A trip to southern Pakistan – a haven for birding and wildlife photography

Steppe eagles, griffon vultures, cinereous vultures, Egyptian vultures, and kites – all basking in the February sun of southern Pakistan after having a feast on carrion. I was stunned! Where else could one see such a huge concentration of birds of prey as here?

Steppe Eagles

This happened when we, a friendly group of wildlife lovers and photographers under Dream Merchants headed by Mirza Naim S. Beg, headed out to M9 (formerly Super Highway) that connects the two biggest cities of the province – Karachi and Hyderabad. We were exploring shrub-land and cultivated fields of Kathore village and barren hills along the west side of M9. We were having a fruitful day and I was pleased to get shots of so many raptors and other birds.

Why did I visit Pakistan from Canada?

For one, it was economical. Off-season ticket from Toronto to Karachi via a 5 days stay in Dubai through Emirates Airlines costed me US $1300. Furthermore, 10 days stay in a decent hotel and expenses, including those for the 4 guided trips, costed me only an additional US $1000.

The white-footed fox (pups). Courtesy: Noor Hussain

Pakistan as a whole is a haven for wildlife lovers. It is the only country in the world with a transitional zone of three zoogeographic realms – the Palaearctic, the Oriental (or Indomalayan) and the Afrotropical (formerly Ethiopian). Out of all the other countries, Mexico has two realms.

Marsh crocodiles like this one can be seen at Haleji lake near Karachi. Courtesy: Mirza Naim S. Beg

These zoogeographies and rapid changes in altitude affect vegetation and wildlife. Pakistan has some of the world ’s rarest animals and plants. In addition to the more recognized wildlife species like snow leopard, common leopard, markhor (national mammal), chukar partridge (national bird), chinkara gazelle, black buck, Houbara bustard, Sindh Ibex, Punjab Urial, etc., there are several species of fauna and flora that are endemic to Pakistan. Superb shots of Pakistan’s wildlife can be seen through the courtesy of my friend Noor Hussain here

A startled herd of Chinkara gazelles that can be seen at Kirthar Range National Park . Courtesy: Mirza Naim S. Beg

Sindh province including its southern region is a haven for birders due to concentration of migrant and residential birds along the coasts, lakes, forests, and cultivated fields. A review of the distribution, status, and conservation of the wildlife of the province can be read here.

In my opinion, the ideal months to travel to Karachi and southern Sindh province for bird watching are December through February.

Enjoy some shots from my wildlife photography trips in and around Karachi.

Along M9 corridor

I had a terrific trip to Southern Sindh province of Pakistan in February 2020. There were ample opportunities of observing wildlife in and just outside of Karachi. All the shots I took were obviously ‘firsts’ for me.

Above all, it was a great company. Mirza Naim S. Beg educated me on many aspects of wildlife and photography.

Cinereous vulture. All old world vultures are a threatened species
A pair of steppe eagles
A Eurasian Griffon vulture (left) and a steppe eagle (right)
An Egyptian vulture with a steppe eagle in the background
Hoopoe bird
Red vented bulbul

Lakes

Waterfowl and birds preferring swamps and marshes can be observed at Haleji and Keenjhar lakes at a short drive from Karachi.

I found Sindh province and the region around Karachi to have a huge concentration of birds of prey, perhaps largest in the world.

Northern shovler (male). Courtesy: Mirza Naim S. Beg
Marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus). Courtesy: Mirza Naim S. Beg
Booted eagle with a catch (Hieraaetus pennatus). Courtesy: Mirza Naim S. Beg
Long legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus). Courtesy: Mirza Naim S. Beg
Shikra (Accipiter badius). Courtesy: Noor Hussain

Coastal areas all along the Arabian Sea

With my sister, a niece, and two nephews, I hiked along stretches of coastal areas of Karachi all the way up to neighbouring Port Qasim to observe waterfowl. I was not disappointed.

Flamingos
Western reef heron
Eurasian curlew
Common redshank
Pond heron
Heuglin’s gull with a catch

I am 100% sure that I will be going back to Pakistan soon to observe its flora and fauna.

Where to stay and other activities

Record number of tourists have visited Pakistan during the years 2015-2019 as the security conditions have become much better.

There are a number of reasonably priced hotels of good standards ranging from 3-5 stars in Karachi.

Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, is a treasure for its relics relating to Indus Valley Civilization that flourished between 5000 BC to 1500 BC. I was able to visit the National Museum Of Pakistan that showcases exhibits from that civilization.

I was able to visit historical buildings built by the three distinct regimes that have ruled over Pakistan over the ages. Historical buildings included those showcasing Mughal and British colonial architectural styles, such as Shahjahan mosque of Thatta and Frere Hall and Empress Market of Karachi. For birding and wildlife photography, I started from the library and the museum of Sindh Wildlife Department located in a historic building below.

I could have visited tombs of local saints, temples, mosques, and gurdwaras, but the time did not permit. All of these are located within Karachi or very close to it.

3 thoughts on “A trip to southern Pakistan – a haven for birding and wildlife photography

  1. seems like a great destination for outdoorsy type/adventure travelers. i would love to be there. what essential travel gear did you carry into the wilderness? will you be able to suggest me guided tours to the city of Karachi as well?

    Like

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