Trip Report – October 2014
DAY 1: We arrived in Windhoek and were met by our guide. Eager to start birding we dropped out stuff at the River Crossing Lodge, changed into our birding gear and headed straight for Avis Dam – about 5 minutes from our hotel. It was about 4pm and still very hot but we started to enjoy life birds straight away. Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Bradfield’s Swift, Acacia Pied Barbet and Gabar Goshawk, Black-chested Prinia, Pririt Batis, Mountain Wheatear and Dusky Sunbird, to name a few.
On the way back up the road to the lodge we were surprised by great views of Orange-River Francolin as they meandered across the road. A good start to the trip. Stayed at River Crossing Lodge.
DAY 2: Early start, heading back to Avis Dam to try for Rockrunner. It was rather elusive but we finally managed some good views of it and
got a number of other species in the process including:- Crimson-breasted Shrike, Red-bill Spurfowl, Red-headed Finch, Blue, Common and Black-faced Waxbill and Cape, Golden-breasted and Cinnamon-Breasted Buntings. Back to the lodge while our guide fixed a flat tire ( a common occurrence here!) and then off for the drive to Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert. A quick stop at the small private airfield in Windhoek wasn’t overly productive but we did add Scaly-feathered Finch.
The drive was quite long and not overly productive until we got closer to Solitaire where we were staying – in all it provided 8 life birds for us which was great. Pale-chanting Goshawk, Greater Kestrel, Ruppell’s Korhaan, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Sabota Lark, Kalahari Scrub-Robin and Chat Flycatcher.
Stayed at Agami River Crossing Lodge. Don’t be fooled there is no water in the river here most of the year! (2nd flat tire of the trip just as we pulled into the lodge!)
DAY 3: An early start to bird our way down to the Sossusvlei Park. Stark’s Lark, Ludwig’s Bustard, Red-necked Falcon and Ostrich all showed up as we stopped along the way, enjoying the sunrise over the desert .Shortly after entering the park itself our guide turned right and headed for some transitional dunes that have a fair bit of vegetation on them – spectacular with the red sand and the green vegetation. A pair of Secretary birds strolled by us and then we hiked up one fo the dunes to search for Dune Lark. We were lucky because one arrive very quickly and so we were able to invest more time searching the trees at the base of the dunes for Spotted Eagle Owl. We persevered and just as we were about to give up we found one. That enabled us to enjoy our packed breakfast under the trees in the stunning location.
A drive through the park to the actual Sossusvlei itself was not very productive as the rains had not yet come and it was incredibly dry, but the scenery was spectacular. After lunch at the campground by the park entrance we drove back to Agami River Lodge for a snooze before dinner.
DAY 4: We left after a coffee and headed towards Spreetshoogte Pass on the trail of the Karoo Long-billed Lark. On the way we enjoyed Grey-backed Sparrow-lark, Pygmy falcon, Ashy Tit and Lark-like Bunting. Tried play-back for the lark in several places and finally one popped up right in front of us, which was great. That enabled us to continue on for the long and dusty drive to Swakopmund.
Checked into our lodge and then went for lunch at a restaurant in town (22 Degrees) before our guide took us to a spot for both Gray’s Lark and then Tractrac Chat – we found both of them quite easily, which was amazing and allowed us to start looking at the shorebirds all along the coast line. Nothing wildly exciting, all the usual, but there is an impressive number of both Greater and Lessor Flamingos breeding here which are always wonderful to see.
Took ourselves to dinner in town at the Kucki’s Pub before a great night’s sleep at Sandfield’s Guesthouse.
DAY 5: Today is about shorebirds and the Damara Tern. There are great salt pans south of Swakopmund at Walvis bay. Derek (my husband) is a shore bird fanatic so he was in heaven.
Nothing new for us except the Damara Tern but our guide was very excited when we identified a Common Redshank and Red-necked Phalarope!
An afternoon wander around the gardens near our B&B produced Orange-River White-eye for us and then another good night at Sandfield’s Guest House after dinner back at Kucki’s.
DAY 6: We headed out with a packed breakfast, aiming for the camp grounds as Spitzkoppe with some specific targets. The first one was found easily as we turned left off the main road toward Spitskoppe – Karoo Chat. We also found a Northern Black Korhaan before continuing on.
Checking in with the people at the camp sight we then drove up to the area around campsite 10 – what a stunning area! There were a number
of birds around, nothing new for us but a lovely spot to enjoy. Within minutes of leaving the car our target species appeared – Herero Chat! What a find – we were very happy! Ate our packed breakfast in the company of some Cape Glossy Starlings before continuing on our way. White-tailed Shrike flew into a tree as we were leaving.
We checked into our lodge in Omararu (bit of a dump!) and sat doing our bird list and journal under the trees until the day started to cool. A late afternoon walk around the area provided Ruppell’s Parrot and Damara Hornbill. Stayed at Omaruru Guesthouse.
DAY 7: The plan this morning was to go for Hartlaub’s Francolin before breakfast but the usual spot was not productive so we returned to the guesthouse with only Ground-scraper Thrush new for the trip. Did manage to see Violet-Woodhoopoe in the garden when we returned.
Then off to Twyfelfontein. Stopped to see the ancient rock engravings of the bushmen at the World Heritage Site just before getting to our lodge. It was worth the visit, although it was getting very hot. We arrived at our next lodge – Twyfelfontein Country Lodge and enjoyed a lazy afternoon on the deck.
DAY 8: After breakfast we drove out of the lodge and stopped at the camp sight about 10 kms down the road to see Southern Pied Babbler before starting our drive toward Etosha.
Stopped at the Petrified Forest for a quick look around and then focused on our target species Benguela Long-billed Lark. We didn’t see any sign of them but we were close to leaving their area so we hopped out and tried playback and it appeared!! Another hour or so on we found Southern White Crowned Shrike, Pearl Breasted Swallow and Wattled Starling. Stopped for lunch in Karamjab at the Okki Koppi restaurant watching the most amazing lizards.
About 20 kms further on we pulled off the main road toward our lodge and enjoyed some good birding despite the heat – Ant-Eating Chat,
Eastern Clapper Lark, Banded Martin, Southern Red-Billed Hornbill and Red-crested Korhaan were the stars. Rustig Toko Lodge was our spot for the night.
DAY 9: At dinner the night before the owner of the lodge had told us about a location for Hartlaub’s Francolin so we headed out before breakfast and had success as soon as we got out of the car! You just can’t beat local knowledge! So back for breakfast and then a long drive up to the Kunene River – with a stop for lunch in Opuwe. Not a great deal of birding before Opuwe but after that we managed a few new birds:- Meve’s Starling, White-crowned Helmet Shrike, Olive (Madagascar) Bee-eater and Rattling Cisticola. Arrived at the lodge in time to enjoy beers on the deck and finally it is a river with water in it!! Kunene River Lodge.
DAY 10: Today the owner of the lodge, Peter, got us up really early to drive about 1.5 hours to see Angola Cave Chat. We set off before it was light and headed into the bush to the base of the Zebra Mountains. it took us several hours but we enjoyed amazing views of the birds after a couple of hours of clambering around on the rocky slopes.Then a quick breakfast by the truck (before the mopane flies ate us!) and a more leisurely drive back, stopping for birds in areas Peter knew. This produced some good birds, 8 of which were new for the holiday and 5 were life birds :- Cinderella Waxbill, Violet-eared Waxbill, Black-throated Canary, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Golden Weaver and Chestnut Weaver.
I should also mention that we had the privilege of driving through an Himba Village, not one that has been commercialized in a tacky way but a genuine village – it was a very humbling experience!
In the afternoon we just birded the grounds of the lodge and managed to find Rufus-tailed Palm Thrush, Red-Necked Francolin and Swamp
Boubou. Kunene River Lodge.
DAY 11: Off today to reach the gates of Etosha which is quite a long drive so nothing much happening on the birding front. We had decided to spoil ourselves at a fancy lodge and wanted to get there early to enjoy it!! The lodge only had 14 rooms and a deck overlooking a water hole which we watched while having dinner. It gave us great views of both black and white rhino – the black providing quite a show as they parried back and forth.
DAY 12: Had a more relaxed morning in order to enjoy the lodge and had breakfast back overlooking the waterhole. Then headed into Etosha – we have chosen to come at the end of the dry season so that wildlife is pushed to the waterholes for better viewing and we weren’t disappointed. Our first stop was Okaukuejo water hole which provided lots of wildlife plus new birds for the trip, Burchell’s Starling, Red-capped Lark and Shaft-tailed Whydah.
The remainder of the day was spent going from one waterhole to another – elephants, lions, zebra and hundreds of different antelope were around – the wildlife was quite spectacular. The birding also produced several life birds for us :- Spike-heeled lark, Desert Cisticola, Fawn-colored Lark, and Buffy Pipit. Halali Rest Camp.
DAY 13: A repeat of yesterday really, with the exception of 2 great birds in the rest camps – African Cuckoo at Okaukeujo and African Scops Owl at Halali (ask the security guards they know where they are roosting.) Other than that, our only life bird for today was Pink-billed Lark, which was much trickier than we expected and finally located by the small airport near Okaukeujo. Halahi Rest Camp
DAY 14: Moved onto Namutoni Rest Camp but the birding today was disappointing – nothing new – time to move on from Etosha! Namutoni Rest Camp.
DAY 15: Much of today was about getting up to Rundu and the Kovango River. First stop in Rundu was the sewage works where we added a
number of the expected species for the trip (Pied Kingfisher, Magpie Shrike, Black Crake, Red-knobbed Coot etc) and one life bird – Coppery-tailed Coucal. Then to the grounds of the lodge to bird from the deck – Hartlaub’s Babbler, Spectacled Weaver, Black-crowned Night Heron and Jamieson’s Firefinch. Kaisosi River Lodge.
DAY 16 : After a quick walk around the grounds and breakfast on the deck,we birded the road out of the lodge and started with a life bird – Black-winged Pratincole. Then we drove onto Popa Falls. They have built a lodge there so it is quite difficult to get into the correct area but we worked at it and found Rock Pratincole. The area was quite birdy and we managed a number of new birds for the trip – Terrestrial Brownbul, Chinspot Batis, Black-collared Barbet and both Collared & Purple Banded Sunbirds. (It was also a nice spot for lunch.)
Onto Mahango and the start of the Caprivi Strip. The park, also on the Kavango River, was very productive with a ton of new birds for the trip and 4 life birds: African Skimmer, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Long-toed Lapwing and Southern Carmine Bee-eater. Stayed at the Mahango Safari Lodge, listening to the hippos outside our room!
DAY 17: An early morning boat ride from the lodge provided some great birds:- White-backed Heron, Giant Kingfisher, Sacred ibis, Whiskered tern to name a few.The grounds of the lodge also produced Brown Firefinch and an African Wood owl! We headed back into the park after breakfast but didn’t find anything new. The best part of the day,however, was a late afternoon walk with a guide from the Lodge, Bonniface.
He took us to a great area near his village where we found Slaty Egret, Meyer’s Parrot, Luapula Cisticola and Flappet Lark. He was great find – look him up if you are there. Mahango Safari Lodge.
DAY 17: We drove through the Caprivi Strip to Katima Mullilo without really stopping – which was a bit disappointing but our guide didn’t
really seem to have a plan as to where to find the birds!!! Ended up at our next lodge by lunchtime! Luckily the grounds of the lodge were quite productive, with 3 lifebirds, Broad-billed Roller, Schalow’s Turacao and White-fronted Bee-eater, as soon as we got there. Then an afternoon walk with the lodge owner to a great wetland gave us 3 more:- Rufus-bellied Heron, African Pygmy-goose and, amazingly enough, Olive-tree Warbler plus Ground Hornbill and Tawny Flanked Prinia. Caprivi Houseboat Lodge.
DAY 18: An early morning boat -ride delivered African Finfoot which was our main target species, so although there wasn’t’ much else it was worth it. Then a walk around the grounds of the lodge provided Klaas’ Cuckoo, Trumpeter Hornbill, Crested Barbet & Southern Brown-throated Weaver.
Another afternoon walk with the owner wasn’t overly productive but we added Black-bellied Bustard and Fiery-necked Nightjar on the road as we returned. Caprivi Houseboat Lodge.
DAY 19:A brief drive took us into Botswana – where we got African Barred Owlet in the baobab tree right at the border crossing!! and then within minutes of driving into the Chobe National Park we found a Coqui Francolin just wandering beside the road.. Good start for Botswana.
When we arrived at the lodge we birded the grounds and found Black Cuckoo, Lesser Honeyguide and a number of other species we had already seen – the grounds were being watered so it was quite active despite the heat.
An evening game drive produced some amazing views of elephants rolling in the mud by the Chobe River which was spectacular. We had arranged our activities to be private so we could focus on the birds although our only new species for the trip were Pearl-spotted Owlet, Plain-backed Pipit and Glossy Ibis. Chobe Safari Lodge.
DAY 20: An early morning boat trip gave us interesting views of many of the species we had already seen because we were now at eye level with them. It also added a life bird – Caspian Plover – and a few new species for the trip:-Rosy-throated Longlaw, Malachite Kingfisher and African Reed-Warbler. Then a lazy day before heading out on our 2nd game drive. Once again the elephants stole the show (nearly 700 of them!!) but we also had views of both leopard and lion. The birding produced nothing new but we did have our 3rd flat tire of the trip in the middle of the elephant herd!
DAY 21: Another early morning boat trip and the focus was to try for some of the reed warblers but they were not co-operating so we just enjoyed the lower temperatures on the water.
Then onto Zambia today – it is quite challenging getting vehicles through the border but we were met by the manager from the next lodge who escorted us through in 1.5 hours!!! The grounds at the lodge delivered African Green Pigeon, Village Weaver and Black headed Oriole before we had finished checking in. After lunch we were joined by a local bird guide ( Cuba) who took us the Livingston sewage works. This was very active and we had 2 life birds:- Abdim’s Stork and African Rail and tons of more common species we have already seen.
DAY 22: Today our local guide (Cuba) took us to his village and showed us some amazing birds. Chirping Cisticola, Collared Palm Thrush, Red-chested Flufftail, Half-collared Kingfisher and Bradfiels Hornbill were all new and African Broadbill which was a life bird for our guide, Vernon. Then, after a brief visit to Victoria Falls (disappointing because it is dry season) we drove about 20 kms to the Taita Falcon Lodge where playback immediately produced Mocking Cliff Chat – and a great view while enjoying lunch, An evening boat trip didn’t provide anything new but the temperatures were in the 40’s so we were happy to enjoy a beer on the water.
DAY 23: Our last morning and Cuba took us to the Miomba forest and the entrance to the lodge road. We weren’t expecting anything new so were lpeasantly surprised to get 3 life birds :-Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Green-capped Eromomela and Cabani’s Bunting. A great way to end our trip. Now for the long trip home!!!
This was about the only trip we have taken where neither of us got sick – which I think is a good sign! We found the infrastructure surprisingly good – although many of the roads are dirt roads. Food was excellent everywhere and there were ATMs and gas stations regularly.
We had a bird guide with us at all times but it would have been fairly easy to find our way around with out him – although the distances are quite considerable.
Temperatures varied from about 8C at Walvis Bay to 40C++ in Livingston!
River Crossing Lodge – Windhoek
Agama River Camp – Solitaire
Sandfield Guesthouse – Swakopmund
Omaruru Guest House – Omaruru
Twyfelfontein Country Lodge – Twyfelfontein
Rustig Toko Lodge – near Kamanjab
Kunene River Lodge – near Rucana
Ongavo Lodge – Etosha
Halali Resort – Etosha
Namutoni Resort – Etosha
Kaisosi River Lodge – Rundu
Mahuanga Lodge – near Divundu
Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge – Katima Mullilo
Chobe Safari Lodge – Kasane
Camp Nkwazi – near Livingstone
Guides & Resources
Guides – Safari Wise were our guides for the whole time – Not recommended
Field Guides – The Birds of Southern Africa – Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey, Warwick Tarboton & Peter Ryan
Lonely Planet Guide