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Chobe, Caprivi & Okavango Panhandle 2021

17 to 29 June 2021

Chobe sunset
Chobe sunset

The area that we will be visiting is crossed by four major rivers, the Zambezi with its Chobe tributary in the east, the Kwando, in the central Caprivi strip and the Kavango, further to the west.

These rivers form the boundaries between Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.

Botswana, a sparsely populated, wild country is famous for the Okavango, a vast inland delta surrounded by the Kalahari Desert.

Whilst the Okavango is truly rich in birdlife, all its “specials” can be readily seen in the Chobe and Eastern Caprivi. These areas are easily accessible by road and are also far more affordable. The grassy floodplains, mopane woodland and bush alongside the Chobe River support a rich diversity of avifauna.

The Caprivi Region is in the far north-eastern extremity of Namibia and is the gateway to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and the Chobe National Park in Botswana. In contrast to the rest of Namibia, the area is lush with riverine forest, marshes, dense savannah and mopane woodland. The Kwando River forms the border between east and west Caprivi, 100km west of Katima Mulilo in Namibia. The wide range of habitats along the Kwando allows a variety of birding opportunities, with over 400 species recorded.

DESTINATIONS

Chobe National Park and surrounds

Senyati waterhole
Senyati waterhole

The Chobe National Park and surrounds is undoubtedly one of the prime birding destinations in southern Africa. The total bird list for the area is more than 450 species. Encompassing some 11 000 sq km, Chobe National Park also supports Botswana’s densest and most varied game populations, including four of the Big 5 and several rare antelope species.

Habitats consist of mixed broad-leafed woodland, riverine woodland, the Chobe River floodplain and seasonal pans.  These habitats are home to a tremendous diversity of birds, including all the Okavango specials.

Game viewing and birding is often best from the river and a boat cruise is usually very rewarding. Game drives into the Park often yield spectacular game and bird sightings.

We spend three nights at Senyati Safari Camp, situated in the Lesoma Valley, some 20km from Kasane.

The Okavango River rises in the highlands of Angola and flows through Namibia before flooding onto the soft sands of the Kalahari, creating the inland Okavango delta. The Panhandle is a stretch of approximately 70km of the Okavango River from where the river leaves Namibia and enters Botswana until it fans out into the Okavango Delta.

Caprivi

Eastern Caprivi

Birding in the area around Katima Mulilo in the eastern Caprivi is an all-year round pleasure with excellent opportunities to see over 430 species of birds which inhabit the floodplains and surrounding areas.

Other habitats in the area include riverine woodland, mixed woodland, dense acacia thickets, mopane woodland and scattered baobabs.

There are few places on earth where sunsets are more spectacular.

We spend two nights at Caprivi Houseboat Safaris on the outskirts of Katima Mulilo, set in a beautiful African environment on the banks of the Zambezi River.

We next head for the Kwando River which forms the border between east and west Caprivi, 100km west of Katima Mulilo.

The wide range of habitats along the Kwando allows a variety of birding opportunities, with over 400 species recorded.

Along the Kwando River there are extensive floodplains, reed and papyrus beds and riverine forest. Away from the river the mixed woodland includes teak, combretum, burkea, terminalia, and acacia forests and thickets, and open grasslands.

Our home for two nights is Camp Kwando, a comfortable lodge situated on the river bank and an absolute haven for birders.

Camp Kwando
Camp Kwando

From here we explore Mudumu National Park, a vast 1 010km² expanse of dense savannah and mopane woodlands, with the Kwando River as its western border. Over 430 species of birds have been recorded in the Mudumu National Park which is nearly 70% of Namibia’s total.

Game viewing can be exceptional, with huge herds of elephant present, particularly during the dry season (June-November).

We travel westwards to Divundu, situated at the western edge of the Caprivi Strip, on the banks of the Kavango River.

Western Caprivi

Popa Falls and Bwabwata National Park (Buffalo and Mahango Core areas) are without doubt the prime sites for birding in the western Caprivi, over 420 species having been recorded there, including all the “Okavango specials”. Located in the north east of Namibia on the Botswana border, the contrasting vegetation is widely considered to be one of Namibia’ s most varied and fascinating conservation areas. There are three distinct habitats in the area, offering a tremendous variety of birds.

  • The river, which offers a blend of trees, reeds and grasses along its banks and in the wetlands.
  • The Omurambas, which are fossil rivers, are covered with open grassland with tall acacia and bushwillows around the borders.
  • Between the Mahango Omuramba in the north and the Thinderevu Omuramba in the south the vegetation is open dry woodland with some thick patches of Zambezi teak, wild seringa and wild teak. These varied habitat types offer a tremendous variety of birds and mammals. Year-round water ensures an abundance of game.

Mammals found in the area include Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard, Roan and Sable Antelope, Lechwe, Reedbuck and the very rare Sitatunga.

Lion and Cheetah are occasionally encountered.

We spend three nights at Mahangu Lodge situated on the banks of the Kavango River.

African Elephant
African Elephant

Okavango Panhandle

The area around the town of Shakawe in Botswana, known as The Panhandle”, is situated along the upper reaches of the Okavango Delta.

The area is rich in contrasting habitats and species diversity and provides excellent birding throughout the year. A boat cruise along papyrus-fringed channels and backwaters of the Okavango River is sure to yield interesting bird, reptile and mammal species. We also do short walks along the riverfront and in riverine forest. The greatest attraction of a visit to the area is surely the pair of Pels Fishing-Owls which breed in Xaro Camp, our home for two nights.

A nearby attraction is the Tsodilo Hills, a World Heritage site, containing a rich treasure of rock art. Tsodilo has been called the “Louvre of the Desert” with over 4500 paintings preserved in an area of only 10 sq km.

Lake Ngami is one of Botswana’s 12 Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Even when dry, it meets the criteria set by BirdLife International for qualification as an IBA, due to the presence of numerous range-restricted and biome-restricted species such as the Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Hartlaub’s Babbler, and Burchell’s Sandgrouse, among others. However, when flooded, as has been the case for the past five years, the birdlife is exceptionally prolific and varied, with the emphasis on large numbers of congregatory waterbirds.

BIRDING ATTRACTIONS

Northern Chobe National Park and Kasane

Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Osprey, Collared Pratincole, African Finfoot, African Pygmy-goose, Coppery-tailed Coucal, White-browed Coucal, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Three-banded Courser, Orange-winged Pytilia, Red-faced Cisticola, Brown Firefinch, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Grey-rumped Swallow, Swamp Boubou, Copper Sunbird, Purple-banded Sunbird, Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, White-backed Night Heron, Allen’s Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen, Chirping Cisticola, Luapula Cisticola, Greater Swamp-Warbler, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Yellow White-eye

 

Katima Mulilo area

Yellow-throated Leaflove, Shelley’s Sunbird, African Skimmer, Coppery-tailed Coucal, White-browed Coucal, African Pygmy-goose, Collared Pratincole, Long-toed Lapwing, White-crowned Lapwing, Lesser Jacana, Allen’s Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen, Schalow’s Turaco, Grey-headed Parrot, African Wood-Owl, African Barred Owlet, Rufous-bellied Heron, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Bat Hawk, Racket-tailed Roller, Arnot’s Chat, Collared Pratincole.

Kwando River

Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, Greater Swamp-Warbler, Allen’s Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen, Lesser Jacana, Racket-tailed Roller, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Swamp Boubou, Arnot’s Chat, Chirping Cisticola, Luapula Cisticola, Tinkling Cisticola, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Brown Firefinch, Copper Sunbird, Purple-banded Sunbird.

Popa Falls, Bwabwata National Park (Buffalo and Mahango sections)

Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Dickinson’s Kestrel,

African Barred Owlet, African Wood-Owl, Coppery-tailed, Senegal and White-browed Coucals, Swamp Boubou, Black-faced Babbler, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Yellow White-eye, Brown Firefinch, Greater Swamp-Warbler, Chirping and Luapula Cisticolas, Wattled Crane, Rufous-bellied Heron, Long-toed Lapwing, African Pygmy-goose and Lesser Jacana.

The dry deciduous forest in the reserve supports White-breasted Cuckoo-shrike, Rufous-bellied Tit, Bradfield’s Hornbill and Tinkling Cisticola.

Xaro Camp

Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Pel’s Fishing Owl, White-backed Night-Heron, African Wood-Owl, African Barred Owlet, African Golden Oriole, African Pygmy-goose, Long-toed Lapwing, Allen’s Gallinule, Greater Swamp-Warbler, Chirping Cisticola.

The 13-day tour departs from Johannesburg. We travel in an air-conditioned VW Caravelle, 4-wheel drive Microbus.

Itineraries

Day 1

Date : June 17, 2021

Johannesburg-Kasane

Depart on a late morning flight from Johannesburg to Kasane, arriving early afternoon.
Afternoon birding and overnight at Senyati Safari Camp.

Day 2

Date : June 18, 2021

Kasane area

Early morning boat cruise in Chobe National Park.
Rest of day spent birding and relaxing at Senyati.
Afternoon game drive in Chobe National Park.
Overnight at Senyati Safari Camp.

Day 3

Date : June 19, 2021

Kasane area

Early morning birding in Kasane Forest Reserve.
Rest of day spent birding and relaxing at Senyati.
Afternoon game drive on Hunters’ Road.
Overnight at Senyati Safari Camp.

Day 4

Date : June 20, 2021

Kasane-Katima Mulil

Early morning birding in Kasane Forest Reserve.
Depart after breakfast for Namibia.
Travel via Ngoma border post to Katima Mulilo.
Afternoon birding and overnight at Caprivi Houseboat Safaris.

Day 5

Date : June 21, 2021

Katima Mulilo area

Morning birding around Katima Mulilo.
Afternoon boat cruise on Zambezi River.
Overnight at Caprivi Houseboat Safaris.

Day 6

Date : June 22, 2021

Katima Mulilo-Kwando River

Early morning birding in lodge grounds.
Depart after breakfast for Kwando River.
Arrive at Camp Kwando in the early afternoon.
Afternoon birding and overnight at Camp Kwando.

Day 7

Date : June 23, 2021

Kwando River

Early morning game drive in Mudumu Game Reserve.
Rest of morning and early afternoon spent at leisure.
Afternoon boat cruise along waterways and channels.
Overnight at Camp Kwando.

Day 8

Date : June 24, 2021

Camp Kwando -Divundu

Early morning birding in lodge grounds.
Depart after breakfast for Divundu.
Arrive at Mahangu Lodge early afternoon.
Afternoon game drive in Mahango Game Reserve.
Overnight at Mahangu Lodge.

Day 9

Date : June 25, 2021

Mahango/Bwabwata area

Day spent birding and game viewing.
Overnight at Mahangu Lodge.

Day10

Date : June 26, 2021

Mahango/Bwabwata area

Day spent birding and game viewing.
Overnight at Mahangu Lodge.

Day 11

Date : June 27, 2021

Mahango-Xaro Lodge, Shakawe

Early morning birding in lodge grounds.
Depart after breakfast and cross border into Botswana.
Visit Tsodilo Hills en route to Drotsky’s Cabins.
Travel by boat from Drotsky’s Cabins to Xaro Lodge, arriving mid-afternoon.
Overnight at Xaro Lodge.

Day 12

Date : June 28, 2021

Xaro Lodge

Early morning boat trip on Kavango River.
Rest of day spent relaxing & birding around camp.
Overnight at Xaro Lodge.

Day 13

Date : June 29, 2021

Xaro Lodge-Maun

Early morning birding in lodge grounds.
Depart after breakfast for Maun for afternoon flight to Johannesburg.

Includes

Flights from : Johannesburg to Kasane and Maun to Johannesburg

Ground transport, all meals, accommodation, guiding, entrance fees and specified activities.

Excludes

Alcoholic beverages, gratuities and items of a personal nature.

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