Trip report: Namibia custom Enigmatic Wildlife tour (Sept 2019) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Lisle Gwynn. This was a custom tour with a slightly different itinerary than our set-departure tour, and it was somewhat less bird-focused.

Namibia is an unforgettable, ancient land of incredible and stark contrast. From vast open deserts and rocky plains to sweeping savanna and rolling hills. By way of a perennially battered subantarctic coast, we made our way through the richest landscapes this underrated and under visited country has to offer. Travelling our tried and tested itinerary, we began in the desert-surrounded demi-city of Windhoek where we travelled first through the heart of the Namib Desert to the storm-beaten and significantly cooler Atlantic coast. Heading inland we then spent an idyllic couple of nights in the Erongo Mountains. On a normal tour, our next stop would be regarded as the grand finale… Etosha National Park. Legendary in status, mythical in the whispers it generates, Etosha never fails to live up to its reputation. However for us, we pushed on even further, through the rustic Caprivi Strip and into the lush riverine landscapes of the Okavango Panhandle – Botswana.

No tour is ever the same as another, and that is especially true here in Namibia where water, or the lack thereof, often dictates where animals congregate, in what numbers and in what composition. Birds in this landscape are mostly nomadic, some will be easy to find and abundant one year, and near-absent the next, so a journey here is always full of surprises. We did exceptionally well this year, seeming to be always on the up-side of any abnormality.

It was hard to choose the tour highlights, but I tasked the group to give me their ‘ultimate moments’ of the tour. I asked for a mammal, a bird, a mammal encounter, and a bird encounter, from each of them, that they feel were the pinnacle of the tour. The selections were varied, but shared some commonality. The ultimate moment of the tour was clearly an afternoon session spent watching a group of Lion deciding whether or not to hunt a young Elephant, only to be put firmly in their place by the rest of the herd. Bird highlights included the incomparable PEL’S FISHING OWL, bizarre Hamerkop, and often-underrated African Yellow White-eye, whilst mammals were dominated by Honey Badger and some of the best encounters with Black Rhino that I have ever had. Guy rated a Black Rhino

Connie reminded us of the moment we watched an African Fish Eagle attack a Lappet-faced Vulture on the Botswana border, by jumping on its back talons-first. Nas highlighted a beautiful African Spoonbill, swishing and swashing its way closer to us, and it was Gretchen that told us to look way back to the frigid coast and remember the “zillions” of flamingos amongst the ochre-red dunes. The birds had been many (over 300), the mammals likewise (over 50), but it was the encounters we experienced with these animals that really gripped us on this tour. It wasn’t a tick-and-run, or chase, through the desert, it was a full immersion and journey through one of the most beautiful areas of the planet. What follows, is a photographic review of our adventure. Grab a coffee, beer, or glass of wine, and join us in the living desert and lush plains of Namibia & Botswana. walking so close to us we could hear its footsteps as among the top moments, and Janet rated the bird feeding area at Erongo – no doubt because it included a coffee in hand! – Lisle Gwynn, Tour Leader

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