Birds and Mammals Itinerary
Setting down at Windhoek airport in the morning, you will instantly get into a holiday mood by being transferred to a lovely and full of character lodge on the outskirts of the city. After lunch, we will meet our local guide and visit a private farm north of the city, where we will get our first introduction to Namibian waterbirds.
We will conclude the day with a scrumptious dinner at Windhoek’s most famous restaurant, where you will be treated to dishes such as “Namibian Bush Fire” and “Treasure Bag”.
After breakfast and some birding on our doorstep, we will undertake a scenic journey to the desolate Namib Desert. En route, we will stop at a road-site restaurant for lunch and to test its reputation for the best Namibian apple crumble pie. Here, we will also add some new species to our list.
We should reach our safari lodge, on the edge of the Namib Nauklufts National Park, by late afternoon. There will be enough time to relax at the bar or a swimming pool before our alfresco dinner under the sky full of sparkling stars.
We will undertake an early morning trip in a game-viewer vehicle to spectacular Sossusvlei, site of the oldest sand dunes on Earth. An early start is necessary while the temperature is still low and when the dune contrasts are at their best. As the sun rises, the changing colours and shadows of the dunes are truly spectacular. A specially trained guide will accompany us and will share his knowledge of the area, the animals, the plant and bird life and much more.
One hundred and fifteen bird species have been recorded in the park and we should be able to see here the semi-endemic Rüppell’s Bustard, the almost white desert race of Tractrac Chat, localized Gray’s Lark and the only Namibian endemic, the Dune Lark. You will be treated here to a luxurious alfresco breakfast in this most striking landscape.
In the afternoon, we will head north through the gravel plains of the Namib Desert. We should reach the intriguing foggy coastal desert towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund by late afternoon, where we will spend the next two nights.
In the morning, we will undertake probably the most eventful and memorable dolphin cruise you ever attend. Although eight species of baleen whale and 32 species of toothed whale and dolphin occur in Namibian waters, only some of them can be easily seen. We have great chances to come across Southern Right and Killer Whales, but the Heavyside and Bottlenose Dolphins are assured to swim alongside the boat. The trip will give us a particular close encounter with Cape Fur Seal and White-backed Pelican, who will be begging us for food. The cruise will also give us a chance to enrich our bird list with seabirds. We will conclude our cruise onboard with champagne, fresh oysters and local snacks.
In the afternoon, we will do some serious birding at Walvis Bay. The lagoon, sewage works and saltwork pans support up to 200,000 migratory birds every year. The area is also home to a great array of resident birds, and a view of Chestnut–banded Plovers should give us particular satisfaction since Namibia holds 90% of the world’s population. The lagoon also hosts over 40,000 of Greater and Lesser Flamingos at its peak in mid-winter (July). We will not be able to see such big numbers during our visit in November, but a view of even a smaller number of these birds in the crimson sun setting over the Atlantic Ocean will be a memorable experience.
We will conclude the day with a lovely meal at the best seafood restaurant in the town, built on stilts above the sea. We will enjoy our meal with the background of the sun setting down on the horizon.
We will undertake today a superb dune drive into the Namib Desert. In this dry place, an intriguing array of desert-adapted animals and plants are nourished by condensation from the sea mists rising off the Atlantic Ocean. The area, therefore, hosts some animal life unlike that found anywhere else on Earth, including a high diversity of localized reptiles (30 endemic species) and insects. In the specially adapted Land Rover, we will be driving up, down and along the dunes in search of these animals. Our local guide will be able to find for us species such as Shovel-snouted Lizard, Namaqua Sand Lizard, FitzSimmons Burrowing Skink, Palmato Geco, Namaqua Chameleon, Black Scorpion and many more. No doubt, this trip will go down as one of the highlights of our tour.
We will also venture into a desert in search of Welwitschia mirabilis, a most bizarre plant, which can live for up to 2,000 years. The Welwitschia is restricted to a narrow section of the Namib Desert and at height of over one metre and the length of the leaves up to 6 metres, we will have to make an effort to miss it!
From here, it is not far to our next destination, the ancient Erongo Mountains. Our accommodation for the next two nights consists of tented chalets built on stilts, with large wooden decking with spectacular views, secluded amongst the rocks and accessible only by a system of wooden boardwalks. Rock Hyrax and colourful Namibian Rock Agamas are basking on the rocky outcrops here in astounding numbers. In the evening, from the decking of our lovely hatched roof restaurant, we will be able to observe visitors at the floodlit waterhole, where Freckled Nightjar and Damara Dik-dik are guaranteed. Almost every night, the evening meals here are interrupted by a visit of nocturnal scavengers such as Porcupine and Small-spotted Genet.
The whole day will be spent on exploring the Erongo Mountains which is famed for an abundance of near-endemic species. Our guided walks will take place in the morning and later afternoon, with a middle of the day devoted to siesta to avoid the heat. Here, the specialities include Violet Woodhoopoe, Southern Pied-Babbler, Rockrunner, Rüppell’s Parrot, Monteiro's Hornbill, Hartlaub’s Francolin, Rosy-cheeked Lovebird and Verreaux’s Eagle, amongst many other spectacular birds.
We will leave the lodge and its stunning landscapes in late morning and head North. En route, we will make several stops to view the more interesting birds and possibilities include Brown Snake-eagle, Black-chested Snake-eagle, Red-crested Korhaan and Pigmy Falcon. We will break our journey with a stop at a coffee shop, tucked away in the middle of nowhere, where you will be treated to the most amazing and irresistible selection of cakes.
We will arrive to our lodge in the afternoon with plenty of time to relax by the swimming pool or at the waterhole. Here, the attraction might include our first encounter with Elephants, who visit the waterhole frequently.
In the morning, we will undertake a guided birding and game viewing drive in the open four-wheel vehicle. Here, the specialities will include Madagascar Bee-eater, Meves’s Starling, Monteiro’s and Red-billed Hornbills, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Brubru and Violet Wood-hoopoe. A visit to a vulture restaurant might also produce interesting encounters. Here, we will also get a good introduction to African game such as Kudu, Springbok and Gemsbok. We are also guaranteed to see a very localised Striped Tree Squirrel.
In late morning, we will head north to the Etosha National Park, one of the best game viewing places in Africa.
We will stop for lunch at a remote guest house where Orange River Francolin and Southern White-faced Scops Owl will be new addition to our bird list. We will also pick up our guide here who will accompany us throughout our visit to Etosha.
We will spend the next three days exploring the Etosha National Park. The most striking feature of the park is the Etosha Pan. About two million years ago, this area was an enormous lake. Today, it is a vast, shallow depression that, for the greater part of the year, is a bleak expanse of white cracked mud, which shimmers with mirages. There are, however, a number of waterholes scattered throughout this area that attract a large diversity of mammals and birds. The park is home to 144 mammal species, including Black Rhino, Giraffe, Burchell's Zebra, Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Spotted Hyena, Warthog, Wildebeest, Eland (the largest antelope), Gemsbok (Oryx), Kudu, Black-faced Impala and a plethora of others. Springboks are especially numerous. At least 20,000 of them roam the reserve, and often, they can be seen in enormous herds of several hundred.
Three-hundred and forty bird species inhabit the park, including 35 species of raptors, of which six are vultures. The pan is also Southern Africa's most important breeding ground for Greater and Lesser Flamingos. In the rainy season, there may be up to a million birds.
We will spend the first two nights in the Okaukuejo camp, famous for its floodlit waterholes. The waterhole is frequented by numerous animals throughout the day and night and we should be able to get close views of wonderful game, big cats and Rhinos just a few metres away from us and in the safety of the confines of the camp. In addition, hundreds of Double-banded and Namaqua Sandgrouse come to drink at those waterholes and Rufous-cheeked Nightjar hawks insects attracted to the lights.
The camp itself is also home to numerous bird species including the Gray Go-away-bird, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Cardinal Woodpecker, Marico, White-bellied and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Green-winged Pytilia and many others. We do not need to go far to find them.
We will, however, spend a full day exploring the park and visiting a number of waterholes in different habitats in search for birds and game. Martial and Tawny Eagles, the elegant Red-necked Falcon, Greater Kestrel, Kori Bustard (the world’s heaviest flying bird) and Secretarybird should be encountered without great difficulty.
We will continue exploring the area by moving to the Halali camp on our second day in Etosha Park, while game and birdwatching en route. The Halali camp, amongst other things, is famous for its roosting owls. Southern White-faced and African Scops Owls and Pearl-spotted Owlet can be seen here during the day.
In the morning of our last day in Etosha, we will drive towards the Namutoni camp, visiting various waterholes on the way. We should reach the camp in time for a scrumptious lunch in a historic fort (national monument) dating back to 1903 and now transformed into a chain of shops and restaurants. The afternoon will be devoted to further birding and game viewing in the park, where attractions will include very close encounters with Elephants and localised Blue Cranes.
We will leave the park just minutes before the gate closes and head for our upmarket lodge just outside Etosha. Our chalets are well distributed around the swimming pool, and the bar, lounge and curio shop are tastefully decorated with a blend of traditional African and modern art. The day will close with a superb alfresco candle-light dinner.
After a leisurely morning and some birding on our doorstep, we will drive south to a luxurious guest farm in Okonjima, which is part of the Africat Foundation. The Foundation protects Cheetah, Leopard and other wild animals in Namibia by rescuing them, researching and rehabilitating them back to the wild. A spectacular 180o view across the grassland savannah stretches from the windows of our chalets.
After lunch and an afternoon siesta, we will go tracking radio-collared Leopards in a game-viewing vehicle. Over 300 bird species have been recorded here and some of them will come to our view. We will conclude our, hopefully successful venture, with refreshments in the middle of the African bush with the sun setting on the horizon. Spotlighting at night is likely to produces here an African Porcupine, Honey Badger and Black-backed Jackal.
We will head south towards Windhoek after breakfast, but will break our journey for a superb three course lunch on the premises of the upmarket lodge. Here, in a thatched roof restaurant and beautiful surrounding, we will be able to relax and continue birdwatching on our doorstep, before finally heading off to the airport to catch our overnight flight to Britain.
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