Trip report: Namibia & Botswana, set-departure (Sep 2015) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Ken Behrens.

Our Namibia and northern Botswana tour has long been one of our most popular, and for good reason. The Namib escarpment and desert hold a suite of endemic birds that is shared only with adjacent Angola. Farther north and east, the Okavango system holds a great wealth of birds, including two of the continent’s most wanted species: White-backed Night-Heron and Pel’s Fishing-Owl.

Although they expect the special birds, birders are often also surprised by this tour’s richness of mammals. Etosha National Park is one of Africa’s great parks, and is at its best during the late dry season timing of this tour. The spectacle of thousands of big mammals crowding together for precious mouthfuls of water while trying to avoid the big predators that await in ambush, ranks among Earth’s great natural spectacles.

But the real thing that makes tours in Namibia and Botswana special is not the specific birds and mammals that these countries hold, but rather a magical quality to the landscapes of this part of the world. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to travel through this vast, wild, and largely “empty” country, but every visitor comes away with a special experience. Indeed, the landscape itself seems to be the most fascinating “character” encountered on this tour, and memories of sunset in the Namib Desert or the endless papyrus swamps of the Okavango, are likely to stay with you for a lifetime.

On this tour, we recorded 363 species of birds, including all of the Namibian near-endemics, plus Pel’s Fishing-Owl, Marsh Owl, White-backed Night-Heron, African Skimmer, Orange River Francolin, Slaty Egret, and Rufous-bellied Heron. We also racked up 47 species of mammals including Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, and Black Rhino. We didn’t neglect reptiles either, and identified 14 species, including both Rock and Water Monitors and some huge Nile Crocodiles.

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