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Great Game Parks 2 2021

6 to 17 June 2021

Chobe, Hwange, Matobos, Umguza 

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 and teak and mopane woodland alongside the Chobe River in the Chobe National Park support a rich diversity of avifauna.

Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe’s largest national park, located in the far west of the country along the border with Botswana.  Covering an area of over 14,000 square kilometres, Hwange is one of Africa’s finest havens for wildlife. Situated on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, this vast wilderness area comprises sands, saltpans, acacia scrub, vleis, Zambezi teak and large leaved false mopani forests.

The Matobo National Park forms the core of the Matobo or Matopos Hills, an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys commencing some 35 kilometres south of Bulawayo, southern Zimbabwe. The Hills were formed over 2000 million years ago with granite being forced to the surface, this has eroded to produce smooth “whaleback dwalas” and broken kopjes, strewn with boulders and interspersed with thickets of vegetation. Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele nation, gave the area its name, meaning ‘Bald Heads’.

Umguza is a picturesque, tranquil area in the friendly Umguza valley, away from the hustle and bustle of Bulawayo.

The Destinations 

Chobe National Park

 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.

Senyati Safari Camp
Senyati Safari Camp

Hwange National Park

Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe is undoubtedly one of the finest birding and game viewing destinations in Africa. Ancient fossilised rivers have since become grassy plains in the region of Main Camp. Red lowveld and black cotton soils support mopani woodlands around Sinamatela and Robins. The semi-arid vegetation makes Hwange excellent for game viewing, and a scarcity of water means that man-made waterholes have been introduced to sustain the animals through the dry season. The game congregates at waterholes as the surface water diminishes making game viewing very productive.

Cheetah
Cheetah

The terrain supports over 100 species of mammals including zebra, buffalo, hyena, lion, leopard, cheetah, sable, kudu, steenbok, eland, waterbuck, and impala. It is the vast number of elephants that are truly spectacular though. With up to 30,000 elephants, Hwange is rated amongst the finest elephant conservation areas on the continent.  The Park is also home to the largest concentration of giraffe in Africa and shelters a stable population of one of Africa’s most endangered species, the wild dog. Gemsbok, bat-eared foxes, roan antelope, and brown hyena occur here in reasonable numbers.

Bird life is incredibly rich, with some 400 species of birds recorded in the park. With a range of habitats and birding hotspots including the dams and pans, the park forms a vital network of aquatic ecosystems for migrant and resident birds. There is some excellent miombo woodland between the turnoff from the Bulawayo/Victoria Falls road and the Park.

We spend two nights in a stunning camp, situated on a private concession deep in the heart of the Park. It is a game viewing paradise where one can see vast herds of elephant and buffalo in addition to plains game and hear the lions roar at night. The large game viewing deck on the main building overlooks the water hole in Kapula vlei.

A further two nights are spent at a lovely “off the grid” lodge, overlooking the ancient riverbed of the Dete Vlei, within a private forestry concession, some 8km from Main Camp. The Dete Vlei is frequented by herds of sable antelope, elephant, buffalo, and other plains’ game species. Lucky sightings include lion, cheetah, wild dog and on the rare occasion, leopard.

Umguza Farm

Umguza Farm, our home one night, is run by the Randell family and has magnificent gardens and beautiful views across the Umguza River and the Matabeleland bush.

The birding habitat is mixed, consisting of irrigated pastures, irrigated and ‘dry’ land cropping lands, acacia scrub, mixed woodland, exotic plantations, wetlands and large farm dams. The area supports in the region of 325 species, ranging from bush birds, to raptors and waterfowl. Several rarities and vagrants have been recorded over the years.

The Matobos

The Matobo Hills cover an area of about 3100 km², of which 424 km² is National Park, the remainder being largely communal land and a small proportion of commercial farmland. The park covers some beautiful scenery including some spectacular balancing rocks and impressive views along the Thuli, Mtshelele, Maleme and Mpopoma river valleys. Part of the national park is set aside as a 100 km² game park, which has been stocked with game including black and white rhinoceros. The highest point in the hills is the promontory named Gulati (1549 m) just outside the north-eastern corner of the park.

More than 300 species of birds have been recorded in the Matobos National Park, with 32 species of raptors breeding in the Matobo Hills. Most important is the Verreaux’s Eagle where around 45 occupied territories are monitored annually.

We spend two nights in the exquisite Matobo Hills Lodge, situated within a private wildlife reserve, bordering Matobo National Park. The lodge’s accommodation units are built upon a granite outcrop with sweeping panoramic views over the surrounding hills.

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 and Luapula Cisticolas, Greater Swamp-Warbler, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, African Yellow White-eye.

Hwange National Park

Martial and Tawny Eagle, Bateleur, African and Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle, Brown and Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Little Sparrowhawk, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, African Scops-Owl, Kori and Black-bellied Bustard, Secretarybird, Southern Ground Hornbill, Red-billed Spurfowl, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Grey Crowned Crane, Greater Painted Snipe, African Crake, Yellow-throated, Double-banded and Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Mosque Swallow, Tropical Boubou, Three-banded and Bronze-winged Courser, Racket-tailed Roller, Miombo Tit, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Arnot’s Chat, African Golden Oriole, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Southern Pied Babbler, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Black-eared Seedeater, Orange-winged Pytilia, Violet-eared and Black-faced Waxbill.

Three-banded Courser
Three-banded Courser

Umguza

African Barred Owlet, Grey Crowned Crane, Allen’s Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen, Meyer’s Parrot, Little Bittern, Retz’s Helmet-Shrike, Grey Penduline-Tit, Green-capped and Burnt-necked Eremomela, Cut-throat Finch.

Cut-throat Finch
Cut-throat Finch

Matobo National Park

Verreaux’s Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Peregrine and Lanner Falcon, Freckled Nightjar, Boulder Chat, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Mottled Swift, Southern Hyliota, Purple-crested Turaco, Striped Pipit, Lazy and Croaking Cisticola., White-throated Robin-Chat, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird, African Yellow White-eye.

 

The 12-day tour departs from Johannesburg. We travel in an air-conditioned VW Caravelle, 4-wheel drive Microbus

Itineraries

Day 1

Date : June 6, 2021

Johannesburg-Francistown

Early morning departure from Johannesburg. Travel via Martin’s Drift and Palapye to Francistown, arriving mid-afternoon. Overnight at Woodlands Stopover near Francistown.

Day 2

Date : June 7, 2021

Francistown-Matobo National Park

Early morning birding around camp. Depart after breakfast for Matobos, via Bulawayo. Birding and lunch at Hillside Dams, Bulawayo before heading for Matobo NP. Overnight at Matobo Hills Lodge.

Day 3

Date : June 8, 2021

Matobo National Park

Day spent birding, game viewing and sightseeing in Matobo N P. Overnight at Matobo Hills Lodge.

Day 4

Date : June 9, 2021

Matobo National Park-Umguza

Early morning birding in lodge grounds. Depart after brunch for Umguza, birding en route. Afternoon birding and overnight at farm guesthouse.

Day 5

Date : June 10, 2021

Umguza-Hwange National Park

Early morning birding on farm. Depart after breakfast for Hwange. Arrive early afternoon and overnight at Sable Sands Lodge.

Day 6

Date : June 11, 2021

Hwange National Park

Days spent birding and game viewing in Hwange National Park. Overnight at Sable Sands Lodge, near Main Camp.

Day 7

Date : June 12, 2021

Hwange National Park

Early morning birding in lodge grounds. Leave lodge after breakfast and head westwards to Kapula Private Camp. Spend day birding and game viewing en route. Overnight at Kapula Private Camp.

Day 8

Date : June 13, 2021

Hwange National Park

Spend day birding and game viewing. Overnight at Kapula Private Camp.

Day 9

Date : June 14, 2021

Hwange-Chobe area

Early morning birding and game viewing around Kapula. Depart after brunch for Botswana. Visit agricultural fields near Pandamatenga en route to Chobe, Botswana. Overnight at Senyati Safari Camp.

Day 10

Date : June 15, 2021

Chobe area

Early morning boat cruise into Chobe National Park. Afternoon game drive in open safari vehicle in Chobe National Park. Overnight at Senyati Safari Camp.

Day 11

Date : June 16, 2021

Chobe area

Morning birding in Kasane Forest Reserve. Rest of day spent birding and relaxing around Senyati. Overnight at Senyati Safari Camp.

Day 12

Date : June 17, 2021

Chobe area-Johannesburg

Morning birding around Kasane. Take early afternoon flight to Johannesburg.

Includes

Transport, all meals and accommodation, guiding, entrance fees and specified activities

Excludes

Alcoholic beverages, gratuities, and items of a personal nature

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