Egypt- a birding trip in spring migration time


With the lifting of the corona restrictions, “normal” trips are now possible again. From the end of 2022, I was planning a vacation in April next year. The aim was to visit Egypt again after a long time, on the one hand to round off the West Palearctic bird list and on the other hand to observe the bird migration along the Nile. During our previous stays we had mostly stayed at the Red Sea. It should be a real bird experience coupled with relaxation.

Having almost 2 weeks, we wanted to focus on two locations:

  • Aswan
  • Abu Simbel


18th of April: flight Berlin – Egypt

19th of April: birding Mövenpick Resort Aswan & Elephantine island

20th of April: birding Mövenpick Resort Aswan & Elephantine island

21st of April: birding Mövenpick Resort Aswan & Kitchener´s island

22nd of April: birding Amun Tot Fish Ponds & Mövenpick Resort Aswan

23th of April: birding Mövenpick Resort Aswan & Elephantine island

24th of April: birding Amun Tot Fish Ponds & Mövenpick Resort Aswan

25th of April: birding Abu Simbel, boat trip Nasser Lake

26th of April: birding Abu Simbel

27th of April: birding Abu Simbel temple & Eskaleh Nubian Eco-Lodge

28th of April: birding Thoska Chanal & Eskaleh Nubian Eco-Lodge

29th of April: birding Mövenpick Resort Aswan & Elephantine island

30th of April: birding Thoska Chanal & Eskaleh Nubian Eco-Lodge

31st of April: birding Mövenpick Resort Aswan & Elephantine island

1st of May: birding Amun Tot Fish Ponds & Mövenpick Resort Aswan

2nd of May: flight back from Aswan AP.



Visas are required for Egypt. From the last trips, I knew that you can buy visas at the airport yourself. However, there you stand in line and wait. Therefore, I looked to see if it was now also possible to purchase it online. Lo and behold. It is possible and very easy. Visas can easily be applied for online with scanned passports. I printed out both visas just 2 days later. I paid US$ 25 per person, so a total of around €47.I booked again through a travel agency, which picked out flights for us on April 18, 3:45 p.m. from Berlin to Cairo over a duration of 4:05 hours. After that, we go again with Egypt Air at 22:20 from Cairo to Aswan, where we arrive after 1:20; so in the middle of the night. Then it is back on May 2nd; for this in the early morning.

The baggage conditions with Egyptair were not too strict. One piece of hand luggage + one additional item (such as a laptop bag) with a total weight of 8 kg is accepted. In addition, you may give up 1 piece of luggage, which may weigh 23kg. As a light hand luggage I took the small photo backpack with a Canon 4,0/ 400 DO. Proof of corona vaccination or proof of recovery was not checked at immigration. Corona handling was recognizable with hotel staff in the Möwenpick but relaxed throughout.

It was interesting that at the check-in counter in Berlin we were asked if we were staying in Aswan state for more than 15 days. That was not the case, but I did not even imagined before that it could be a problem.



I decided for taxi throughout.

As expected, finding a taxi driver is not that difficult. However, they bargain very firmly at times. Prices and reliability vary greatly. Transport from the airport Aswan to the Möwenpick hotel is an example. He wanted to do it for 600 EGP or 25 US$. I tell him he will get $20 and he drives off. On the other hand, a taxi driver from Eskaleh Eco-Lodge to Abu Simbel Airport charges us for less than 5 minutes’ drive (approx. 2 km) 200 EGP.

It is necessary to arrange for the price in advance. To know the taxi driver is a real advantage. Thus, we payed for a 5-hour trip from Abu Simbel in the desert (Thoska Channel) 2.500 EGP which was something around 72 €.

Some people were a bit skeptical about travelling and especially travel times. There is a good road net in the desert. Good travel times are possible. On the other hand, Aswan is quite busy. Trafic jams are always possible.

Boat trips on the Nile and on Lake Nasser are not cheap. A 2-hour trip around Abu Simbel cost 1.000 EGP.



Aswan and Abu Simbel require an accommodation each. We decided for the Mövenpick Resort Aswan on Elephantine island in Aswan and the Eskaleh Eco-Lodge in Abu Simbel.

Mövenpick Resort Aswan is, no question, well located, the boat service is prompt (24-hour boat transfer to town), and the rooms in the new section are what you would expect from a standard tourist hotel. The kitchen in the restaurants is recommended and the staff is generally very helpful. After a complaint in the middle of the night on the day of arrival, we had no problem getting a room change in the side wing of the new building. This has a beautiful view of Kitchener Island and the Rock Tombs. In my opinion, this wing is the best in the entire complex. Just do not make any exaggerated demands for peace and quiet. Even the thick, albeit stiff, balcony doors are not able to suppress noise from outside. Excursion and party boats, sometimes with loud music, cruise in front of the hotel complex until late at night (3:00 a.m.). Around 4.30 a.m. the first muezzin call sounds and you can hear the first hotel guests leaving.

The hotel seems to be mainly booked by tour groups (end of a Nile cruise) of different nationalities, which are obviously only there for 1-2 nights, so there is a constant coming and going, including extensive luggage transport.

The old building wing with its historic charm seems more attractive to me than the undercooled and stylish new building, but our wishes to move were denied. I also had the impression that no/only a few guests were accommodated in the old building wing.

The large buffet restaurant is acceptable for breakfast, but conveys a certain concourse vibe and is probably geared toward tour groups on all-inclusive packages in the evenings. All around is the panorama restaurant in the tower, which is also very pleasantly designed and – exceptionally – distinguished itself by pleasant, subtle lounge music.

Otherwise, music can be expected everywhere and at almost any time. This was particularly annoying at the pool, which otherwise has a relaxed, spacious atmosphere. The service not only at the pool is excellent.

One of the reason to stay in the Mövenpick Resort Aswan was the Mövenpick Resort Bird Watching House; an eBird-hotspot. The “Bird Watching House” was not really well maintained. First I had to prune a few shrubs, which otherwise impair my view too much. A used/old cup of coffee was placed there for at least 3 days. The Möwenpick team obviously does not have much ambition to keep order here. In the hide, you sit with one side open. Inside you sit on simple tree stumps and look through the windows of a reed wall. Not great, but it works. At least you sit protected.


Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge in Abu Simbel was the other accommodation. Sometimes and in some aspects we even liked it better than the Möwenpick. The Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge is not a dingy and poorly maintained place to stay, as one TripAdvisor comment dismissed. However, it is true that it has not been properly renovated for years. In addition, the repairs that were undertaken were rather poorly done. It advertises free Wi-Fi but can only offer the service through a staff member’s cell phone hotspot.

The rooms are quite nice, if a bit run-down. As is to be expected, not all windows are well fitted; there are gaps around the fly screens. The food is not terrible (also a comment), although always the same. Menued or advertised as a soup, 2 salads and dessert, the light meal (for dinner or lunch) consists of a small bowl of clear vegetable water, 2 slices of roasted eggplant with a quarter of a grated carrot and a small plate of tahini. The dessert is usually a sweet part, but it also consisted of a banana and an orange.

Breakfast consists of a pot of yoghurt, a triangle of laughing cow cheese, a pre-packaged jar of honey and jam, and an omelet.

The waiters are very friendly across the board. A fridge that really cools is probably on the wish list for next Christmas. The management is not always on the ball, but never distant and not disinterested. The preference for loud Nubian music, which is unparalleled in its monotony, is sometimes obtrusive.

Otherwise, you should not come with exaggerated expectations of sustainability. It’s – unlike the name “Ecolodge” suggests – nothing eco about this place, plastic straws and all the usual disposable containers that you get in most hotels are also found here.

The location of the Ecolodge is really good and valuable. A boat dock ensures direct access to Lake Nasser. The Ecolodge is on the outskirts of the village, although the noise of the village does make its way to the hotel grounds. The lodge’s row of trees along the lakeshore has proven to be particularly productive. We are told they are African Mahogany (Thaya senegallensis) which they say they only planted here 15 years or so ago. The trees have certainly reached considerable heights because of the constant supply of water and the constant heat and sunshine and are now the favorite place for many large and small birds. The advantage is you can sit in the shade on the 1st floor and have a very good view into the trees. You sit maybe 10 meters away from the first trees. The disadvantage is the loud ventilation of the kitchen, which is routed directly past the wall of the house next to it. However, it does not always work.



Egyptian spoke English mainly poor. This, with one exception: Ismael Khalifa who is fluent in English & German. However, people were friendly and patient.

The writing on signs is mainly Arabic. However, some of the signs are also written in Latin script.



The Egyptian pound (abbreviations: EGP) is the currency of Egypt. There is a heavy inflation. Thus, 100 EGP were only 3 EUR. The cost of living for food supply in Egypt we could not really test, as we usually stayed/ ate in the hotels. Prices for the hotels were not cheap. We payed 215 EUR/ day for the Möwenpick and 105 EUR/ day for the Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge. In both hotels only breakfast included.



Corona handling is relaxed throughout Egypt. Wearing of masks is more or less unknown. Otherwise, no special issues, too. The country turned out to be safe. During our stay, we only suffered little from stomach problems. There are roadblocks every here and then. In general Egyptians (also military & the police) are very friendly and I never felt unsafe.



As I had only visited the Red Sea coast in Egypt before, I did not exactly know what I should anticipate for the Nile valley. It was sunny – more or less the whole 2 weeks. However, we had an afternoon with an incredible sand storm.

In general, the days started with a fresh and sunny morning. After 11:00, you preferred shadow for the rest of the day. The heat was dry and humidity quite low; which was some kind of surprise, as we expected more humidity due to the river.



The aim of a trip in April 2023 was to visit Egypt again after a long time. On the one hand to round off the list of birds in the western Palearctic and on the other hand to observe the bird migration along the Nile. A triplist of 96 species after 2 weeks is not remarkable, but for the photography of White-winged Terns (Chlidonias leucopterus), Senegal Thick-knees (Burhinus senegalensis) and Ferruginous Ducks (Aythya nyroca) there are probably no better places at least in the western Palaearctic. The many photographic opportunities of the Egyptian Nightjar (Caprimulgus aegyptius) were exceptional.

Overall, the bird migration along the Nile did not meet my expectations. Compared to the trip to the Red Sea in May 2005 with its 119 species, I even saw 23 species fewer. Besides the masses of Swallows (especially Barn Swallow and Sand Martins), the good migration of European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster), only the surprising number of Wood Warblers (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) can be attributed to good migration.

For spotting desert birds in the western Palearctic, there are arguably better countries than Egypt. This was definitely better in the first years after the millennium. Access to the desert is restrictive in general; not as restrictive as in the Red Sea area. Nevertheless, not easy either. The Thoska Channel in the New Valley Governorate certainly has potential. Apparently, however, access is very restrictive handled by the military.

To round off the Western Palearctic list, southern Egypt is described a must. With the Yellow-billed Stork (Mycteria ibis), the Brown-throated Sand martin or the Plain Martin (Riparia paludicola) and the Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) I was reasonably successful, too. On the other hand, African species such as Mourning Collared Dove (Streptopelia decipiens), Three-banded Plover (Charadrius tricollaris) African Skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris) are mentioned as possibilities for southern Egypt as well.

According to eBird, however, the last sighting of the Mourning Collared Dove dates back from the beginning of August 2013 from Abu Simbel, Aswan. The last observation – apart from a rather questionable report from 23 Jun 2022 from the Pyramids of Giza – of the African Skimmer also dates back from the beginning of August 2013.

Only the Three-banded Plover, the last report of which came from a very reliable ornithologist, Ismael Khalifa, on March 20, 2023, should continue to be considered a reasonably possible Africa specialty. However, during 3 visits to the Amun Tot Fish Ponds we could not spot this Plover.



I was glad bringing my scope on this trip because I realized how useful scoping birds over far distances could be. I brought along a complete selection of bird songs on my MP3 player (and the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G as well), which I use sometimes to attract species. I placed the scope on a combination of a Gitzo tripod GT3542 XLS Systematic with the FlexShooter Pro Lever Black ( )

My standard photo combination was a Canon EF 400mm 1:4 DO IS II USM on a Canon EOS R 5. I never used converters.



Unfortunately, only after some days already in Aswan I contacted birding pals in the area. I found Ismael Khalifa from Bird watching Tours (Aswan) or Aswan Birding Club ABC. Ismael is really a great local guide, fluent in English and German. The bird watching recommendations and prompt helpfulness are exceptional. Most of the time he is very good at bird identification! A highly recommended guide for those who want a quick insight into the bird life of southern Egypt!




A total of 96 species were recorded; List is part of Trip report Part II

1 comment

  1. Thank you for this informative and detailed trip report. It was very interesting even for an egyptian birder like me. I’ve read it carefully and i’ve enjoyed it a lot.
    I hope to see you again in Egypt to discover more new bird species like that Plain Martin. I’m happy for having the chance to go birding with such a great birder like you and i thank you from my heart for your nice words and for recommending me as a local birding guide.
    Alles Gute und viel Glück
    Greetings for you Ismael Khalifa

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