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 exclusively in Namibia and southern Angola. A trip to the north-western corner of Namibia generates Cinderella Waxbill, Rufous-tailed Palm Thrush, Grey Kestrel (with luck), and other sought-after birds.
Eventually, we leave the endemic-rich desert and enter the grassland, savanna, 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 byproduct of the birding.
After Etosha we head into an incredibly bird-diverse tropical corner of Africa, the Caprivi Strip and the 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, White-backed Night Heron, Slaty Egret, Southern 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, which, however, is very difficult to find.
Please note that the detailed itinerary below is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors.
Departure Dates & Costs
2019 Departure: November 2 to 19 (18 days)
Cost: $ 8,850 CAD / $ 6,800 USD per person from Walvis Bay
Guided by expert local ornithologist
Single Supplement $ 1,180 CAD/$ 985 USD
Group size 6 - 9 persons
Nov 2: Walvis Bay, Dune Lark, and Walvis Bay Lagoon
Our birding guide fetches you from the Walvis Bay airport. 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 th
Nov 3: Birding around Walvis Bayis 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 Flamingos, Great White Pelican, and some extremely localized species such as the diminutive Damara Tern and Chestnut-banded Plover. Overnight: Lagoon Lodge, Walvis Bay (2 nights)
We can join an optional dolphin, seal, whale, and seabird boat trip on the Walvis Bay Lagoon (at additional cost approx. $70 p/p paid locally), 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 near-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.
Nov 4: Birding the Namib Escarpment via the Spitzkoppe - Matterhorn of Namibia
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 our major target. 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 Huab Lodge. Overnight: Haub Lodge, Kamanjab 2 nights
Nov 5: Birding around Haub Lodge
We continue birding in the mountains. The charismatic and striking White-tailed Shrike is common along the Namib Escarpment, and early morning birding usually generates the equally beautiful Rockrunner and Hartlaub’s Spurfowl. This spurfowl is really weird-looking (like many of the Namibian specials), and it is a genuine skulker (again, very different from other spurfowls). The only time it is usually an easy bird to find is at dawn, when it calls loudly from atop boulders. Other spectacular birds we might see include Violet-eared and Black-cheeked Waxbill, Green-winged Pytilia, and a plethora of others. Quite a number of brightly-coloured seedeaters also vie for attention. We might, if we’re lucky, see black mongoose, greater kudu, or another mammal or two.
Nov 6 & 7: Birding the Zebra Mountains and Kunene
We venture right to the Angolan border, “marked” by the surprising Kunene River (a perennial river in an otherwise arid landscape), where we stay for two nights at our idyllic, remote lodge in a nice patch of riverine forest including blue-grey palms. Bat Hawk (further west than usual) and nightjars such as; Rufous-cheeked Nightjar can sometimes be seen over the river at dusk while enjoying sundowners from the comfort of the lodge.
The next morning we leave really early (about two hours before dawn; non-birding spouses who prefer to relax around the lodge can of course opt out of the morning’s birding if preferred). The aim is to be positioned at our site in the spectacularly rugged Zebra Mountains just as it starts getting light. The target is the spectacular-looking, unusual Angola Cave Chat which was only very recently discovered as a breeding bird in Namibia (it was previously thought to be an Angolan endemic), and it occurs here in this remote mountain range in surprisingly high densities. After seeing this bird we slowly start heading back to the lodge, stopping at our site for another incredibly localized species, the enigmatic Cinderella Waxbill. The lodge itself is very good for some of our other main target birds, so during our afternoon session of birding we’ll look for the unspotted form of Bennett’s Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Palm Thrush (a west-African bird which occurs from here, the Namibia/Angola border, northwards to Gabon). Usually we have to drive around a bit to find Grey Kestrel, another species right at the edge of its range here. Overnight: Kunene River Lodge, Opuwo (2 nights)
Nov 8: Birds and Mammals Etosha National
At the world-renowned Etosha National Park we’ll start our birding and wildlife viewing with a night at Dolomite Camp, situated in the previously closed western section of Etosha. Justifiably, this is rated as one of the best game parks in Africa. The floodlit waterholes at the lodges (“camps”) within the park must provide one of the greatest wildlife shows on earth. This is big (and small) mammal country, where elephant, black rhino, large herds of springbok, gemsbok, plains zebra, blue wildebeest, and many other herbivores lurk, meaning (excitingly) that there are also relatively high densities of predators and scavengers such as cheetah, lion, leopard, caracal, African wild cat, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal. While we stop to look at all the mammal species, birding is still the main focus. An isolated population of South Africa’s national bird, the beautiful Blue Crane, inhabits Etosha, Kori Bustard and its smaller relative, Black Korhaan, are both common. Secretary bird and an absolute stack of raptors and vultures are always much in evidence. This is one of the best places in southern Africa for owls, and we often find the tiny African Scops Owl, the giant Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, and then also others such as the beautiful Southern White-faced Owl at their daytime roosts (usually in Halali Camp, where we sometimes stop for lunch one of the days), Pink-billed Lark and Stark’s Lark are common near Okaukuejo, and Etosha must be one of the few sites where one has to kick Double-banded Courser from one’s feet. The unbelievably huge nests of Sociable Weaver are features of some areas, sometimes with Pygmy Falcon taking up residence in the same nests. Overnight: Dolomite Camp, Western Etosha
Nov 9: Etosha National Park from Western to Central
We will have another full day in Etosha, but will have to traverse some distance to get to the center of the park where we stay the night. Overnight: Okaukuejo Camp, central Etosha
Nov 10: Etosha National Park from Central to Eastern
Today we’ll drive slowly, busily birding and wildlife-watching, through this wonderful park from west to east. Overnight: Mokuti Lodge just outside Etosha’s eastern gate. Overnight: Halali Camp or Mokuti Etosha Lodge, eastern Etosha
Nov 11: Transfer to and birding at Rundu
As we continue eastwards the landscape becomes less arid, and today we start seeing some well-developed woodlands for the first time during our birding tour. We spend a night just west of the Caprivi Strip, on the banks of what is called the Kavango River here in Namibia, but which changes its name to the Okavango River when it enters Botswana a bit downstream. In Botswana it also widens quickly, first into a panhandle and eventually into the vast Okavango Delta proper, an incredible inland delta, the waters of which get absorbed by the thirsty Kalahari sands rather than ever reaching the sea. The tall woodlands near Rundu are home to some tricky birds such as Rufous-bellied Tit (which can be very thin on the ground and tough to find; playback often brings in its more common and widespread relative Southern Black Tit). Sharp-tailed Starling (along with the more common but also more spectacularly-plumaged Greater Blue-eared Starling) and Sousa’s Shrike are two tough birds of human-modified woodland sometimes in poor condition. There are a plethora of other great birds to be found here, both woodland birds and waterbirds, such as cuckooshrikes, orioles, Green-capped Eremomela, Tinkling Cisticola, Swamp Boubou, Dwarf Bittern, Rufous-bellied Heron, and a rich assemblage of others. Overnight Hakusembe River Lodge, Rundu
Nov 12: Birding the Western Caprivi Strip
We spend time in the western parts of the Caprivi Strip, a narrow strip of Namibia wedged between Botswana and Angola, where we hope to find Rock Pratincole and any of the birds mentioned for the previous day that we may have missed. We stay at a lodge near the tiny but impressively diverse Mahango Game Reserve, a protected area within Bwabwata National Park. Here we add a great many new birds to our list, along with new mammals. African buffalo occurs here but not in Etosha, and this is also one of the best places in the world to find the rare roan antelope and sable antelope. Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Luapula Cisticola, the oversized Coppery-tailed Coucal, several spectacular weavers with their bright yellow plumage and amazing nests, Greater Painted-snipe, and Grey-rumped Swallow are just a few of the many birds we’re likely to encounter at Mahango. Overnight: Ndhovu Safari Lodge, Divundu
Nov 13: Into Botswana and the Okavango Panhandle
The Botswana border is only a short drive away. After crossing it one immediately enters a more open, overgrazed habitat, which is, interestingly, the best place to see the localized Bradfield’s Hornbill. But the biggest treat awaits us when we arrive at Drotsky’s Cabins, from where we take a boat trip to their Okavango sister lodge, where we spend two nights. Here at Xaro Lodge the loud grunts of hippos startle one as one tries to fall asleep in the luxury safari tents. While in the water during the day, they do lurk around the lodge grounds at night eating grass – it’s not advisable to walk around after dark, as this is Africa’s most dangerous animal. The lodge grounds, which can become an island during floods, are one of the best places in the world to find Pel’s Fishing Owl, and African Wood Owl and the beautiful African Barred Owlet are also usually much in evidence. Brown Firefinch and its more common cousins, Red-billed Firefinch and Blue Waxbill, often feed on the lawns. The liquid calls of Swamp Boubou and coucals add greatly to the atmosphere. Overnight: Xaro Lodge, Shakawe, Botswana (2 nights)
Nov 14: A full day in Botswana - Okavango Panhandle
Today we will continue birding in the swamps, both on foot and by boat, but also do some easy walks.
NOV 15: Back into Namibia continuing east through Caprivi Strip
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. Overnight Caprivia Houseboat cabins or similar, Katima Mulilo (2 nights)
Nov 16: Birding the Eastern Caprivi Strip
We will spend another full day in this splendid and exciting birding area.
Nov 17: Into Zambia
Today we will embark on a long drive, and travel to one of Africa’s largest rivers, the mighty Zambezi, and then enter our third country, Zambia, where we can, if conditions are dry enough to access the area, which is usually the case, look for a Zambian endemic right in the south of its range, Black-cheeked Lovebird, in the Machile IBA (Important Bird Area). Many other exciting birds will certainly be added to our list, whether or not we can access the lovebird area. Please note that there is a lot of driving today, and we also have a border crossing that sometimes can take 2 hours. The lovebird will likely happen the next morning only. Overnight: Shackleton’s Lodge, Mwandi, Zambia
Nov 18: Birding the Victoria Falls
We will likely only do the lovebird today – it usually takes the whole morning.
We then travel the short distance to 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 other more widespread roller species), Southern Ground Hornbill (and other hornbill species), African Hobby, 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. Overnight: Maramba River Lodge, Livingstone, Zambia
Nov 19: Departure
After some final birding in the Victoria Falls area our international flights will depart from Livingstone. We usually find about 400 bird species on this tour of varied habitats.
Sean Braine will be our guide on this trip. Both Sean and Dayne are sons of Steve Braine. They were born in Namibia while Steve was working in the Skeleton Coast Park as a ranger. Having the privilege of growing up in this pristine wilderness area they are passionate and enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge. Sean, the eldest, worked as a fly-fishing and bird guide at a lodge on the Zambezi River in the eastern Caprivi. He was then promoted and transferred to a lodge on the Kwando River where he managed the lodge for three years. From here, Sean led specialized birding trips as well as doing guided walks with big game. He has also done specialized birding tours in Caprivi and Botswana, the area in which he has developed a thorough understanding of the environment and especially the diverse bird life and wildlife of this region.
Dayne, the youngest, on the other hand is a qualified commercial pilot but opted to do land based safaris. He has led several coastal and desert birding tours. He has also done birding in the United States, Australia and Borneo and has travelled extensively in Southern Africa including Angola, Madagascar, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa.
Dayne and Sean grew up during their teens in the unspoiled wilderness and wildlife area of the Hobatere concession. After their studies, both boys eventually joined Steve and Louise at the Hobatere Lodge and gained invaluable experience in wildlife guiding and general hospitality trade. Both Dayne and Sean are keen photographers and have found their own niche in the photographic world within Namibia.