2010 South Africa and Namibia

24 July

Five hours late into J'burg, thanks Egypt Air! Then the car hire company had us down as a no show, from a month earlier! Deep joy, another 2 hours wasted. Luckily, well mainly due to my loose interpretation of speed limits, we managed to cross into Botswana not too long after dark. Despite a power cut at one of the numerous huts we had to go into to go across the border.


25 July

10 hours of driving the trans-Kalahari highway brought new meaning to the word tedious. We did see a few birds on the way including Kalahari scrub-robin and ostriches. We crossed the Namibian border and reached Gobais.


26 July - 29 July


A short period photographing birds, such as this gorgeous male short-toed rock thrush, and then more driving.




Finally we were at a destination proper, Waterberg.


Wildlife here included:


Lots of banded mongooses.


Dark morph dwarf mongoose.


Very attractive, but rather wary, rosy-faced lovebirds.

Lots of grey go-away birds


Tilly was particularly taken by this Damara dik-dik.

Pririt batis


Acacia barbets were common, but smart.


The superb crimson-breasted shrike was common and showy here, and many other places, so how I didn't manage to get a better photograph I don't know!


Ruppell's parrot was one of the 'target species' but this juvenile was far from the most exciting parrot I ever seen.



We met up with Pete, Liz and Cameron here. A great deal of stress was caused by Tilly getting bitten by a mongoose, thus starting a tour of southern African clinics for rabies injections and I managed to lock the keys in the car. I didn't ask the man who helped us out with the later where he got his breaking into cars skills from, but I was very grateful!


29/7 - 2/8

Then, after a last, unsuccessful, look for Hartlaub's francolin, it was off to Etosha. Namibia's most famous reserve; our five nights here produced some great sights. 

Etosha

 We were watching two lions within an hour or so of entering the reserve. Unfortunately the views were poor, as were ones later in our time here. Probably our favourite place was the camp at Okaukejo, with its superb waterhole:

Black rhino was a new species for me and, amazingly, up to seven were seen at a time. Although either distantly or at night, well that's my excuse for the poor photo anyway.

'Black-faced' impala, gemsbok, springbok, common zebra and kudu were all common and about 30 hartebeest were seen.
Springbok

Black-backed jackals were very common.

For me probably the highlight of Etosha was seeing two honey badgers, raiding the bins, at night at Halali.

We weren't quite as successful at seeing birds as we'd hoped but of course plenty were seen. Among the easier to photograph were:
lappet-faced vulture

red-crested korhaan

double-banded courser
red-headed finch

southern white-crowned shrike


It was then a long journey northwards, via a clinic for Tilly's rabies injection, to Ruacana, on the Angola border. 

Ruacana

Described in the birding site guide as: "Wild, remote and exotic, Ruacana's legendary status among birders is well deserved. One of the only sites on earth for the localised and evocatively named Cinderella waxbill and one of the few sites for rufous-tailed palm-thrush." It certainly had a more 'African' feel with the the Himba women walking around topless covered in ochre. We saw the two species that make it 'legendary' and I managed this picture of the waxbill.


We also got slightly alarmingly good views of this western banded spitting-cobra.

We only had two nights here but it was a truly superb site. Other notable species included white-tailed shrike and Carp's tit.


6 and 7 August

It was then a bumping drive to Hobatere. It was quite thrilling to have an unfenced camp, especially when a lion was roaring during the night, but we were all glad nobody needed the loo. Among the mammals we changed zebra species to mountain zebra.
One of the best lizards I've ever seen was the superb Namibian rock agama


In the morning we got views of our main target species: Hautlaub's francolin. Sadly, my camera was in the boot.


6 - 9 August 

After packing up the tents, it was time for the eight hour drive to the coast. The family's hopes of time on the beach were cruelly dashed by watching the car thermometer go from about 30C to about 17C, as we got closer to the coast. Three nights in a chalet rather than camping, luxury!

Pete and I were up, more or less, at first light to drive to Rooibank to look for Namibia's only endemic bird: dune lark. We got good views of about 10.


The area around Walvis back was covered in both greater and lesser flamingos as well as plenty of other birds including: great white pelican,Caspian terns, chestnut-banded plovers, white-fronted plovers, great crested terns and marsh sandpiper. Unfortunately the rare Damara tern was scarce and distant.


The highlight here was the boat trip. I was a bit disappointed by the amount of time we had to watch the main species: Heavisides dolphin. And my photographs aren't worth wasted limited website space for. But it was good fun.

I had slightly better luck photographing bottle-nosed dolphins.
Great white pelicans took advantage of the food being given out


The food was also a big lure for this Cape fur seal!


9/10 August

We then headed towards Spitzkoppe. Our journal was livened up by getting stuck in the sand, good job we weren't on our own, and several Ruppell's korhaans. We arrived at Sptizkoppe as it was getting dark. Very scenic but the pit toilets and their see through netting sides were not so scenic.



Sadly we failed to find, the notoriously elusive, herero chat. Klipspringers and ashy tit were probably the highlights for me, along with some cave art.


It was then goodbye to Pete, Liz and Cameron and we headed north to Uis. We had another 'sand moment' but I just about managed to get through. Bengula long-billed lark was the bird highlight of the journey.


11 August

Uis


Just as I was going to give up I got superb views of a pair of herero chats.


11 and 12 August

We then headed back to the coast, to the pleasant coastal town of Henties Bay and to the Cape fur seal colony at Cape Cross.


13 August

We'd intended to stay a bit longer here but gale force winds drove us away so it was off to Gross Barmen Hot Springs, a sight fairly randomly chosen from the Bradt travel guide. Not wildly exciting but it did have a few birds such as African painted snipe, African marsh warbler and African fish eagle.


14 and 15 August


Hardap Dam proved to be horribly expensive, especially considering the sign posted shop didn't exist and the swimming pool was empty, but reasonably pleasant. We were feeling that we were killing time a bit before we could head towards what we hoped would be the highlight of the trip.


Rock hyraxes were amazingly common and, I think, this is the only places I have seen them climb trees.


The birding was reasonable and great sparrow was new for me.


16 - 22 August


Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park


The main reason for visiting this site was my desperate desire to see a cheetah. To cut to the chase I was successful, we spent several hours watching four individuals. The first ones seen were three together, one of which had a radio collar.


However the highlight for me was actually this caracal, unexpected and truly superb!


In fact it was an amazing places for predators. We saw seven lions; the best views were of a group of three females.


We had brief views of an adult leopard and slightly longer views of this youngster.

Three African wildcats completed the bonanza of felines.


Other predators included numerous jackals, a spotted hyena that patrolled the outside of Mata Mata camp - despite this I failed to get better pictures than I did in 2003, bat-eared foxes


and Cape fox.




These two species were photographed, with flash, on the night drive. That's my excuse for the poor photographs.

Yellow mongoose was frequently seen around the camps.


As were South African ground squirrels.

There was a smaller variety of herbivores than Etosha but it would take me a long while to get bored of gemsbok.
Bird highlights included secretary bird, as stronger contender for my favourite bird in the world.


As well as very large numbers of Namaqua sandgrouse, pictured, as well as smaller numbers of Burchell's sandgrouse.



A superb places. The only downsides were the very cold nights and the fact that my scope fell apart here. The later a pretty serious one, but at least it was towards the end of the trip. Although I did discover it when pulling out of its case to watch a male and female lion.

23 -25 August

It was then a long drive to Upington. A reasonably pleasant, but rather dull, place to break the long journey home, apart from the vervet monkeys attempting to mug us for our lunches.

I then spent much of my birthday driving the 500km to Barbespan. A couple of days birding here.

26 August


A long time at the airport, then off to Cairo, the pyramids and the Egyptian museum.






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