Namibia, Okavango, and Victoria Falls Birding Adventure
Dates and Costs
02 – 19 November 2022
Spaces available: 4
Price: R120,280 / $7,808 / £5,855 / € 6,922 per person sharing.
Single Supplement: R13,125 / $852 / £639 / €755
* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to base price when making final payments.
02 – 19 November 2023
Price: R133,510 / $8,667 / £6,500 / € 7,683 per person sharing.
Single Supplement: R14,435 / $937 / £702 / €831
(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)
Duration: 18 days
Group Size: 3 – 8
Tour Start: Walvis Bay, Namibia
Tour End: Livingstone, Zambia
Meals (from lunch on day 1 until breakfast on day 18)
Unlimited bottled water
Expert tour leader
All entrance & conservation fees
All ground transport, including airport pick-up and drop-off
Entrance fees to Victoria Falls
Boat ride on the Okavango River
Boat trip along the Zambezi River
Boat trip from Walvis Bay
Game drive in Etosha National Park (open-top safari vehicle)
International/domestic flights (to Walvis Bay/from Victoria Falls)
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls, etc.
Any pre- or post-tour accommodation, meals, or birding excursions
Personal travel insurance
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
Namibia, Okavango and Victoria Falls Birding Adventure
This is a truly marvelous 2.5-week birding adventure, during which we sample three different countries and spectacular, diverse scenery. We start in the coastal Namib Desert with its impressive dune fields (inhabited by a desirable, localized endemic) and lagoons filled with flamingos, pelicans, shorebirds, and some really localized species such as Damara Tern and Chestnut-banded Plover. The mountains of the beautiful Namib Escarpment are next on our itinerary, and here we search for Rosy-faced Lovebird, Herero Chat, Rockrunner, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Damara Red-billed Hornbill, the incomparable, batis-like (although largely terrestrial) White-tailed Shrike, and other charismatic species of northern Namibia.
The cute White-tailed Shrike is a sought-after Namibian near-endemic.
Eventually we leave the desert and enter the grassland, savanna, and woodland of one of Africa’s greatest game parks, Etosha National Park. This must surely be one of the world’s best places for seeing Black Rhinoceros and big cats, along with all the other African megafauna. It is also excellent for a good range of very special birds, such as Namibia’s dazzling national bird, Crimson-breasted Shrike, the world’s heaviest flying bird, Kori Bustard, the diminutive Pygmy Falcon, and stacks more.
Etosha National Park is full of game, and is an especially good area to see Black Rhinoceros.
After Etosha we head into an incredibly bird-diverse tropical corner of Namibia, the Caprivi Strip, and the adjacent panhandle of the Okavango Delta, which falls just within the borders of Botswana. The magnificent wetlands and woodlands in these parts support Pel’s Fishing Owl (this is the world’s most reliable place for this monster), White-backed Night Heron, Slaty Egret, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, and literally hundreds of other species, a rather large proportion of them spectacular. Finally, we bird around Livingstone in Zambia (with a brief foray to view Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side) for yet another rich assemblage of birds.
This birding tour covers a vast area and a huge range of habitats, from the coastal deserts to the land of big rivers. While Namibian distances are large, we minimize driving time and maximize birding time by starting in Walvis Bay, Namibia, and ending in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
This tour can be combined with our premium Comprehensive Subtropical/Eastern South Africa Birding Tour which precedes this tour, for a 35-day Southern African adventure and even, preceding that, our Best of Cape Town and Beyond Birding Tour for an even longer, 42-day Southern African mega tour. Another possibility is to combine it with our Best of Madagascar: 14-day Birding and Wildlife tour.
Itinerary (18 days, 17 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in Walvis Bay and coastal desert birding
Our birding guide fetches you from Walvis Bay airport, and we immediately start birding. The first site we usually visit is the picturesque red sand dune habitat across a (usually) dry riverbed around the village of Rooibank, right in the middle of the Namib Desert. Namibia’s sole endemic, Dune Lark, is the main target here, but we often also find the almost pure-white desert form of Tractrac Chat. Our accommodation for two nights is at a place where one can sometimes literally see thousands of Flamingos (usually about half-half Greater and Lesser), migratory shorebirds from Eurasia, Great White Pelican, and all the rest.
Overnight: Lagoon Loge, Walvis Bay
Dune Lark, Namibia’s only endemic bird, should be seen around Walvis Bay.
Day 2. Walvis Bay Lagoon, Swakopmund, and other areas
Today we take a boat trip on Walvis Bay Lagoon that is focused mainly on marine mammals, such as Cape Fur Seal, Common Bottlenose Dolphin, the localized Heaviside’s Dolphin, and sometimes Southern Right Whale. But one also often sees some good birds from the boat, not the least of which is Damara Tern. But there is also an incredible drive we do later in the day that usually gives us close-up views of all the target birds of the lagoon – these include not only this rare, tiny tern but also Chestnut-banded Plover, Black-necked Grebe (often in large rafts), and hundreds of thousands of migrant waders. Today we also look for Gray’s Lark, a very pale Namib Desert near-endemic.
Overnight: Lagoon Loge, Walvis Bay
Day 3. The Namib Escarpment via the Spitzkoppe (the “Matterhorn of Namibia”)
Heading inland and northward we start encountering some spectacular mountains. The Spitzkoppe in particular is a huge inselberg that rises abruptly from the desert plain. The flat surrounding areas are good for Burchell’s Courser, Rüppell’s Korhaan, Ludwig’s Bustard, a number of localized lark species such as Karoo Long-billed Lark (replaced by Benguela Long-billed Lark slightly farther north), etc. The mountains themselves are where we search for the enigmatic, bizarre Herero Chat, noisy little flocks of Rosy-faced Lovebirds, a couple of hornbill species basically restricted to the Namib and adjacent arid habitats, Bradfield’s Swift, and many others.
Another Namib Desert special we’ll search for on this tour, Rüppell’s Korhaan.
The rocky areas near Omaruru offer some great habitat for watching hunting raptors, including Verreaux’s Eagle and African Hawk-Eagle as well as Augur Buzzard. A diminutive antelope, Kirk’s Dik-dik, is often encountered in the area.
Overnight: Ai-Aiba – The Rock Painting Lodge, Omaruru
Day 4. Birding the Namib Escarpment
Today we have the full day to continue birding the mountains of central Namibia. White-tailed Shrike, Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Rüppell’s Parrot, and Rockrunner are four of the superstars of the show – all of them are very localized (occurring only in Namibia and a small part of Angola) and full of personality, not to mention striking-looking. Quite a number of brightly-colored seedeaters also vie for attention around the lodge.
We will also head slightly farther west, targeting another Namibian near-endemic, Benguela Long-billed Lark, and may also have another shot at Herero Chat, if need be. We might, if we’re lucky, see Kaokoveld Slender Mongoose, Greater Kudu, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, or another mammal or two.
Overnight: Ai-Aiba – The Rock Painting Lodge, Omaruru
The stunning Rosy-faced Lovebird usually provide excellent views in the Namib Escarpment.
Day 5. Etosha National Park: birds and mammals
Etosha justifiably is rated as one of the best game parks in Africa. The floodlit waterholes at the lodges (“camps”) within the park must provide one of the greatest wildlife shows on earth. This is big (and small) mammal country, where African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros, large herds of Springbok, Gemsbok, Plains Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, and many other herbivores lurk, meaning (excitingly) that there are also relatively high densities of predators and scavengers, such as Cheetah, Lion, Leopard, African Wildcat, Spotted Hyena, Black-backed Jackal, etc.
Although we stop to look at all the mammal species, birding is still the main focus. An isolated population of South Africa’s national bird, the beautiful Blue Crane, inhabits Etosha. Kori Bustard and its smaller relative, Northern Black Korhaan, are both common. Secretarybird and an absolute stack of raptors and vultures are always much in evidence. This is one of the best places in southern Africa for owls, and we often find the tiny African Scops Owl, the giant Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, and then also others such as the beautiful Southern White-faced Owl at their daytime roosts (usually in Halali Camp, where we sometimes stop for lunch on one of the days). Etosha must be one of the few sites where one has to kick Double-banded Courser from one’s feet. The unbelievably huge nests of Sociable Weaver are features of some areas, sometimes with Pygmy Falcon taking up residence in the same nests.
Overnight: Okaukuejo Camp, central Etosha
We’ll search for the scarce Burchell’s Courser in Etosha National Park.
Day 6. Bird and wildlife viewing in Etosha National Park
We will have the full day in this impressive park birding the open plains and various waterholes from an open-top game-viewing vehicle. We hope to find a multitude of Lark species, including Eastern Clapper, Stark’s, Sabota, Pink-billed, Fawn-colored, and Rufous-naped, as well as larger and more brightly colored species such as Crimson-breasted Shrike, Gabar Goshawk, Greater Kestrel, Lappet-faced Vulture, and Namaqua Sandgrouse.
Overnight: Okaukuejo Camp, central Etosha
Day 7. Central to eastern Etosha National Park
Today we make our way from the central section of the park to the eastern edge. As we head farther east the bird species change gradually, and we hope to find Blue Crane, Secretarybird, Red-necked Falcon, Burchell’s Courser, and Caspian Plover among the usual suspects. Around Mokuti Lodge we should see Black-faced Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, White-browed Scrub Robin, Black-faced Waxbill, Bearded Woodpecker, Pearl-spotted Owlet, and other woodland species.
Overnight: Mokuti Etosha Lodge, eastern Etosha
Etosha National Park is one of Africa’s great game parks, and is a major highlight on the tour!
Day 8. Full day in eastern Etosha National Park
We will have the full day to enjoy the birds and wildlife of eastern Etosha today. We will likely head up to the grasslands of Andoni Plains to look for Blue Crane, Pink-billed Lark, Eastern Clapper Lark, and Burchell’s Courser, while also having some time to bird the woodlands around our lodge for Black-faced Babbler and many others.
Overnight: Mokuti Etosha Lodge, eastern Etosha
Day 9. Transfer to and birding around Rundu
As we continue eastward the landscape becomes less arid, and today we start seeing some well-developed woodlands for the first time during our tour. The tall woodlands east of Rundu are home to some tricky birds, such as Rufous-bellied Tit (which can be very thin on the ground and tough to find). Sharp-tailed Starling (along with the more common but also more spectacularly plumaged Greater Blue-eared Starling) and Souza’s Shrike are two tough birds of human-modified woodland sometimes in poor condition. There is a plethora of other great birds to be found here, both woodland birds and waterbirds, such as cuckooshrikes, orioles, Green-capped Eremomela, Tinkling Cisticola, Swamp Boubou, Dwarf Bittern, Rufous-bellied Heron, and a rich assemblage of others.
We will also bird the wetlands around Rundu for Collared Pratincole, White-backed Duck, Baillon’s Crake, Greater Painted-snipe, and perhaps even Lesser Moorhen and Lesser Jacana.
Overnight: Taranga Safari Lodge or similar, Rundu
The relatively large Rufous-bellied Tit is one of the prized denizens found in the tall woodlands of the Caprivi Strip.
Day 10. Into the Caprivi Strip
After some early-morning birding we will make the relatively short transfer to the Mahango area, which is incredibly biodiverse. We will have another shot at Souza’s Shrike, Sharp-tailed Starling, and Rufous-bellied Tit as we head east through the tall woodlands. We stay at a lodge near the tiny but impressively diverse Mahango Game Reserve, a protected area within Bwabwata National Park. Species to look for around the lodge include Meyer’s Parrot, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, African Golden Oriole, White-browed Robin-Chat, Brown Firefinch, and many others.
Day 11. Mahango birding
We spend the day in the Mahango Game Reserve, enjoying birds such as Rock Pratincole and any of the birds mentioned for the previous day that we may have missed. Here we also add a great many new birds to our list, along with new mammals. African Buffalo occurs here but not in Etosha, and this is also one of the best places in the world to find the rare Roan Antelope and Sable Antelope. Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Tinkling Cisticola, the oversized Coppery-tailed Coucal, several spectacular weavers with their bright yellow plumage and amazing nests, Greater Painted-snipe, and Grey-rumped Swallow are just a few of the many birds we’re likely to encounter at Mahango.
African Skimmer is regular around the Okavango Panhandle.
Day 12. Into Botswana: the Okavango Panhandle
The Botswana border is only a short drive away. After crossing it one immediately enters a more open, overgrazed habitat, which is, interestingly, the best place to see the localized Bradfield’s Hornbill. At Drotsky’s Cabins the loud grunts of Hippopotamus startle you as you fall asleep in your cabins; while in the water during the day, they do lurk around the lodge grounds at night eating grass – it’s not advisable to walk around after dark, as this is Africa’s most dangerous animal. The lodge grounds are a haven for birdlife, and we can expect to find Hartlaub’s Babbler, White-browed Coucal, and Meves’s Starling, with African Barred Owlet in the nearby woodlands. Brown Firefinch and its more common cousins, Red-billed Firefinch and Blue Waxbill, often feed on the lawns. The liquid calls of Swamp Boubou and coucals add greatly to the atmosphere.
Overnight: Drotsky’s Cabins, Shakawe, Botswana
Day 13. A full day in Botswana
We spend a lot of time birding by boat today as we slowly cruise the upper panhandle of the Okavango Delta. This day is usually excellent for photography, as we are able to approach many birds and animals really close from the boat, and highlights include Pel’s Fishing Owl, Slaty Egret, White-backed Night Heron, African Skimmer, African Pygmy Goose, Long-toed Lapwing, Coppery-tailed Coucal, and Southern Carmine Bee-eater. We may also be lucky enough to encounter the rare, swamp-dwelling Sitatunga antelope.
In the nearby woodlands we hope to find African Barred Owlet, Narina Trogon, Retz’s Helmetshrike, Grey-headed Kingfisher, African Golden Oriole, and Crested Francolin, among others.
Overnight: Drotsky’s Cabins, Shakawe, Botswana
The Okavango Delta is surely the best place in the world to find Pel’s Fishing Owl – we stand a good chance of finding one on this tour!
Day 14. Back into Namibia and continuing east through the Caprivi Strip
We continue birding the wetlands and woodlands of this bird-rich corner of Namibia. We spend two nights on the banks of the Zambezi River, from where we can do boat trips and birding/game drives. A late-afternoon boat trip along the Zambezi is extremely productive and usually produces great sightings of African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron, Half-collared Kingfisher, White-crowned Lapwing, African Skimmer, and Rock Pratincole. We often head out this evening to look for night birds such as African Wood and Western Barn Owls and a host of Nightjars including Fiery-necked, Square-tailed, and the spectacular Pennant-winged!
Overnight: Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge or similar, Katima Mulilo
Day 15. Birding around Katima Mulilo
Today we have the full day to explore the productive woodlands in the far-eastern Caprivi. Yellow-throated Leaflove was discovered as a breeding bird on the Namibia/Zambia border (the Namibian side) in 2015, hundreds of kilometers south of its previously known range, and is one of today’s targets. Olive Woodpecker, Schalow’s Turaco, and Western Banded Snake Eagle all occur in the riparian vegetation along the banks of the Zambezi River.
In the surrounding woodlands we search for Racket-tailed Roller, Arnot’s Chat, Copper Sunbird, Striped Kingfisher, Grey-headed Bushshrike, Grey Penduline Tit, Wood Pipit, and Lizard Buzzard.
Seasonal pans in the area are explored for Hottentot Teal, Rosy-throated Longclaw, White-backed Duck, Lesser Jacana, Rufous-bellied Heron, Luapula Cisticola, and perhaps even Black Coucal.
Overnight: Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge or similar, Katima Mulilo
The spectacular Pennant-winged Nightjar can be seen breeding around Katima Mulilo.
Days 16 – 17. Into Zambia and birding Victoria Falls
After some early morning birding around Katima Mulilo we will make our way through the border into Zambia. As we head further east we will pass through more broad-leafed woodland, where we may see Southern Ground Hornbills as they move around in small family groups. We eventually reach the busy little town of Livingstone, where we will be based for the next two nights on the banks of the Zambezi River. The woodlands outside of Livingstone hold good numbers of Racket-tailed Roller along with Miombo Pied Barbet (here at its southern extent), Miombo Rock Thrush, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Green-capped Eremomela, Cut-throat Finch, Lizard Buzzard, and Pale Flycatcher.
We spend some time admiring Victoria Falls, ‘the smoke that thunders’, from the Zimbabwean side, but it’s important to note that the whole area has spectacularly rich birdlife, so we’ll add a lot of good new birds to our list near the end of the tour. Birding around camp is extremely productive with regular sightings of Collared Palm Thrush, Natal Spurfowl, Bearded Scrub Robin, Schalow’s Turaco, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Trumpeter Hornbill, Olive Woodpecker, Broad-billed Roller, and other species along the Zambezi River.
We usually find about 400 bird species on this tour of varied habitats – and we also get one of the highest mammal lists of any of our tours on this transect.
Overnight: Camp Nkwazi, Livingstone, Zambia
Racket-tailed Roller can be seen in the broad-leaved woodlands around Livingstone.
Day 18. Departure
Your flight can leave Livingstone any time today.
Please note that the itinerary above cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.Download Itinerary
Namibia, Okavango and Victoria Falls Trip Report
02 – 19 NOVEMBER 2019
Bare-cheeked Babbler is a striking species frequently encountered on this tour.
Our Namibia, Botswana and Victoria Falls set-departure tour is always a popular one. We cover a large distance from west to east, which means we get to enjoy a broad range of habitats; consequently, this tour usually yields a high bird list. Besides the large numbers of special birds the tour also normally boasts good numbers of large and charismatic mammals and some of the smaller, lesser-known species too. These animals are particularly evident when we visit Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s great wildlife refuges. We also visit one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World when we visit Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, which always leaves one in awe of its size and power. The Namib Desert, the world’s oldest desert, offers something entirely different with its huge, rolling dunes and specially adapted species
On this 2019 tour we saw an impressive 403 bird species (plus an additional four species heard only) including many specials, such as Orange River Francolin, White-backed Night Heron, Rufous-bellied Heron, Slaty Egret, Bank, Crowned, and Cape Cormorants, Secretarybird, African Cuckoo-Hawk, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle, Rüppell’s Korhaan, African Finfoot, Allen’s Gallinule, Wattled Crane, African Oystercatcher, Chestnut-banded Plover, Lesser Jacana, Double-banded Courser, Rock Pratincole, African Skimmer, Damara Tern, Namaqua and Double-banded Sandgrouse, Schalow’s Turaco, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Bradfield’s Swift, Violet Wood Hoopoe, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Miombo Pied Barbet, Rüppell’s Parrot, White-tailed Shrike, Carp’s Tit, Cape Penduline Tit, Gray’s and Dune Larks, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Angolan Cave Chat, Rufous-tailed Palm Thrush, and Brown Firefinch.
The feisty Pearl-spotted Owlet was seen on a number of occasions on this tour.
Over the 18-day trip we also recorded 44 species of mammals, with some of the highlights including African Elephant, Black and White Rhinoceroses, African Buffalo, Hippopotamus, Lion, African Wild Cat, Cape Fox, Spotted Hyaena, Kaokoland Slender Mongoose, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Sitatunga, Roan and Sable Antelopes, Kirk’s (Damara) Dik-dik, Southern Lechwe, Common Eland, and Greater Kudu.
Day 1, 2nd November 2019. Arrival and Walvis Bay birding
As some guests had arrived the previous day we could head out straight after breakfast and let the birding begin. We spent the morning birding the Walvis Bay Lagoon and nearby salt works, which is always a great place to spend a few hours. The birding started well with good sightings of the cute Damara Tern along with other Tern species such as Caspian, Sandwich, Greater Crested, and Common. Other waterbirds seen in the area included Black-necked Grebe, Cape Teal, thousands of both Greater and Lesser Flamingos, and Great White Pelican. Some of the most exciting birding to be had at the salt works is to spend time working through the thousands of waders on display. By doing this we added Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey, Common Ringed, White-fronted, and Chestnut-banded Plovers, Sanderling, Little Stint, Ruff, Ruddy Turnstone, Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers, and Common Greenshank.
Damara Tern showed well at the Walvis Bay salt works.
After fetching the last few clients in the early afternoon we headed inland to Rooibank to search for Dune Lark, Namibia’s only endemic bird species. It didn’t take too long until a Dune Lark popped up and gave us good views as it scurried in between the small, vegetated sand dunes. Other birds in the area included Cape Sparrow, Namaqua Dove, Dusky Sunbird, Southern Masked Weaver, and a distant calling Bokmakierie, which unfortunately would not show itself. When we got back to our accommodation in the late afternoon we had good looks at Orange River White-eye in the garden before enjoying a delicious seafood dinner.
Day 2, 3rd November 2019. Walvis Bay boat cruise and birding
This morning was set aside for a boat cruise in the Walvis Bay Lagoon, which always proves good fun and has some great birds too. It did not take long until we had Great White Pelicans landing on the boat, looking for an easy meal and allowing close-up views of these impressive birds. We visited the huge, loud, and smelly Cape Fur Seal colony, which was an assault on the senses but gave us the opportunity to watch the seals play around in the shallows. Unfortunately we could not find any Heaviside’s Dolphins, but we did come across a number of good bird species such as White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, more Damara Terns, and Cape Cormorant.
Cape Cormorant was common on our boat cruise around Walvis Bay.
After a quick bite to eat we headed into the Namib Desert to target a few desert specials. Both Gray’s Lark and Tractrac Chat did not prove difficult to find, and with the extra time available we went to look at the weird desert-adapted plant Welwitschia mirabilis, of which some individuals are suspected of being over 2000 years old!
Later in the afternoon we headed back to the Walvis Bay salt works so the rest of the group (who had not joined us yesterday morning) could become acquainted with the waders and waterbirds we had seen previously.
Day 3, 4th November 2019. Walvis Bay to Damaraland, Spitzkoppe birding en route
With breakfast and luggage packed early we made a pre-dawn start into the desert in the hope of getting to the Spitzkoppe area before the heat had picked up too much. En route we had good views of one of our targets, a pair of Rüppell’s Korhaans, which posed nicely in the morning light, with another individual seen closer to Spitzkoppe that allowed even better views.
We enjoyed breakfast at the base of the impressive Spitzkoppe domes, which are always a great backdrop to some desert birding. We searched high and low for Herero Chat; however, unfortunately the birds were not inhabiting their normally reliable haunts. But we managed to find Black-chested Snake Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Pririt Batis, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Black-backed Puffback, Sabota Lark, Mountain Wheatear, and Yellow-bellied Eremomela as bycatch.
We still had a long, bumpy drive ahead of us today and so had to hit the road before it got too late. The temperatures today were incredibly hot, and this affected our birding as we unfortunately missed Benguela Long-billed Lark, which is normally reliable north of Uis.
Shortly before arriving at our accommodation for the next two nights we managed a few new birds in the form of Double-banded Sandgrouse, Pale-winged Starling, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Monteiro’s and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills, Grey Go-away-bird, and Great Sparrow.
During list time in the evening we were interrupted by a Freckled Nightjar that flew down to drink from the small pond below the restaurant before we enjoyed another great meal.
Day 4, 5th November 2019. Damaraland birding
The morning was spent birding the various ‘koppies’ (small conical-shaped hills) around the lodge in the hope of finding more Namibian near-endemics. The birding was quite slow to start with but soon picked up, and we quickly added African Hawk-Eagle, Olive Bee-eater, Damara Red-billed Hornbill, White-tailed Shrike, and Short-toed Rock Thrush. The best we could do was to hear a distant Rockrunner, but unfortunately we could not find the bird.
After a scrumptious breakfast we went for a walk along a nearby dry river bed, which was a hive of activity. Some of our highlights included Red-billed Spurfowl, Verreaux’s Eagle, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Red-faced Mousebird, Rüppell’s Parrot, Pearl-breasted Swallow, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Red-headed Finch, Black-throated Canary, and Cinnamon-breasted and Lark-like Buntings.
Red-billed Spurfowl is loud and conspicuous throughout most of northern Namibia.
In the afternoon after the heat had died down a bit we went for a walk along another dry river bed a little farther from the lodge, which again proved really productive as we managed good sightings of Violet Wood Hoopoe, Bearded Woodpecker, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Common Scimitarbill, and Cape Starling.
After another fantastic dinner we went for a night drive, which yielded great views of Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, Southern White-faced and African Scops Owls, Common Genet, and a Common Duiker that we tried our best to turn into a fox or an Aardvark, but in the end we had to settle for a duiker!
Day 5, 6th November 2019. Damaraland to Kunene River Lodge
We had another shot this morning at finding Hartlaub’s Spurfowl and Rockrunner; however, we had to be content with only hearing Rockrunner despite coming excruciatingly close to a number of birds. We did encounter a few other birds in the general area, including Familiar Chat, Great Sparrow, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, and Olive Bee-eater.
After breakfast we packed the vehicle and headed north to Kunene River Lodge, which is right on the border with Angola. The drive was relatively quiet, but we did add the only Ashy Tit of the trip as well as Tawny Eagle.
After arriving at Kunene River Lodge in the early afternoon we retreated to the air-conditioned rooms for a while before heading out later in the afternoon to see what we could find around camp. The afternoon’s birding proved really productive, and we quickly added Rufous-tailed Palm Thrush, Holub’s Golden Weaver, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Red-necked Spurfowl, Olive Bee-eater, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Meves’s Starling, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Red-billed Firefinch, African Reed Warbler, and a very cooperative Pearl-spotted Owlet.
We enjoyed a great meal overlooking the Kunene River into Angola while discussing the plan for the next morning, when we were to target Angolan Cave Chat in the Zebra Mountains.
Olive Bee-eater was one of the seven bee-eater species seen on this tour.
Day 6, 7th November 2019. Zebra Mountains and Kunene birding
To ensure we were in the Zebra Mountains by sunrise a really early departure this morning was necessary. The nocturnal drive meant the front vehicle got lucky with sightings of Springhare and Cape Fox. Once we had negotiated the tricky drive we made our way up a rocky ridge and sat and waited. Almost immediately as we sat down we had distant views of an Angolan Cave Chat, and then we sat patiently as the bird edged its way toward us and were eventually rewarded with fantastic views of a bird which was only discovered in Namibia as recently as 2012! There was some great birding in the general area too as we added White-bellied Sunbird, Carp’s Tit, African Grey Hornbill, White-tailed Shrike, Groundscraper Thrush, and White-crested Helmetshrike. On the drive back we managed good views of Dark Chanting Goshawk.
Angolan Cave Chat was seen well in the Zebra Mountains.
Back at the lodge we enjoyed a relaxing lunch while being distracted by Jacobin Cuckoo, Ashy Flycatcher, and Rufous-tailed Palm Thrush, and after some downtime we headed out again for an afternoon walk. This walk along the river was particularly productive, and we soon added Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Brubru, African Hoopoe, Acacia Pied Barbet, Mourning Collared Dove, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Rattling Cisticola, and Bennett’s and Cardinal Woodpeckers.
We rushed back to camp to do an afternoon/sunset boat cruise up the Kunene River, which was very relaxing after a long day’s birding but of course the birding did not stop here, and we soon added Lesser Swamp Warbler, Malachite and Grey-headed Kingfishers, Striated Heron, African Pied Wagtail, Wire-tailed Swallow, Black Crake, Water Thick-knee, Black Cuckoo, and Olive Bee-eater.
Day 7, 8th November 2019. Kunene River Lodge to Hobatere Lodge
We spent the morning birding around camp and added a few new birds such as White-browed Coucal, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Swamp Boubou, and the highlight of the morning, a confiding group of Cinderella Waxbills. After breakfast it was time to pack the vehicle and head south to Hobatere Lodge for the night.
The drive was uneventful, and we arrived at Hobatere in the midafternoon with enough time to take a late afternoon drive and walk around the property. Some of the highlights included African Cuckoo, Tawny Eagle, Pearl-spotted Owlet, and thousands of Double-banded Sandgrouse coming to drink from the waterhole. Later that evening some of the guests did a night drive with an African Wild Cat being the highlight.
One of the thousands of Double-banded Sandgrouse coming to drink from the waterhole in the evening.
Day 8, 9th November 2019. Hobatere Lodge to Etosha National Park
Orange River Francolin (probably soon to be split as Kunene Francolin) was the target for the morning, and it did not take much effort until we found a single bird on a small ‘koppie’, providing us with good views. With the target bird in the bag (so to speak) we left Hobatere and made our way southeast to Etosha National Park. En route we managed to find a single Augur Buzzard, a bird we were starting to worry that we might have missed it!
We arrived in Etosha in the early afternoon with enough time for a few hours of birding and wildlife viewing in the park. Highlights of the afternoon drive included Gabar Goshawk, Red-crested and Northern Black Korhaans, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Cape Penduline Tit, Spike-heeled, Eastern Clapper, and Stark’s Larks, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Sociable Weaver, and Marico Flycatcher. We also managed a sighting of Black Rhinoceros coming to drink at the Okaukuejo waterhole.
Day 9, 10th November 2019. Etosha National Park birding and wildlife viewing
We spent the morning in an open-top safari vehicle, which is always a great way to enjoy the park. The birding was good and included Common Ostrich, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Kori Bustard, Banded Martin, Pink-billed Lark, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark, Desert Cisticola, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Chat Flycatcher, and Yellow Canary. Some of our mammal sightings included Black-backed Jackal, Banded Mongoose, Spotted Hyaena, African Elephant, Giraffe, Greater Kudu, Gemsbok, and Kirk’s (Damara) Dik-dik.
In the afternoon we birded around the lodge and added Chestnut Weaver, Green-winged Pytilia, Buffy Pipit, and Spotted Thick-knee.
Day 10, 11th November 2019. Etosha National Park to Mokuti Lodge
Today we were moving from our lodge in central Etosha to Mokuti Lodge on the eastern edge of Etosha, which meant quite a long drive through the park. But constant bird and mammal sightings made the time pass quickly. Some of our better sightings throughout the drive included Secretarybird, Lappet-faced Vulture, Bateleur, Martial Eagle, Caspian Plover, Double-banded Courser, Red-necked Falcon, Rufous-naped Lark, South African Cliff Swallow, Icterine Warbler, Rufous-eared Warbler, and Burnt-necked Eremomela. Driving through the more open areas we came across White Rhinoceros and good numbers of Red Hartebeests. We had a couple sightings of Lion throughout the day, including a large female on a zebra kill with good numbers of White-backed Vultures around.
Rufous-eared Warbler showed well in Etosha National Park.
Day 11, 12th November 2019. Mokuti Lodge to the Caprivi Strip
Having moved farther east yesterday and into the taller woodlands on the eastern edge of Etosha meant that we woke up to a different mix of bird species, and the morning walk around the lodge produced a number of new birds, such as Black-faced Babbler, White-browed Scrub Robin, Crested Francolin, Violet-backed Starling, and Marico Sunbird.
We had another long drive ahead of us today and so set off fairly early as it had not taken long to find our main target bird, Black-faced Babbler. During the drive east we found our first Rollers, in the form of Purple and Lilac-breasted as well as a large Swift flock near Grootfontein, which contained Bradfield’s, Common, Alpine, and White-rumped.
We stopped at Rundu sewage works for lunch, and it was alive with waterbirds including Hottentot Teal, Southern Pochard, Squacco and Black Herons, African Openbill, calling African Rail, Baillon’s Crake, African Swamphen, Red-knobbed Coot, and Pied Kingfisher.
We arrived at our accommodation in the Mahango area late in the afternoon but still had some time to wander around camp, where we found Woodland Kingfisher, roosting Southern White-faced Owl, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, and Meyer’s Parrot.
Day 12, 13th November 2019. Birding the Mahango area
We had the full day to bird this incredibly biodiverse area today and made sure that we were up at sunrise to take full advantage of this. Birding around camp in the morning was incredibly rewarding with African Cuckoo-Hawk, Wahlberg’s Eagle, African Green Pigeon, Coppery-tailed Coucal, White-fronted and Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Black-collared Barbet, Hartlaub’s Babbler, White-breasted and Black Cuckooshrikes, Magpie Shrike, Mosque Swallow, and Collared Sunbird all being seen.
Later in the morning we headed to Mahango Game Reserve, where we spent a few hours enjoying the birds and animals attracted to the floodplain. Sable and Roan Antelopes and Southern Lechwe soon bolstered our mammal list, while new birds included Wattled Crane, Marabou Stork, Glossy Ibis, African Spoonbill, Rufous-bellied Heron, White-headed Vulture, Long-toed Lapwing, Broad-billed Roller, Kalahari Scrub Robin, and Shaft-tailed Whydah.
A number of Wattled Cranes were seen on the floodplain in Mahango Game Reserve.
Later in the afternoon we headed into the broad-leafed woodlands west of Divundu to search for a few woodland specials. Here we managed to find Yellow-fronted Canary, Wattled Starling, Orange-breasted Bushshrike and Southern Black Tit before we had to make a hasty retreat with a big storm fast approaching. We did stop briefly on the way back to find a few Rock Pratincoles near Divundu. Later that evening we had good views of African Wood Owl around camp.
Day 13, 14th November 2019. Transfer to the Okavango Panhandle
Today we made the short transfer into Botswana to the Okavango Panhandle. We left camp (after adding Levaillant’s and Klaas’s Cuckoo and African Golden Oriole) and again made our way through Mahango Game Reserve, this time adding Saddle-billed Stork, African Harrier-Hawk, Crested Barbet, Fawn-colored Lark, Southern Pied Babbler, Bradfield’s Hornbill, and Tsessebe.
As usual the border crossing was quick and easy, allowing us to do some birding in the afternoon, once having settled into our accommodation at Drotsky’s Cabins. We enjoyed sundowners on the deck while watching birds flying back and forth over the massive swamps. Some of the better birds seen included Wattled Crane, many Hamerkops, African Marsh Harrier, Thick-billed Weaver, Southern Brown-throated Weaver, Arrow-marked Babbler, and Swamp Boubou.
Southern Pied Babbler was seen in Mahango Game Reserve.
Day 14, 15th November 2019. Okavango Panhandle boat cruise and birding
As usual today would prove to be one of the highlights of the tour as we spent a large proportion of the day on a boat exploring the many waterways of the Okavango. Our main target for the day was Pel’s Fishing Owl, which thankfully did not take too long to find thanks to the sharp eyes of our guide Otto. We were able to watch a single bird close to our boat at its day roost, which is always special to see. Other top birds seen this morning included African Skimmer, Long-toed and African Wattled Lapwings, Collared Pratincole, Goliath Heron, White-backed and Black-crowned Night Herons, Greater Swamp Warbler, Chirping Cisticola, Hadada Ibis, Western Osprey, African Fish Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Malachite, Giant, and Pied Kingfishers, African Stonechat, and Fan-tailed Widowbird.
After the boat cruise we had a walk around camp and found African Barred Owlet, Retz’s Helmetshrike, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Green Wood Hoopoe, Southern Yellow White-eye, Brown Twinspot, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Broad-billed Roller, and Terrestrial Brownbul.
In the late afternoon we went for another boat cruise, but this time we headed south from Drotsky’s Cabins, which resulted in a slightly different mix of species. Additional to this morning we found African Pygmy Goose, Slaty Egret, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Allen’s Gallinule, African Snipe, and Grey-rumped Swallow.
Allen’s Gallinule showed well during a brief downpour on our afternoon boat cruise.
Day 15, 16th November 2019. Okavango Panhandle to Katima Mulilo
We had a brief walk in the woodlands behind Drotsky’s Cabins this morning, which did not add much besides a juvenile Greater Honeyguide. After this it was time to head back into Namibia, and we made our way east through the Caprivi Strip.
The long drive east did not produce much of interest, and we arrived at our accommodation at Caprivi Houseboat Safaris in Katima Mulilo with some time to bird during the afternoon. A quick walk around camp produced the beautiful Schalow’s Turaco as well as Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Purple-banded Sunbird, Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, and Jameson’s Firefinch.
Later that afternoon we did another boat cruise, this time along the Zambezi River, and were rewarded with great sightings of African Finfoot, Purple Heron, African Openbill, White-crowned Lapwing, Half-collared Kingfisher, Trumpeter Hornbill, Little Bittern, and Tropical Boubou.
After dinner we headed out with the lodge owner, Curt, who took us to a spot where he had seen nightjars the last few nights. Thanks to Curt’s brilliant eyes we managed to find Square-tailed, Fiery-necked, and, most importantly, the spectacular Pennant-winged Nightjar. In the same area we also found Western Barn Owl.
Bird of the trip for many: the male Pennant-winged Nightjar seen in Katima Mulilo.
Day 16, 17th November 2019. Katima Mulilo to Livingstone
We only had the morning to bird this incredibly bird-rich area, so we got up early to try to find as much as possible. We went to a pan which had Lesser Jacana on it, and it did not take long for a bird to pop out, with African Pygmy Goose, Rufous-bellied Heron, Long-toed Lapwing, and Luapula Cisticola all showing well nearby. In the surrounding woodlands we recorded Western Banded Snake Eagle, Red-footed Falcon, Grey-headed Bushshrike, Yellow-throated Bush Sparrow (Petronia), Striped Kingfisher, Kurrichane Thrush, Grey Penduline Tit, and Amethyst Sunbird.
Just as we were leaving our accommodation we had good looks at a male Copper Sunbird and then made our way nearby to the Namibia-Zambia border post. The border unfortunately took a while to negotiate, but eventually we were in Zambia and undertook the long and very slow drive to Livingstone.
After a long day’s travel and settling into our accommodation we enjoyed a great meal and a well-deserved beer as we looked out over the Zambezi into Zimbabwe.
Day 17, 18th November 2019. Victoria Falls and Livingstone birding
Today was a day we were all looking forward to as we would make our way into Zimbabwe and to Victoria Falls. However, first things first, we had some birding to do in the broad-leaved woodlands close to the lodge. The morning’s birding turned out to be highly successful as we added Cut-throat Finch, Racket-tailed Roller, Neddicky, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Pale Flycatcher, Miombo Rock Thrush, Eurasian Hobby, Lizard Buzzard, and White-winged Widowbird, with the highlight being Miombo Pied Barbet here at its southern extent.
Thankfully the border crossing was quick and easy, and then we spent the next few hours walking around and enjoying the impressive falls from many different angles and vantage points. The local name ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’, meaning ‘the smoke that thunders’, is certainly appropriate, with the noise at times deafening and the smoke (mist) wetting us all. While we were here, we certainly did not ignore the many birds in the area and soon recorded Bearded Scrub Robin, Red-faced Cisticola, African Paradise Flycatcher, Spectacled Weaver, Red-winged Starling, Rock Pratincole, and African Black Swift.
Our final afternoon’s birding was spent wandering around camp, and it still produced the goods with Olive Woodpecker, Red-chested Cuckoo, Collared Palm Thrush, and Village Weaver all added to the list. We then enjoyed our last dinner of the trip and reminisced about the fun and sightings from the last couple of weeks.
The attractive Bearded Scrub Robin was seen in the woodlands near Victoria Falls.
Day 18, 19th November 2019. Livingstone birding and departure
On the final morning we again birded around camp, where we added Bronze Mannikin and Natal Spurfowl, with a group of Southern Ground Hornbills on the other side of the Zambezi being a last-minute bonus. However, the fun was not quite over, because just as we were leaving camp for the Livingstone airport we had a very close encounter with a medium-sized Black Mamba, which certainly gave us a little fright!
We then safely hopped back into the vehicle and concluded a really fun and highly successful 18 days in the region, with 403 bird species seen and lots of fond memories to look back to.
Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.
BIRDING TOUR NAMIBIA, OKAVANGO AND VICTORIA FALLS: GENERAL INFORMATION
This 18-day birding adventure includes three countries, Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia. In Namibia we bird the Namib Coast and Namibian Escarpment for the host of species that inhabit only northern Namibia and southern Angola. In addition we will see one of the greatest shorebird spectacles on the African continent (plus find localized species such as Damara Tern and Chestnut-banded Plover). We also bird the woodlands, rivers, and swamps of the Caprivi Strip and Botswana. These areas are inhabited by a phenomenal diversity of birds. Birding around the stunning Victoria Falls can also be very rewarding. The entire trip mixes truly unforgettable birding with impressive and unbelievably diverse scenery. Although the trip focuses on the endemics and specials, we will end up with an impressive list also of other birds as well as loads of mammals.
Namibia’s climate is typical of semi-desert terrain, hot days, and cool nights. The coastal regions are cooled by the cold Benguela current, causing fog and inhibiting rainfall. Over the central plateau in the country, which is higher up, temperatures are understandably lower. With 300 days of sunshine on average per year, Namibia is truly a sunny place. Only during the summer months from November to April does rain occur, mostly as heavy thunderstorms. Then the usually dry riverbeds become saturated with torrents of muddy water in a very short time. It is during this time that the sun-scorched land comes to life and develops a colorful horizon-to-horizon floral carpet within a few days. The interior enjoys two rainy seasons: the short season is between October and December, marked by frequent thunderstorms. The longer season is from mid-January to April. Summer is from October to April. Temperatures can reach 40 ºC, which drops at night to cool levels. Average daily temperatures range from 20 to 34 ºC. Winter is from May to September with wonderful warm days, which are contrasted by very cold nights when temperatures often drop to below freezing.
On this trip we expect very hot weather in the desert. Further east toward Victoria Falls we expect hot and humid weather. The weather can be surprisingly cool on the coast, even in summer, so please be prepared for all weather but generally expect heat to be the main problem. It might rain, but since the areas visited are typically dry we don’t expect it to interrupt birding very much
We will be visiting areas inhabited by venomous snakes, although as usual we will be very lucky to see any. We recommend hiking boots, jeans/long trousers, and a good dose of care to minimize the danger of snakebites. We do not take anti-venom on our tours but will try and rush you to a private hospital if you do get bitten (although we will often be in extremely remote places); your own travel insurance (especially medical insurance) is crucial. In game reserves, where large predators freely lurk, it is illegal for very good reasons to alight from one’s vehicle except in rest camps and picnic areas. Scorpions and spiders may also cause problems.
Malaria and other diseases
We strongly recommend taking anti-malaria precautions. Any of the following three drugs is highly effective as a malaria preventative measure (albeit not 100 percent due to resistant strains of malaria):
Mosquito repellent, long trousers/jeans, and long-sleeved shirts, particularly at night when malaria (Anopheles) mosquitoes bite, are advised in addition to the drugs.
In the unlikely event that one still contracts malaria after taking anti-malaria drugs and other precautions the disease can still be easily treated if diagnosed soon after symptoms develop: suspect malaria if ‘flu-like’ symptoms develop within a few months after visiting Namibia. If it is malaria it can be treated with an alternative to the prophylactic that you chose.
The Centers for Disease Control website, particularly the section on malaria in southern Africa, is very informative: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/regionalmalaria/safrica.htm
Please do carefully read
You can also take a look at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/zambia, but please be aware that we only venture into a tiny part of Zambia near Botswana/Namibia, so the countrywide text for Zambia does not really apply to this tour – the Botswana and especially Namibia sections are far more relevant here.
Although you will find that the people of Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia are generally friendly, helpful, and kind, crime is always a possibility (as it is virtually worldwide). We urge you to be aware that crime is possible (although unlikely) throughout the trip – please take very good care of your personal belongings and don’t leave valuables visible in the vehicle when no one is with it.
Electricity is 220-240V. If you intend to recharge video batteries etc. in your hotel room you will need an international adapter (3 round prong in a triangular pattern, ITA Type D/M for Namibia, ITA Type D/G for Botswana, and ITA Type C/D/G for Zambia). Note: If you are from North America or elsewhere that does not have 220-240V electricity, then do check all equipment that you plan on charging to see if it is 110/120–220/240V compatible. If that is the case you only need an adaptor to plug the US/Canadian/etc. plugs into. If your equipment is only listed as 110-120V then you will need a converter to convert the electric current to 220-240V.
You can get a Zambian visa at the border – will need US$ cash for it – usually around $50. Please note that those wanting to cross into Zimbabwe on foot to see Victoria Falls from the other side (across from Livingstone, Zambia) will have to pay for an additional (Zimbabwean) visa, the cost of which changes quite often but can be as high as US$100 (unfortunately, some nationalities are charged a lot more than others, too).
CLOTHING SPECIFIC TO THIS TOUR
In Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia we expect the weather to be warm to very hot during the day, and often mild at night. We do this tour at the best time for birds, but the disadvantage is the heat. However, the coast can sometimes be foggy and quite cool, and we recommend bringing sweaters, windbreakers, and long pants at least for the coastal part of the trip. Inland the Namib Desert is often extremely hot, but dry, whereas the Caprivi can be very hot and humid, even at night. So hot weather clothes are recommended, but long trousers, hiking boots, and long sleeves, although uncomfortable in hot weather, will help prevent snakebite and sunburn. There is a chance of rain, especially in the Caprivi, the Okavango, and at Victoria Falls.
EMERGENCY CONTACT DETAILS
Our emergency contact numbers are as follows (please note that the “+27” should be substituted by a “0” if dialing from within South Africa):
Birding Ecotours office: Nadia: +27 72 211 9863
Fax: +27 21 592 7438
E-mail (which is checked almost daily): [email protected]
Please refer to our online resource for field guides and apps
Stuarts’ Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa by Chris and Mathilde Stuart, Struik Publishers. 2015
Smithers’ Mammals of Southern Africa – a field guide. Edited by Peter Apps. 1996
Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa by Bill Branch, Struik Publishers. 1998 – Excellent
Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa by Steve Woodhall, 440-page paperback. 2005 – the best of those available
Sasol First Field Guide to Butterflies and Moths of Southern Africa by Simon von Noort, 56-page paperback. 1999
Field guide to Insects of South Africa by Mike Picker, Charles Griffiths and Alan Weaving. 3rd edition. Struik Publishers. 2019
Check whether your tour operator is legal in Namibia – please read this carefully.
‘We toured Namibia in a private group of six people through Birding Ecotours in 2010. Our group was rather diverse, with birding desires ranging from obsessive to casual and including a wildlife photographer. The range of interests could have led to issues, but we all were very satisfied with the trip. We not only had great birding results, thoroughly satisfying the more bird-oriented among us, but also had unforgettable experiences viewing mammals to the delight of the entire group. The tour was well-organized and well-executed, we had plenty of information in advance, the arrangements took account of our special needs, accommodations and transportation were excellent, and the price was quite reasonable. We were delighted with the trip and look forward to our next adventure (already booked!) with Birding Ecotours.’