This Trip Report tells you our experiences of our first visit to Botswana. We made this "Recce Tour" in October 2011, accompanied by 5 brave fellow travellers
: Peter Jones Local Guide
: Kurt Mckenzie
Day One – October 14th
Arrival at Maun Airport – Thamalakane Lodge (20km)
The Group arrived in the midday heat of Maun. We transferred to the Lodge about 20km outside of Maun. After everyone was checked in and settled we travelled to Okavango River Lodge where we did an afternoon Boat cruise on the Thamalakane River. It’s hard to believe that we are on the river so close to town yet it is so tranquil. Sycamore Figs, Jackal Berries, Large fever Berries and Real Fan Palms were some of the tree’s lining the river. Some of the birds we saw were Open-billed Stork, African Crake, Hamerkop, Lilac-breasted Roller, African Fish Eagle, White-faced Whistling Duck, the beautiful African Pygmy Goose, Southern Pochard, Little Grebe (everywhere on the river), a couple of high flying Woolly-necked Stork, Intermediate Egret and of course many other heron species, Reed Cormorant and African Darter were very common, African Swamphen and wheeling overhead good numbers of Black-winged Pratincole, we saw so many more species and the grounds of the lodge also provided a good mixture of gardens and woodland, so more species were seen here too.
Day two – October 15th
Flight to Hainaveld and transfer to Central Kalahari Game Reserve (30min Flight & 80km Drive).
After a short transfer to Maun airport and an air transfer to Hainaveld we had an 80km drive to get to camp. Enroute from Hainaveld we passed through some burnt areas from the recent and current veld fires. With no shade we managed to find a burnt tree which gave a little shade for our lunch stop. Upon arriving at the entrance gate Matswire gate, there was a huge fire coming towards us. We had to leave the bird watching at the little water hole to try and get in front of the fire. On the way into camp we saw a few Gemsbok (ORYX), Springbok, Black Backed Jackal, Impala, Kudu and a male Honey Badger. Some of the birds we saw included Pale Chanting Goshawk, Common Scimitarbill, Bateleur, Marico flycatcher, Tawny Eagle, White Backed Vulture, Chestnut-vented Tit Babbler, common Ostrich, Swallow Tailed Bee eater, African Grey Hornbill, Black-backed Puffback, Black and Brown-crowned Tchagra, Southern Boubou, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Eastern Clapper Lark, Southern Pied Babbler, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Southern Black Flycatcher, Purple-banded Sunbird and so many other species including several weaver species.
Day Three to four – October 16th - 17th
Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR)
We had two full days in the CKGR where we spent time driving around Deception Valley, Deception Pan, Sunday Pan and headed towards Leopard Pan. We saw Honey Badger, Bat Eared Fox, Giraffe, Black Backed Jackal, Kudu, Lion, Steenbok, Blue Wildebeest, Oryx, Springbok, Silver Fox and Ground Squirrel. We had a cheeky little Silver Fox who came and visited our kitchen each night, but he didn’t find any food as it was all packed way! Some of the birds seen were Violet-eared waxbill, Barred wren Warbler, Kori Bustard, Northern Black Korhaan (White Quilled Bustard), Red-crested Korhaan, Fork-Tailed Drongo, Ground scraper Thrush, Crimson-Breasted Boubou (Shrike), Double-banded Courser, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk, a single Dark Chanting Goshawk, Spotted Thick-knee and so many weaver species. Around our camp we were kept constant companions by hornbills, Pied Crow, Chinspot Batis, Yellow-billed Kite, Crimson-breasted Shrike, starling species Marco Flycatcher and a host of other super birds.
Day Five – October 18th
Maun, Thamalakane Lodge (80km Drive & 40min Flight)
After an early start we headed back to the Hainaveld airstrip for the flight back to Maun. We drove through the burned areas again and at one point had a fire burning alongside us. It was also very windy, hot and dry. We all had a good sand blast from the wind and dust. On the way we saw a few Impala, Black Backed Jackal, Kudu, Slender Mongoose and Tree Squirrel. We also saw Red-necked Falcon, Pallid Harrier Helmeted Guinefowl, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Black Kite, Greater Kestrel and of course a mandatory stop so Peter could see ‘yet again’ his beloved wheatear the Capped Wheatear! It was freshen-up time at Thamalakane Lodge so by the afternoon everyone had had a shower or swim and were looking totally refreshed. We did an optional walk outside the Lodge grounds that was a bit disappointing, in one direction there were fenced off fields and in the other direction we saw very little, Green Wood Hoopoe, African Jacana, Jacobin Cuckoo and Bearded Woodpecker so we headed back to the sunset deck and saw a lot more from there including large flights of Open-billed Stork in excess of 100, several heron species and whistling duck.
Day six to Seven – October 19th - 20th
Khwai, Moremi Game Reserve (25min Flight & 40km Drive).
After an Early morning Start we met everyone at Xakanaxa Airstrip in Moremi Game Reserve (MGR). We did a short transfer down to the boat station where we saw at the elusive Sitatunga Antelope. We did a 3 hour boat cruise looking for birds. The heronry was a little disappointing with only a few Yellow-billed Stork, Marabou Stork, Great Egret, Reed Cormorants and Grey Lourie. We also saw from the boat some Pygmy Geese, Black Tern and fish eagles. After lunch on Lechwe Island we headed back to the vehicle for our 3 hour game drive to camp. Along the way we saw Impala, Elephant, Kudu, Steenbok, Lion, Black-Backed Jackal and a lovely Leopard on the way back to Camp. Birds we saw included Broad-billed Roller, Gabar Goshawk, Arnots Chat, Long Crested Eagle and many other target species. On Day seven we saw plenty of game some of which were Red Lechwe, Impala, Elephant, Warthog, Tsessebe and many great birds including Pale Flycatcher, Spur-winged Goose, Wattled Crane, African Jacana, Swamp Boubou, African Hawk Eagle, African Spoonbill, African Palm Swift, Common Swift, White-rumped Swift, Purple Roller, several woodpecker species, Little Rush Warbler and a host of others.
Day eight to nine – October 21st - 22nd
Khwai (MGR) to Savuti Chobe National Park(120km Drive).
After another early start we headed north to Chobe National Park to the Savuti Region. It was a very long hot and tiring day, we saw many Elephants, Impala, Kudu, Blue Wildebeest (Gnu), Giraffe, Lions and Jackals. We also saw Spur winged Geese, White backed Pelicans, Yellow billed storks, Golden Breasted Bunting, Secretarybird, Black and Yellow-billed Kite, African Fish Eagle, Hooded, White-backed and Cape Vulture, Black-chested and Western-banded Snake Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Common Buzzard, Steppe Eagle, African Hawk Eagle and other raptors, what a day! On Day 9 we saw Elephant, Kudu, Impala, Waterbuck, Giraffe, Tsessebe, and Blue Wildebeest. We also had good sightings of Yellow-billed storks, White-backed Pelicans, Red billed Teal, Hottentot Teal, Wattled Crane, Common Buttonquail, Long-toed Lapwing, Crowned Lapwing, Black-winged and Collared Pratincole, Whiskered and White-winged Tern, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Southern Ground Hornbill, Southern Black Tit, Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark, Sand Martin, Willow Warbler, Olive-tree Warbler, several species of Cisticola, Arnot’s Chat, Red-headed Quelea, Red-headed Finch and the list just grew and grew......
Day ten to eleven – October 23rd - 24th
Savuti to Chobe River Front. (130km Drive)
We had a very early start and departure to try and beat the heat to get to our next camp. It was a long drive on mostly sandy roads with the short 30km tarred section before getting heavy sand again to our camp. Once at the new camp the trees were only starting to get their new leaves so there wasn’t much shade if any at all. We had our picnic lunch in the shade of the vehicle while we waited for the backup crew to arrive. We headed out in the late afternoon for a short game drive. We saw a big heard of Buffalo and Elephants in the distance, Impala, Lechwe and Kudu. On our way back to camp we had good view of a pride of Lion feeding on a recently baby Elephant kill, good to see the lions, but sad too, adding to the drama the pride were being harried by Spotted Hyena. We had good birds too with African Hawk Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Carmine Bee-Eater 00’s, Helmeted Guinefowl cheekily mobbing a Black-backed Jackal, Yellow-throated Canary, Scarlet-chested Sunbird and another host of new species included an unexpected Lesser-spotted Eagle. Day 11 saw us up bright and early. The area was such a great place for both game and birds, we couldn’t wait to get out and see how the lions had managed against the Spotted Hyena. It wasn’t long before we saw the pride had made a fresh kill, yet again a young Elephant. The old remains of yesterday’s kill was being pecked over by vultures and eagles. We had great views of a confrontation between a Tawny Eagle and an adult Bateleur, the later deciding to head butt the Tawny Eagle at which point the Tawny fell from his perch, superb! We had some good views of Impala, Warthog, Waterbuck, Chacma Baboons, Elephants, Giraffe, Roan Antelope and a good ending to the day with about 2000 Buffalo and large herds of Elephant, all providing a wonderful backdrop as we enjoyed chilled wine, beer and a magnificent sunset. We saw African Spoonbill, large flocks of White-backed Pelican and Open-billed Stork, Grey Herons, Grey Go-away Bird, Reed Cormorant, African Fish Eagle, Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Common Cuckoo, White-fronted Bee eater, Greater Honeyguide, Long-billed Crombec, White-bellied Sunbird, African and Plain-backed Pipit plus a flock of Black-throated Canary, so together with other species it had been another super day!
Day eleven – October 25th
Chobe River Front to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (75km to Border & 80km onto Victoria Falls)
Well today was a goodbye day to Botswana and all our friends at the camp, sad but we had to pack our bags and head off to Zimbabwe. We headed up to road to the tar transit road through the park into Kasane, along the way we saw many elephants, Warthogs and some Sable Antelope. We saw a few Ground Hornbills, Bateleur and Kites. Once we arrived at the Border we went through the Botswana Immigration pretty quickly and then took an hour to get our visa’s sorted at the Zimbabwe Border. Once all was done we said our farewells and everyone was transferred to their hotel in Victoria Falls for one night before heading home the following day, of course not before we managed a few more bird species!