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Birding on Namibia's Rivers with Mark Paxton

  
  

Today we travel to the Kavango Region. This part of Namibia is famed for its incredible biodiversity and, in particular, its birdlife. We figured the best way to find out about the amazing birds you can spot in this part of Namibia would be to interview a local expert and bird guide, Mark Paxton, who runs Shamvura Camp on the Okavango River.

Caprivi, Namibia, Shamvura, Zambezi region, Kavango Region, africa birding, Namibia birding, Mark Paxton

African Openbills, African Darters and hippos on the Okavango River.
(Photo by Ethan Kistler via Nature Travel Network)

 

Mark, could you share with our readers who you are and what you do… 

I own and run a tourism venture called Shamvura Camp that is situated on the Okavango River about 120kms East of Rundu. I have been actively involved in professional bird guiding for almost 15 years, and I personally conduct specialized birding groups from Shamvura Camp into the surrounding regions. Before that I was a qualified game ranger.

Caprivi, Namibia, Shamvura, Zambezi region, Kavango Region, africa birding, Namibia birding, Mark Paxton

The Okavango River, near Shamvura Camp.
(Image via Shamvura Camp)

 

What makes the Kavango Region and the Caprivi Strip such an amazing place for birdlife? 

This region boasts about 450 bird species this is close to half the entire South African Birdlist. Although this region is low on endemics we have almost 30 “near endemics” with close to 100 “sought-after birds” some of which are found nowhere else in the Southern African sub-region.

 

Caprivi, Namibia, Shamvura, Zambezi region, Kavango Region, africa birding, Namibia birding, Mark Paxton

If you’re keen-eyed you even catch a glimpse of Shelley’s Sunbird when staying at Shamvura.(Image via The Flacks)

 

With three major river systems (Okavango, Zambezi and Kwando) this region is the last stop-over resting place for most migratory birds from the Northern hemisphere before they disperse and embark on the last long and largely waterless journey South.

Caprivi, Namibia, Shamvura, Zambezi region, Kavango Region, africa birding, Namibia birding, Mark Paxton

The African Skimmer.
(Picture by Ethan Kistler via Nature Travel Network)

 

If you could pick your three favourite bird species in the region what would they be?

Souza’s Shrike, Sharp-tailed Starling and Rufous-bellied Tit are certainly the three most challenging species.

Caprivi, Namibia, Shamvura, Zambezi region, Kavango Region, africa birding, Namibia birding, Mark Paxton

Souza’s Shrike- The Kavango region of the only places in Namibia
where you can catch a glimpse of this illusive bird.
(Image via Outdoor Photo)

 

the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now

A young Sharp-tailed Starling photographed near Shamvura Camp.
(Image via Niall Perrins)

 

the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now

The ever bustling Rufous-bellied Tit.
(Image via Responsive)

 

What are some tips you could recommend to birding enthusiasts when they are exploring the Kavango and Zambezi Regions?

In the Kavango Region because of the increasing human population factor, the birding is quite difficult and confined. This necessitates the services of a professional guide who knows the area and the habits, movements and preferred habitats of particular birds. Most woodland birding is confined to feeding parties which follow certain islands, routes or corridors amongst the inhabited and badly farmed woodland.

Caprivi, Namibia, Shamvura, Zambezi region, Kavango Region, africa birding, Namibia birding, Mark Paxton

With guides you are sure to get the most out of your birding adventure.
(Image via Shamvura Camp)

 

Are there any guided birding tours that visitors can sign up for? 

In the Kavango Region only Shamvura Camp offers specialized birding tours with professional guiding. Most other lodges offer birding tours with local guides who although partially trained have limited knowledge but still manage to give a good experience. In the Zambezi Region, Caprivi Birding offers professionally guided tours.

 

What time of year is best for birding, and why?

The best months of the year which offers a large diversity of birding overall is September, October and November. The majority of the breeding is then in full swing with the sparsely leafed trees offering excellent visibility. A lot of the migrants are then starting to arrive adding to the diversity factor. The Okavango and Zambezi rivers are still low with sandbanks for waders and other water birds still available.

Caprivi, Namibia, Shamvura, Zambezi region, Kavango Region, africa birding, Namibia birding, Mark Paxton

Exposed river bank with some Southern Carmine Bee Eaters going about their business.
(Picture by Ethan Kistler via Nature Travel Network)

 

On the other hand the slower flowing Kwando at a higher level again has a different birding aspect. River birding on the Okavango and Zambezi systems picks up during January, February, March and April when water-logged floodplains offer ideal feeding and breeding habitat for the Gallinules, Rails, Crakes, Herons, Egrets and some Storks.

Caprivi, Namibia, Shamvura, Zambezi region, Kavango Region, africa birding, Namibia birding, Mark Paxton

When the river rises look out for the Gallinules.
(Image via Travel News Namibia)

 

+++++++ 

Mark Paxton is the current Chairman of the Kavango Open Africa Route (KOAR), and the Namibian Chapter of the Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA-Nam). He is also the Co-ordinator of Poisoning of Wildlife Action Group (POWAG) and also heads up the Biodiversity Working Group for the Okavango Basin Management Committee.

 

For a full list of the birds you can see in the Kavango Region click here.

To book at Shamvura Camp click here.

If you want to read more about Namibia's north east then click here.

Tags: ,

Where to Stay in Namibia's Lush North East

  
  

Staying in the north east of Namibia is a great way to add something a little bit different to your itinerary when exploring our vast country. However, because of the distance from Windhoek, you will not be able to simply pop in for the day. So, to help you explore this extraordinary place we’ve picked out five lodges you can use as a base when exploring the Zambezi and Kavango Regions. 

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Paddling out on to the Zambezi River.
(Picture via Shamvura Camp)

 

Lush, green, riverine… These are not words that people usually associated with Namibia as our country is famed more for its seemingly endless arid landscapes than for its verdant river-crossed Zambezi Region (formerly Caprivi) in the north.

 

1. Shamvura Camp

Situated on the banks of the Okavango River, in the Kavango region, is Shamvura lodge. It is a paradise for bird watchers with over 60 species of wetland birds (as well as several rare reptiles and amphibians). The lodge itself is situated on a large sand dune between the Cuito and Okavango rivers and commands awesome views of the river and the Angolan floodplains.

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One of the bungalows at Shamvura.
(Picture via Shamvura Camp)

 

Whether you are into birding, angling (there are over 90 species of fish in the waterways around Shamvura), or just good old-fashioned relaxing by the pool as the sun sets over the criss-crossing river waterways, Shamvura Camp has something for just about everyone. The camp has a restaurant but guests are also welcome to self-cater. 

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Two guests and their best friend, cruising down the waterways.
(Picture via Shamvura Camp)

 

Check out Shamvura's website for more pictures and information on how to book.

***

2. The Ngepi Camp

Our friend Rachel Lang (BushBound Girl) has covered the Ngepi Camp before, but no list of where to stay in the Zambezi Region would be complete without this unique camp. Ngepi Camp offers both award winning campsites, bush huts and, of course, their famous tree houses.

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The view from Ngepi is something to behold.
(Photo via Ngepi Camp)

 

Guests at Ngepi are also able to take part in a whole range of activities offered by the camp. If you feel like getting out into the delta you can go on sunset cruises, rent a fishing boat, take a guided walk, enjoy a game drive, or for the more adventurous you can sign up for their famous dragon river rafting experience. 

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Getting the blood pumping on the Dragon Boat Rafting Experience.
(Photo via Ngepi Camp)

To book visit the Ngepi Camp website here.

***

3. Mahangu Safari Lodge

Not many people are familiar with this lodge and all the awesome things it has to offer. We're hoping in time this will change because this place is fantastic! There are four en-suite luxury air-conditioned safari tents, seven en-suite air-conditioned double bed bungalows and three guide bungalows with shared facilities.

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Who wouldn't want to relax on this deck overlooking the pituresque river?
(Photo via Mahangu Safari Lodge)

 

The lodge is ideally situated for those guests who want to experience both river safaris and more traditional game drives. The game drives are through the nearby Mahango National Park where it is not uncommon to catch sighting of crocodiles, hippos, elephants and fish eagles.

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Elephants making there way through the Mahango National Park.
(Photo via Mahangu Safari Lodge)

 

If you’d rather spend time on the water then you’re in for a treat: The water around Mahangu is teeming with bream and tiger-fish and the lodge offers guided fishing trips for anyone who wants to do some fishing in one of Namibia’s most beautiful and diverse regions.

Namibia, where to stay namibia, caprivi, zambezi, elephant, caprivi region, zambezi region, birding, namibia birding

A prize catch!
(Photo via Mahangu Safari Lodge) 

For more information and bookings click here.

***

4. Popa Falls Camp

This camp was revamped and reopened last year much to everyone’s joy. Popa Falls is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Namibia’s Zambezi Region and the nationally run Popa Falls Camp does its astounding surroundings justice. We ran a piece on it in January that you can read here.

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We know that you'll fall for these falls...
(Photo courtesy of Dr Klaus Dierks)

 

There is not a lot of perennially flowing water in arid Namibia so any lodge or camp that puts you close to a series of cascading rapids like the Popa Falls Camp does will be a special place to visit.

Namibia, where to stay namibia, caprivi, zambezi, elephant, caprivi region, zambezi region, birding, namibia birding

The 'golden hour' as seen from the banks of the Zambezi.
(Photo courtesy of Dr Klaus Dierks)

 

The camp is, like Mahangu Safari Lodge, is very close to the Mahango National Park and you can visit that park on a guided tour if you enquire at the Popa Falls Camp reception. It also has access to all the beauty of the surrounding river networks with all the bird, plant and animal life that you could hope for.

Book your spot via Namibia Wildlife Reorts here.

 ***

5. Mazambala Island Lodge

Found on an island in the Kwando River this lodge boasts 12 comfortably appointed thatched bungalows. There is also a 12-metre high viewing deck on the island which gives guests unrivalled views of the amazing and diverse plant and animal life of the Zambezi region.

HUT describe the image

The lodge are the perfect mix of unspoiled and luxurious.
(Photo via Temba)

 

Mazambala pride them selves on employing local guides that have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the surrounding area’s birdlife and wildlife. Given the sheer numbers of birds that call this part of Namibia home it is massively helpful to have a guide who knows what to look for and how to find it. 

This lodge is near the Bwabwata National Park and you can hop on a safari drive through this park that is famous for it’s large herds elephants migrating over the Angolan and Namibian borders.

ELEPHANTS  BOATS

Boat cruises and game drives- just another day at Mazambala.
(Photo via Temba) 

To book a few nights on this island retreat click here.

***

The Zambezi Region is truly a place of diversity and the unexpected. If you plan on visiting Namibia and want to get a totally different experience to what is considered “traditionally” Namibian, then you should consider making a trip up north to the border.

Namibia, where to stay namibia, caprivi, zambezi, elephant, caprivi region, zambezi region, birding, namibia birding

Visit the Zambezi Region and let go!
(Photo via Ngepi Camp)

 

++++++

 

Are you a birding enthusiast?
Well here’s a blog on the birdlife you can find in the Zambezi Region (and other parts) of Namibia:

 

BIRDLIFE IN NAMIBIA

african pygmy goose

The Ngepi Camp in Namibia's Zambezi Region

  
  

Bush-bound Girl has written for us once before and now she is back for a second time. In her recent post she shares her experience of staying in one of the most unique accommodations in Namibia: The Ngepi Camp in the Zambezi (Caprivi) region. Read on to find out what makes this camp so special...

My George-of-the-Jungle tree house in the Caprivi

by Rachel Lang

 

jhgvhg

Ngepi Camp.
(Photo © Ngepi Camp)

 

Ever since watching George of the Jungle as a kid, I’ve wanted to live in a tree house. Unless you’re scared of heights or of sharing a bed with the odd creepy crawly creature, who wouldn’t want their own cosy tree hideaway? Recently, I spent time at the legendary Ngepi Camp in the Caprivi region of Namibia where I stayed in the tree house of my dreams! Although George didn’t swing by, I (Ursula) had plenty of company, from hippos and little skittering mice, to fish eagles and coppery-tailed coucals…

The Caprivi, in the upper reaches of the Okavango Delta panhandle, is a magnificent area – calming plains of green viridescent marshland and white Kalahari sand, and, of course, the Okavango (or Kavango) river, where Ngepi Camp (and the beautiful tree houses) are situated.

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Caprivi Region – seen from a microlight.
(Photo © Ngepi Camp)

Hippo Ngepi Camp resized

A hippopotamus in the Kavango
(Photo © Ngepi Camp)


The camp has twelve tree houses in total, each one unique and completely open to the river. They are all built of farmed materials upholding Ngepi’s owner Mark Adcock’s strong belief in the importance of safeguarding the area’s indigenous trees. Even the trees that the houses are built around have not been touched or used as building structures, with the intent of symbolising that man and nature can live together peacefully.

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One of the cabins.
(Photo © Bush-bound Girl)


Everything (including hot showers) is run on solar energy. Mark, who can also be referred to as Ngepi’s ‘artist’, has made sure that solar panels are not hidden by vegetation, but placed in full view for guests to see, “I want people to ask questions, I want them to say this works so well, where can I get one for my house?”

resized

Larger rooms are available too.
(Photo © Otto Grimm)

 

Another environmentally friendly novelty is the tree houses’ air-conditioning system. It’s a method so simple yet so clever! At the top of each thatched roof is a tap, and, when it’s switched on the cool water runs down each side of the roof. Air blowing against the water is cooled (the same as when we sweat) and this causes the temperature of the room to drop by at least 10 degrees c. More than a camp, Ngepi is a place of learning. Every element reflects a commitment to live sustainably, to reduce human impact on the environment, and, as a foreign client once put it,“live with your feet in nature!”. This is exactly what I did every morning as I opened my eyes to the sunrise between my toes!

ngepi shower pic resized

Gran and Grandad – you asked if this pretty bum was mine and who took the photo…
Sadly, I have to report that this is not me.
I got the photo from the kind folks at Ngepi and I’m not sure who the model is!

(Photo © Ngepi Camp)

Mokoro in front of Tree House - resized

Instead of George of the Jungle’s ‘watch out for that tree’
it’s a matter of watch out for that mokoro going by while you’re in the shower!!

(Photo © Ngepi Camp)

 

Bedtime in an Ngepi tree house is equally special. I showered beneath a million bright stars, naked for only the hippos to see. I listened with delight to the low hoots of a Pels Fishing owl, which echoed into the evening and eventually sent me soundly to sleep. On some nights you may even hear the roar of a lion from the other side of the river, which is Bwabwata National Park, or from Mahango Park to the South.

hamock- resized for blog

There’s a hammock on each tree house deck to chill with a book in the afternoons.
(Photo © Ngepi Camp)

 

Read more about Ngepi’s tree houses here

For More info email:  bookings@ngepicamp.com

+264 (0) 66 259 903 or +264 (0)81 20 28 200

Popa Falls Camp- Another Hidden Gem in Namibia

  
  

In the north east of Namibia, perched at the top of the Okavango and overlooking the uniquely beautiful Popa Falls you can find NWR’s Popa Falls Camp. The camp is the perfect place to use as a base for exploring Namibia’s Okavango Delta and Caprivi Strip.

The camp, which had fallen into disrepair, was recently re-opened by the Namibia Wildlife Resorts and is now welcoming tourists once more.  

namibia adventure, Okavango, Wildlife, Caprivi, Namibia tourism, Namibia, safari, safari namibia

The falls, and the camp are nestled between Zambia and Botswana.
(Image courtesy of Namibia Bookings)

What are the Popa Falls?  

Rather than a classic waterfall the Popa Falls are a serious of unique and beautiful cascading rapids that run over a series of quartzite ledges. In the wet season the series of rapids is a must-see if you are in the north east of the country.

namibia adventure, Okavango, Wildlife, Caprivi, Namibia tourism, Namibia, safari, safari namibia

A section of the rapids that make up the Popa Falls.
(Image courtesy of Dr Klaus Dierks)  

Because the Okavango is perennial, the region close to the falls is awash with diverse flora and fauna. Many different species of fish, birds, antelope and other large mammals have made their homes on the shady and lush banks of the mighty river.  

namibia adventure, Okavango, Wildlife, Caprivi, Namibia tourism, Namibia, safari, safari namibia  

It’s not always all about the fauna-
there is some astonishing flora along the banks of the Okavango.
(Image courtesy of Roxanne Reid)  

Exploring Mahango Game Park  

More than just a place to stay, the Popa Falls Camp is perfectly positioned to break your trip as you head north from the central or southern regions of the country. Close to NWR's camp you will find the Mahango Game Park. The park, much like the rest of the Caprivi Strip is home to a variety of fauna from large mammals to exotic birds. 

The park is famous for its collection of wetland birds; including egrets, cranes, herons, pelicans, storks and various birds of prey like Pel’s Fishing Owl and Montagu’s Harrier. The park has even been designated as an “Important Bird Area” by BirdLife International.

So if you are keen on birding and find yourself on a day trip through the park remember to bring a pair of binoculars and bird book to make a note of all the different species you spot.  

namibia adventure, Okavango, Wildlife, Caprivi, Namibia tourism, Namibia, safari, safari namibia

The park has a large population of African Skimmers.
(Image courtesy of Loretta Aminus)  

Mahango is also one of the few reserves in Namibia, and by extension the world, that is home to a pack of African wild dogs. These notoriously shy and incredibly endangered animals are always a treat to see and the opportunity to catch a glimpse of them should not be passed up on.  

namibia adventure, Okavango, Wildlife, Caprivi, Namibia tourism, Namibia, safari, safari namibia

Three wild dogs seeking some respite from the baking noon sun.  

Other large mammals in the park include bushbuck, reedbuck, tsessebe, sitatunga, and the rare and beautiful roan and sable antelope. There are also, according to reports, migratory elephants that pass through the park, but sightings of these majestic beasts are rare.  

namibia adventure, Okavango, Wildlife, Caprivi, Namibia tourism, Namibia, safari, safari namibia 
Herds of various antelope can be seen all over the park.

(Image courtesy of Roxanne Reid)  

**Note that the park is only open for day trips and there are no overnight facilities so it is best to stay at a lodge or a camp nearby if you wish to explore it.**  

Other things to do at Popa Falls Camp

The Okavango is a popular destination for fisherman as the river is stocked with abundant Tigerfish, Threespot and Greenheaded tilapia. Staying at the Popa Falls Camp will give you an excellent place to base yourself if you wish to launch a fishing expedition on the upper sections of the Okavango in Namibia.  

The camp is also a good place to just take a few days off and let off some steam by the riverside. Sometimes travelling around can be hard work and a day or two of solid relaxation can go a long way to making your trip around Namibia even more enjoyable.

namibia adventure, Okavango, Wildlife, Caprivi, Namibia tourism, Namibia, safari, safari namibia

Have a refreshing drink at the Popa Falls Camp's jetty bar.

The Popa Falls Camp also offers safari cruises on the recently launched “Queen Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah” houseboat. On one of these excursions you may well spot some of the local fauna including hippos, crocodiles and the endemic antelope as you wind your way up and down the river.  

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Another striking sunset over the Okavango
(Image courtesy of Dr Klaus Dierks)  

Staying at the Popa Falls Camp

The camp has over 40 beds for sleepy travellers and these are divided across 10 river chalets and three family chalets. The camp itself has all the facilities you need including a restaurant and bar.  

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Pictured above: A traveller's best friend.

If you don't particularly like having a roof over your head then there is also space for you to camp, and there is also a designated area for overland tour operators where they can leave their overland vehicles as well.

**Note: SADC citizens get a 25% discount when staying at any NWR camp, while Namibian NamLeisure cardholders will receive a 50% discount. Internationals also get a 10% discount so be sure to enquire ahead before you get to the camp.**

For more booking information contact NWR here.

For a list of a few other places to stay in the region check out this link.

The Amazing Birdlife of Namibia

  
  

Namibia is home to 676 of Southern Africa's 887 species and the whole country is littered with endemic and interesting birds. There are many great spots for bird watching in Namibia - here are just three of them to give you a glimpse into birding paradise. 

The Zambezi (formally Caprivi) Region

The Zambezi or Caprivi Strip can be found in the extreme north east of Namibia and this region alone is home to over 425 species of birds. The network of rivers and deltas formed by the confluence of the Kwando, Zambezi and Chobe rivers create an ideal space for avid bird watchers to catch a glimpse of some of the unique birdlife on offer in Namibia.

Here are just some of the species you can find there: 

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The African Pygmy Goose
(image courtesy of Adrian Binns via 10000 Birds)


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The African Marsh Harrier in flight.
(image courtesy of Trevor Hardaker)


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Pel’s Fishing Owl
(image courtesy of the Internet Bird Collection)


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African Wood Owls
(image courtesy of Bird Forum)

For places to stay in the Zambezi / Caprivi Region click here. Or if you'd like to find out more about the region, click here.

 

Etosha National Park

Usually, when people think of Etosha they think of spotting big game, and while that is fair enough (as you will discover by clicking here) there are other attractions at the massive national park. The bird life is fantastic and varied in the park and depending on whether or not it is a dry season you can find different species of birds making their homes in the park.

During the drier times two of the best places to go birding are near the rest camps of Okaukuejo and Halali. Not only do these two camps offer wonderful accommodation and facilities but they also will give you the chance to see some of Namibia’s 13 endemic bird species.

Okaukuejo Camp is renowned for its resident Southern Pied Babblers and Crimson-Breasted Shrikes. And if you are staying at Halali you may catch a glimpse of the Bare-Cheeked Babbler or even a Violet Wood Hoopoe. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Kori Bustard - its quite something to watch the heaviest living animal capable of flight launch into the air.

 

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Southern Pied Babbler
(image courtesy of the Internet Bird Collection)

 

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Crimson-Breasted Shrike - commonly referred to as "The German Flag" by the locals
(image courtesy of Outdoor Photo)

 

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Bare-Cheeked Babbler
(image courtesy of Rock Jumper Birding)


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Violet Wood-hoopoe
(image courtesy of the Flacks)


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Carp's Tit
(image courtesy of Wilkinson’s World)

The park really comes alive for bird enthusiasts after good rains because as the Etosha Pan starts to fill up with water thousands of birds make their way to the newly formed water source. You can expect to see Flamingos, Pelicans and maybe even some rare Blue Cranes following rain in the region.

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Flamingos on the pan.
(image courtesy of Kruger 2 Kalahari)

 

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Pelicans
(image courtesy of Doug Breakwell via Flickr)

 

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Rare Blue Cranes
(image courtesy of Frank Will via Flickr)

For a listing of the various places to stay in Etosha click on this link to read our comprehensive “how-to” guide for a visit to Etosha National Park.

 

The Waterberg

The Waterberg plateau has an amazing array of birdlife and is just stunning in so many different ways. Have a look at our blog post on it and you will get a sense of the beauty that awaits at this location. The area is home to over 200 different species and is home to the only breeding colony of the critically endangered Cape Vulture.

 

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Cape Vulture in flight.

Click here to find out more about REST, a Namibian organisation trying
to help these majestic creatures back from the brink of extinction.

(image courtesy of Avian Leisure)

 

africa birds and birding, africa birding, birding africa, namibia, namibia tourism, namibia birding, namibia birdlife, birdwatching namibia

Bradfield’s Hornbill
(image courtesy of Brian Scott via Flickr)

 

africa birds and birding, africa birding, birding africa, namibia, namibia tourism, namibia birding, namibia birdlife, birdwatching namibia

African grey Hornbill
(image courtesy of Biodiversity Explorer)

If you want to stay overnight at the Waterberg Plateau park then click this link and read all about the different accomodation options available.


Go Namibia, Go Birding!

So there it is! A list of just three top birding spots in Namibia, where you can stay and what you can expect to find. While we haven't come close to describing all of the hundreds of species of birds you can find in Namibia (you can download a Namibia birding checklist for that) we hope its given you a taste of what's in store. One thing is for sure though, if you come to Namibia and want to do some bird watching, you will not leave disappointed.

 

What interesting bird species have you spotted in Namibia? Share them with us!

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More on Birding in Namibia

Download a Namibia birding checklist

 

Get a full list of great places to go bird watching in Namibia 

BIRDING CHECKLIST    MAP17

A Revival of Ancient Bush Skills in Caprivi

  
  

Imagine a school without desks and chairs, without walls or a blackboard. Imagine learning skills that have been learned over thousands of years, passed down through the world’s most ancient culture. Imagine being able to identify dozens of species – from an ant to elephant – without ever seeing a single one.

Children learn in Bwabwata, Namibia

The real-world San classroom. Photo: Friedrich Alpers of IRDNC

To those of us unfamiliar with life in the bush, this seems like an impossible task. But for the San (also known as the bushmen), with thousands of years of accumulated wisdom and a lifetime spent tracking wildlife, the knowledge is innate. For millennia, their ancestors lived throughout southern Africa as hunter-gatherers with a subsistence lifestyle that made little impact on nature. Over the last thousand years, however, the San have suffered social disintegration and the erosion of their traditional values and skills as a result of oppression, persecution and loss of their land.

But in Caprivi – the small strip of Namibia sandwiched between Angola and Botswana – a group of San elders are determined to work with their youth to regain some of the skills they have lost. They hope that this will renew pride in their identity and culture, as well as creating opportunities for the youngsters to obtain employment in tourism.

The elders have developed the Tekoa Training Program in collaboration with Namibian NGO, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), with funding from WWF and USAID. Locally-employed community rangers, who have worked in the region for two decades, impart their bush skills to San children during the program, which takes place in Bwabwata National Park.

San trackers in Bwabwata

Newly-qualified San tracker-trainers in Bwabwata National Park. Photo: Friedrich Alpers of IRDNC

As the school kids, aged between 6 and 14, set off in single file down a fresh elephant track; the San tracker trainers, Alfred and Benson, point out millipede tracks, trapdoor spider hideouts, evidence of a scorpion’s nocturnal activities, tracks of a sable antelope rounding up his herd, and the footprints of a hunting leopard. They show the youngsters see where a tree squirrel leapt, a puff adder writhed, a gecko caught a moth and an impala marked his territory – all without spotting a single animal.

The kids are beaming with enthusiasm and eagerness to continue the exploration: the endless knowledge; the skills development of tracking; the learning of animal behavior; and the monitoring of endangered wildlife, such as cheetahs, wild dogs, roan antelopes and other rare species found in their park home.

These children are being given the opportunity to develop tracking and ecological management skills that are critical to preserve our natural system and the environment. Over the next few months, more than 200 rural children in Namibia’s remote north-east will learn the skills of their forefathers, and be able to apply these skills when looking for work and to contributing to finding sustainable solutions to the environmental challenges our planet faces.

This post is based on original article by Karine Nuulimba of IRDNC

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A World Without Borders

  
  

Fish River CanyonRecognizing that political boundaries have no place in ecological systems, Namibia signed a treaty on 1st August 2003 with neighboring South Africa to form the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. As a result of the union, the park protects a vast area that crosses the South African border, and encompasses one of the richest botanical hot spots in the world, the Succulent Karoo Biome.

Visitors to this magical part of Namibia can now experience the wilderness on a scale previously unimaginable. Standing at the edge of the largest natural gorge in Africa, and the second largest canyon in the world, the Fish River Canyon, is simply breathtaking, as are the dramatic views from Hell's Corner, where one can only try to imagine the dramatic natural forces that shaped that very canyon millions of years ago.

History was made on Thursday, March 15, 2012 when Namibia Elephantgovernment Ministers from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe met to put their official seal on a cross-border treaty set to combine 36 nature preserves and surrounding areas. Known as KAZA, the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Park, the park represents the world's largest international conservation area in an effort to protect nearly half of the continent's elephants and a vast range of animals, birds and plants, many endangered by poaching and human encroachment. The World Wildlife Fund said the countries will cooperate on measures to allow animals to roam freely across their borders over 170,000 square miles (440,000 square kilometers), an area almost the size of Sweden.

KAZA is a tourist’s dream, encompassing 36 game reserves and management areas, national parks and community conservancies. It boasts remarkable diversity in animal, bird and plant life. The area features woodlands and wetlands, around 3,000 species of plants, and over 500 species of birds. Those visiting the area for thrills and spills can choose from extreme sports such as white water rafting on the mighty Zambezi, 4x4 and horseback riding trails, hiking, fishing, birding, microlighting, ballooning, elephant safaris, and a host of other activities.

So find a suitable tour for you and start planning your adventure!

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