Trip report: Namibia and Botswana custom tour (Sept 2009) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Ken Behrens. This was a custom tour that was very similar to our set-departure tour.

Namibia often flies under the radar of world travelers, particularly those from North America, despite being one of the jewels of the African continent. It offers an unprecedented combination of birds, mammals, and scenery. Its vast deserts hold special species like the sand-adapted Dune Lark and remarkable mammals like southern oryx. Rising from the desert is a rugged escarpment, whose crags and valleys shelter a range of endemics, from Herero Chat and Hartlaub’s Francolin to black mongoose. In the north lies Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s most renowned protected areas. Here, mammals can be seen in incredible concentrations, particularly towards the end of the dry season, and this park’s waterholes are one of the great spectacles to be seen on the continent. Though less obvious than the mammalian megafauna, Etosha’s birds are also spectacular, with a full range of Kalahari endemics on offer. As you travel north and east, towards the Caprivi Strip, you enter an entirely different world of water, papyrus, and broadleaf woodland. Here, hippos soak in the murky water below cliffs teeming with thousands of nesting Southern Carmine Bee-eaters. The Okavango is another of the world’s great wild places, and it seems extraordinary to experience it after walking amidst towering sand dunes just a few days before.

This trip was a custom trip that was based on Tropical Birding’s normal Namibia and Botswana itinerary. The only difference was that this trip was slightly longer, allowing 5 days in Etosha National Park, rather than the normal 3. Another difference with this trip was its focus, or perhaps I should say foci. The group consisted of keen birders, along with people of more general interests, which meant that we looked at everything – from birds and mammals to reptiles, tracks, and scat! We didn’t focus on birding to the degree that we would on a dedicated birding tour, but still managed to tally 340 species of birds, along with 50 mammal species. Most members of the group were also keen photographers, so we spent plenty of time taking photos, particularly in places like Etosha National Park, where there is something worth capturing around every bend of the road.

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