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A truly marvelous 2.5-week birding adventure during which we sample four different countries (Namibia, Botswana, Zambia & briefly Zimbabwe) and spectacular, diverse scenery.
We start in the coastal Namib Desert with its impressive dune fields (inhabited by desirable, localized endemics) and lagoons filled with flamingos, pelicans, shorebirds and some really localized species such as Damara Tern and Chestnut-banded Plover.
We then ascend the spectacular Namib Escarpment, which is inhabited by a whole suite of birds occurring ONLY in Namibia and southern Angola. A trip to the north-western corner of Namibia generates Cinderella Waxbill, Rufous-tailed Palm-thrush, Grey Kestrel and other sought-after birds. Eventually, we leave the endemic-rich desert and enter the grassland, savannah and woodland of one of Africa’s greatest game parks, Etosha National Park. Here, we can find spectacular Kalahari birds such as Crimson-breasted Shrike, Kori Bustard, Pygmy Falcon and a host of others, while seeing Africa’s big (and small!) mammals as an unavoidable by-product of the birding. After Etosha, we head into an incredibly bird-diverse tropical corner of Africa, the Caprivi Strip and adjacent panhandle of the Okavango Delta (which falls just within the borders of Botswana). The magnificent wetlands and woodlands in these parts support Pel’s Fishing Owl, Slaty Egret, Carmine Bee-eater and literally hundreds of other species, a rather large proportion of them spectacular. Finally, we bird around the Victoria Falls of Zambia (with a brief optional foray into adjacent Zimbabwe) for yet again a rich assemblage of birds, including rare species such as Taita Falcon.
Please note that the daily itinerary may change slightly according to availability of accommodation, recent knowledge and other factors.
November 2 - 19, 2013 (maximum 10 persons - only 2 places remaining!)Tour cost: $5,840 CAD per person from Walvis Bay
Early Bookings essentialSmall group size - book early! Other wildlife programs year round in Madagascar, Namibia, Botswana & South Africa area available on a customized basis - Ask for details 1 (800) 690-7887
Day 1: International flight arrives in Walvis Bay. (L,D)After collecting luggage and fetching rental vehicle, we will head straight for our Dune Lark site near the intriguing Namib village of Rooibank. Here it is usually easy to find Namibia’s only true endemic in a picturesque setting. After finding this species, if time permits, we may begin exploring the huge Walvis Bay Lagoon. This lagoon happens to be one of Africa’s most important shorebird stopovers (it is a RAMSAR site), where we will see incredible numbers of Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Great White Pelican, and some extremely localized species such as the diminutive Damara Tern and Chestnut-banded Plover. O/N Lagoon Lodge, Walvis Bay.
Day 2: Walvis Bay Lagoon (B,L,D)We can join an optional dolphin, seal, whale and seabird boat trip on the Walvis Bay Lagoon (at additional cost), or we can continue birding from the shore. Southern Right Whales often come close inshore (seasonal) and the highly localized Heaviside’s Dolphin is frequently seen, along with the more common Bottlenose Dolphin. Storm petrels, petrels, shearwaters, skuas, jaegers, gulls, terns and other seabirds are often observed from the boat. Today we will also explore sites closer to Swakopmund, where our main target bird is another localized Namib endemic, the incredibly pale Gray’s Lark. While looking for this species, we should also find the almost pure white desert subspecies of Tractrac Chat, large rafts of Black-necked Grebe, and very large numbers of other waterbirds and waders. O/N Lagoon Lodge, Walvis Bay.
Day 3: Erongo Wilderness Lodge (B,L,D)This morning we will leave the coast and head inland. If we were really unlucky and missed Gray’s Lark the previous day, we will visit other sites for this nomadic species. We may also encounter the rare and declining Burchell’s Courser and many other sandy desert species during our drive before reaching the magnificent Spitzkoppe. The Spitzkoppe, or “Matterhorn of Namibia”, is an impressive desert mountain that rises steeply out of the plains. On the road to this imposing batholith, we usually find Stark’s Lark and other strategic species. The main target around the base of the huge boulders is the most difficult of the Namibian/Angolan endemics, Herero Chat, a truly bizarre species that tends to hunt in small groups from low perches onto the ground. Rosy-faced Lovebird, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Bradfield’s Swift, Augur Buzzard, Dusky Sunbird, Karoo Long-billed Lark and many other tantalizing endemics will distract us (in a good way) from our main task of finding the most difficult species, Herero Chat. We will also see more common and widespread species such as Familiar Chat and the attractive Mountain Wheatear. After birding here, we will travel to the fine Erongo Wilderness Lodge, where we will spend two nights.
Day 4: Erongo Wilderness Lodge (B,L,D)The charismatic and striking White-tailed Shrike is common at the Erongo Wilderness Lodge. Early morning birding usually generates the equally beautiful Rockrunner (Damara Rockjumper) and Hartlaub’s Francolin. This francolin is really weird-looking (like many of the Namibian specials!), and it is a genuine skulker (again, very different from other francolins). The only time it is usually an easy bird to find is at dawn when it calls loudly from atop boulders. While looking for this francolin, we also hope to find the rock-loving Freckled Nightjar (but we may have already seen this, along with owls, the previous night). Other spectacular birds of the Erongo Mountains include Violet-eared and Black-cheeked Waxbill, Melba Finch (Green-winged Pytilia) and a plethora of others. O/N Erongo Wilderness Lodge
Day 5: Hoatere Game Reserve (B,L,D)We head northwards further along the Namibian Escarpment to the fine game reserve of Hobatere. Here, Violet Wood-hoopoe, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Ruppell’s Parrot, Giant Eagle Owl and many other sought after birds lurk, along with big mammals such as lion and elephant. O/N Hobatere Game Reserve.
Day 6: Kunene River Lodge (B,L,D)Today we continue even further northwards to one of the most remote parts of Namibia, Ruacana, where we hope to find the spectacularly localized Cinderella Waxbill, along with other specials such as Rufous-tailed Palm-thrush, Grey Kestrel, Bat Hawk and a host of others. We will spend two nights at the stunning Kunene River Lodge.
Day 7: Kunene River Lodge (B,L,D)We will spend a full day birding the Kunene River bordering on Angola. O/N Kunene River Lodge
Day 8: Etosha National Park (B,L,D)We’ll drive a remote road between Angola and one of Africa’s great game parks, ETOSHA. After a few hours’ of driving, we’ll eventually enter Etosha where we expect to find a plethora of Kalahari birds as well as many big mammals as a by-product of the birding. Lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, Gemsbok (Oryx) and other very large (as well as small) mammals are quite possible, and more importantly, we should find MANY spectacular birds. Kori Bustard, Northern Black Korhaan, Blue Crane (a South African endemic except for an isolated population in Etosha), Pygmy Falcon, Red-necked Falcon, an excellent diversity of other raptors, many owl species, Pink-billed Lark, Chestnut Weaver, Damara Hornbill, Crimson-breasted Shrike (the name says it all!), Sociable Weaver and many other birds inhabit the grassland, savanna, woodland and wetlands of Etosha. We will sample the different habitats of Etosha while driving slowly from west to east. Each of the three rest camps has a floodlit waterhole, offering spectacular wildlife viewing at night. Double-banded Sandgrouse (which drink at night), nightjars and Giant Eagle Owl are quite easy to observe at these waterholes. O/N Namutoni Rest Camp, Etosha National Park.
Day 9: Etosha National Park (B,L,D)Continued Etosha birding. O/N Okuekuejo Rest Camp, Etosha National Park.
Day 10: Okavanga Delta (B,L,D)After final birding in Etosha, we will depart for Rundu, the gateway to one of Africa’s greatest wildlife havens – the Caprivi Strip and Okavango Delta. The well-developed woodland around Rundu hosts such important species as Rufous-bellied Tit, Red-headed Weaver, Green-capped Eremomela, Common Scimitarbill, White-breasted Cuckoo-shrike, Black Cuckoo-shrike, African Golden Oriole, Tinkling Cisticola, and many others. We may even be fortunate enough to find Sousa’s Shrike or Sharp-tailed Starling. Birding the rich wetlands in the area may generate the diminutive Dwarf Bittern, Rufous-bellied Heron, Pygmy Goose, African Jacana, Lesser Jacana, Swamp Boubou and a whole host of other desirable species. O/N Sarasungu Lodge, Rundu.
Day 11: Okavanga Delta (B,L,D)Today we continue eastwards into the heart of the Caprivi Strip, finding exciting tropical bird species along the way. We will overnight at Popa Falls, which often hosts Rock Pratincole, Swamp Boubou, Harlaub’s Babbler and a plethora of other species in lush surroundings (so different from the Namib – this is a birding tour of great contrasts!).
Day 12: Okavanga Delta (B,L,D)We will start early and spend most of the day birding the absolutely phenomenal Mahango Game Reserve. This tiny reserve hosts over 400 bird species, plus lots of big game including some mammals not easily found in Etosha, such as African Buffalo, Sable Antelope and Roan Antelope (both antelope being very rare globally, but relatively easy to find in Mahango). There is a rich variety of habitats in this reserve, from expansive floodplains to Papyrus swamps to huge baobabs with associated birds, to dry thornveld, etc. In the late afternoon, we will head due south into Botswana, where we will spend the next two days birding the panhandle of the magnificent Okavango Delta. Birds such as Pel’s Fishing Owl, White-backed Night Heron, Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Lizard Buzzard, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Brown Firefinch, Retz’s Helmetshrike, Chirping Cisticola, Luapula Cisticola, Greater Swamp Warbler, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Southern Brown-throated Weaver, Golden Weaver, Greater Painted Snipe and many others are relatively easy to find in these magnificent swamps. O/N Xaro Lodge, Shakawe, Botswana.
Day 13: Okavanga Delta (B,L,D)Continued birding in the swamps, both on foot and by boat. O/N Xaro, Shakawe, Botswana.
Day 14: Caprivi National Park (B,L,D)We will re-enter Namibia and continue eastwards along the Caprivi Strip, birding the fine Caprivi National Park and looking for difficult species such as crakes, rails, Dwarf Bittern, Luapula Cisticola and more around the Kongola River. O/N Mazambala Island Lodge.
Day 15: Zambezi River (B,L,D)We will travel to one of Africa’s largest rivers, the mighty Zambezi, hopefully seeing Ground Horbill, Racket-tailed Roller, Arnott’s Chat and others en route. The Zambezi is inhabited by a plethora of exciting birds, including African Skimmer, Rock Pratincole, African Finfoot and many others. Woodland birding in the area is equally stunning. Schalow’s Turaco is always a highlight. Shelley’s Sunbird occurs around the lodge. Night drives might generate Bronze-winged and Three-banded Coursers, together with various other night birds. O/N Island View Lodge near Katima Mulilo.
Day 16: Victoria Falls (B,L,D)Today we enter our third country, Zambia, to bird around the incredible Victoria Falls. Not only is The Smoke That Thunders one of the most spectacular waterfalls on earth, but the birdlife is stunning and exceptionally diverse. We could find Racket-tailed Roller (along with more widespread roller species), Southern Ground Hornbill (and other hornbill species), African Hobby Falcon, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Schalow’s Turaco, Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah, Grey-headed Parrot, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Copper Sunbird, Stierling’s Wren-warbler, Dusky Lark and many others. A walk across the bridge over the deep gorge below the falls into Zimbabwe, might yield Taita Falcon, one of Africa’s rarest and most difficult-to-locate breeding birds (although this species is now easier to find near South Africa’s Kruger National Park), along with Peregrine Falcon and other species. O/N Natural Mystic Lodge near Livingstone, Zambia
Day 17: Victoria Falls (B,L,D)A full day of birding the magnificent woodlands around Victoria Falls. O/N Natural Mystic Lodge near Livingstone Zambia
Day 18: Final birding around Victoria Falls before international flight departs from Livingstone.
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