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NAMIBIA & THE OKAVANGO

A feast of endemics, scenery and wildlife

Birdquests's Namibia & Okavango (Botswana) birding tour is a classic African birdwatching and wildlife journey that features a spectacular feast of bird and mammal encounters, not to mention some magnificent scenery. Taking in the edge of the Skeleton Coast, Etosha National Park and the world-famous Okavango, as well as several equally good but less well-known parts of Namibia, our itinerary is the most comprehensive around and produces more specialitles than any other.

Saturday 21st September — Tuesday 8th October 2019
(18 days)


Leaders: Steve Braine and a second Birdquest leader

Group Size Limit: 12

Tour Category: Easy walking and comfortable accommodations

The endemic Hartlaub's Francolin poses on a rock in the early morning sunshine (Pete Morris)

The endemic Hartlaub's Francolin poses on a rock in the early morning sunshine (Pete Morris)

The southwestern corner of Africa not only contains some of Africa’s most magnificent scenery but also the greatest concentration of endemic birds on the continent. This part of Africa offers superb, easy (almost entirely open country) birding with many endemic or restricted-range specialities, some of the best mammal watching on the continent, wonderful scenery, amazingly good roads, and mostly good accommodations and food.

Namibia and the adjacent Okavango in Botswana are a huge region and road distances are great, so they need a tour of sufficient duration for a thorough exploration that allows plenty of time for birding and mammal watching.

Namibia, once the German colony of South West Africa, is one of the last great wildernesses in Africa and, still almost empty of people, provides the visitor with a birding experience that is hard to match. Washed by the cold, nutrient-rich Benguela Current that flows northwards from the Antarctic, the coastline itself is a bleak area of endless dunes and expanses of gravel – the stark Namib Desert that gives the country its name. This remote, fog-bound coastline, famous as the Skeleton Coast, a graveyard for ships, is nonetheless a scenically impressive area that possesses some of the largest concentrations of coastal seabirds and waders in Africa.

Further inland the plains of the Namib give way slowly to the mountainous central uplands and progressively richer vegetation. From thin scrub one passes through dense bushveld and mopane woodland before the landscape again becomes more arid and less vegetated as one reaches the Kalahari Desert that stretches onwards across Botswana to the borders of Zimbabwe.

In striking contrast to the rest of the country, the northeastern part of Namibia has a tropical feel about it and enjoys a much higher rainfall. Here the waters draining from the highlands of Angola join to form the Okavango River that flows on towards the southeast and ultimately creates the famous Okavango Delta in Botswana.

This is the most comprehensive birding and wildlife itinerary available in this fantastic part of the world, producing more of the speciality birds than any other. We will be in the region during one of the very best times to visit Namibia and the Okavango.

During this marvellous journey through Africa’s newest democracy, Namibia, and adjoining Botswana (two of the friendliest and most modern states in Africa), we shall first explore the rugged hills of the Windhoek region in search of Rosy-faced Lovebird, the strange, terrestrial White-tailed Shrike, the rare Herero Chat and many other interesting birds.

Next we head out across the desert to the Atlantic coast at Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, where the myriads of waterbirds contrast so strikingly with the paucity of birds inland (although the local avifauna includes such specialities as Rüppell’s Korhaan, Burchell’s Courser, Dune, Stark’s, Gray’s and Benguela Long-billed Larks, and Orange River White-eye).

From the Skeleton Coast we return inland, working our way north to Huab Lodge in the Khorixas region of Damaraland, home to a fabulous selection of Namibian endemics or near-endemics including Hartlaub’s Francolin, Rüppell’s Parrot, Violet Wood Hoopoe, Monteiro’s and Damara Red-billed Hornbills, Carp’s Black Tit, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Rockrunner and Black-backed Puffback, not to mention such as Southern African specialities as Red-billed Francolin, Namaqua Sandgrouse and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill.

Working our way even further north we come to the Kunene River in the far northwest of Namibia, famous for its two primarily Angolan specialities; Rufous-tailed Palm Thrush and the enigmatic Cinderella Waxbill.

Next we explore the wilderness of Etosha National Park. This world famous sanctuary, centred on the dried-out Etosha Pan, offers some of the most exciting birding and wildlife experiences to be found in Africa. Here, Lions, African Elephants, Giraffes, handsome Gemsboks (or Southern Oryx), Springboks and many other mammals will compete for our attention with huge Kori Bustards and elegant Double-banded Coursers, not to mention the smart Red-necked Falcon and such Southern African specialities as the stately Blue Crane, the smart Northern Black Korhaan, Double-banded (and perhaps Burchell’s) Sandgrouse, Pink-billed and Spike-heeled Larks, Rufous-eared Warbler and Southern White-crowned Shrike.

From Etosha we journey northeastwards to the curiously-shaped Caprivi Strip, a quirk of late 19th century colonial diplomacy, and the adjacent northern region of Botswana. We will be looking out for such interesting species as Sousa’s Shrike and Rufous-bellied Tit along the way.

Here the Okavango (or Kavango) River flows out of Angola and crosses Namibia on its way into Botswana and its eventual dissipation in the sprawling Okavango Delta. A visit to this remarkable area, a meeting point between the avifaunas of the arid southwest and the moister regions of Central Africa, provides an opportunity to see all the Okavango bird specialities (including Slaty Egret, Black and Rufous-bellied Herons, and the splendid Pel’s Fishing Owl), plus several species that are otherwise restricted to Angola and adjacent parts of Central Africa. We shall stay in four different lodges beside the river, including one in northern Botswana.

Finally, to complete this wonderful journey through southwest Africa, we will enjoy the hospitality of a splendidly-situated lodge in the starkly beautiful Erongo Mountains near Omaruru in central Namibia while we look for Freckled Nightjar and any Hartlaub’s Francolin or Rockrunner if they proved elusive earlier in the tour.

Birdquest has operated tours to Namibia and Botswana since 1987.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are of good standard throughout (although some are rustic, they are comfortable and reside in superb settings). At Etosha National Park some rooms at the lodges have a private bathroom and some share a bathroom between two rooms. It is not known in advance which type of rooms will be allocated on arrival. Road transport is mostly by minibus/passenger van, but we use a large, open-sided safari vehicle for some of the time in Etosha. Roads are mostly of good quality (even the untarred roads in Namibia are well graded), which is just as well as there are some long drives.

Walking: The walking effort is easy throughout.

Climate: Rather variable. In interior Namibia most days will be hot, dry and sunny, but overcast conditions are not uncommon and it may well rain in the north. In coastal Namibia conditions range from warm to rather cool during the frequent periods of sea-fog, but rain is unlikely.

Bird/Mammal Photography: Opportunities are very good.

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £4890, €5770, $6410 Windhoek/Windhoek. Single Room Supplement: £391, €461, $512. Deposit: £600, €720, $780.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Boat trips into the Okavango Delta provide plenty of excitement. Southern Carmine Bee-eaters nest in the banks, though the real prizes are Pel's Fishing Owl and White-backed Night-Heron (Pete Morris)

Boat trips into the Okavango Delta provide plenty of excitement. Southern Carmine Bee-eaters nest in the banks, though the real prizes are Pel's Fishing Owl and White-backed Night-Heron (Pete Morris)

African Skimmers are fairly common on the sandbars in the Okavango Delta (Pete Morris)

African Skimmers are fairly common on the sandbars in the Okavango Delta (Pete Morris)

The elusive Rufous-bellied Tit may be found in the dry deciduous forests in the north of the country (Pete Morris)

The elusive Rufous-bellied Tit may be found in the dry deciduous forests in the north of the country (Pete Morris)

The impressive Black Rhinoceros is a frequent visitor to the waterholes at Etosha during the hours of darkness! (Pete Morris)

The impressive Black Rhinoceros is a frequent visitor to the waterholes at Etosha during the hours of darkness! (Pete Morris)

The diminutive Damara Tern is always a favourite (Pete Morris)

The diminutive Damara Tern is always a favourite (Pete Morris)

Other localized or endemic species include the Herero Chat (Pete Morris)

Other localized or endemic species include the Herero Chat (Pete Morris)

... the Bare-cheeked Babbler (Pete Morris)

... the Bare-cheeked Babbler (Pete Morris)

... and the recently split Damara Red-billed Hornbill (Pete Morris)

... and the recently split Damara Red-billed Hornbill (Pete Morris)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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