Saturday, January 7, 2012

Botswana Trip Report Part 1


October 14th to 26th 2011

Brief Daily Account

Tour Leader: Peter Jones
Tour Guide: Kurt McKenzie
Author: Peter Jones

A bird species list wll appear as an appendix to the main tour trip reports, please see Trip Report Part 3.
The tour trip report is posted in three parts, the first deals with our excursions in and around Maun and the Kalahari Desert. It was a fun packed tour and we used a mobile camp which travelled ahead of us when we moved sites.

Springbok on the Kalahari

Day One – October 14th – Arrival at Maun Airport – Thamalakane Lodge.(20km)
Open-billed Stork
The Group arrived in the midday heat of Maun. We transferred to the Lodge about 20km outside of Maun. After everyone was checked in and settled we travelled to Okavango River Lodge where we did an afternoon Boat cruise on the Thamalakane River. It’s hard to believe that we are on the river so close to town and yet it is so tranquil. Sycamore Figs, Jackal Berries, Large fever Berries and Real Fan Palms were some of the tree’s lining the river. Some of the birds we saw were Open-billed Stork, African Crake, Hamerkop, Lilac-breasted Roller, African Fish Eagle, White-faced Whistling Duck, the beautiful African Pygmy Goose, Southern Pochard, Little Grebe (everywhere on the river), a couple of high flying Woolly-necked Stork, Intermediate Egret and of course many other heron species, Reed Cormorant and African Darter were very common, African Swamphen and wheeling overhead good numbers of Black-winged Pratincole, we saw so many more species and the grounds of the lodge also provided a good mixture of gardens and woodland, so more species were seen here too.

Day two – October 15th – flight to Hainaveld and transfer to CKGR (Central Kalahari Game Reserve).(30min Flight & 80km Drive)
Ground Squirrel
After a short transfer to Maun airport and an air transfer to Hainaveld we had an 80km drive to get to camp. Enroute from Hainaveld we passed through some burnt areas from the recent and current veld fires. With no shade we managed to find a burnt tree which gave a little shade for our lunch stop. Upon arriving at the entrance gate Matswire gate, there was a huge fire coming towards us. We had to leave the bird watching at the little water hole to try and get in front of the fire. On the way into camp we saw a few Gemsbok (ORYX), Springbok, Black Backed Jackal, Impala, Kudu and a male Honey Badger. Some of the birds we saw included Pale Chanting Goshawk, Common Scimitarbill, Bateleur, Marico flycatcher, Tawny Eagle, White Backed Vulture, Chestnut-vented Tit Babbler, common Ostrich, Swallow Tailed Bee eater, African Grey Hornbill, Black-backed Puffback, Black and Brown-crowned Tchagra, Southern Boubou, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Eastern Clapper Lark, Southern Pied Babbler, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Southern Black Flycatcher, Purple-banded Sunbird and so many other species including several weaver species.

Day Three to four – October 16th,17th – CKGR 
Kori Bustard
We had two full days in the CKGR where we spent time driving around Deception Valley, Deception Pan, Sunday Pan and headed towards Leopard Pan. We saw Honey Badger, Bat Eared Fox, Giraffe, Black Backed Jackal, Kudu, Lion, Steenbok, Blue Wildebeest, Oryx, Springbok, Silver Fox and Ground Squirrel. We had a cheeky little Silver Fox who came and visited our kitchen each night, but he didn’t find any food as it was all packed way! Some of the birds seen were Violet-eared waxbill, Barred wren Warbler, Kori Bustard, Northern Black Korhaan (White Quilled Bustard), Red-crested Korhaan, Fork-Tailed Drongo, Ground scraper Thrush, Crimson-Breasted Boubou (Shrike), Double-banded Courser, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk, a single Dark Chanting Goshawk, Spotted Thick-knee and so many weaver species. Around our camp we were kept constant companions by hornbills, Pied Crow, Chinspot Batis, Yellow-billed Kite, Crimson-breasted Shrike, starling species Marco Flycatcher and a host of other super birds.

Day Five – October 18th – Maun, Thamalakane Lodge (80km Drive & 40min Flight)
African Red-eyed Bulbul
After an early start we headed back to the Hainaveld airstrip for the flight back to Maun. We drove through the burned areas again and at one point had a fire burning alongside us. It was also very windy, hot and dry. We all had a good sand blast from the wind and dust. On the way we saw a few Impala, Black Backed Jackal, Kudu, Slender Mongoose and Tree Squirrel. We also saw Red-necked Falcon, Pallid Harrier Helmeted Guinefowl, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Black Kite, Greater Kestrel and of course a mandatory stop so Peter could see ‘yet again’ his beloved wheatear the Capped Wheatear! It was freshen-up time at Thamalakane Lodge so by the afternoon everyone had had a shower or swim and were looking totally refreshed. We did an optional walk outside the Lodge grounds that was a bit disappointing, in one direction there were fenced off fields and in the other direction we saw very little, Green Wood Hoopoe, African Jacana, Jacobin Cuckoo and Bearded Woodpecker so we headed back to the sunset deck and saw a lot more from there including large flights of Open-billed Stork in excess of 100, several heron species and whistling duck.

Part 2 and 3 to follow. For tour details see HERE

Photographs: Jimmy (Drongo) Turner and Spanish Nature

What a backdrop for a chilled wine during our sundowner!
Our next tour to Botswana is now finalized an will commence 29th October 2012 see HERE for details.


Mary Howell Cromer said...

What an amazing journey taken to Botswana...I envy you quite a bit, for this would be so wonderful. All of the images, the drama of the sky colour and sunset, and oh my goodness the ground squirrel standing on alert is just delightful~ Take care~

Peter Jones said...

It is a wonderful country to visit for wildlife and the people so very friendly Mary. I still have to finish the trip report and will be posting the next blog in one week. Thank you so much for your kind words and pleased you enjoyed the blog. Peter