‘Bird Safari’ on Lake Diluti, Arusha

Most safaris in Tanzania are focused on the ‘Big 5’: Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo. Just outside of Arusha, Lake Diluti offers a quiet and relaxing ‘bird safari’ which is a great way to get a taste of the adventure before the big expedition, or after, in case you didn’t get your fill. Tanzania is home to over 1,000 species of birds, many of which you won’t see in the arid Serengeti.

I had recently purchased a new camera for my safari, and decided to test it out here before my 5-day trip North. Birds are, and I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this before, a lot faster and unpredictable than elephants…so these photos are not ‘professional’ quality. But it was a great learning experience nonetheless.

Still, I wanted to share them anyway because I love birds, and if you’re reading this, you probably do too.

I took a dala-dala (shared minivan-taxi) up to the village of Terenguru roughly 30minutes outside of Arusha. It was less than $1, and not exactly comfortable, but much more affordable than a taxi. Dala-dalas can be waived down in the street, or taken from the main bus station/produce market in the center of downtown Arusha.

From Terenguru, it’s a $1 motorcycle ride, or 30 minute walk to get to the park. Once I arrived, I checked in at the office and paid $20 for a two-hour boat tour of the lake, which includes a guide. ‘Diluti’ means ‘deep’ in the local language– I took their word for it.

On a clear day, you can even see Kilimanjaro

In the heat of the day, there were hardly any birds to be seen, but around 4pm, they started coming out. The best time to go is in the morning, at the crack of dawn, (but you’d have to take a taxi or stay the previous night in Terenguru), but I was still happy with all the birds I saw.

There were cormorants, ducks and geese of course, egrets, two kinds of Kingfishers, herons, yellow weavers, hamerkops, and more.

Diluti must be full of fish, because this cormorant never came up empty-beaked.

It was really relaxing, paddling along surrounded by birds– in the water, at our level, in the trees, and soaring above.

These Pied Kingfishers were a hoot to watch, squabbling over branch-space and fish. Of all the trees in the lake, they all wanted this one! I watched in shock and awe as one downed a fish as big as its head. Down the hatch!

The other variety, the Malachite Kingfisher, is more timid, but even more beautiful.

I’d never heard of this bird before, so when I saw it I was pretty impressed. There were a few, mating, but they were pretty wary so it was difficult to get close.

The hamerkop quickly became one of my favorite birds, simply because of its strangely shaped head, from where it gets its name. It’s just so cute and fluffy looking!

There were some non-birds lurking as well…

I saw 3 or 4 large water monitors swimming and basking, easily 3ft long or longer. When they swim, they sort of doggy-paddle, with their tongues out– but they’re quick as lightning, despite how lazy this one looks. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be in the water with it.

Here’s another pied kingfisher, I really liked the color contrast of it with the flowers.

We paddled around until sunset, waiting for a glimpse of Kilimanjaro. We listened to the chirping, singing, quacking of all the birds around us for a while, while we drifted across the lake.

On one side of the lake, there’s a bar, so we docked there, I bought my guide a beer and we just hung out for a while. Once it got dark, he walked me back to the bus stop, waited for me to catch a dala-dala back and bid me farewell. Tanzanian hospitality is incredible!

If you have an extra 3-4 hours in Arusha before or after your safari, I highly recommend checking out Lake Diluti for its scenic beauty and fauna!

If you aren’t a bird-person, you probably didn’t find this very interesting. Check out my other blog posts, I promise they’re better than this one!

If you are a bird person and you’re still reading, here are some more pictures of birds, some that I saw on my actual safari the next day.

Lilac-breaster roller
Superb Usteli
Ostrich (male)– a modern day dinosaur!
African Crested Crane, or Crowned Crane- the national bird of Uganda

Thanks for reading!

For more wildlife photography check out:

$800 5-day Safari: Serengeti, Tarangire, Manyara and Ngorongoro National Parks


and follow me on Instagram @tristans_expeditions !

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