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Northern Namibia and Okavango Panhandle 2021

31 October to 14 November 2021

Kunene River Lodge

Kunene River Lodge

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.

More than 630 bird species have been recorded in Namibia and many of these are superbly adapted to desert conditions.

Fourteen species are, within southern Africa, exclusive to Namibia and are classified as national endemics. The areas that we will be visiting hold all but two of these birds ie Dune Lark and Gray’s Lark.

The Namibian part of the trip focuses on Namibia’s northern border with Angola and is centred on two great Namibian Rivers, the Kunene and Kavango.

The best time to visit the area is without doubt in summer when the migrant species are present and resident species are in breeding plumage.


The 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 Pel’s Fishing-Owls which breed in Xaro Lodge, our home for two nights.


Popa Falls and Bwabwata National Park

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. However, during the dry months, April-November, the chance of seeing game is higher as the animals seek out the river and waterholes.

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 two nights at Mahangu Lodge, situated on the banks of the Kavango River.


The Broad-leaved woodlands and wetlands around Divundu, a small town on the Okavango River, are home to some northern specials, and are the most reliable area in southern Africa for Rufous-bellied Tit. The extremely rare and inconspicuous Souza’s Shrike has been recorded on several occasions in recent years. Sharp-tailed Starling and Grey-headed Parrot are often encountered.

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

Kunene River area

The Kunene River area is one of the only sites for the localised and evocatively named Cinderella Waxbill and two other sought-after specials, namely Rufous-tailed Palm-Thrush and Grey Kestrel.

This area, on the border of Angola, offers some excellent birding.  Birding is done from the road that runs along the river and in the adjacent rocky hills.

In May 2012, a small population of ANGOLA CAVE CHATS was found on the southern slopes of the Zebra Mountains. Prior to this discovery, the bird was not known to occur in Namibia and was believed to be an Angolan endemic where it is extremely localised in four isolated areas. Subsequently, a further bird was found at a much more accessible site.

In November 2008, while waiting at a waterhole for Cinderella Waxbills, we were stunned by the arrival of a pair of ANGOLA SWEE WAXBILLS.

We understand that there have been unconfirmed recent reports of this bird during Cave Chat expeditions.

Kunene River
Kunene River


The Brandberg is a large granite inselberg that rises out of the Namib coastal plain in Damaraland. It is most famous for the rock painting known as the “White Lady”, painted on an overhang in Maack’s Shelter in the Tsisab gorge, a wild and beautiful ravine amongst a vast jumble of rocks

This inhospitable and apparently lifeless region is home to more of Namibia’s endemic birds than anywhere else in the country.


En route

Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, , Greater Kestrel, Gabar Goshawk, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Secretarybird, Kori Bustard, Northern Black Korhaan, Double-banded Courser, Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Red-billed Francolin, Fawn-coloured Lark, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Ashy Tit, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Barred Wren-Warbler, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Pririt Batis, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Cape Penduline-Tit, Black-faced Waxbill, Violet-eared Waxbill.

Xaro Lodge

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.

Popa Falls, Bwabwata National Park and Mahango Game Reserve

Western Banded Snake-Eagle, African Barred Owlet, African Wood-Owl, African Skimmer, Rock Pratincole, Coppery-tailed, Senegal and White-browed Coucal,, Swamp Boubou, Black-faced Babbler, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Yellow White-eye, Brown Firefinch, Chirping and Luapula Cisticola, Wattled Crane, Rufous-bellied Heron, Long-toed Lapwing, African Pygmy-goose and Lesser Jacana.

Divundu and environs

Sharp-tailed Starling, Rufous-bellied Heron, Swamp Boubou, Rufous-bellied Tit, Souza’s Shrike, Black-faced Babbler, Tinkling Cisticola, Green-capped Eremomela, African Barred Owlet, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Lesser Moorhen, Lesser Jacana, Square-tailed Nightjar.

Kunene & Ruacana

Osprey,Grey Kestrel, Angola Cave Chat, Cinderella Waxbill, Chestnut Weaver (non-breeding), Rufous-tailed Palm-Thrush, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Monteiro’s Hornbill, White-tailed Shrike, Ruppell’s Parrot, Violet Wood-Hoopoe, Madagascar Bee-eater, White-browed Coucal, Golden Weaver, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Freckled Nightjar, Red-necked Spurfowl(cunensis race) Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Orange River Francolin, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Slaty Egret, Baillon’s Crake.


Booted Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Herero Chat, Benguela Long-billed Lark, Stark’s Lark, Ludwig’s Bustard, Ruppell’s Korhaan, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Burchell’s Courser, Double-banded Courser, Ruppell’s Parrot, Carp’s Tit, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Tractrac Chat, White-throated Canary.

The 15-day tour departs from Johannesburg. We travel in an air-conditioned VW Caravelle, 4-wheel drive Microbus.


Day 1

Date : October 31, 2021


Depart at “sparrows” from Johannesburg.
Travel via Palapye and Serowe to Orapa.
Overnight at Tuuthebe Lodge near Orapa.

Day 2

Date : November 1, 2021


Early morning birding in Orapa Game Park.
Depart after breakfast and travel via Lake Ngami to Shakawe.
Overnight at Xaro Lodge.

Day 3

Date : November 2, 2021

Xaro Lodge

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

Day 4

Date : November 3, 2021


Early morning birding in lodge grounds.
Depart after breakfast for Mahango area.
Afternoon birding in Bwabwata National Park.
Overnight at lodge near Mahango.

Day 5

Date : November 4, 2021

Mahango area

Day spent birding and game viewing.
Overnight at lodge near Mahango.

Day 6

Date : November 5, 2021


Early morning birding around camp.
Depart after brunch for Kayova River Lodge, Katere.
Afternoon birding in woodlands near Divundu.
Overnight at Kayova River Lodge.

Day 7

Date : November 6, 2021


Day spent birding in woodlands and wetlands.
Overnight at Kayova River Lodge.

Day 8

Date : November 7, 2021


Day spent birding in woodlands and wetlands.
Overnight at Kayova River Lodge.

Day 9

Date : November 8, 2021


Early morning departure for Ruacana, via Rundu and Eenhana.
Arrive Ruacana late-afternoon and bird around lodge.
Overnight at Ruacana Eha Lodge.

Day 10

Date : November 9, 2021

Ruacana area

Day spent birding in woodlands and wetlands.
Overnight at Ruacana Eha Lodge.

Day 11

Date : November 10, 2021


Early morning birding around Ruacana.
Depart after breakfast for Kunene River area.
Bird en route to Kunene.
Overnight at Kunene River Lodge.

Day 12

Date : November 11, 2021


Day spent birding in Kunene River area.
Overnight at Kunene River Lodge.

Day 13

Date : November 12, 2021


Day spent birding in Kunene River area.
Overnight at Kunene River Lodge.

Day 14

Date : November 13, 2021


Depart Kunene River Lodge bright and early.
Travel via Opuwo and Khorixas to Brandberg area.
Overnight at lodge near Brandberg.

Day 15

Date : November 14, 2021

Brandberg-Walvis Bay-home

Early morning birding around Brandberg area.
Depart after breakfast for Walvis Bay.
Mid-afternoon flight to Johannesburg.


The price includes Walvis Bay to Johannesburg flight, ground transport, all meals, accommodation, guiding, entrance fees and specified activities.


All you would need to pay for would be alcoholic drinks, gratuities and items of a personal nature.

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