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The "Mountains of the Mist" are an apt name for this part of the eastern Highlands. So often the early morning starts with the mist but clears by mid morning. The Vumba Mountains lie approximately 25km above the city of Mutare and offer exciting and varied birding opportunities. The area is probably best known as one of the main breeding areas of Swynnerton's Robin which lives and breeds in small patches of forest, some on private land, others within the Bunga forest.

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Specials

Swynnerton's Robin, Orange Ground-Thrush, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Chirinda Apalis, Bronzy Sunbird, Olive Sunbird, Variable Sunbird, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird, Roberts's Warbler, Livingstone's Turaco, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Eastern Saw-wing, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Rufous-bellied Tit, Spotted Creeper, Cabanis's Bunting, Augur Buzzard, Singing Cisticola, Whyte's Barbet, Red-throated Twinspot.

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Habitats

Habitats within this area are varied and include Montane grassland, Montane forest, areas of Bracken scrub, miombo woodland and exotic plantations

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Facilities

Good road access, walking trails, hotel and chalet accommodation, camping, bird guides.

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Birding

1.Seldomseen. All visitors to the Vumba should include some time at Seldomseen where walks can be booked with the resident guide. Good self-catering accommodation is also available here. This is certainly one of the best places to find Swynnerton's Robin. Other species the guide could show you in their patch of forest include Orange Ground-Thrush, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Buff-spotted Flufftail and Chirinda Apalis. The gardens are alive with sunbirds including Bronzy Sunbird, Olive Sunbird, Variable Sunbird and Miombo Double-collared Sunbird. Roberts's Warbler is another regular visitor and there is a chance of seeing Gurney's Sugarbird in the protea plantation below the lodges.

2.Bunga forest Reserve. Located easily on the main road towards Leopard Rock Hotel is another prime forest birding venue and many of the above mentioned species can also be located here. Other forest birds which occur in both areas include Bronze-naped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Livingstone's Turaco, Square-tailed Drongo, African Emerald Cuckoo (summer only), White-eared Barbet and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird.

3.Vumba Botanical Gardens. Just after the Bunga forest is the turn-off to the Botanical Gardens (left) which is well worth a visit. This is part of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Estate and an entry fee is payable at the gate (US$10 per person and $10 per car). Picnic, caravan and camping sites are available within the grounds. The extensive gardens attract Bronzy Sunbird, Variable Sunbird, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird, Roberts's Warbler, and Red-throated twinspot. Eastern Saw-wing hawk insects over the gardens. The forest patch in the garden hosts Lemon Dove, Orange Ground-Thrush, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, and White-eared Barbet. A walk down the forest track from the campsite will yield Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Chirinda Apalis, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Swynneron's Robin, Starred Robin, Red-faced Crimsonwing and Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler. Check the pines below the entrance gate for Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon.

4. Leopard Rock Hotel. Another good birding venue is the forest, gardens and edge of the golf course at Leopard Rock Hotel. Golfers are often treated to the sight of Silvery-cheeked Hornbill flying over the golf course, and both Chirinda Apalis and Roberts's Warbler can be seen here. Yellow-bellied Waxbill feed regularly on the grass next to the car park. The patch of acacia abysinnica woodland next to Leopard Rock Hotel has produced some interesting birds over the years including Cinnamon-breasted Tit and Spotted Creeper.

If time allows take a walk in the miombo woodland along Tom Hulley Road (well before Leopard Rock Hotel) to look for Cinnamonbreasted Tit and Cabanis's Bunting. Augur Buzzard and Long-crested Eagle are often seen perched on the telephone and electricity lines along the main road.

5. Eden Lodge. The woodland around Eden Lodge down Essex Road is another excellent birding venue. Silvery-cheeked Hornbill roost regularly in the tall bluegums behind the hotel and Red-throated Twinspot often feed on the lawns. Birding from the chalets, built into the edge of the forest, can be very rewarding with Livingstone's Turaco, Red-capped Robin-Chat, White-starred Robin and Stripe-cheeked Greenbul all being common. The forest walk below the hotel can produce White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Chirinda Apalis, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Olive Bush-Shrike and White-starred Robin. Singing Cisticola, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Red-backed Mannikin and African Firefinch feed on the edge of the cultivated lands.

6. White Horse Inn. The area around White Horse Inn is also good for birding with the possibility of Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Cabanis's Bunting and Whyte's Barbet in the Miombo woodland on the road leading to the hotel. Red-throated Twinspot and Red-faced Crimsonwing often feed on the ground in the forest clearings next to the hotel.

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General

From the centre of Mutare take any of the main streets down to Park Road where you turn right. At the Vumba Service Station turn left (signposted) into the Vumba Road. From here the roads to the various hotels and self catering facilities are well signposted. Some of the recommended hotels include Inn on the Vumba, White Horse Inn, Eden Lodge and Leopard Rock Hotel. Seldomseen is the most suitable self catering lodge for birders, and camping and caravan facilities are available at the Botanical Gardens.

Contact details
Manicaland Publicity Association: tel+263-20-64711.

Seldomseen Self-catering cottages, bird guiding. Tel + 263 20 68482. Fax + 263 20 62837. e-mail mhumhe@zol.co.zw.

Hivu Nursery at the entrance to the Bvumba Botanical Gardens offers accommodation. e-mail hivu@zol.co.zw.

Bvumba Botanical Gardens. http://www.zimparks.com

Guy Gibbon and Sue Worsley 2008
Derek Solomon 1997.



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