Namibia, Botswana & Zambia 2016 - Etosha to Okavango & Beyond!
Thursday 13th October – Sunday 30th October 2016
The continent of Africa affords the travelling birder a huge variety of amazingly exciting tours and our combined Namibia, Botswana and Zambia tour offers one of the best African Safari and birding experiences available. With desirable mammals such as Lion, Leopard and Cheetah present, as well as a number of endemic and near-endemic birds including species such as Rockrunner, White-tailed Shrike, African Skimmer and Pel's Fishing Owl, and you have the perfect destination for an easy birding and mammal-watching holiday. This brand new ZOOTHERA tour visits some of the most famous wildlife watching areas on the whole continent of Africa. We begin in Namibia by visiting the dramatic scenery of Waterberg Plateau Park with its rich, near-endemic birdlife before heading to Etosha National Park, which is quite rightly known as Namibia's premiere wildlife destination with its numerous birds and features some of the most exciting mammal watching on the planet. Covering 22,270 square kilometres Etosha is one of Africa’s finest and most dramatic national parks, and epitomises all those wonderful wildlife films we marvel at on television. Anyone with a love of nature should visit here at least once in their lives to witness the spectacle of its numerous birds and game. The woodland, marshes and swamps of the Caprivi Strip in north-east Namibia is next, before we spend a few nights along the Okavango Panhandle and Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana where we will explore the area by boat and game drive, before reaching the stunning Victoria Falls in Zambia. With good roads, perfectly located lodges, excellent food, stunning scenery and fantastic wildlife this holiday will deliver the ultimate African experience.
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DAYS 1 - 2 UK – Windhoek - Sun Karros (Daan Viljoen Park) - 13th to 14th Oct
Following an overnight flight from UK to Windhoek via Johannesburg, our birding will begin almost immediately after dropping our bags in the vehicle! Some of the commoner species to be seen on leaving the airport should include Namaqua Dove, South African Cliff Swallows, Rock Martin, Little and White-rumped Swifts, Cape Wagtail, African Pipit, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Glossy Starling and many others. We will then go to our hotel and check-in and later in the day, we will do a pleasant bird walk along the local dam where we hope to find some very good localised South African endemic or near-endemic species such as South African Shelduck, Acacia Pied Barbet, Ruppell’s Parrot, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Bradfield's Swift, Rockrunner, White-backed Mousebird, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler and Southern Masked Weaver. Other more widespread species could include Gabar Goshawk, Reed Cormorant, Black-headed Heron, Egyptian Goose, Hottentot Teal, Red-knobbed Coot, Three-banded Plover, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Southern Red-billed Hornbill, White-throated and Greater Striped Swallows, Short-toed Rock-thrush, Southern Red Bishop, Red-billed Quelea, Yellow Canary, White-browed Sparrow-weaver and a fine trio of Pin-tailed, Shaft-tailed and Long-tailed Whydahs. We may also see our first Chacma Babboons and Warthogs as well. Night at Sun Karros, Daan Viljoen, Windhoek.
DAY 3 Windhoek - Waterberg Plateau Park
Before breakfast, we will do a leasurely bird walk before setting off towards Waterberg Plateau Park. Rising almost 200 metres above the surrounding African bush, the Waterberg Plateau with its dramatic brick-red sandstone formations and thick green vegetation forms an island of colour above the flat acacia covered plains. The park covers 405 square kilometres and was originally created in 1972 as a haven for several rare and endangered species of the Caprivi region of Namibia such as Cape Buffalo, Sable and Roan Antelopes and Tsessebe. We will stay at Waterberg Park for one night and it is a good spot to try and locate most of Namibia’s near-endemic bird species such as Ruppells’ Parrot, Violet Wood-hoopoe, Carp’s Black Tit, Damara Rockrunner and Hartlaub’s Francolin. There’s a whole range of good birding around this area with such delights as Cape Vulture, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Bradfield’s, Southern Yellow-billed, Damara and African Grey Hornbills, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Klaas’s, Diederik, Black, Great-spotted, Levaillant’s, African and European Cuckoo, Short-toed Rock-thrush, Ashy Tit, Bleating Warbler and Cape Penduline-tit. As dusk approaches we could even see Orange River Francolin, Honey Badger or a Porcupine coming in to drink at some small pools, whilst a night walk could reveal Freckled Nightjar or Lesser Galago (Bushbaby). This is a great place to search for wildlife and will make a superb start to our tour. Night at Waterberg Plateau Park Resort.
DAYS 4 - 5 Waterberg Park - Okaukuejo (Etosha National Park)
We will rise up early next morning in search of such of any localized species we still need here, such as the delightful White-tailed Shrike or Damara Rockrunner. Mammals present include Banded, Slender and Dwarf Mongooses, Damara Dik-dik, Chacma Baboon and Rock Hyrax. After breakfast we will move towards the world-renowned Etosha National Park, covering 22,270 square kilometres and is one of Africa’s finest and most dramatic national parks. The word 'Etosha' means "big white place", which refers to the great Etosha Pan that dominates the centre of the park. The pan is simply the floor of a large, shallow inland lake, one hundred kilometres long by fifty-six kilometres wide, which long ago dried up. The rest of the park comprises gravel beds, open grassland, savannah, thorn thicket and mixed woodland, and during our stay here we will visit all the major habitats. Water-holes can be found all over the park and it is at these that we will concentrate our efforts to look for Elephant, Giraffe, Greater Kudu, Burchell’s Zebra, Leopard, Lion, Hyena, antelopes and even the rare Black Rhino. Cheetahs are also possible, and out on the open plains we may find herds of Springbok, Gemsbok and Blue Wildebeest, alongside Black-backed Jackal, Warthog, Red Hartebeest and the tiny Damara Dik-Dik. This is a very exciting area as there are just so many birds to get out of the vehicles for, especially raptors, and we may well see White-backed, White-headed and Lappet-faced Vultures, Bateleur, Brown Snake-Eagle, Tawny and Martial Eagles, African Hawk-eagle, Pygmy Falcon and many more - in fact 35 species have been recorded here! The journey to Etosha could also produce Namaqua Sandgrouse, Sabota and Stark's Larks, Southern Pied Babbler, Long-billed Crombec, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Kalahari Scrub-robin, Southern Anteater-chat, Long-billed Pipit and Scaly-feathered Finch.
By late afternoon we should have reached Okaukuejo Resort in Etosha where we will spend the next two nights. We will focus our birding and mammal watching around the numeous wateholes here and at this time of year they attract a huge variety of wildlife. At times the waterhole at Okaukuejo is regarded as the best waterhole in the world to view large mammals ranging from Elephants and Lions, to the endangered Black Rhino and many more antelope species such as Greater Kudu and Red Hartebeast. Whilst Rufous-cheeked Nightjars, hundreds of Double-banded Sandgrouse and Spotted Thick-knees are also present. At night the area is illuminated and we can sit quietly watching a variety of animals at close quarters in what is a rather unique experience. Birding possibilities near our accommodation also include Red-necked Spurfowl, Little Sparrowhawk, Black Cuckoo, Common Scimitarbill, Capped Wheatear, Black-backed Puffback, Brubru, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Red-billed Buffalo-weaver and Chestnut Weaver.
Amongst an astonishing array of 340 other bird species recorded we will be looking for Common Ostrich, Blue Crane, Kori Bustard, Swainson's Spurfowl, Red-crested and Northern Black Korhaans, White-backed Duck, Cape and Red-billed Teals, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Double-banded Courser, Crowned Lapwing, Spotted Thick-knee, Secretarybird, Spotted Eagle-owl, Meyer’s Parrot, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Sabota, Spike-heeled, Pink-billed, Red-capped and Eastern Clapper Larks, Violet Wood-hoopoe, Southern White-crowned, Crimson-breasted, Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes, White-crested Helmetshrike, Black-faced and Southern Pied Babblers, Wattled Starling, Long-billed and Grassveld Pipits, Desert and Rattling Cisticolas, Marico, Scarlet-chested and White-bellied Sunbirds, Melba and Scaly-feathered Finch, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Carp’s Black Tit, Sociable, Lesser Masked and Chestnut Weavers, Violet-eared and Blue Waxbills, Lark-like Bunting, Golden-breasted Bunting, Black-throated Canary, and both Paradise and Shaft-tailed Whydahs. Our time spent in this park will be very special and there will be wonderful opportunities for photography, as well as being able to take our time to watch the wildlife and fully appreciate Etosha in all its glory.
DAYS 6 - 7 Okaukuejo - Halali - Mokuti Lodge
After spending some time birding around the area we will set off towards the middle camp at Halali, which is good for Harlequin Quail, Swainson's and Red-billed Francolins, Helmeted Guineafowl, Greater Kestrel, African and White-faced Scops-owls, Chat Flycatcher, Violet Wood-hoopoe, Sharp-billed Honeyguide, Chat Flycatcher, Bare-cheeked and Southern Pied Babblers, White-crested Helmet-shrike, Pirit Batis, Barred and Rufous-eared Warblers, flocks of Red-billed Quelea, Grey-backed Sparrow-lark and many other species.
After lunch, we will drive to our next accommodation at Mokuti Lodge, which is situated just outside the park and is our base for the next two nights. From here we will be exploring the eastern side of Etosha, a very good area to see Leopards and also very good for sightings of Giraffes drinking at waterholes. Early morning we enter the park and late in the morning we will return to the lodge for lunch and an afternoon 'siesta' before re-entering the park mid-afternoon for another game and birdwatching drive. This area might also produce species such as Crested Francolin, Swainson's Spurfowl, Kori Bustard, Red-crested and Northern Black Korhaan, the often elusive Burchell's Sandgrouse, Verreaux's Eagle-owl, Lappet-faced Vulture, Red-necked Falcon, Temminck’s Courser, White-browed Scrub-robin, Southern Fiscal, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Yellow-breasted Apalis, African Wren-warbler, the localised Black-faced Babbler, Long-tailed Paradise-whydah, Great Rufous Sparrow, as well as having good chances of Secretarybird, and the much-wanted Blue Crane. During our time in and around Etosha National Park we will see a good selection of other mammals and possibilities include Red Hartebeest, Steenbok, Impala, Kudu, Damara Dik-Dik, Warthog, Black-backed Jackal, African Wildcat, Honey Badger, Porcupine, Spotted Hyena, and in fact anything is possible! Nights at Mokuti Lodge.
DAY 8 Mokuti Lodge - Caprivi Strip - Rundu
Today will see us off to the far north–eastern corner of Namibia, where we stay at Rundu on the western end of the Caprivi Strip, a narrow finger of Namibia bordered by Botswana to the south and Angola to the north. The habitat changes dramatically here and the trees are much taller as we are on the banks of the Okavango River and the mosaic of pristine riverine forest and swamps will introduce an array of totally new birds to us. Along the way to Nkwazi we will stop a few times to try and locate a few specialties, such as Rufous-bellied Tit, Green-capped Eremomela, White-breasted Cuckoo-shrike and Cut-throat Finch.
Upon reaching Nkwazi Lodge, which is situated beside the Okavango River we will check out areas for Swamp Boubou, Kurrichane Thrush, Arrow-marked and Hartlaub's Babblers, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Little Rush and Cape Reed Warblers, Red-headed Weaver, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Dark-capped and Yellow-bellied Bulbuls and Brown Firefinch. Many waterbirds and other common species are usually visible such as Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, Purple Swamphen, African Rail, Black Crake, African Jacana, African Snipe, Water Thick-knee and Malachite Kingfisher. We could also find Red-billed Francolin, African Cuckoo-Hawk, Temminck's Courser, Marsh Owl, African Barred Owlet, Fiery-necked and Square-tailed Nightjars, Emerald-spotted Wood-dove, Golden-tailed, Cardinal and Bearded Woodpeckers, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Lesser Honeyguide, the tricky Brown-backed Honeybird, Mosque Swallow, Grey Penduline-tit, Violet-backed and Burchell's Starlings, Amethyst Sunbird and Spectacled Weaver. Later in the afternoon we might see hundreds of cormorants, night-herons and egrets following the waterways onto their roosting spots for the evening.
This will be a very special night at Nkwazi lodge, as our host cooks up an amazing farmers style cuisine served on a buffet that surrounds a fire burned oven, and the local staff might give us a great African singing and dancing performance as well. Night at Nkwazi Lodge.
DAYS 9 - 10 Nkwazi Lodge - Lawdon's Lodge, Okavango Panhandle, Botswana
After an early start we will drive eastwards through large expanses of open woodland and visit the popular Poppa Falls along the Okavango River where we might be lucky with Rock Pratincole or the skulking Terrestrial Brownbul. There is also African Goshawk, Black-collared Barbet, White-bellied Sunbird, Rufous-bellied and Southern Black Tits and Green Woodhoopoe, whilst a great deal of luck is needed to see the very scarce Clawless Otter. We could also find Dark Chanting Goshawk, Levaillant's and Klaas's Cuckoos, Striped and Woodland Kingfishers, Red-breasted Swallow, Black-headed Orioles, Neddicky, Yellow White-eye, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Black Cuckooshrike, Green-capped Eremomela and Red-headed Weaver. Leaving here we will head to our next destination of Lawdon’s Lodge, situated on the western panhandle of the Okavango Delta, near Shakawe in the north-western corner of Botswana. It is one of the original lodges in the country and especially popular amongst wildlife enthusiasts. The papyrus lined channels and lush vegetation of the river make Lawdon’s Lodge a haven for wildlife and we will be on the lookout for hippos and crocs in the Okavango River.
Birds to look out for in the vicinity of Lawdon’s Lodge include Slaty Egret, African Pygmy Goose, Yellow-billed Kite, Brown Snake-Eagle, Martial, Wahlberg’s and Tawny Eagles, Bateleur, Shikra, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Steppe Buzzard, African Green-pigeon, Red billed, Southern Yellow-billed and Bradfield’s Hornbills, Crested Barbet, African Golden Oriole, Rufous-crowned and Lilac-breasted Rollers, Pied Kingfisher, Southern Carmine, Little and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Narina Trogon, Lesser-striped and Grey-rumped Swallows, Magpie, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, Retz's Helmetshrike, Collared Sunbird, Red-faced Mousebird, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Greater and Lesser Swamp Warblers, Grey Go-away-bird, Red Bishop, Spectacled, Thick-billed, Southern Brown-throated and Golden Weavers and Violet-eared Waxbill. But the real reason we are staying here is that this is one of the best places to spot the gigantic Pel’s Fishing Owl, and we will make a special effort to find this most-wanted prize. Nights at Lawdon’s Lodge.
DAYS 11 - 12 Lawdon's Lodge - Mahango Safari Lodge (Namibia)
This morning after breakfast we continue on to Mahango Safari Lodge for a 2-night stay. The Mahango Safari Lodge lies just 5 kilometres from the Mahango National Park in the western Caprivi region of north-east Namibia. This thatched lodge is built amongst jackalberry trees and wild date palms. We will explore the area by taking game drives to Mahango National Park and to the West Caprivi National Park and by boat on the Okavango River, which is a birders paradise. Birds to look out for during our time here include Swainson's Francolin, African Pygmy Goose, African Openbill, Goliath Heron, Saddle-billed and Yellow-billed Storks, Sacred Ibis, the rare Slaty Egret, the scarce White-backed Night-heron, African Fish Eagle, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Long-toed Plover, African Skimmer, Giant Kingfisher, White-browed Coucal, Crested Barbet, Bradfield's Hornbill, Broad-billed Roller, White-fronted and Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, Banded Martin, Grey-rumped Swallow, Black-backed Puffback, Common Scimitarbill, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike, Ashy Flycatcher, Buffy Pipit, Rufous-naped Lark, Cape Penduline-tit, White-browed Robin-chat, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Arrow-marked Babbler, Chirping and Tinkling Cisticolas, Greater Swamp Warbler, Red-faced Mousebird, Meve's and Violet-backed Starlings, Brown Firefinch, Blue Waxbill and Green-winged Pytilia, whilst the Angolan specialty Sharp-tailed Starling sometimes puts in an appearance. Mahango Park also marks the western-most limit of several Okavango specialities including the stately Wattled Crane, Lesser Jacana and Black Coucal, and for its size has the most diverse wildlife of all the Namibian parks. This area also boasts significantly large populations of elephants, crocodiles and hippos, along with Cape Buffalo, Red Lechwe, Common Reedbuck, Tsessebe, Roan and Sable Antelopes. Nights at Mahango Safari Lodge.
DAY 13 Mahango Safari Lodge - Caprivi Strip - Katima Mulilo
After an early morning pre-breakfast bird walk, we will pack up and head further along the Caprivi Strip. Along here we must really check out for the stunning Dickinson’s Kestrel as this area will be our best hope for this elusive raptor. We will stop half way along the strip for a picnic lunch and at the same time try and locate the very difficult to spot Racket-tailed Roller. At the town of Katima Mulilo we will try and locate another great bird, Schalow’s Turaco, whilst other possibilities include Brown-hooded, Grey-headed and Striped Kingfishers. and Copper Sunbird, We will also do an afternoon and morning bird walk on the hotel premises, which should produce a whole lot more. Night at Zambezi River Lodge.
DAYS 14 - 15 Katima Mulilo - Chobe Safari Lodge (Kasane, Botswana)
This morning we must say goodbye to Namibia for the final time as we re-enter Botswana at the Ngoma crossing. From here we continue into Chobe National Park for a 2-night stay at Chobe Safari Lodge. This lodge is situated on the banks of the very popular Chobe River, which later joins up with the mighty Zambezi River. Our time here will be spent with a boat cruise on the Chobe River in search of the numerous waterfowl this area has to offer and we should also get very close up views of crocodiles and hippos. The other main activity is a game drive into the Chobe Game Reserve, where we will witness what a spectacle it is to see Elephant breeding herds of over a hundred animals at a time and not to mention huge Buffalo herds, massive Baboon troops and an array of different Antelope all congregating along the water’s edge. It’s the dry time of year and also warming up nicely then, so animals are forced to come together along the waterfront in their numbers.
Birds in this stunning area include White-faced Duck, Long-toed and Wattled Plovers, Three-banded Courser, Verreaux's Eagle Owl, flocks of vultures including the menacing Lappet-faced Vulture, African Fish Eagle, Lizard Buzzard, White-fronted Bee-eater, Southern Ground Hornbill, Greater Honeyguide, Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Rosy-throated Longclaw and chattering parties of Helmeted Guineafowl and Red-billed Spurfowl. Eagles such as Lesser Spotted, Tawny and Steppe seem to circle endlessly overhead, whilst various bee-eaters, shrikes and rollers adorn every lookout. Nights at Chobe Safari Lodge.
DAY 16 Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana - Maramba River Lodge, Zambia
After breakfast this morning we travel to Maramba River Lodge, set on bluff overlooking the Maramba River in the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. Ideally located just 4km from the wonderful Victoria Falls it provides a most attractive all-year-round base in a shaded woodland setting. Animals are numerous here and the lodge is often visited by the resident wildlife, with Elephants wandering through the grounds at certain times of the year. In the late afternoon, we will give Victoria Falls a visit and also try for the very difficult Cliff Chat, which is found on the lower cliffs. Other birds here includes Trumpeter Hornbill, Red-winged Starling, and if lucky again Schalow’s Turaco. Birds further away from the falls include African Finfoot, Spur-winged Goose, Knob-billed, White-faced and Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, African Pygmy Goose, African Green-pigeon, Half-collared Kingfisher, Narina Trogon, Collared Palm-Thrush, Magpie Shrike, Retz’s Helmetshrike, Copper Sunbird, Red-headed Weaver, Bronze Mannikin, Cutthroat, Melba Finch and Orange-winged Pytilia. Night at Maramba River Lodge.
DAYS 17 - 18 Livingstone International Airport - UK - 29th to 30th October
There may be some time for some final birding before transferring to Livingstone International Airport for our flight back to the UK (arriving the following morning) and conclusion of a very memorable and wonderful tour.
Leaders: Nick Upton and Charles Rhyn.
Ground Price: £3495.00 – Windhoek/Livingstone
Airfare: £900 - £1150 (approx) - UK/UK
Single supplement: £395.00
Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead 6 and maximum 10 with 2 leaders.
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin rooms en-suite, all meals including picnic lunches, bottled water, transport throughout, boat rides, game drives, all park entrance fees, and services of local guides and leaders.
Not included: International airfare, insurance, departure tax, camera fees, visa permits to enter Zambia, any optional extra activities, drinks, tips and items of a personal nature.
Accommodation: All hotels/lodges are of a good standard and are en-suite. The lodges at Etosha have a variety of accommodation and we do not know which type of room we will get until our arrival. We endeavour to stay in the best available accommodation close to the birding sites to cut out any unnecessary long drives before reaching the best birding areas each day.
Tour Code: This is a standard and fairly easy tour. Walking is of an easy nature but there are several long drives, although the roads are good. This is the end of the dry season, so some areas could be quite dusty. We expect most days to be warm to hot.
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Bronze-winged Courser is always a possibility...
Dusky Lark is present some years.
Lilac-breasted Roller is a common bird on this tour.
Double-banded Sandgrouse at Etosha.
Hartlaub's Francolin inhabits the Waterberg Plateau.
A scarce resident at Etosha - Rufous-eared Warbler
This male Lion came very close to our jeeps during the 2014 tour.
There is a very healthy population of Black Rhino at Etosha.
Giraffes are a common sighting at Etosha.
African Elephants love the waterholes at Etosha.
This is a good time of year to see a Leopard.....
There's a good chance of seeing Spotted Hyena.