ABOUT THE ITINERARY
Please keep in mind that this is Africa and the itinerary below outlines our planned programme of excursions and accommodations for the tour. However, it may occasionally be necessary to re-order the programme or change to nearby lodges of an equivalent standard to those indicated depending on availability and local conditions at the time.
Days 1 - 2
FLY TO LIVINGSTONE (ZAMBIA), TRANSFER TO ZAMBEZI RIVER
Our birdwatching and wildlife tour to Botswana and Zambia begins with an overnight flight from London Heathrow to Johannesburg, and onward connection to Livingstone (Zambia). We may well see the mist clouds rising from Victoria Falls, from the air as our 'plane approaches!
Joe will be waiting to welcome us on arrival at Livingstone airport, from where we transfer directly to our riverfront guesthouse on the beautiful Zambezi River. The property has many large riverine trees, alive with birds - and boasts a garden list of more than 180 species! Pel’s Fishing Owl is regularly heard, and sometimes seen, in the garden. Striking White-browed Robin-chats hop around the edges of the lawn and Grey-headed Bush-shrike can be seen in the trees, while Brown Firefinch and Hartlaub’s Babbler frequent the denser tangles. The secretive African Finfoot also quietly patrols the water's edge beneath the trees.
There are large mammals here, too! Bushbuck, Hippo and African Elephant move through the property regularly as it lies close to the border of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ means ‘the smoke that thunders’ and refers to the nearby Victoria Falls, which we’ll either visit this afternoon or tomorrow morning. Time allowing, we’ll also take a small boat trip on the river. Night Livingstone
Days 3 - 5
VICTORIA FALLS & CHOBE NATIONAL PARK
This morning we’ll spend in the Victoria Falls area - and as this time of year has one of the peak water flows, the largest body of falling water in the world is likely to impress! We’ll need to take our raincoats along to protect us from the spray from the falls. With luck, we might even see Schalow’s Turaco in the misty forests that are kept permanently moist by the water. As a spectacle, ‘the smoke that thunders’ is every bit as awe-inspiring as one is led to believe, with the mighty Zambezi River, here more than a mile wide, plunging into sheer chasms that are more than 100m deep. Don’t forget your camera - and lens cloth! Veiled in dense clouds of spray, the mist forest is home to such treats as Collared Palm Thrush, Tropical Boubou, Orange-breasted Bushshrike and Collared Sunbird.
Later in the morning, we’ll travel first by road and then by ferry, crossing the wide Chobe River from Zambia to the frontier town of Kasane, in neighbouring Botswana. The cross-border journey will take about two hours, before arriving at our lodge close to the edge of Chobe National Park, where we stay three nights.
Chobe National Park is covered by extensive mixed woodlands that are most famous for the chances of encountering African Wild Dogs, also known as Painted Hunting Dogs. It's by no means guaranteed that we will see a pack of these beautifully marked and declining hunters, as they have the largest home ranges of any predators - but this is a good place to start! We might also see the regal Sable Antelope in the woodlands, with its elegant swept back horns and black body. The Chobe River forms the heart of the reserve and the herds of African Elephant and Cape Buffalo that frequent it are the largest in Botswana (although the herds will likely be more dispersed across the park at this time of year as the pans should still have rainwater in them from the summer).
Around 400 species of bird have been recorded in the vicinity of Chobe and March is the perfect time to see a mix of European and Afrotropical migrants, as well as its many spectacular resident species. Both African and European Hobbies should be about, and Woodland, Grey-hooded and African Pygmy Kingfishers feed on insects in the woodland. The bush can also be alive with cuckoos at this time of year, with Klaas’s, Diederik, Red-chested, Black, African, Levaillant’s, Striped and European all possible! Warblers too are passing through and can include Marsh, Great Reed, African Marsh, River, Garden and Common Whitethroat.
Being close to the river, the surrounds of our lodge are excellent for birding and we have the freedom to bird on foot here.
A boat trip on the Chobe River will surely be another highlight of our visit, with a multitude of birds and mammals to be seen. Slaty Egret, Squacco and Rufous-bellied Herons, African Fish Eagle, White-crowned and Long-toed Lapwings, Little and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, and Pied and Giant Kingfishers are just some of the enticing bird species, while mammals including Elephants, Hippos and two swamp specialist antelopes - Red Lechwe and Puku - abound. Three nights near Chobe National Park
Days 6 - 10
Much of wilderness Botswana is inaccessible by road (in fact, there pretty much aren’t any!), so this morning we’ll travel by private light aircraft southwards from Kasane. We'll fly for about an hour before landing at a small airstrip near our small camp in the famous Khwai concession, on the edge of Moremi National Park, in the Okavango Delta. Sango SafariCamp will be our home for the next three nights as we enjoy excursions by both land and water in search of the area’s abundant birds and mammals.
We’ll use game-viewing vehicles that are ideal for watching from and for photography, and we’ll also go out in the small dugout canoes known as mekoros, with a traditional “poler” to push us quietly through the maze of watery channels through the swamps. We’ll glide quietly past Malachite Kingfishers and White-fronted Bee-eaters, which barely seem to notice our presence, while Chirping Cisticolas, an Okavango speciality, scold from the reeds.
The area not far from the lodge is regularly frequented by African Wild Dogs and we’ll make full use of local knowledge and any recent sightings to try and catch up with a pack. Other predators to watch for here include Lion, and the elusive Leopard, which always requires a bit of luck to see.
The enormous Wattled Crane is the rarest of its tribe in Africa, but the swamps around here are a reliable spot for this elegant species. Raptors can be excellent, too! Besides the abundant African Fish Eagles, signature bird of Africa’s wetlands, we shall be looking out for the powerful Martial Eagle, Bateleur, Dickinson’s Kestrel, and Black-breasted and Brown Snake Eagles. We might well hear Lion roaring in the evening from our lodge, and Elephants, Giraffe and Plain’s Zebra are common. Black-and-white Swamp Boubous call from around the camp, and Red-billed Spurfowls are plentiful. Mixed bird parties in the woodlands are likely to reveal the presence of such species as African Black-headed Oriole, Black-backed Puffback, Brubru, Chinspot Batis, Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike, Red-headed Weaver and White-browed Scrub Robin.
One of the advantages of visiting this area is that it is a “community game reserve”, where we are permitted to take night drives (which are not allowed in Botswana’s national parks). On these, we might well encounter a variety of nightjars, including Square-tailed and Rufous-cheeked, and owls such as the giant Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, flashing its fashionable pink eyelids.
After our final morning’s activities at Sango, we transfer by small plane and then by boat to Delta Camp, which lies deep within the Okavango. Few places can match the tranquil remoteness and wilderness here, where the principle form of transport is by local canoe and there are no roads or vehicles!
Our exclusive camp is sited on the edge of a river where Hippos cavort, so we’ll need to be escorted to the luxury permanent tents by a security guard after dinner - just in case they are grazing in the camp! The dense riparian trees in the area are home to a few pairs of one of the most sought-after birds in all Africa: the elusive Pel’s Fishing Owl. Many birders have stories of failing to see this ‘ginger giant’ and although success can never be guaranteed, we will make a special attempt to find one at its day roost near the camp.
We’ll also hope to get good views of one of the Okavango’s special birds - the striking Slaty Egret, with its characteristic yellow legs and vinous-brown throat. Many other species of waterbird should also be present, including African Spoonbill; Coppery-tailed Coucals sun themselves on the reeds as we drift by, dwarfing the tiny Black Crakes that scuttle along the edges as chestnut and green African Pygmy Geese fly up from among the waterlilies. Predatory Nile Monitor Lizards can be seen along the edges of the channels.
As with the other camps, there is often some 'downtime' after lunch to relax at the camp during the heat of the day - perhaps photographing some of the colourful birds and butterflies, or simply chilling out beside the pool.
In the evenings, there is time to enjoy a drink around the campfire before dinner. Three nights at Sango Camp, followed by two nights at Delta Camp, Okavango
Days 11 - 12
FLY MAUN & LONDON
After a farewell breakfast at our camp this morning we take the 45-minute private flight to Maun (or sometimes Livingstone, according to international airline schedules).Bidding farewell to Joe, we board our flight back to Johannesburg with onward overnight connection from there to London.
We arrive back at London Heathrow on the morning of Day 12, where our birdwatching and wildlife safari to Botswana and Zambia concludes.