Southern Africa - Botswana
August 19 to 24, 2012

Southern Africa Map

Sunday - August 19, 2012

Cross from Namibia into Botswana via the Muhembo Border Post around 15:10 PM. (No problems here. It was a smooth transition from one country to another. It was suggested that we remove our scarves (used ours as a mask) and a sign of respect to Botswana's president upon enterting the post and passing by the president's photograph.) Transferred to a different vehicle for our ride to Nxamaseri Island Lodge. This camp is located in the pan-handle section of the Okavango Delta in far northwestern Botswana and proved to be an ideal choice. Our trip to the lodge included a drive from the Muhembo Border Post to the town of Shakawe, followed by a boat ride to the lodge with birding along the way. Arrive at lodge at 6:30 PM. A roaring fire in the Lodge's firepit greeted us.

Common Area at the Nxamaseri Island Lodge
Common Area Common Area
Common Area

The open-fronted design of the main reception/dining area has decor that was handcrafted by local artisans that included original artwork from Botswana. A teak-walkway led from the main reception/dining area to each chalet. Since it was dark by the time we arrived, settling into our room was was difficult with only minimal lighting and candlelight.

Nxamaseri - Our chalet
Nxamaseri - Our chalet

Adjusting to a room with three walls and an open front was a challenge. Bird list at 7:15 PM followed by dinner at 8:00 PM and bed at 10. Our bed had mosquito netting (no mosquitoes) and did offer us a sense of security even with an open area next to it. Listening to a Pel's Fishing Owl (second night) calling and the snorting and other noises of several hippos in the water (on the other side of the trees lining our deck) were all part of the local ambiance. We lived with candle light, an air horn for security, and the realization that if we left anything unattended a maurading group of Vervet Monkeys could make off with it. We slept soundly and enjoyed the Lodge's luxury of being uncrowded, very birdy, and a great place to modern-day annoyances.

Monday - August 20, 2012

Up at 6:50 AM. Breakfast 7:00 AM. Bird around Nxamaseri Island Lodge until 8:15 AM when group left for a morning birding trip Explored the shallow floodplains of the area in a traditional "dug-out" canoe or Mokoro (plural is Mekoro). VENT guide, poler and I shared one Mokoro.

Nxamaseri - Birding from a Mokoro
Birding from a Mokoro

Brad remained at the lodge all day photographing birds and resting. Since my camera gave up the ghost in Etosha, I had visual sightings of Lesser Jacana, White-browed Coucal, Shikra, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Black-backed Puffbird, African White-eye, Marabou Stork to name just a few. Fortunately, we had a chance to photograph the majority of the bird species I saw on Tuesday. Returned to the lodge at 12:30 for a 1:15 lunch. Brad and I birded around the lodge and our casita. We enjoyed lounging on the deck in front of our chalet listening to birds and a hippo or two. Left for additional birding (on a flat bottomed motor boat with chairs for six plus two guides). This set up allowed everyone a 360 degree view and proved to be very enjoyable. Around 5:00 PM we headed into the main channel of the Okavango River where we saw African Skimmers and several crocodiles. Additional species included a Black-shouldered Kite, a small flock of Fan-tailed Widowbirds, and a "close" hippo. We returned at 6:35 to a setting sun and temperatures in the low 70's. Birds at 7:15. Dinner at 8:00. Bed at 10:00.

Tuesday - August 21, 2012

Up at 5:50 AM with breakfast from 6:30-7:00 AM. Walk around Nxamaseri Island Lodge grounds looking for Pel's Owl (heard hooting Monday night). Birded on the way. Around 8:00 AM leave for additional birding via motor boat (see Monday's description of boat). Skies were partly cloudy, and temperatures were close to 90 degrees when we landed on a small island to look for Pel's Fishing Owl. The individual that we did find was very skittish and moved 'unseen' from tree to tree. Looking like a pumpkin with wings, we did see the owl fly across the water from one island to the next. At 12:20 PM we returned to the lodge for lunch at 1:00 PM. Left at 3:15 for more birding by boat. We ended up on a dry floodplain in the vicinity of the town of Shakawe and boarded a safari vehicle. Drove around the area and did some birding on foot. We were fascinated by the Oxpeckers on the local cattle and donkeys. Seeing Collared Pratincoles in flight, a Wood Sandpiper, and a juvenile Long-toed Lapwing made for an interesting late afternoon birding expedition. Around 5:42 PM we entered the Nxamaseri Lagoon area where we saw two Water Thick-Knees (a highlight for me). By 6:40 PM we were back on the boat and headed for the Lodge. Arrive at 7:10 PM. Birds at 7:30. Dinner at 8:00 PM and bed by 10:00.

Wednesday - August 22, 2012

Up at 5:00 AM with breakfast at Nxamaseri Island Lodge at 5:45 AM. Leave at 6:30 AM to bird by boat. It was dark when we left. Heavy cloud cover during the early part of the morning with cool temperatures in the mid- to upper 60's. The high point of the morning was a perched Little Bittern that posed for us from only yards away. 8:10 AM head back to lodge. Bird around lodge. Brunch from 10:00-10:30. Leave by boat for Nxamaseri Airstrip around 11:00 AM. Long wait for plane to arrive at 1:00 PM.

Nxamaseri Airstrip
Nxamaseri Airstrip

The temperature at the airstrip was close to 100 degrees. Fly to Xakanaxa Airstrip (Botswana) where we arrived around 2:15 PM.

Xakanaxa - Preparing to Land
Xakanaxa - Landing

Drive to the camp in a safari vehicle birding and looking for big game along the way. Arrive at our room at 3:00 PM. Leave for an afternoon safari drive at 3:35 PM. Montsho, a Park Ranger on the Moremi Game Reserve, was our local guide. Temperatures were in the low 90's. We had an excellent afternoon of birding and seeing big game. A lioness, her three, four month old cubs, and a young male were a delight to watch in their 'sleeping den' in the tall grass. Each was shaking off their sleepiness when we came upon them. The young male greeted us with a huge yawn. The cubs were soon wandering off on their own exploring the area, play fighting, and stalking each other. We headed to look for Pink-backed and Great White Pelicans at a pan where they'd been sighted earlier in the day. They weren't there so we drove on until our guide, Montsho, noticed terrified Impala running toward us. He also spotted four African Wild Dogs coming at us through the tall grass. The object of their interest was a young female leopard who the dogs quickly treed about thirty yards from us.

Leopard Treed by Wild Dogs
Treed Leopard Wild Dog

The dogs eventually gave up jumping and yelping and trying to get at the leopard. They seemed to have disappeared. All was quiet....and, after about ten minutes, the leopard cautiously descended from her perch in a tree high above the grass. Suddenly, the dogs appeared out of nowhere, and the chase began again. The leopard ran up into a second tree where she remained until we drove away. The dogs, once again, were nowhere to be seen. They were probably still hiding in the grass hoping for a meal! We returned to camp at sundown around 6:30 PM and settled in.

Xakanaxa - Accommodations
Xakanaxa - Accommodations Xakanaxa - Accommodations
Xakanaxa - Accommodations Xakanaxa - Accommodations

Bird List at 7:30 PM. Dinner at 8:00 PM and bed by 10:00 PM. All beverages and alcohol plus wine at meals were included at Xakanaxa. Guests must have a guide to take them to an from the gathering/dining area after sundown. We did have an air horn for emergencies.

Thursday - August 23, 2012

Up at 5:30 AM with a light breakfast at 6:30 AM in the gathering area. Leave Xakanaxa Camp in a safari vehicle for a morning of birding and big game viewing. Elephants in the Moremi area are smaller but have larger tusks than those that we saw in Ethosha. We had tea out in the reserve from 9:00 AM until 9:30AM.

Xakanaxa - Pre-brunch Tea
Xakanaxa - Pre-brunch Tea

Waterbuck, giraffe, and hippos along with crocodiles and elephants were some of the animals that we spotted. Red and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers were interesting to watch grooming Cape Buffalo. Birds galore. By 11 AM, we were back at camp having brunch until 11:30AM. We spent the early part of the afternoon birding around the camp with our VENT guide and on our own. Good looks at a Southern Black Tit, Luapula Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, and a Wattled Starling. Took a siesta from 1:00 PM until 3:00 was just too hot to do much else. The fan in our room helped a lot. We enjoyed tea in the gathering area from 3:00 PM - 3:30 PM. Left by safari vehicle for some late afternoon game watching and birding. Things were very quiet. Did get good looks at a Wood Sandpiper, Green Wood Hoopoes doing their greeting dance, a pair of Meyer's Parrots, and a beautiful Little Bee-eater. Bird list at 7:30 PM followed by dinner at 8 PM and bed at 10 PM. The beef filet at dinner was delicious.

Friday - August 24, 2012

Up at 5:40 AM with a light breakfast at 6:15 AM. Left camp at 6:40 to go birding and to look for big game for one last time at Xakanaxa. We followed some tracks that indicated a leopard had recently killed an impala. Unfortunately, we could never find the leopard or the carcass. Drove back to camp for brunch at 9:15 AM. On the way there, we saw a Lappet-faced Vulture. Drove to the Xakanaxa airstrip where we took a 1.25 hour flight to Kasane Airport in Zambia, arriving just after noon.

Kasane Airport
Kasane Airport