African monarch, black-winged stilt, blacksmith lapwing, dikdik, Egyptian goose, Grey go-away-bird, little grebe, Namibia, Naturetrek, Pale chanting goshawk, purple roller, Safariwise, Verreaux's eagle, violet wood hoopoe, Waterberg Plateau, wood sandpiper
Saturday night and Sunday morning. (23rd/24th February 2019). We’ll gloss over the sheer panic I had felt for two hours on the Friday afternoon when a trespasser on the railway at my local railway station made me miss my long-haul flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, and I saw my two-week safari in three countries melting away before my eyes. I’ll just thank Naturetrek for speedily booking me onto a flight 3 hours later, and for having arranged the timing of the whole journey such that I was still able to take the intended onward flight to Windhoek, Namibia, (formerly South West Africa) at the same time as my prospective 14 companions.
At Windhoek, we were met by Neil, the proprietor of Safariwise, and the other leader/guide, Jakes, both Afrikaans-origin Namibian nationals. They drove us in two vehicles to the Waterberg Plateau, halfway to Etosha, where we would spend the night. From my leaving home to arrival at our lodge there, it had been some 27 hours.
Here is a map to explain our itinerary.
From Waterberg we were to go onward to central Etosha for two nights, eastern Etosha for another two, and onward to the north-east border of Namibia to stay for one night in a lodge in Kavangoland, on the Okavango River, with Angola on the other bank. We would then move for three nights to a lodge at the western point of the Caprivi Strip. From there we would make a day visit into Botswana (formerly Bechuanaland), after which we would move on further east within the Caprivi strip for a night in a lodge on the banks of the Zambezi River, and then spend two nights in Botswana itself in Chobe National Park. Our last two nights would be spent just over the border in Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) and we would fly back home, via Johannesburg, from Livingstone, near Victoria Falls.
The following, Sunday, morning, we started as we went on most days – getting up very, very early, with a pre-breakfast walk. This makes sense because it is around dawn and dusk that wildlife is most active. Like us, the creatures do not like to move around in the middle of a hot day. (Daytime maxima during the fortnight varied from 33°C to 38°C, night-time minima from 18° to 22°.) We followed a track near to our accommodation, which was considerably higher than the surrounding plain, but still with the plateau looming over us.
The sun was not yet up.
A word on captions. I only started systematically noting the names of the birds I photographed about halfway through the trip, so certainty about the names is not always guaranteed, depending both on whether I was able to check them out after the event, and also on whether I noted them correctly (the latter going for the second half of the trip also). Anyone with better information than I is very welcome to make corrective notes in the comments!
After breakfast we set off for our next destination, Etosha National Park. This is one of the two vehicles we travelled in. Everyone had a window seat, most also having the chance for a better view if they stood when the roof was up.
As we travelled our guides kept their eyes skinned for anything of wildlife interest and stopped for us to look and take photos as appropriate. The rule seemed to be that the longer we were taking to get anywhere, risking our next meal, the more significant the creature had to be for us to stop! I was just amazed at what Neil and Jakes noticed and immediately identified as they drove along.
We diverted to a sewage works – not for the last time in the fortnight! I was the only traveller not principally and passionately interested in (and knowledgeable about) birds, my interest in wildlife, and the countries visited, being more general. And I was to learn that sewage works are fantastic for birdwatching, as they are made up of a series of ponds which attract waders and other birds.
Neil and Jakes also removed some illegal traps set to catch birds at the sewage works.
We had lunch at a safari lodge en route. We did not starve in the 14 days!