The Vumba Highlands
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.
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.
Habitats within this area are varied and include Montane grassland, Montane forest, areas of Bracken scrub, miombo woodland and exotic plantations
Good road access, walking trails, hotel and chalet accommodation, camping, bird guides.
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 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 (US$10 for visitors plus a vehicle entry fee ZW$50 for cars or ZW$100 for trucks/kombi's etc.) is payable at the gate. Picnic, caravan and camping sites are available within the grounds. The extensive gardens attract large numbers of sunbirds. In the forest patch just before the parking area look for Dark-backed Weaver, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, White-eared Barbet, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike and Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler. Blue-spotted Wood-Dove feeds on the edges of the roads and Eastern Saw-wing hawk insects over the gardens.
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
Cinnamonbreasted 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.
White Horse Inn. The area around White Horse Inn is also good for birding with the possibility of
Cinnamonbreasted 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.
7. Ndundu Lodge. Ndundu Lodge's garden and surrounding forest is
home to many of the Vumba specials: Swynnerton's Robin, Buff-spotted Flufftail,
Miombo Double-collared Sunbird,
Stripe-cheeked Greenbul and many more.
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.
Maniacaland Publicity Association: tel+263-20-64711.
Inn on the Vumba, a member of the Inns of Zimbabwe Group. firstname.lastname@example.org
White Horse Inn tel+263-20-60138/81083 / fax+263-20-60325.
Eden Lodge tel+263-20-62000/1
The Castle guest house
Seldomseen: Self-catering cottages, bird guiding.
Tel + 263 20 68482. Fax + 263 20 62837. e-mail
Forest Hills. Self-catering cottages overlooking the botanical gardens. tel+263-20-62911.
B&B, small restaurant and selfcatering campsite on request Tel: +263-20-63777
Bvumba Botanical Gardens.
Back-pack accommodation and camping at cloud Castle Guest house (28.5km on Bvumba Road)
Derek Solomon 1997.
On Safari International