Depart London Heathrow for an overnight flight, arriving in Johannesburg the following morning.
Arrive Windhoek at midday, meet and greet by local driver/guide. Transfer by comfortable 24-seater bus to Auas Safari Lodge, approximately 45 mins from the airport. 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 Chat 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.
Overnight: Auas Safari Lodge.
Our journey will take us north today along excellent roads to the Waterberg Plateau where we will spend two nights. 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 Owl. 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. Overnight: Waterberg Wilderness Lodge.
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. Overnight: Mokuti Lodge
Our journey today takes us midway across the reserve via various waterholes to the restcamp 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 restcamp is one of the best, regularly attracting Black Rhino, Spotted Hyena and Leopard. Overnight: Halali.
We then head on to Okaukuejo our final stop in Etosha and 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 our beautiful lodge which 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. Overnight: Ai-Aiba Lodge.
Today our visit to this land of contrasts will take us, appropriately, to the coast. 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. The following day 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. Overnight: Pelican Bay Hotel, on the edge of the lagoon.
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 and Monteiro’s Hornbill. Plus of course a variety of mammals and other fauna.
Overnight: Gocheganas Lodge.
Our early 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 flight to the UK via Johannesburg.
Once again, Neil did a fantastic job with our itinerary! He is so informative and efficient. Nothing seems too much trouble for him!- UP, Cambodia, 2014