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Days 1 & 2: Mon 29 & Tue 30 August - Fly UK to Namibia and transfer to Windhoek
We fly overnight from London to Hosea Kutako Airport, where we meet our local guide and travel the short distance on to Windhoek, the country's capital. If time allows, we may be able to do some introductory birding, and local species might include Crimson-breasted Shrike, Chestnut-vented Warbler, White-backed Mousebird, Black-faced Waxbill, Southern Masked and Lesser Masked Weaver, Red-billed Spurfowl, Ashy Tit or perhaps even Namibian specials such as White-tailed Shrike, Monteiro's Hornbill and Damara Rockrunner. Overnight Arebbusch Travel Lodge for one night.
Day 3: Wed 31 August – Windhoek – Solitaire
A morning birding in Daan Viljoen NR, close to Windhoek is a good way to start, before we make our way slowly towards the Namib Desert. As we travel we watch for all manner of birds, particularly raptors including Martial Eagle, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk and Lanner Falcon. Other likely birds include Sociable Weaver, Yellow Canary, Red-billed Spurfowl, Orange River Francolin, Monteiro's Hornbill and more. In the afternoon we arrive at the desert town of Solitare, located in the Khomas region of Central Namibia, and an important staging point in the Namib Desert. Our accommodation for one night at Namibgrens Guest Farm with its large garden and abundance of water is an ideal environment for birdwatching. The views from the 1850m high escarpment into the Namib Desert are both breath-taking and good for birds, and we may take the opportunity to search for owls and nightjars while enjoying some of the least light-polluted skies in the world.
Days 4 & 5: Thur 1 & Fri 2 September - Namib-Naukluft National Park
Today we make an early start as we continue our progress south-westwards into the Namib Desert proper. Herero Chat is one of the major Namibian specials, and from Solitare we are well placed to explore the rocky hillsides on the Spreetshoogte Pass for this uncommon and sought-after resident. Other species to look out for include Rüppell's Korhaan, Pygmy Falcon, Sociable Weaver, Mountain Wheatear, and both Monteiro's and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill. We continue to Sossusvlei and into the Namib-Naukluft National Park, where the iconic red sand dunes of the Namib rise to almost 400m, one of the most scenic natural wonders of Africa! Birding this area can be especially rewarding, and may include Dune Lark, Namibia’s only true endemic bird, and a key target. Also possible are White-backed and Lappet-faced Vulture, Verreauxs’ Eagle, Spotted Eagle Owl, Cape Sparrow and many others, all amid spectacular desert scenery. We stay at Hoodia Desert Lodge for two nights, where surrounded by majestic mountains and on the banks of the Tsauchab River, offering further wildlife opportunities.
Days 6 & 7: Sat 3 & Sun 4 September - Walvis Bay and Swakopmund
After an early breakfast we travel north-west through the harshest parts of the Namib Desert to the Atlantic Coast. Birdwatching as we travel, we may see Ludwig's Bustard, Rüppell's Korhaan, Red-capped and Gray's Lark and perhaps also Bradfield’s Swift at Sesriem Canyon, which is not far from the lodge. On reaching the coast, at Walvis Bay large flocks of Greater and Lesser Flamingo draw the eye, while Damara Tern, Chestnut-banded and White-fronted Plover are specialities. In favourable tides, the bay and indeed nearby salt works attract large numbers, and a range of Palearctic waders include Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, and Little Stint, with Caspian and Sandwich Tern, Cape Teal, Great White Pelican and Cape Cormorant likely too. Continuing to Swakopmund, featureless gravel plains inland of the coast give way to a rugged beautiful valley, within which the oasis of greenery may yield such species as Dusky Sunbird, Orange River White-eye, Cardinal Woodpecker, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Southern Masked Weaver and perhaps Tractrac Chat. Overnight Swakop Guest House, in Swakopmund for two nights.
Days 8 & 9: Mon 5 & Tue 6 September - Swakopmund - Erongo Mountains
With so little time on the coast, we may choose to spend another morning birding near Swakopmund before making our way back inland to the Erongo Mountain Range. An imposing expanse of rugged wilderness with spectacular landscapes, magnificent caves and rock painting sites the region supports an impressive array of wildlife including over 200 bird species. Among our many targets are Hartlaub's Spurfowl, Damara Rockrunner, Double-banded Courser, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Rosy-faced Lovebird, White-tailed Shrike, Layard's Warbler, Cape Bunting, Pale-winged Starling, Great Sparrow, White-throated and Black-throated Canary, Dusky and White-bellied Sunbird, Damara Red-billed Hornbill, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Short-toed Rock Thrush and Carp's Tit. On reaching our lodge, Freckled Nightjars are usually vocal and may be seen at sunset, and if needed we have another chance to try a site for Herero Chat. Mammals may also be encountered at Erongo, perhaps including Southern Giraffe, Wildebeest, Black-faced Impala, Blesbok, Waterbuck, Kudu, Warthog, Rock Hyrax, Oryx and Eland. Overnight Ai Aiba Rock Painting Lodge for two nights.
Days 10 & 11: Wed 7 & Thur 8 September – Okaukeujo, Etosha National Park
Okaukeujo, a former military outpost founded in 1901, is our first destination, rightly famous for its waterhole around which a hub of animal activity may be appreciated. It is one of the best places to see wild game in Namibia, with endangered Black Rhino, African Elephant, Leopard, Zebra, Southern Giraffe and many more likely to be seen here. At the heart is the Etosha Pan, a shallow depression covering 5000 sq km, which though dry for most of the year, fills after seasonal rains attracting a range of species.
Birding possibilities include Common Ostrich, Northern Black Korhaan, Kori Bustard, Double-banded, Temminck's and Burchell's Courser, Secretarybird, Southern Pale Chanting and Gabar Goshawk, Tawny Eagle, Greater Kestrel, African White-backed Vulture, Namaqua and Double-banded Sandgrouse, Stark's, Red-capped and Pink-billed Lark, Capped Wheatear, Rufous-eared Warbler and plenty more. Overnight at Okaukuejo Resort for two nights.
Day 12: Fri 9 September – Halali, Etosha NP
After roughly an hour’s drive east we arrive at Halali, birding in a relaxed manner around the resort grounds. Here we hope to see Violet Wood Hoopoe and Bare-cheeked Babbler, while other likely birds include African Grey, Montiero's and Damara Red-billed Hornbill, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Fork-tailed Drongo, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Groundscaper Thrush, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Shikra, Little Sparrowhawk, Grey-backed Cameroptera, Golden-breasted Bunting and African Red-eyed Bulbul. Halali also benefits from a waterhole and Black Rhino are regular visitors at dusk and around sunrise, while the denser vegetation here makes it a popular site for Leopard and African Elephant. Overnight Halali Resort for one night.
Day 13 & 14: Sat 10 & Sun 11 September – Namutoni, Etosha NP
Located in the eastern part of Etosha National Park, Namutoni is a hotspot for birders and game enthusiasts alike. We enjoy a two night stay here, dedicating more time than most to appreciate the bird rich Fischer’s Pan, Andoni Plains and King Nehale Waterhole. We should enjoy great game viewing! Blue Crane is a major target, Namutoni being the only place outside South Africa where you may see this striking bird. Also likely are South African Shelduck, Cape Teal, White-headed and White-backed Vulture, Bateleur, Saddle-billed Stork, Kittlitz's and Three-banded Plover, Red-necked Falcon, Burchell's Sandgrouse, Red-crested Korhaan, Barred Wren Warbler, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Pink-billed Lark, Violet-eared Waxbill, Southern Pied Babbler and Red-billed Buffalo Weaver. A variety of mammals may include Spotted Hyena, Black-backed Jackal, Slender and Banded Mongoose and diminutive Damara Dik-Dik at or near watering holes. Overnight Namutoni Resort for two nights.
Days 15 & 16: Mon 12 & Tue 13 September - Waterberg Plateau National Park
After breakfast we leave Etosha, and visit a stakeout for Black-faced Babbler before pushing on to Waterberg. The Plateau National Park is a fascinating geological site featuring compressed sandstone crags, 200 million-year-old dinosaur footprints, and petrified sand dunes. The area’s natural water sources make it far more fertile than its environs, and the park is blessed with a plethora of plant and animal species. These include healthy populations of Leopard, Cheetah and Bushbaby, while rare and endangered Sable and Roan Antelope may be seen on Waterberg's 50-kilometre-long sandstone plateau, dubbed 'Table Mountain'. We have a number of target birds to search for too, and on our full day can explore the area extensively looking for Bradfield's Hornbill, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Violet Wood Hoopoe, Rüppell's Parrot, Bradfield's Swift, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Carp's Tit, Rosy-faced Lovebird and Damara Rockrunner. Many others are also possible, and Waterberg will certainly be a fitting location to bring our tour to its climax. Overnight Waterberg Wilderness Lodge for two nights.
Day 17: Wed 14 September - Departure
We may have time for a short birding activity, before breakfast and transfer to Windhoek and the airport where the tour will come to an end. Our return flights will see us arrive back in the UK on (day 18) Thurs 15 September.