Southern Africa - Botswana
August 19 to 24, 2012
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 hats...as 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
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
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
de-stress.....no 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 PM...it 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.