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Birding Trip Report: Namibia & Okavango
Walvis Bay, Namib Desert, Spitzkoppe, the Brandberg, Etosha, Okavango Panhandle and the Waterberg Plateau
October 2009

For the species lists of birds and mammals seen on tour, please click here.


This was a 14-day tour, from 24 October to 6 November 2009, starting ending in Windhoek, with focus on birds.

Areas visited: selected birding destinations in Northern Namibia and the Okavango “pan-handle” in Botswana:
Daan Viljoen Game Reserve, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Spitzkoppe, Erongo Mountains, Brandberg, Etosha National Park, the Kavango River, the Caprivi area and Okavango "panhandle", the Waterberg Plateau National Park.

Number of bird species seen: 340 species, including at least 16 Namibian near-endemics.

Bird species of note:
Namibia: Herero Chat, Dune Lark, Southern Ground Hornbill, Blue Crane, Secretarybird, Ludwig's Bustard
Botswana Okavango Panhandle: Pel's Fishing Owl, White-backed Night-Heron, Wattled Crane, African Wood Owl, African Skimmer

Total number of mammal species seen: 43 species
Mammal highlights:
Watching Desert Elephant on foot, saw at least 11 Black Rhinoceros and two White Rhinoceros between 20h00 and 23h00 at Okaukuejo floodlit waterhole one night, and indulged in some great Lion sightings in Etosha. The first night at the Okaukuejo waterhole produced 4 Black Rhinoceros and African Elephant (also a Verreaux's Eagle-owl!).

Trip report

Tour highlights and most notable species are listed below along with the corresponding sites.

24 October – Johannesburg to Windhoek
The tour started with a pleasant flight from Johannesburg to Windhoek. We proceeded to our accommodation, freshened up and headed for some birding at a nearby dam.

Highlights of the day: Monteiro’s Hornbill, Bradfield’s Swift, Pale-winged Starling, Ashy Tit, White-backed Mousebird Sabota Lark (herero sub-species), Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Mountain Wheatear, Yellow Canary and Scarlet-chested Sunbird.

Birding at Avis Dam near Windhoek on this Birding Africa tour © Utz Klingenböck
Birding at Avis Dam near Windhoek in October 2009 on this Birding Africa tour. Photograph © Utz Klingenböck.

25 October – Windhoek to Walvis Bay
After an early breakfast, we headed to Walvis Bay with a few birding stops en-route. Here we ‘birded’ the estuary and salt works to look for Chestnut-banded lover and Flamingo. A hearty evening barbeque was prepared for dinner.

Highlights of the day: Martial Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture, Black-necked Grebe, Lesser Flamingo, Greater Flamingo, Chestnut-banded Plover, Great White Pelican, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel, Terek Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover and an out of range Grey-headed Gull (adult).

Greater and lesser Flamingo at Walvis Bay on this Birding Africa tour © Utz Klingenböck
Greater and Lesser Flamingo congregate in numbers in the salt pans in Walvis Bay. Photograph © Utz Klingenböck.

26 October – Namib Desert and Namib Naukluft National Park
We started the day with the beautiful Namib Desert's Dune Lark. After birding these majestic red dunes, we continued to the Namib Naukluft National Park to view and photograph Welwitschia plants. During the afternoon, we birded at the salt works. Inclement weather forced us back to Walvis Bay, which was also subject to challenging birding conditions (gale force winds). We enjoyed an excellent dinner overlooking the sea.

Highlights of the day: African Black Oystercatcher, Common Redshank, Dusky Sunbird, Orange River White-eye, Dune Lark, Gray’s Lark, Tractrac Chat, Pririt Batis and Chat Flycatcher.
Mammals: Cape Fur Seal and Humpback Dolphin.
Reptiles: Shovel-snouted Lizard.

Finding Dune Lark on this Birding Africa tour © Utz Klingenböck Finding the elusive Dune Lark in the Namib. Photograph © Utz Klingenböck.

Finding Welwitschia on this Birding Africa tour © Utz Klingenböck
Namibia, and Angola, are the only countries in the world where one can see Welwitschia. This desert-adapted plant with two ever-growing leaves can live for more than 1000 years. Closely related to the conifers, Welwitschia is considered a living fossil. Photograph © Utz Klingenböck.

27 October – Walvisbay, Spitzkoppe and Erongo Mountains
We departed early for Spitzkoppe with several good birding stops along the way. Upon arrival at our accommodation, we went for a birding walk in the sandy Omaruru riverbed.

Highlights of the day: Lanner Falcon, Violet Woodhoopoe, Bradfield’s Swift, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Herero Chat, White-tailed Shrike, Karoo Chat, Carp’s Black Tit, Sociable Weaver, Stark’s Lark, White-throated Canary and Rosy-faced Lovebird.
Mammals: Bottlenose Dolphin and Klipspringer.
Reptiles: Namibian Rock Agama.

Birding at Spitzkoppe on this Birding Africa tour © Utz Klingenböck
Birding at Spitzkoppe, finding the endemic Herero Chat. Photograph © Utz Klingenböck.

28 October – Erongo Mountains to the Brandberg
Pre-breakfast outing to the nearby Erongo Mountain foothills. Traveled to the Brandberg and had a late-afternoon birding walk in the Ugab riverbed with splendid views of Namibia's desert-adapted African Elephant!

Highlights of the day: African Hawk-eagle, Rockrunner, Hartlaub’s Francolin, Damara Hornbill, Tawny Eagle, Ruppell’s Parrot, Kori Bustard, Ruppell’s Korhaan, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Bokmakierie, Chestnut-backed & Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Green-winged Pytilia and Crimson-breasted Shrike.
Mammals: Yellow Mongoose, Ground Squirrel, African Elephant, Springbok.

Kori Bustard photographed on this Birding Africa tour © Utz KlingenböckKori Bustard photographed on this Birding Africa tour © Utz Klingenböck
Kori Bustard, arguably the world's heaviest flying bird, can best be seen in Etosha National Park. Photograph © Utz Klingenböck.

29 October – Brandberg to Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo)
Early morning walk around the Brandberg. After a leisurely breakfast, we drove to Etosha National Park and had a late afternoon game drive along the western edge of Etosha pan. After dinner, we enjoyed a few hours evening viewing game at the floodlit waterhole. We saw Black Rhinoceros come down and drink!

Highlights of the day: Northern Black Korhaan, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Bateleur, Greater Kestrel, Ant-eating Chat, African Cuckoo, Double-banded Courser, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Spike-heeled Lark, Red-necked Falcon, Pink-billed & Red-capped Lark and Sociable Weaver.
Mammals: Black Rhinoceros, Gemsbok, Black-backed Jackal, Black-faced Impala.
Reptiles: Common Mole snake.

African Cuckoo photographed on this Birding Africa tour © Utz Klingenböck
The tour's timing allows seeing African Cuckoo, a summer-visitor to woodlands. Photograph © Utz Klingenböck.

30 October – Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo and surrounds)
Pre-breakfast drive to and around the ‘Leeubron’ waterhole. Had a walk around the camp after breakfast and an afternoon drive to the ‘Gemsbokvlakte’ area.

Highlights of the day: Secretarybird, Black Kite, Pygmy Falcon, Red-crested Korhaan, Barn Owl, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, Lesser-grey Shrike, Eastern-clapper Lark, Desert Cisticola, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Marsh Owl.
Mammals: Lion, a total of 11 Black Rhinoceros & two White Rhinoceros at the camp water hole, Eland, Bat-eared Fox.

White-crowned Shrike photographed in Etosha NP on this 
              Birding Africa tour © Utz Klingenböck
White-crowned Shrike inhabits dry savanna and can be more easily seen in Etosha National Park. Photograph © Utz Klingenböck.

31 October - Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo to Halali)
Early morning departure for Halali Camp. The drive included stops at the Sueda and Salvadora waterholes on the southern edge of the Etosha Pan. Had a late afternoon and evening walk around the camp in search of owls. Spent some time at the floodlit waterhole after dinner.

Highlights of the day: Marabou Stork, Brown-snake Eagle, Red-footed Falcon, Ludwig’s Bustard, Southern White- faced Scops Owl, African Scops Owl, Verreaux’s Eagle-owl, Eurasian Golden Oriole.
Mammals: African Wild-cat, Lion, Spotted Hyaena, Small-spotted Genet.

African Scops Owl in Etosha National Park photographed on this Birding 
              Africa tour © Utz Klingenböck
African Scops Owl, the smallest owl of the Southern African region roosts inconspicuously on branches close to the tree trunk. To find it at night, locate it's distinctive "prrrp" call. Photograph © Utz Klingenböck..

01 November – Etosha National Park to the Kavango River
Set off early to our next camp, travelling along the southern edge of Etosha Pan. After a brunch, we had quick visit to Fisher’s Pan and enjoyed a welcome late afternoon walk along the verdant banks of the Kavango River.

Highlights of the day: African Openbill, Booted Eagle, Blue Crane, African Jacana, White-winged Tern, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Southern Black Tit, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Red-breasted Swallow, Terrestrial Brownbul, Pale Fly-catcher, African Golden Weaver, Black Cuckoo, Striped Kingfisher.
Mammals: Banded Mongoose.

02 November - Kavango River to Okavango Panhandle
The day started early with a very productive pre-breakfast visit to the water treatment ponds and its surrounding floodplain. After breakfast we headed east to the Namibia-Botswana border, which we crossed with ease. After a long & hot drive, we arrived at our accmmodation and were welcomed by refreshing drinks and tasty sandwiches. Before dinner, we enjoyed an interesting nocturnal boat trip seeing Nile Crocodile on the river bank and a Large-spotted Genet!

Highlights of the day: Hottentot Teal, Osprey, African Marsh Harrier, African Harrier Hawk, Lesser Moorhen, Marsh Sandpiper, Purple Swamphen, Mosque Swallow, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Little Rush-Warbler, Meyer’s Parrot, White-browed Robin-Chat, African Quailfinch, African Green Pigeon, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Southern Carmine Bee-eater and Bateleur.
Mammals: Large –spotted Genet and Common Slit-faced Bats.
Reptiles: Nile Crocodile and Nile Monitor.

Southern Carmine Bee-eaters at the Kavango River photographed on 
              this Birding Africa tour © Utz Klingenböck
Southern Carmine Bee-eaters can be seen near their nesting holes at the Kavango River. Perched on a branch or even riding the back of a Kori Bustard, they hawk for flying insects. Photograph © Utz Klingenböck.

03 November - Birding the Okavango by boat
This morning, we enjoyed a wonderful boat trip on the Okavango River, producing a pair of Pel’s Fishing Owls at their day time roost site! After a welcome siesta during the heat of the day, we birded the surrounding woodlands on foot. Another boat cruise and a birding walk on one of the islands concluded this very memorable day

Highlights of the day: Malachite and Giant Kingfisher, White-backed Night-Heron, Squacco Heron, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Swamp Boubou, White-browed Coucal, Little Bittern, Yellow-billed Egret, Rock Pratincole, African Skimmer, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Chirping Cisticola, Collared Sunbird, Black Tern (rare inland sighting), Grey Plover (unusual inland sighting).
Mammals: Hippo, Spotted-necked Otter.

04 November – Okavango Panhandle to Mahango Game Reserve
We birded the morning along the Okavango River in dense riparian forest and later enjoyed breakfast with splendid views of very habituated Black Crakes. Before leaving Botswana, we had spectacular views of approximately 200 vultures coming into feast on a donkey carcass! We said our farewells to the Okavango and headed back to Namibia. The Mahango Game Reserve didn't disappoint and produced many new mammals and birds for the list. We enjoyed a relaxing late afternoon boat cruise before we headed on to a delicious dinner and comfortable accommodation at a nearby lodge.

Highlights of the day: Wattled Crane, Southern Ground Hornbill, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Meve’s Starling, Burchell’s Starling, Ashy Flycatcher, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, White-throated Bee-eater and Black-crowned Night-Heron.
Mammals: Red Lechwe, Roan Antelope and Common Reedbuck.

Black-crowned Night-heron at the Kavango River photographed on this Birding Africa tour © Utz Klingenböck White-fronted Bee-eaters at the Kavango River photographed on this Birding Africa tour © Utz Klingenböck
Left: Black-crowned Night-heron rest in the reeds and bushes, from where they ambush prey at night.
Right: White-fronted Bee-eaters nest in colonies inside the banks of the Kavango River. This species is monogamous and breeds with the help of related non-breeding individuals, forming an extended family clan. This rates as one of the birds most complex family-based social systems. Photographs © Utz Klingenböck..

05 November – Caprivi to Waterberg Plateau National Park.
We prepared for a long journey to the Waterberg. It was a long drive, traveling via Rundu, Grootfontein, Otavi and Otjivarongo (with a lunch stop near Otavi) to our final destination. We reached the Waterberg Plateau Park during the late afternoon, giving us some time for a late-afternoon bird walk around the rest camp.

Highlights of the day: Lesser Spotted Eagle, Luapula Cisticola, African Yellow White-eye, Golden-breasted Bunting, Abdim’s Stork, Freckled Nightjar (heard only), Amethyst Sunbird, Bradfield’s and Alpine Swift.
Mammals: Lesser Bushbaby & Damara Dikdik

06 November – Waterberg Plateau National Park to Windhoek.
The last day of the tour started with a pleasant bird walk followed by breakfast on the southern terrace of the restaurant where we were entertained by the resident clan of Black Dwarf Mongoose. On returning to the chalets, we found that a few had been raided by baboons. Not a very pleasant experience for some. We set off for Windhoek at about 09h00, stopping off at the Okahandja craft market for curios and to buy provisions for lunch. Windhoek airport was reached by 13h00.

Highlights of the day: Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Shikra, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Lesser Honeyguide and Bradfield’s Hornbill (heard only).
Mammals: Black Dwarf Mongoose.

Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Joe Grosel .

Many of the birding sites on this trip are described in detail in the Southern African Birdfinder which is widely available in South African bookshops and on the internet. (e.g., or However you're always welcome to contact us if you're interested in a guided trip in this area.

Practical tour information:
Namibia & Okavango

Please also visit our tour calendar and other trip reports.

Please click this link for more detailed information about our upcoming tours to Botswana.
Focus For keen birders and mammal enthusiasts. The tour focuses on most of Namibia's endemic birds and wildlife, including unique desert-adapted species. The extension to the Okavango Panhandle offers specials such as Pel's Fishing Owl, Slaty Egret and White-backed Night Heron and involves an Okavango River boat trip. While the tour is designed to see as many endemic birds as possible, we are also able to spend a lot of time looking for other aspects of wildlife such as mammals, chameleons, geckos, butterflies and interesting desert-adapted plants, such as Welwitschia and Hoodia. We can also customise any guided or self-drive itinerary to suit to the keen birder, the wildlife enthusiast or both.
Photography Many participants on our trips are amateur wildlife photographers. And when we get excellent views of a bird or mammal, some time is usually spent watching and photographing it. However, this is not a photographic tour and once the majority of the people have felt that they have absorbed the animal or bird to their satisfaction, then we move on in search of the next encounter. Thus, while the photographic opportunities are very good, the group will only occasionally wait for somebody who wants to spend even longer getting better photos.

Have a look at Wim de Groot's pictures and Utz Klingenböck's pictures taken in 2009 on Birding Africa Namibia & Okavango trips.
Fitness No fitness is required. The few walks are generally in relatively flat areas with occasional small inclines.
Timing Good year round. At Etosha, birding is best in summer, but game viewing is easiest in winter. September to November may be best for birding in the Okavango panhandle region as Afritropical and Palaearctic migrants begin to arrive. However, late summer is equally interesting.
Climate Hot, especially in summer.
Comfort A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and rest camps.
Transport We travel by minibus or four wheel drive vehicle. The tour starts and ends in Windhoek.
Group Size This depends on the specific tour. Please enquire.
Top birds Namibia: One endemic and almost 20 near-endemics in a spectacular setting; Herero Chat, White-tailed Shrike, Carp's Tit, Monteiro's Hornbill, Rockrunner, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Rueppell's Parrot, Hartlaub's Francolin, Dune Lark, Blue Crane, Secretarybird, Ludwig's Bustard, Southern Ground Hornbill, Burchell's Courser, Rosy-breasted Longclaw.

Okavango Panhandle: Pel's Fishing Owl, White-backed Night Heron, African Skimmer, African Wood Owl, African Pygmy Goose, Slaty Egret, Swamp Boubou, Greater Swamp-Warbler, Luapula Cisticola and Southern Carmine Bee-eater.
Top mammals African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Springbok, Damara Dik-dik, Klipspringer, Gemsbok (Southern Oryx), Burchell's Zebra, Hartmann's Mountain Zebra, Hartebeest, Black-faced Impala, Meerkat, Dassie Rat. In the Okavango Panhandle, there is a chance of seeing Sitatunga and Hippopotamus.
Booking Please email us if you wish to book. You will receive the booking form and conditions and a tour information pack.

About Birding Africa

Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders.  We combine interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, botany and other natural history aspects and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. Our guides' knowledge of African birds and birding areas is our greatest strength and together we have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations with the birding community and had a fun time exploring our home continent.  We've even written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds. Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle, and we are dedicated to making professional, best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit.

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