African Pygmy Geese, Okavango
African Pygmy Geese, Okavango

Introduction: 

Botswana’s Okavango Delta is a true marvel, a massive labyrinth of channels and lagoons fanning out into the vast sands of the Kalahari. The clear water and lush vegetation attract masses of wildlife and indeed, Botswana has some of the best wildlife viewing to be had on the continent. Needless to say, the Okavango is also rich in birdlife, including specials such as the sought-after Pel’s Fishing Owl, Slaty Egret, the exquisite African Pygmy Goose, African Skimmer, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Lesser Jacana, Chirping Cisticola and others. The surrounding woodland savanna regions, which become progressively drier as one moves away from the Delta, also have their appeal, holding birds such as Dickinson’s Kestrel, Red-necked Falcon, Souza’s Shrike, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Hartlaub’s Babbler and an array of large raptors. Our 13 day tour of the region kicks off in Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta. We then make our way around the western side of the delta to Shakawe. To fully appreciate the river delta environment one needs to get onto the water, and on this tour we’ve included time on a fully-equipped house boat in this region of the ‘panhandle’, as it’s known. The boat accommodates up to 8 people on a sharing basis, and comes with a full staff, including a chef to prepare our meals. By day we’ll be out and about on the smaller tender boat, birding and viewing wildlife as we explore the maze of channels and lagoons, perhaps stopping for a coffee stop and leg stretch on an island dominated by impressive Mahogany, Jackalberry and other trees, while at night enjoying almost total isolation moored somewhere in a quiet backwater. After our time on the water we head north into Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, staying at a lodge on the mighty Zambezi River, before going eastwards into the famous Chobe National Park. Here an afternoon boat ride on the Chobe River should be enthralling, to say the least, with great photographic opportunities to be expected. From Kasane in Botswana we make a final journey to Victoria Falls, with some time spent appreciating one of the world’s great waterfalls. The tour will come to an official end the next morning in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, but participants may want to spend more time in the area before flying to onward destinations.

25 September – 7 October & 3 – 15 November 2019 (12 nights / 13 days)

Starts in Johannesburg (O. R. Tambo Int. Airport) on the morning of the 26th September & 4th November 2019. Tour ends in Victoria Falls on the last day (in time for same day return flights to Johannesburg).

2019: US $ 6 280 per person sharing, US $ 575 single supplement

Price subject to change based on external factors. Price is based on a minimum of 4 participants. Small group surcharge will be levied for groups smaller than 4 participants. Please contact us for more detail.

Includes
• Accommodation
• All meals
• Ground transport
• Bottled water in vehicle whilst travelling
• Entrance fees
• Personalised checklists
• Specialist guide fees

Excludes
• All airfares
• Travel and medical insurance
• All drinks
• Optional excursions where applicable
• Gratuities
• Items of a personal nature

Note
• This itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions at the time and other factors beyond our control.
• Birds and mammals mentioned on this itinerary do not represent all that can be seen. A full list of possibles appears on your checklist.

Group Size: maximum of 6 participants

Areas visited: Shakawe, Mahango Game Reserve, Eastern Caprivi, Chobe River, Victoria Falls.
Birding in brief: excellent all round. Good savannah birding, waterbirds and Kalahari species.

Top birds: Pel’s Fishing Owl, Slaty Egret, Coppery-tailed Coucal, White-backed Night Heron, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Lesser Jacana, Rock Pratincole, Chirping Cisticola, African Skimmer, African Pygmy Goose, Arnot’s Chat, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, African Finfoot, Rosy-throated Longclaw.

Mammal viewing: good game viewing in most areas with chances for big game such as Elephant, African Buffalo, Hippopotamus, and maybe some big cats. Some specials such as Sitatunga and Red Lechwe.

Botswana Water & Wilderness map
Start Maun / end Victoria Falls. 1: Delta Belle Houseboat. 2: Shakawe. 3: Ngepi Camp. 4: Kalizo Lodge. 5: Chobe. 6: Victoria Falls

Day 1: Shakawe and the Okavango River
Today you’ll catch a short morning flight from Johannesburg to the rustic ‘frontier’ town of Maun in Botswana, arriving around midday. You will be met by your Lawson’s safari guide and will have lunch before a three-and-a-half hour drive around the western side of the Okavango Delta to the village of Shakawe, situated aside the Okavango River in the ‘Panhandle’ region upstream of the delta. Here we will board the house boat, our base for the next two nights, on board which we’ll have wonderful en-suite cabins. Our birding adventure will start as soon as we put foot on the house boat as the skipper points the boat upriver and into the sunset, and no doubt Gin and Tonics will duly be served… After some late afternoon birding from the boat we’ll have time to freshen up before dinner served on board, prepared in the galley by our local crew, before retiring to our cabins for the night.

Day 2: The Okavango River
Today we’ll have an early start, with a cup of coffee or tea served on the deck before we set off on a birding trip in the tender boat, leaving the house boat behind as we work our way along channels and floating papyrus islands looking for Greater Swamp Warbler, Long-toed Lapwing, Lesser Jacana, Allen’s Gallinule, Open-billed Stork, Pygmy Goose, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Chirping Cisticola, White-backed Night-heron, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Luapula Cisticola, among others. Elephants, Hippo’s and Nile Crocodiles are always present, if we are lucky we may catch glimpses of the shy and rare Sitatunga antelope, the swamp specialist of central Africa. A scrumptious brunch will await us back on the house boat and while enjoying the food we’ll have panoramic views from the deck as our skipper takes us further up river. After breakfast we’ll have time to unwind on the boat, birding from the deck, reading or just relaxing. In the afternoon, after anchoring the boat, we will get into the smaller boat for our afternoon birding trip. Pel’s Fishing Owl, Osprey, African Fish Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Western-banded Snake Eagle and African Hobby are some of the raptors we will hope to find on this excursion, among a plethora of other species, and in the late afternoon we’ll return to the boat for our second night on the Okavango River, enjoying another idyllic sunset before dinner and bed.

Day 3: Shakawe and the Okavango Panhandle
Today we may have time for an early morning outing on the tender boat before returning to the main boat for breakfast as we drift back downstream to Shakawe, where we’ll disembark. We will get to our next destination, Shakawe River Lodge, after midday where we will have lunch and a bit of relaxation. There will be time in the afternoon to do some birding in the gardens, where we may find Holub’s Weaver, Swamp Boubou, Black-Collared Barbet and White-Browed Robin-Chats, among others, while spotting birds from the comfort of swimming pool is another option, for those so inclined (or reclined!).

Days 4 – 5: Mahango Game Reserve
An early drive to the Tsodilo Hills, a world heritage site renowned for some impressive San rock art and birding in the area, looking out for species such Dickinson’s Kestrel, Souza’s Shrike, Booted Eagle and Pale-chanting Goshawk, among others. We return to the lodge for lunch before moving on. Crossing into the Caprivi Strip region of Namibia, we will find ourselves in Mahango Game Reserve. For the next two days we will explore the reserve, using our lodge as a base camp, spending as much time out in the field as suits us. Early morning and afternoon boat trips and drives will keep us busy, and we’ll be looking out for species such as African Skimmer, Laupula Cisticola, Wattled and Grey-crowned Cranes, Bӧhm’s Spinetail, Black-faced Babbler, Grey-headed Parrot, Black-winged Pratincole, Western-banded Snake-Eagle, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Violet-eared Waxbill, Slaty Egret, African Hobby and many more. In between activities we’ll have time to enjoy the lodge, which includes tree house chalets overlooking the river, and also features a unique ‘Croc Pool’ swimming experience, akin to cage diving with sharks except in the Okavango River rather than the ocean, with Nile Crocodiles and Hippo’s lurking on the other side of the cage…

Days 6 – 7: The Zambezi River
After an early morning birding walk we’ll have breakfast and depart for the Zambezi River. We’ll cross the Caprivi Strip from west to east, stopping for lunch in Katima Malilo where we will look for Schalow’s Turaco before moving on. Our destination is Kalizo Lodge on the banks of the upper Zambezi River, with Zambia lying across on the northern bank. Here we’ll embark on morning and afternoon boat trips as well as walks and drives over the Zambezi floodplain, looking for species such as Black Coucal, Brown Firefinch, Greater Painted Snipe, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Rufous-bellied Heron, African Skimmer, Slaty Egret, while nocturnal species we’ll aim to see include Swamp, Rufous-cheeked, Fiery-necked and Square-tailed Nightjars. We will be staying in luxury safari tents overlooking the Zambezi, and once again we’ll aim to include some time in camp to appreciate the surrounds and simply wallow in the magnificence of the place.

Days 8 – 9: The Chobe River
Today we may have time for an early morning birding walk before departing from the banks of the Zambezi and crossing over into Botswana where we will enter the Chobe Game Reserve, birding and game viewing as we drive. It should take us most of the morning and early afternoon and we’ll arrive just in time to do our first birding boat trip on the Chobe River, and experience not to be missed! Today and the next day we will spend time in Chobe Game Reserve and on the Chobe River, looking for species such as Rock Pratincole, Schalow’s Turaco, Copper and Purple-banded Sunbirds, Coppery-tailed and White-browed Coucals, Collared Palm-Thrush, Long-toed Lapwing, Lesser Jacana, Allen’s Gallinule, Yellow-billed Stork and various waders and kingfishers which share the banks of the river with herds of African Buffalo, Sable and Roan Antelope, Lechwe, Impala and of course the large numbers of African Elephants for which Chobe is famous for. Our accommodation for these two nights will be around Kasane village where wildlife and humans live side by side and it’s not unusual to see an Elephant or Warthogs crossing the main street in town!

Days 10 – 11: Victoria Falls
After breakfast we will cross the Zimbabwe border and make our way to the village of Victoria Falls. After checking in to our lodge we will have lunch before visiting the Victoria Falls and admiring these natural wonders while looking out for birds such as Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Grey-headed Parrot, White-crowned Lapwing, Long-toed Lapwing, Racket-tailed Roller, African Black Swift, Verreaux’s Eagle, Augur Buzzard and Peregrine Falcon, before returning to the lodge with enough time to get ready for dinner. On our full day we take a boat trip on the Zambezi River during which we’ll be looking for African Skimmer, Rock Pratincole, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Rufous-bellied Heron and White-backed Night-Heron, among others. If possible we will attend the vulture feeding spectacle at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge at 13h00 before an afternoon leisurely birding stroll around the village. Species we’ll be on the lookout for include Trumpeter Hornbill, Schalow’s Turaco, Brown Firefinch, Collared Palm-Thrush, Broad-tailed Paradise-Whydah, Orange-winged Pytilia and Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, among others. In the late afternoon we’ll return to the classic Victoria Falls Safari Lodge for sundowner drinks before dinner.

Day 12: Departure
Today we will hopefully have time for a last birding walk in the lodge grounds followed by breakfast and departure for Victoria Falls Airport for our return flight to Johannesburg and onwards.

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