Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
Verreaux's Great Eagle Owl
The Expert Africa Pel's Fishing Owl Tour was booked through Susannah @ Expert Africa (http://www.expertafrica.com)
Flights Manchester-London Heathrow-Oliver Tambo Johannesburg-Maun Botswana 1st/2nd June, Livingstone Zambia-Oliver Tambo Johannesburg-London Heathrow-Manchester 16th/17th June
The weather throughout the trip was excellent - typical Southern African winter conditions of very cool nights, no rain and hot sunny days.
Currency: In Botswana - Pula, in Zambia - Kwacha, US dollars, Sterling and South African Rand widely acceptable
Safety: Northern Botswana is a malarial area so prophylactics advised (Malarone on private prescription), however we did not see a mosquito at this time of year as it was too cold. Obviously there are a number of large animals and everyone travelling through the area is advised to take the utmost care when on safari, especially keeping in your tent at night ! Overrall, it was a pleasure to be in this area of the world.
Special thanks to Samson "Sammie" Obitseng (freelance Botswana Eco tour guide), fellow travellers Jan Colett and Roger Burrows (writer for African Conservation Foundation/Wild Dogs expert) and mobile safari campsite/catering staff - Enoch, Barobi and Legkowa.
DAY 1 (2nd June) MOTSENTSALA TREE LODGE, MAUN, BOTSWANA
On arrival in Maun we transfered to the very pleasant and superbly designed Motsentsala Tree Lodge. The environs here are an "enclosed" reserve that includes 2 nature trails. There are no big cats on the land so it is safe to walk the trails without a guide.
The afternoon was quiet but included a stunning Crimson Breasted Shrike, singing Bearded Scrub Robin, the "Nuthatch-a-like" Long-billed Crombec, and a small flock of confiding White-browed Sparrow Weavers, aswell as Eland and Zebra.
DAYS 2-4 (3rd-5th June) MOREMI GAME RESERVE, BOTSWANA
Early morning nature trail walk around Motsentsala saw many feeding flocks of passerines including Golden-Tailed and Bearded Woodpecker, Black-backed Puffback, White-Crested Helmet Shrike, Orange Breasted Bush Shrike, Black Faced Waxbill and Chinspot Batis.
In Maun we met our guide, Samson (aka Sammie) Obitseng, and after a brief transport debacle a trek worthy safari vehicle was sorted out and we made our way into the Moremi Game Reserve, having first encounters with Elephant, Giraffe, Impala, Kori Bustard, Brown Snake Eagle, Saddle Billed and Yellow Billed Storks, Bataleur, Lilac Breasted Roller (the national bird of Botswana),
Southern Ground Hornbill, Blacksmith Lapwing, Nile Crocodile and African Jacana.
In Moremi we had our first night camping, the camp site was full of wild life with birds such as Green Wood Hoopoe, Crested Barbet and Black Shouldered Kite, while Spotted Hyena, Lions and Elephants were heard at night (some very close!) under a perfect sky.
On Day 3 we took a river trip on the Okavango Delta, seeing White Breasted Cormorant and Dickinsons Kestrel on the way to the boat mooring area. The rarest bird of the river trip was the Slaty Egret, a species found only on the Okavango Delta/Zambezi River, other excellent sightings were Rufous Bellied Heron, Yellow Billed Pintail, Black Crake and fishing Malachite Kingfishers watched at close quarters. Raptors were seen on the Delta; stunning views of African Fish Eagle, and a passing African Marsh Harrier, passerines were represented by Cape Wagtail, African Stonechat and Red Faced Mousebird, and proud parents included Saddle Billed Stork (2 nests both with young in) and a pair of African Pygmy Goose with pygmy goslings ! Several Languanas (Water Monitor Lizards) sunbathed on the banks and 2 Elephant crossed the river as we watched from only a few yards distance.
Evening bird sightings included Bennetts and Cardinal Woodpecker and African Green Pigeon, whilst a pride of lions had been found and we had views of them sunbathing in the afternoon and then all 8 adults (2 males and 6 females) at very close quarters (as close as 2 yards from the vehicle) in the evening. Just one of many sensational experiences during the trip.
In the early morning of Day 4 the pride of Lions plus 5 cubs were located. The cubs were 2 aged around 2 months and 3 aged approximately 3 months. Sammie informed us that these would certainly be the offspring of the 2 males otherwise they would not be accepted into this pride. Once again we had awesome views of Lions as they walked next to us.
Moments later, news came through that a male Leopard was being watched nearby. We arrived to find a poser lying in the grass, “preening” post meal (a small kill). After a few minutes he strolled around, leapt over a stream, found another small meal of Francolin eggs and then began hunting again.
The marshes and watering holes produced Hadeda Ibis, African Openbill and Kalahari Scrub-Robin, plus a Grey Headed Kingfisher perched on a termite mound.
DAYS 5-6 (6th-7th June) KHWAI COMMUNITY AREA, BOTSWANA
On the way to Khwai a series of small pools and marshes held Hammerkop, a male Painted Snipe and 2 Wattled Cranes, and more raptors included Tawny Eagle and Hooded Vulture. A change to sandier more open habitat was reflected in the species - Namaqua Doves, Red-crested Korhaan and Sammie did well to swerve past 2 tiny, newly hatched Double Banded Sandgrouse chicks on the sandy track.
The Khwai Community Area was fairly quiet due to it being a hunting zone but the area around the river and campsite was excellent for owls with sightings of African Barred Owlet, Pearl Spotted Owlet and African Wood Owl.
DAYS 7-9 (8th-10th June) SAVUTI, BOTSWANA
Day 7 and the drive to Savuti was certainly a memorable one......almost unbelievably a pack of 14 African Wild Dogs, including a pregnant female, were sighted by the river, as they nervously attempted to find a safe place to cross. It took them a while to find a crocodile-free crossing area which gave us over an hour of close views. Whilst watching, a huge Lappet Faced Vulture flew over the river completing an amazing scene !
More raptors were seen as the terrain became more open including Lanner Falcon, Black Chested Snake Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Martial Eagle, White Headed Vulture, Shikra, Gabar Goshawk, Little Sparrowhawk and a Steppe Eagle at a nest.
The watering holes at Savuti were areas of constant motion with birds flying in and out to drink and bathe - Namaqua Sandgrouse, Capped Wheatear, Red-capped Lark and even a Kittlitzs Plover - and Elephants and Giraffes drinking here, mainly in the evenings. Passerines in this area included the subtle Bradfields Hornbill, Southern White-Crowned Shrikes and, one of the birds of the trip - a stunning male Long Tailed Paradise Wydah.
Other birds that could not be missed were Secretarybird, Ostrich, Northern Black Korhaan, Kori Bustard and a superb Verreauxs Great Eagle Owl sat out in the open at dusk (thanks to Sammie for the mission to see this one).
Another superb evening sighting were 2 Cheetahs that occasionally gave good views as they wandered warily and stealthily around an area of dense undergrowth and long grass. To cap off the Savuti experience 4 African Wild Dogs were seen trotting along the Savuti Channel near the rock painting site.
DAYS 10-11 (11th-12th June) CHOBE RIVER, BOTSWANA
A flock of Pratincoles hawked insects high over the Chobe River (too high for identification), before an unscheduled stay @ Toro river lodge due to a support vehicle failure. This proved good for the bird list as we saw Lesser Moorhen in the reeds, and White-browed Coucal, Lesser Striped Swallow and White-fronted Bee-eater on the lawn !
The Chobe River is well documented as a wildlife haven and the boat trip here must be comparable with world class river trips such as the Okavango and the Daintree. A Lioness lazily chased a herd of Kudu, we had rare sightings of Sable Antelope and Bushbuck, 200+ Elephant lined the river banks which also hosted Bee-eater, Brown-throated Martin and Pied Kingfisher nesting holes, as well as African Skimmer, Water Dikkop and Comb Duck.
Our stay at Chobe was all too brief but just before we left we passed by a huge flock of several hundred Buffalo, another (or the same?) Sable Antelope and a tail wagging Buffy Pipit.
DAYS 12-15 (13th-16th June) VICTORIA FALLS, ZAMBIA
A Wire-tailed Swallow flew over the Zambezi as we made the border crossing into Zambia onto our last destination of the trip - Victoria Falls, where a Red-capped Robin-Chat was found in the undergrowth by the spectacular waterfalls.
Zebras on the lawn of the hotel - the Zambezi Sun - looked incongruous and the Nature Trail here was superb: a male Southern Brown Throated Weaver in the small reedbed, 3 species of Kingfisher on the pond (pair of Brown Hooded, pair of Giant and a Pied), and a number of passerines in small feeding flocks including Tropical Boubou, Grey Headed Bush Shrike, Terrestrial Brownbul and Red Winged Starling.
A tourist cruise on the Zambezi onboard the African Princess saw Water Dikkop, Giant Kingfisher and 26 Trumpeter Hornbill and perhaps the same flock early the next morning by Victoria Falls.
Overall, a really quality trip and an awesome experience, I can't rate this safari highly enough.
African Sacred Ibis
White-faced Whistling Duck
African White-backed Vulture
African Marsh Harrier
Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk
Dark Chanting Goshawk
Northern Black Korhaan
African Wattled Lapwing
African Mourning Dove
Emerald Spotted Wood-Dove
Verraux's Giant Eagle Owl
African Barred Owlet
African Grey Hornbill
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
Greater Striped Swallow
Lesser Striped Swallow
Wire Tailed Swallow
Southern Pied Babbler
African Red-eyed Bulbul
African Pied Wagtail
Greater Blue-eared Starling
Cape Glossy Starling
Meves's Long-tailed Starling
Southern Grey-headed Sparrow
Lesser Masked Weaver
Southern Brown-throated Weaver
Languana (Water Monitor Lizard)
Peters Epauletted Fruit Bat
African Wild Cat
Spotted Hyena (heard)
Small Bat sp