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NAMIBIA

6–20 February 2017
6–20 February 2018

With plenty of sunshine, an abundance of birds and other wildlife and some incredible landscapes, Namibia is a ‘must visit’ destination. Whilst the only truly endemic species is Dune Lark, other species such as Damara Red-billed and Monteiro’s Hornbills, Gray’s Lark, Herero Chat, Rockrunner and White-tailed Shrike are only found here and in Angola. This tour aims to find as many of the specialised southern African species as possible.

Day 1 We will take an overnight flight to Windhoek.

Day 2 On arrival in Windhoek we will head to the nearby Daan Viljoen Nature Reserve. This is Namibia's smallest game park and will start our bird list off with a good mixture of specialty birds, including Monteiro’s Hornbill, White-tailed Shrike, and some of the more widespread species including Verreaux’s Eagle, Orange River Francolin, Red-billed Francolin, Bearded Woodpecker, Short-toed Rock-thrush, Mountain Wheatear, Yellow-bellied and Burnt-neck Eremomelas, Pririt Batis, Long-billed Pipit, Crimson-breasted Gonolek, Pale-winged Starling, Great Rufous Sparrow, White-throated Canary and Cape and Cinnamon-breasted Buntings. One of Daan Viljoen's great attractions is that visitors are allowed to walk around the park unlike Etosha and several other Namibian game parks where you are confined to your vehicle. We will stay overnight in a nearby resort.

Day 3 After breakfast we will travel from Windhoek to Swakopmund via the Bosua Mountain Pass. With its German influenced architecture dating back to the turn of the nineteenth century, Swakopmund is surrounded by desert on the Skeleton Coast, just to the north of Walvis Bay where we will stay within walking distance of the beach at resort. Regular stops on our journey across to Swakopmund should produce plenty of birds including Lappet-faced Vulture, Black-chested Snake-eagle, Martial Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Burchell’s and Double-banded Coursers, Ludwig’s and Rüppell’s Bustards, Tractrac and Karoo Chats, African Pipit, Southern Fiscal and we will also be able to start getting to grips with a variety of larks including Sabota, Spike-heeled, Stark’s and Gray’s. One night Swakopmund.

Days 4–5 The Walvis Bay lagoon takes pride of place as regards scenic attractions in the area. The lagoon has been listed by RAMSAR as a Natural Heritage site because of the sheer numbers of Palearctic waders it supports each summer (about 20,000 birds), together with spectacular numbers of Greater and Lesser Flamingos. The lagoon is a tranquil stretch of water with its natural beauty accentuated by the thousands of flamingos that gather at these rich feeding grounds. Altogether, some 80,000 wading birds can be seen on the lagoon. There will definitely be a sense of the familiar and unfamiliar with Palearctic waders such Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel, Common Ringed and Black-bellied Plovers, Common Greenshank, Marsh, Curlew and Common Sandpipers, Ruff, and Sanderling joined by the local African Oystercatcher and White-fronted, Chestnut-banded and Three-banded Plovers. Other inshore seabirds include Cape, Bank, Great and Crowned Cormorants, Hartlaub’s, Grey-hooded and Kelp Gulls, Great Crested, Caspian, Common, Sandwich and the localised Damara Terns. An added bonus here is the possibility of pelagic seabirds that can often be seen from Paaltjies with White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Wilson's and European Storm-petrels, Cape Gannet and Pomarine and Long-tailed Jaegers amongst them. Other birds of the area will include Great White Pelican, Augur Buzzard, Pale Chanting-goshawk, Red-capped Lark, Bokmakierie, Cape Starling, Cape Sparrow, Orange River White-eye and Pied Barbet. We spend two days here to ensure that we give good coverage to this important coastal area and to have time to search for one of the highlights of the tour – Namibia’s endemic Dune Lark. Two nights Walvis Bay.

Day 6 After breakfast we depart for Omaruru via the Spitzkoppe. The Spitzkoppe rises 600 metres above the surrounding plains to a height of 1728 metres above sea level. The sprawling granite outcrops, valleys and peaks offer many hours of fascinating exploration with some of the country's oldest rock art to be discovered and is the one place where the endemic Herero Chat can be seen with virtual certainty. Rainfall in the arid Namib is extremely variable and this has an enormous effect on the birds that appear in this area. If there have been good rains we may find colonies of the nomadic Chestnut Weaver here. Other birds may include Namaqua Sandgrouse, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Bradfield’s Swift, Ashy Tit, and Layard’s Warbler and once again we will have a chance to get to grips with another good selection of larks: Benguela, Sabota, Gray’s, Stark’s, Red-capped, Spike-heeled, Fawn-coloured and Rufous-napped. One night in a guesthouse on the Omaruru River.

Day 7 After breakfast we continue to head north towards the Etosha National Park, breaking our journey with an overnight stop at a lodge to the east of Khorixas in the scenic Damaraland area of north-western Namibia. Specialties to look for here include Bare-cheeked Babbler and Carp’s Tit along with White-backed Mousebird, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Violet Woodhoopoe, Black-fronted Bulbul, Rufous-vented Warbler, Chat Flycatcher, Dusky Sunbird, White-crowned Shrike, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Yellow Canary and Lark-like Bunting. One night near Khorixas.

Day 8 After breakfast, we will continue on to the fabulous Etosha National Park. Numerous waterholes give rise to a wealth of wildlife, including a fantastic white clay elephant wallow. Immense bull elephants roll in this gooey white clay to emerge from the wallow as the famous “ghost elephants” of Etosha. Etosha, meaning "Great White Place", is dominated by a massive mineral pan, part of the Kalahari Basin, the floor of which was formed around one billion years ago. The Etosha Pan covers around 25% of the National Park and is surrounded by sweetveld savanna plains. The pan was originally a lake fed by the Kunene River. However the course of the river changed thousands of years ago and the lake dried up. The pan is now a large a depression of salt and dusty clay, which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time. This temporary water in the Etosha Pan attracts thousands of wading birds including impressive flocks of flamingos. The perennial springs along the edges of the Etosha Pan draw large concentrations of wildlife and birds. Etosha is home to 114 species of mammals and some 340 species of birds. It houses large numbers of globally-endangered or threatened mammals, most notably Black Rhinoceros and Savanna Elephant. Because of its size, the park serves as a genetic reserve for various species of animals and plants. Birds we will search for Common Ostrich, Cape Shoveler, South African Shelduck, Secretary-bird, Pygmy and Red-necked Falcons, Kori Bustard, Red-crested and White-quilled Bustards, Blue Crane, Caspian Plover, Burchell’s and Double-banded Sandgrouse, Rüppell’s Parrot, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, African Palm-swift, Alpine Swift, Eurasian (African) Hoopoe, Black-faced Babbler, Southern Pied-babbler, Pink-billed and Eastern Clapper Larks, Fork-tailed Drongo, Burchell’s Starling, Southern Anteater-chat, Black-throated Canary, Grey-backed Sparrow-lark and a variety of whydahs, waxbills and weavers. Four nights Etosha National Park

Days 9–10 If you are ever likely to see a mirage in your lifetime it will be here, as the intense hazy sun reflecting against the shimmering pans distorts your eyesight and makes you see all sorts of things that are not really there. In complete contrast, when the rain arrives, up to a one metre of water turns the parched surface into an algae-rich soup attracting thousands of birds. The pink mist shifting slowly across the water is a huge flock of flamingos, for which this is an important breeding ground. After a good watering, the surrounding woodland savannah and scrubland, which is normally sparsely vegetated, bursts into an abundance of yellow blooms and rich grasses. Etosha has a dozen waterhole’s – some natural, others artificially fed from boreholes. After breakfast we will move on to our next stop within the park, Halali, which is strategically-located halfway between Okaukuejo and Namutoni and is surrounded by some of the park’s most popular water holes including a secluded, scenic, flood-lit waterhole, a short walk from our camp. More bird to look out for include Abdim’s Stork, White-backed and White-headed Vultures, Booted and Tawny Eagles, African Hawk-eagle, Bateleur, Damara Red-billed Hornbill, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Spotted Eagle-owl, Monotonous Lark, Groundscraper Thrush, Greater Blue-eared Starling and Cape Crombec.

Day 11 After breakfast we continue eastwards on our final full day in the park to Uris Safari Lodge. The Lodge is located 25 kilometers west of the town of Tsumeb in Namibia's diverse and fascinating Oshikoto region and nestles in a 17,000 hectare private game reserve with an abundance of Eland, Kudu and other game. Today we’ll aim to pick up any birds we may have missed so far.

Days 12–13 After breakfast we start heading south to our final destination – the Waterberg Plateau Park and the Bernabe De La Bat Rest camp. Rising almost 200 metres above the surrounding African bush, the Waterberg Plateau, with its dramatic brick-red sandstone formations and thick green vegetation forms an island of colour above the flat acacia-covered plains. The park covers 405 square kilometres and was originally created in 1972 as a haven for rare and endangered species of the Caprivi region of Namibia including Cape Buffalo, Sable and Roan Antelopes and Tsessebe. Birdlife is abundant with 200+ species recorded here. By now our bird list should be extensive and finding new species will be proving difficult. This will be our final opportunity to see some of the specialties Namibia has to offer with a chance of a few new species for our list including Cape Griffon, African Scops-owl, Freckled Nightjar, Pied Cuckoo, Mariqua and White-breasted Sunbirds, Violet-backed Starling and Shaft-tailed Whydah.

Day 14 After breakfast and a final early morning walk we leave the Waterberg and head back to Windhoek in time our flight home, arriving the following morning on Day 15.

General Information With a dry climate, typical of a semi-desert country, droughts are a regular occurrence. Average day temperatures in the summer vary from 20–34°C. The Benguela Current is also the prime determinant of the climate of the Namib, as it reduces rainfall and causes the omnipresent fog typical of the coast.

Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 8; maximum group size: 14 with 2 leaders.

Dune Lark

Dune Lark

Recommended books available from NHBS