Trip report: Namibia & Botswana custom photo tour (Sept-Oct 2015) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Lisle Gwynn. This was a custom tour; the itinerary was similar to that of our set-departure Namibia Photo Journey, but also included the Okavango Panhandle of Botswana.

It has been said a hundred times or more, but Tropical Birding Custom Tours really are something special and this extended tour of Namibia and the Okavango Panhandle of Botswana was a perfect example of how these tours work. With our fantastic logistics superstars in the office and input from guides, this family group decided on a route following much the same as our standard Set Departure tour, with two additional requirements: 1) a focus on mammals and a ‘classic safari experience’, and 2) a visit to the remarkable Sossusvlei to photograph the dunes
and desert. Both of these targets were of course met, and a whole lot more seen besides, in what has to be one of the most stunning landscapes on Earth.

Starting in the modest capital city of Windhoek we first made our long wind through the startlingly parched Namib Desert to our hotel on the outskirts of Sossusvlei. We spent an evening, a full day and an additional morning in the park taking advantage of the literally endless opportunities with some of the most jaw-dropping scenery on the planet, as well as a few good birds to boot. Once we were content, we reluctantly left our stunning castle-hotel and made our way to the world-famous estuary at Walvis Bay and our base in Swakopmund. After having our fill of shorebirds, coastal birds and flamingoes we made our way to the interior mountains of Erongo, via a scenic stop at the iconic Spitzkoppe. The Erongo area really lived up to its reputation as a birder’s and photographer’s paradise, which meant that even with Etosha on the horizon we left with reluctance. Twyfelfontein gave us yet another experience out of the ordinary with a visit to rock engravings and paintings thought to be many many thousands of years old, before we finally hot-footed (literally, the desert is HOT) toward our base for 4 nights – the fabled Etosha National Park. After a world-class safari experience, of course including big cats and iconic Desert Elephants, we entered the significantly-lusher realm of the Kavango. 2 nights each in the Caprivi Strip and Okavango Panhandle of Botswana gave us ample opportunity to photograph wetland birds, animals and endless inspiring encounters, including one of Africa’s most notorious ghosts – Pel’s Fishing Owl. A brief stop mid-way to Windhoek gave us some really fantastic bird photography during a morning of walking our hotel grounds, including the highly-local Black-faced Babbler. It was with true sadness that we wolfed down a final superb curry in Windhoek before making our way to the airport and departing for other shores.

Photography tours like this run very differently to our birding tours – the focus is very much on good photographic encounters, not high numbers of species. Custom Tours especially allow us to mould trips around the client’s personal preferences and style, and it is for this reason that we came away with less species seen than the Set Departure birding tour, but a HUGE library of fantastic ‘keeper’ images, having digitally shot everything from Cheetahs and Lions to Southern Carmine Bee-eaters and Lilac-breasted Rollers, by way of Flamingos and Bottlenose Dolphins. Namibia and Botswana are truly a paradise on Earth, and though the focus wasn’t on seeing as much as possible, we still walked away with 263 species of bird and 25 species of mammal seen. The
report that follows allows photographs to do much of the talking, so sit back with a cold or hot drink and immerse yourself in one of Africa’s most over-looked gems.

Click this link to view the full report in PDF format (6 MB file)