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Botswana Wildlife Safari Explore 31 Oct 2008 (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Hi folks, This trip report might take some time so I will post one day at a time.

November 1st 2008

Arrived in Maun after an overnight flight connecting in Johannesburgh. First birds were a Cape wagtail, grey headed sparrow and Pied Crow in Jo'burgh. Arriving at the Sedia Hotel, Maun, it took a while to sort our rooms out- the hotel having misjudged the number of single travellers in our group. I was given a chalet but told that another lady would be joining me. She never materialised. The pool looked a bit worse for wear (green and horrible) so contented myself with getting to know my travelling companions and doing a bit of birding around the lodge. I travelled with three other couples and three other guys. Our land operation was run by Wilderness Dawning, our guide's name was Solomon.

Birding around the lodge produced red-billed buffalo weaver, Blue waxbill, red-billed firefinch, village weaver, Southern masked and lesser masked weavers, Grey Lourie (Go-away bird), Marico and white bellied sunbirds, Meve's starling, Burchell's starling, Greater-blue eared starling, red-billed francolin, red-billed quela, Swamp Boubou, Grey-backed cameroptera, African paradise flycatcher, magpie shrike, Hartlaub's babbler, Arrow-marked babbler, African red-eyed bulbul, Yellow-billed hornbill, Lilac-breasted roller, red-eyed, cape turtle and laughing doves. Blacksmith plover, african open bill stork, white backed duck, south african shelduck and our first african jacanas down by the Thamalakane river. First bird of prey was a yellow billed kite.


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Well-known member
Some more photos from Maun:

Anyone know what the one on the right is?


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Well-known member
Day 2- 2nd November to 4th November - Okavango Panhandle

After leaving the Sedia first thing, we had a long drive along good straight roads to Shakawe, passing a few ostriches en route, where we boarded the houseboat for three nights on the Okavango panhandle.

In hindsight, most people agreed that it would have been preferable to have structured the tour in reverse order, finishing on the houseboat. People were raring to get stuck in to the safari experience and the time on the houseboat was too laid back for some (including me). I personally would have appreciated this winding down time and more comfort after the camping experience.

Whilst on the subject of the houseboat, the experience itself was very pleasant. The crew were friendly and the food was probably the best we had on the trip. the 3rd November was spent travelling to Tsodilo Hills where you can view San bushman rock art which dates back thousands of years.

However, overall I felt that the activities did not quite live up to expectations and I think Explore's itinerary needs reviewing in that respect. I was expecting some of the time to be spent exploring the narrower channels and waterways from the houseboat launch as stipulated in our itinerary. I had in my mind something akin to the mokoro trips, but using the launch with abundant birdlife to view. However, we had only one river safari trip which effectively only took us along the widest part of the panhandle. Whilst this did include viewing the carmine bee-eater colony and other bird and animal life, which was fantastic, the overall experience fell short of my expectations. When I enquired about an additional launch trip, this was not something that Mike (the owner) was prepared to provide, even though there seemed to be ample opportunities to do shorter river safaris when taxiing back to the houseboat (after the Tsodilo hills trip for instance). There was a lot of down time on the houseboat. We couldn't walk far when the boat was moored as Mike was concerned about our safety- but he did not offer any of his crew to give us a guided walk until the last night and that only lasted about 20 minutes. On this walk the guide said it was a great place to see sitatunga at first light, but this was our last night and we were out early to drive to Livingstone so there was no opportunity to look for it. Had we moored there the previous night, we could have had the chance to see sitatunga. Whilst myself and another birdwatcher had come prepared with telescopes so were able to birdwatch from the houseboat, there was little on offer for anyone else. One member of the group asked to do some fishing (which was advertised on the itinerary), but this was only provided under duress as this houseboat doesn't yet have a licence- so effectively if he had been caught Mike would have faced a fine.

That said, we saw some good birds and Hippo, crocodile, water monitor and a green water snake. Bird highlights were, African fish eagles (a pair close to the boat every day), Jacana, Black Crake, African skimmers, Pied and Malachite kingfishers, long toed, african wattled and white crowned lapwings, redshank, ruff, caspian plover, Common and green sandpipers, Greenshank, Black-winged stilt, water thick-knee, colleared pratincole, white breasted and reed cormorants, african darter, purple, goliath, grey, rufous-bellied and green-backed, squacco and black crowned night herons, hammerkop, sacred ibis, white faced duck, red-billed teal, African Hawk eagle, swallow tailled, little green, white fronted and carmine bee eaters, African marsh harrier, African green pigeon, emerald spotted dove, African palm swift, red-faced mousebird, African Hoopoe, African grey and red-billed hornbills, black-collared barbet, bearded woodpecker, wire-tailed, pearl breasted and red-breasted swallows, sand martin and brown throated martins Black faced and southern pied babblers, and dark capped bulbul, yellow breasted apalis, luapula cisticola, tawney flanked prinia, Grey0headed bush shrike, white browed sparrow weaver, spectacled weaver, and fan tailed and white winged widowbirds (non-breediing).

At dinner time we saw some interesting bugs!


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Well-known member
more pics

So a few more pics from the panhandle..


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Well-known member
Hell yes! And the adventure continues. Some more pics from our time on the panhandle. The first is a typical view of the panhandle.


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Well-known member
November 5th To Livingstone

On our way to livingstione we crossed over into Namibia and travelled along the Caprivi strip, where we spotted our first Impala and a lone elephant, as well as some more ostrich. We stayed at the Zambezi Waterfront Hotel home to Safari Par Excellence's on site adventure centre where you have the opportunity to book a range of optional activities. After sorting out a flood in my room, I went to enquire about what was on offer. Unfortunately my original plans to hire "bob the birder" fell through when I was unable to get through to him on the phone number I had so I and few others opted for a river safari and helicopter flip in the morning, with a group visit to see the falls in the afternoon. The River safari cost $72 and the Heli flip $110. Entry into vic falls was a further 10$. Be warned if you attempt to walk on the other side of the falls to the marked trails- zambian "guides" will pick you up and try and show you the way. Of course they expect payment but don't tell you until the end. He asked me for $10. I settled with him at $2. Another larger group was asked for $30 but gave their guide $10.

I can highly reccommend the heli flip as the view from Zambia of the falls is very lack lustre at this time of year.

The river safari was pleasant enough but way overpriced for what it was. Compare this to $35 for a similar trip along the Chobe riverfront- I'll come onto that later.

Anyway, Special birds around the waterfront that I saw were Trumpetor Hornbill, Collared Palm thrush, Heuglin's robin, and Crested Barbet. Sadly I dipped on Schlaow's turaco and finfoot. Watch out for the vervet monkeys- they are bold and I got chased by a mother with a youngster. :eek!: There are also chacma baboons.

The service was pretty dire at the buffet that night but our guide did a good job of getting a discount off our bill.


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Well-known member
A few more shots from Livingstone

Some shots of the special birds and view of the falls.


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Well-known member
Love the Collared Palm Thrush pic. This was one of the birds we missed out on in Livingstone and despite me having a conversation with one in the Kruger, we didn't see them there either :(

Looking forward to reading about your Chobe trip. We thought it was wonderful. But 'SafPar' ... grr ... don't get me started.
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Well-known member
7th Nov 2008 - Livingstone to Serondella via Kazungula/Kasane

Today we left Livingstone and headed to Kazungula and back into Botswana via the ferry over the Zambezi. African fish eagles and a huge flock of open-billed storks could be seen on the crossing as well as more hippo and crocodiles. When we reached the town of Kasane we heard that our other vehicle carrying the camp staff and our accommodations had had a problem and needed to be fixed. We spent a bit of time just stocking up for our first night and getting a few postcards off before we continued on our way to Serondella along the Chobe riverfront.


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Well-known member
We stopped briefly along the riverfront to give the camp staff time to set up and then after lunch we had our first proper game drive. We saw a range of game, particularly the hundreds of elephant for which the park is justifiably famous. Other game on view were Southern Giraffe, Hippo, waterbuck, Kudu, impala (pregnant), Red Leschwe, Burchell’s zebra, warthog, Cape buffalo, and smaller animals such as bush squirrel, banded mongoose and chacma baboon. As the light was failing another group informed us that a lone lioness had been spotted and we went to investigate. We found her walking around. At one point we drove round to wait for her to emerge from some scrub and were parked side on. She walked straight up to our vehicle and literally everyone felt as if she were staring right at them, including me! I’m sure she was working out which side of us to pass on but it was quite a moment!

Birdlife along the riverfront area was also very diverse and we saw, African fish eagle, Tawny and Steppe eagles, Kori Bustard, African spoonbill, Giant kingfisher, Steppe Buzzard, red backed, Souza’s and lesser grey shrikes and Marabou storks.

All the camp sites we stayed at were termed “operator exclusive” sites. They were therefore not the public camp sites where the ablution blocks are and as such the toilet/shower facilities were basic, consisting of a dug out pit with a portable toilet seat and bucket showers. This was as I expected, but not what some others in the group had in mind! They were however, out in the bush with no other groups around us- giving a truly wilderness experience.

That evening was Brian’s 62nd birthday and the camp staff decided to play a little prank on him by presenting him with a birthday cake. According to Mary, another of the group, the frosting tasted really nice, but after struggling to cut the cake, the camp staff came clean and admitted that the cake was actually a piece of frosted elephant dung! They then produced a much more edible cake and we all had a jolly good laugh!


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Well-known member
8th November 2008 – Serondella full day

We had an early morning game drive where we continued to see all the mammals mentioned above plus chobe bushbuck, dwarf mongoose, another lioness, and a family of black backed jackals with young pups. Slender mongoose, Southern giraffe and red Leschwe were also seen but the most exciting sighting of the morning was when we came across a couple of Kudu staring intently into some thick brush. They gave some loud alarm calls indicating that a predator might be around. We were all scanning the bushes for any movement when Jim shouted “leopard!” After a few tense moments I managed to pick up on the cat obtaining a very brief and obscured view. Wow! My first leopard sighting!:t:


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Well-known member
Nice report K and nice habitat pictures. :t: The African fish eagle looks similar to our white tailed eagle.



Well-known member
Thanks Joanne. Yes they are quite similar!

Returning to the camp for lunch, we then headed back into Kasane to stock up on food (camp staff) and alcohol/water (the guests) for the rest of the trip. In the afternoon we all took the option of a boat trip along the Chobe riverfront at an additional cost of $35. To be fair, this was a bit of a no option option as no other game viewing was offered for that afternoon- as such basically a stealth fee which I think should have been included in the cost of the tour.
That said it was lovely to be on the river cruising amongst the hippos and birds. Over the course of the day the new birds we saw included Double banded sandgrouse, Whalberg’s eagle, Goliath Heron, Grey heron, Black headed heron, Great white pelican, red and yellow-billed oxpeckers, Senegal and coppery tailed coucals, Black chested snake eagle, White winged and whiskered terns, cinnamon breasted bunting, Hooded and white backed vultures, Kittlitz plover, grey headed and lesser black backed gulls, giant kingfishers (a pair offering great views) black hooded oriole, ruff and yellow wagtail as well as closer views of African skimmers including a juvenile bird. A new mammal sighted from the boat was a lone Puku. We also passed a very dead and very smelly elephant- which had not yet attracted attention from any of the lions in the area, although a variety of vultures and marabou storks were in attendance. Finally our boat guide said he had something special to show us. This turned out to be a lone lioness sitting on the bank of the river. With that last sighting in the bag we headed back to camp.


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Well-known member
A few more from the boat trip


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9th November – Serondella to Savuti Channel

My hopes to go check on the dead elephant were dashed when we just transited out of the park in the opposite direction along the riverfront and on towards our second camp at Savuti Channel. On the way we added some more nice birds including White stork, Crowned plover, Temmink’s Courser, Red-crested Korhaan, Crested francolin, Kori Bustard, Violet backed starling, and non-breeding long tailed paradise whydah. We also added new animals in the shape of leopard tortoise (sadly his shell was in a state having been run over), steenbok and bush duiker. We also saw hyena tracks.

Upon arrival at our new campsite the heavens opened and we had quite a downpour and a lot of wind- part of the camp blew away- thankfully my tent stayed put! However, the weather improved sufficiently that we risked a game drive which was unsurprisingly a bit of a damp squib. That was until I spotted a second leopard, sitting up under a bush! We got better views of this one but in such poor light and at such a distance no photographs could be taken. The cat quickly stood up, turned and was off into the thicket. We also saw black backed Jackal and a hippo- which was unusual for this dry area- perhaps the recent rain had fooled it. We also saw a couple of new birds- spotted dikkop and the impressive giant eagle owl (Verreaux's).


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10th November Savuti Channel (Chobe) to Kwai (Moremi)

We only had one night at Savuti Channel and then headed off down to Kwai in Moremi Game Reserve. So most of the morning was spent transiting- without stopping for much game viewing.

The Kwai area is very beautiful- especially along the Kwai river before you enter the game reserve itself. We stopped there for a tea break enjoying the sunshine and the view. New birds in this area included, Saddle-billed stork, Woolly necked stork, Spur winged goose, Martial eagle, Brown snake eagle, Secretary bird, wattled crane, black and slaty egrets and rufous bellied heron and, en route a pair of greater painted snipe! At camp we had an African barred owlet in a tree. New mammals were an African wild cat which I spotted and a yellow mongoose. Sadly no big cats were seen that day.

Clearly Moremi had received more rain than Chobe before we arrived and, the upside of the rain was there were some fantastic thunderstorms and by the time we got to Moremi all the animals had given birth so there were baby impala, Tseebee, warthog and wildebeest running around plus the park was a lot greener and more beautiful than Chobe.


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