The ever-popular Namibia once again lures us back for another chance to savour Africa at its best - this time a little later in the year to avoid the see more migrants and avoid the frosts! Our tour starts and finishes at Windhoek but explores some of the finest destinations en route. Vast landscapes of thornveld are punctuated by mountain ranges such as Waterberg and Erongo, both hosting some of Namibia’s endemic species including White-tailed Shrike, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Rockrunner and Carp’s Tit.
Wildlife is everywhere and no more so perhaps than in the vast Etosha National Park where 22,000 square km of wilderness is home to a wide range of birds and mammals. Waterholes attract both, including one of Africa’s most endangered mammals – the Black Rhino. Our tour to this land of contrasts also includes the spectacle of thousands of waterbirds at the internationally important lagoon at Walvis Bay.
Windhoek / Auas
Arrive Windhoek midday, meet and greet by local driver/guide. Transfer by comfortable 24-seater bus to Auas Safari Lodge (approximately 45 mins from the airport) where two nights are spent.
En route, we should see the first Fork-tailed Drongos and Lilac-breasted Rollers. The rest of the day, for those with remaining energy, we will explore some trails around this excellent lodge or alternatively you may wish to simply relax in the tranquil gardens. Expect your first views of Groundscraper Thrush, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Familiar Chat, Scaly-feathered Finch and Black-faced Waxbill amongst the fantastic array of passerines. The grounds are patrolled by raptors including Gabar Goshawk and Pale Chanting Goshawk.
This is such a good site that we have planned a whole day of gentle strolls plus a game drive enabling the extensive grounds to be explored to the full. The grounds include an excellent pool which is a magnet for a range of birds including cormorants, African Darter, Three-banded Plover, Wood Sandpiper and Hamerkop.
Your list of new species should grow considerably here with Marico Flycatcher, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Red-eyed Bulbul and Mountain Wheatear with the additional likelihood of several Namibian “specials” such as Ashy Tit and Monteiro’s Hornbill. An impressive array of mammals includes Steenbok, Greater Kudu and Waterbuck.
Auas / Waterberg
Our journey will take us north today along excellent roads to the Waterberg Plateau. Check-in to the Waterberg Wilderness Lodge where two nights are spent. Our beautiful lodge nestles into the very plateau itself and provides an unexpected break from the dry thornveld, a perennial fountain giving rise to larger woodlands.
Both Red-billed and Hartlaub’s Francolin can be seen here plus Purple Roller, Bearded Woodpecker, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Little Banded Goshawk, Ruppell’s Parrot and Pearl Spotted Owlet. Higher on the escarpment we will be looking for Bradfield’s Swift, Carp’s Tit and African Hawk Eagle.
The following day we will have another chance to fully explore the beautiful grounds of the lodge including a nearby lake and drinking pool for Bateleur, Black-shouldered Kite and Secretary Bird plus a myriad of passerines such as Black-faced and Violet-eared Waxbills and Green-winged Pytilia.
After an early morning walk around the grounds of the lodge we will head for Etosha National Park, stopping off at Lake Otjikoto en route which can be good for some of the heron species plus sunbirds and whydahs. We will be staying for one night at Mokuti Lodge which is right on the edge of the reserve and has excellent grounds and some bird species which may not be seen elsewhere such as Yellow-throated Apalis and Black-faced Babbler.
Etosha National Park (Halali)
Our journey today takes us midway across the reserve via various waterholes to the rest camp at Halali. Predator enthusiasts should be in for a treat here with the possibility of Lion and Leopard as well as raptors galore such as Lanner, Red-necked Falcon and Gabar Goshawk hunting the thousands of Red-billed Quelea swirling around. On top of this there are mammals everywhere from Springbok to Elephant and we may even see the secretive Black Rhino.
On the open plains we will scan for Double-banded Courser, Kori Bustard, Secretary Bird, Blue Crane and the very scarce Cheetah. Birdwatching is also excellent in the grounds of Halali with Bare-cheeked Babbler, Golden-breasted Bunting, Groundscraper Thrush, Carp’s Tit and a number of roosting owl species including African Scops, Southern White-faced Scops and Barn. The waterhole at the rest camp is one of the best, regularly attracting Black Rhino, Spotted Hyena and Leopard.
Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo)
We then head on to Okaukuejo, our final stop in Etosha where two nights are spent. En route we will explore a number of the best areas for the big cats including Lion and Cheetah, as well as checking carefully the various larks which are seen along the road. Okaukuejo is another excellent lodge with probably the best waterhole in the park, a magnet for birds and mammals alike.
One of the great spectacles is an elephant herd heading at a serious pace from the horizon to the water. At dusk hundreds of Double-banded Sandgrouse come to drink, sometimes overlooked by the enormous Verreaux’s Eagle Owl and this has also been a favourite site for Black Rhino which have been seen gathering in numbers up to 8 at a time. Birdwatching in the grounds is also very fruitful with readily viewable Sociable Weavers (plus attendant Pygmy Falcons), African Hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, and Kalahari Scrub-robin to name a few.
After an early game drive, we will depart Etosha and head south-west to the Erongo Mountains, a stronghold for a number of key Namibian Species including Rockrunner, White-tailed Shrike, Monteiro’s Hornbill and Carp’s Tit, all of which can be seen around the beautiful Ai-Aiba Lodge, where two nights are spent. The lodge is surrounded by wilderness and close to rock paintings dating back thousands of yeas to the bushman era.
Klipspringers pirouette on the rocks while Dassies (Rock Hyrax) take cover from the stunning Verreaux’s and African Hawk Eagles which regularly patrol the edges. During our stay here we will leave the vehicle for a whole day giving us a chance to wander the tracks, relax and witness the sun disappearing from the big African sky revealing crystal clear stars as Freckled Nightjars hawk for moths around the buildings. Overnights Ai-Aiba Lodge.
Spitzkoppe / Walvis Bay
Today our visit to this land of contrasts will take us, appropriately, to the coast, stopping en route at the beautiful granite outcrop Spitzkoppe. This is chat country with Mountain Wheatear, Southern Anteating, Karoo and the elusive Herero Chats all present along with gaudy Acacia Pied Barbet, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Rattling Cisticola, Karoo Long-billed and Sabota Larks.
The journey then takes us through increasingly arid country bordering the desert, where, with luck, small groups of Gray’s Lark, Ruppell’s Khorhaan, Temminck’s and Double-banded Courser can be spotted. We finish the day in the company of the massed gatherings of Greater and Lesser Flamingo along with Eastern White Pelican at Walvis Bay. Two nights are spent at the perfectly situated and very comfortable Pelican Bay Hotel, on the edge of the lagoon.
Our second day in Walvis Bay will give us the chance to really explore the fabulous wetland sites in this locality for a wide range of waders (some in summer livery) and endemics such as the diminutive Damara Tern, plus, in total contrast, a visit to the nearby dunes.
Walvis Bay / Auas
Our last full day takes us full circle, back across the gravel plains and thornveld to the Windhoek area for a welcome overnight stop before the journey back home. This will give us a final chance to see, once again, some of the typical birds of the central region including more chances for Hartlaub’s Francolin, Rockrunner, Monteiro’s Hornbill and of course a variety of mammals and other fauna. One night is spent at the Auas Safari Lodge.
Auas / Windhoek / Johannesburg/London
Our late afternoon flight and short journey to the airport will give us time to enjoy a relaxed start and some last wildlife watching before we depart on our return South African Airlines flight to the UK via Johannesburg.