Visit Burigi and Moyowosi Game Reserves in far north-west Tanzania for an intrepid safari off the beaten track. See the Shoebill stork and Wattled Crane in these Important Birding Areas as designated by Birdlife International.
Burigi Game Reserve
This 2 200 square kilometre reserve (849 square miles) is located between Lake Victoria and Rwanda in the north-west of Tanzania. Part of Lake Burigi is located in the Burigi Game Reserve. Burigi is managed together with Biharamulo Game Reserve, with Burigi being the bigger of the two.
Burigi Lake is a permanent water source in the area and characterised by swampy papyrus beds and riverine forest surrounded by wooded hills, valleys and rocky outcrops. June to September is the dry season and favourable for game viewing while the wetter times of the year (November / December and March / April) are good for birding. This is an Important Birding Area (IBA) which was last assessed in 2001. Birding stats have not been fully established recently and the area is relatively unexplored in this regard, but the variation in vegetation indicates a high count of bird species, especially water birds.
Animals that can be seen in Burigi include a variety of plains game such as Impala, possibly Oribi and Eland in the hill country, Waterbuck, Hippo, Elephant and Lion. Shoebill storks are found here and Sitatunga antelope may be spotted in the swampy areas. There is a migratory path between Burigi and Moyowosi Game Reserve especially for Elephant.
Hunting activities still take place and also sometimes invasive fishing practices in the unprotected regions. Unfortunately poaching has been a problem especially on Elephant stocks and there is a large portion of the lake shore that is not protected by the reserve, which could affect breeding Shoebills.
Moyowosi Game Reserve
The 6 000 square kilometre reserve (2 316 square miles) is located south of Burigi Game Reserve close to the border with Burindi. Moyowosi is a vast wetland area surrounded by woodlands and forms part of the first RAMSAR site in Tanzania. The wetlands are important for breeding water birds.
Threatened or vulnerable bird species include the Shoebill, Wattled Crane and the Great Snipe. Between May and October in the dry season, many large mammals make their way here when water is scarce elsewhere. Access can sometimes be difficult even in the dry season due to the extensive swamps and floodplains created by 5 major rivers in this region - Moyowasi, Kigosi, Malagarasi, Nikonga and Gombe. Peak rainfall is in November and February.
This is one of the few places in Tanzania where the Shoebill stork can be regularly observed. Hippo, Crocodile and Sitatunga antelope can be spotted at the water and Buffalo, Zebra, Giraffe, Lion and also Elephant on the land. Other antelope species include Greater Kudu, Topi, Hartebeest, Waterbuck and Roan. Wild Dog has been known to visit the reserve.
This reserve is relatively unexplored and accurate records especially for bird species have not been established since 2001. This area is under threat from logging for the tobacco industry, poaching and uncontrolled grazing. Hunting activities also still take place in the area.