species around the crags and steeper slopes. Various species of protea and bracken also occur here.

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Birding

1. Augur Buzzard and White-necked Raven are common in the mountains. Striped Flufftail, Shelley's Francolin, Wing-snapping Cisticola and Common Quail occur in the montane grassland. Look for Scarce Swift in amongst the other parties of swifts feeding in the mountains. Blue Swallow is a breeding visitor to this area during the summer months. A subspecies of the Bokmakierie Telephorus zeylonus restrictus has been recorded in the scrubland next to the refuge hut above Base Camp and along the Bundi Valley. Another bird to look out for is the Cape Bunting which is an endemic subspecies Emberiza capensis smithersii.

2. The best, and easiest, birding however, is probably in and around the village itself. The gardens at the Chimanimani Hotel attract a variety of sunbirds including Malachite Sunbird, Bronzy Sunbird, Olive Sunbird and Miombo Double-collared Sunbird. Gurney's Sugarbird is another common visitor to the hotel gardens. Patches of miombo woodland on the lower slopes of the mountains are home to Miombo Tit, Rufous-bellied Tit, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Green-capped Eremomela and Southern Hyliota. Eastern Saw-wing feed along the forest and woodland edges. Cape Grassbird and Broad-tailed Warbler frequent the tall grass and bracken.

3. Another good birding venue is the attractive Bridal Veil Falls (ask for directions at the hotel or Chimanimani Tourist Office in the centre of the village). In the forest around the Falls it is possible to see White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Olive Bush-Shrike, Olive Sunbird and other riparian forest species. Roberts's Warbler occurs in the bracken on the edge of the forest.

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General

The only access into the mountains is on foot via the National Parks Base Camp on the edge of the village. Visitors must be full self sufficient when visiting this area and the only accommodation is a mountain chalet with two dormitories with beds & mattresses, a cold shower and water borne toilet is located about two hours steep walk from the Base Camp. Otherwise visitors may camp anywhere in the National Park. Beware of mists, sudden storms and swollen rivers - the weather in this part is very unpredictable and it can be very cold in winter. Normal National Parks entry fees (US$10 per person) are payable at the Base Camp which offer limited camping facilities before going into the mountains.

From Harare, travel through Mutare and continue towards Birchenough Bridge. The turnoff to Chimanimani is about 70km from Mutare and is well signposted. The total distance from Harare is 450km. This region can also be reached via Masvingo and Birchenough Bridge (about 300km).

Accommodation is available in the area.

Additional reference
The Birds of the Chimanimani Mountains by A J Beasley, Honeyguide December 1995, Vol 41 Supplement No. 1, available from the Birdlife Zimbabwe, Box CY161, Causeway, Harare.

Zimbabwe Parks Website

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Haroni-Rusitu Botanical Reserves

This remote region, lying right on the Zimbabwe/Mozambique border is well known to many visitors to Zimbabwe hoping to find rare and unusual species, and at one stage was one of the most exciting destinations in this country. Unfortunately in the last few years most of the forest has been chopped out and planted under bananas despite attempts by local NGO's and the Department of National Parks & Wildlife Management to save the designated reserves. It is still possible to see some of the eastern Highland specials in the area, but with some difficulty, and visitors must be prepared to travel along an appalling road for approximately 40 km and a continuous stream of locals chattering gaily as they pass through the remaining patch of forest. Many birders have camped in the Rusitu forest but visitors now do so at their own risk and must ensure that there is always someone on guard at the campsite and around the vehicles because of theft. Almost nothing remains of the Haroni Reserve as most of it is now under bananas and much of the streambank is also under cultivation. There is still a very small patch of riverine vegetation at the junction of the Haroni & Rusitu Rivers, and the forest across the Haroni river remains relatively undisturbed. These days it is probably better to go birding in the Honde Valley where all of the Haroni specials plus a few more can be seen in comfort (and along a tar road!).

The cultivated lands along the route into Haroni/Rusitu are good for Blue-spotted Wood-Dove and in the past Southern Banded Snake-Eagle has been seen hunting in this area. Keep an eye out for Black-winged Bishop in these lands - previously very common but now difficult to find. The forest starts just after passing the Vimba School and Black-bellied Starling is sometimes recorded in the trees at the edge of the forest - the only location in Zimbabwe where they have been seen. Green Malkoha are sometimes seen in the creeper tangles over the dead trees and a resident pair of Scaly-throated Honeyguide call regularly from the top of the hill. In the forest canopy look for Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Green-backed Woodpecker, Chirinda Apalis and Stripe-cheeked Greenbul. The distinctive call of the Tiny Greenbul helps you to locate this elusive species in the undergrowth. Black-headed Apalis, Black-and-white Flycatcher, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher and Pallid Honeyguide occur, but obviously in reduced numbers.

Directions: The Haroni/Rusitu area is best approached from near Chimanimani. About 10 km before Chimanimani, turn right just before the sawmill onto Nyahodi Road. At 5.2 km turn right and at 18.1 km turn left onto Ndima Rd. At 27 km turn left over the river bridge and follow your nose to the Vimba school at about 40 km from the tar. The Rusitu forest remnant is 1 km past the school and the Haroni forest about 10 km further on at the end of the road.

Derek Solomon 1997.



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