Namibia, Botswana & Victoria Falls

  1. 2019
    Saturday, November 2, 2019 to Tuesday, November 19, 2019
    Tour Duration: 
    18 days
    Tour Price:
     $10,250 CAD, $7,865 USD
    Single Supplement:
     $1,580 CAD, $1,210 USD
    Tour Starts/Ends: 
    Walvis Bay / Livingstone
    Number of Persons Limit: 
    9
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Highlights

• Visit Namib Desert with its amazing sand dunes

• Etosha National Park - famous for its elephants, rhinoceros, oryx and kudus

• Wildlife viewing in Okavanga Delta in Botswana and Mahango Game Reserve

• View the spectacular Victoria Falls

• Expect 350 - 400 species of birds, 35 - 45 species of mammals 

 

Overview

Amazing diversity of wildlife awaits us on this special Namibia and Botswana birding tour to southwestern Africa. The starkly beautiful Namib Desert with its amazing sand dunes and infamous Skeleton Coast and surrounding inselbergs are home to a surprising amount of wildlife – larks, coursers, koorhans, Lanner Falcons and more, as well as the near-endemic Herrero Chat at dramatic Spitzkoppe.

Coastal wetlands host thousands of breeding and migratory birds - Greater and Lesser Flamingos, pelicans, herons, waterfowl, thousands of shorebirds including Chestnut-banded Plover, and several gulls and terns including the scarce Damara Tern.

The Erongo Mountains are a delightful area, where Rosy-faced Lovebirds, Monteiro’s Hornbills, Rockrunner and Hartlaub’s Francolins grace the rocky environment. We 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 targets Cinderella Waxbill, Rufous-tailed Palm-thrush, Grey Kestrel and other sought-after birds. Etosha National Park is internationally famous for its herbivores and the predators that stalk them, from elephants, rhinoceros, oryx, and kudus to lions and leopards. Here, we can find spectacular Kalahari birds such as Crimson-breasted Shrike, Kori Bustard, Pygmy Falcon and a host of others.

The Okavango River supports many riverine species including many kingfishers and Rock Pratincole, and we dip down into world famous Okavanga Delta in Botswana for two days of wonderful wildlife viewing, including the highly sought-after Pel’s Fishing-Owl. Mahango Game Reserve and the Caprivi Strip are exceptionally bird-rich, and spectacular Victoria Falls in Zambia are a fitting finale to this marvelous tour.

You can combine this tour with our South Africa: The Cape and South Africa: The Subtropics tours.

 

Itinerary View Short Itinerary

Day 1.  Arrival in Walvis Bay, Dune Lark, and Walvis Bay Lagoon

 Your Namibia and Botswana birding tour begins with your arrival in Walvis Bay. After collecting the luggage and fetching a 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 Flamingos, Great White Pelican, and some extremely localized species such as the diminutive Damara Tern and Chestnut-banded Plover.
Overnight: Lagoon Lodge, Walvis Bay

Day 2Birding around Walvis Bay

 We can join an optional dolphin, seal, whale, and seabird boat trip on the Walvis Bay Lagoon (at an additional cost of R750), 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. Cape fur seals may also be seen on the boat trip, and with luck perhaps an ocean sunfish or a leatherback turtle. Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Great White Pelican, White-chinned Petrel, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Cape GannetBlack Oystercatcher, 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.
Overnight: Lagoon Loge, Walvis Bay

Day 3Birding the Spitzkoppe

 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 HornbillBradfield’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, where we will spend two nights.
Overnight: Huab Lodge, Kamanjab

Day 4Birding the Namib Escarpment

 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.
Overnight: Huab Lodge, Kamanjab

Days 5-6Birding the Ruacana district

 Today we continue further northwards to one of the most remote parts of Namibia, the Ruacana district, where we hope to find the spectacularly localized Cinderella Waxbill along with other specials such as Rufous-tailed Palm ThrushGrey KestrelBat Hawk, and a host of others. Our lodge for tonight and the next is the isolated, peaceful, and stunning Kunene River 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 WoodpeckerRufous-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: KuneneRiver Lodge, Opuwo

Day 7. Birding Etosha National Park

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. This is one of Africa’s truly great game parks, and here we expect to find a plethora of Kalahari birds as well as many big mammals as a byproduct 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 major rest camps has a floodlit waterhole, offering spectacular wildlife viewing at night. Double-banded Sandgrouse (which drinks at night), nightjars, and Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl are quite easy to observe at these waterholes.
Overnight: Dolomite Camp, Western Etosha

Day 8.  Birding Etosha National Park 

 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: Okuekuejo Camp, Etosha

Day 9.  Birding Etosha National Park 

 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.

Day 10Transfer to and birding at Rundu

 After some final birding in Etosha we will depart for Rundu, the gateway to one of Africa’s greatest wildlife havens – the Caprivi Strip and Okavango Panhandle. The well-developed woodland around Rundu hosts such important species as Rufous-bellied Tit, Red-headed Weaver, Green-capped Eremomela, Common Scimitarbill, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Black Cuckooshrike, 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, African Pygmy Goose, African Jacana, Lesser Jacana, Swamp Boubou, and a whole host of other desirable species.
Overnight: Hakusembe River Lodge, Rundu

Day 11Birding the western Caprivi Strip

 Today we continue eastwards into the heart of the Caprivi Strip, finding exciting tropical bird species along the way. We will overnight near Mahango National Park, 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!).
Overnight: Ndovhu Safari Lodge, Divundu

Day 12Birding Mahango National Park and the Okavango Panhandle

 We will start early and spend most of the day birding the absolutely phenomenal Mahango National Park. 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 HeronSlaty EgretWattled Crane,  Southern Carmine Bee-eaterLizard BuzzardWestern Banded Snake EagleBrown Firefinch, Retz’s HelmetshrikeChirping Cisticola, Luapula CisticolaGreater Swamp Warbler, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Southern Brown-throated WeaverGolden Weaver, Greater Painted-snipe, and many others are relatively easy to find in these magnificent swamps.Overnight: Xaro Lodge, Shakawe, Botswana

Day 13Birding the Okavango Panhandle

 Today we will continue birding in the swamps, both on foot and by boat.
Overnight: Xaro Lodge, Shakawe, Botswana

Day 14Birding the eastern 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. Our next luxurious lodge is located on an island in the Kwando River
Overnight: Mazambala Island Lodge, Kongola

Day 15Birding the eastern Caprivi Strip

 We will spend another full day in this splendid and exciting birding area.
Overnight: Mazambala Island Lodge, Kongola

Days 16-17. Into Zambia and birding Victoria Falls 

 Today we will embark on a long drive and travel to one of Africa’s largest rivers, the mighty Zambezi, then enter our third country, Zambia and drive to the incredible Victoria Falls, where we spend two nights. 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: Waterberry Lodge, near Livingstone, Zambia

Day 18. Departure

 After some final birding in the Victoria Falls area our international flights will depart from Livingstone (LVI).


 

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