A day in Botswana - Chobe National Park, Botswana

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Where I stayed

Zambezi Sun Hotel, Livingstone

We had an excursion planned for most of today but we had time for a walk around the hotel grounds before breakfast. A small pool to the right of the bar, as looked at from the restaurant/pool area had a couple of Black Crakes and Pied Kingfishers as well as a Common Sandpiper. The previous evening, after sunset we'd seen a probable Wood Sandpiper there as well but that wasn’t around this morning.

After a pretty good breakfast we were picked up outside the hotel and were soon heading west towards Botswana (and Namibia and Angola), where we were due to spend the day in the Chobe National Park.

The short drive was uneventful but the border crossing from Zambia into Botswana was fun and had a feel of "real Africa" although we tourists were herded past the lines of waiting locals to get our papers checked and passports stamped as a priority, which must be quite galling for the people who have already stood around for some time.

After this it was into a small boat and across the river into Botswana where a few more formalities had to be completed before we got into another minibus for another short drive to Chobe. Whilst waiting for documents to be checked we picked up a couple of Southern Carmine Bee-eaters hawking around the river edges.

We passed Vervet Monkeys, baboons, Impala and buffalo on the drive and picked up a soaring Bateleur, so we knew that we were now in tropical Africa. There were lots of small birds around the entrance area to Chobe but we were whisked straight through to the waiting boats for the first part of our visit, a long cruise to see the wildlife. First impressions when we got out onto the river, which was very wide and forms the border between Namibia and Botswana at this point, was that there was a lot of wildlife about. A large island in the distance clearly had plenty of game and there were lots of birds. Species of note included African Openbill, Anhinga, Lilac-breasted Roller, Great White Egret, African Pied Wagtail, Pied Kingfisher, Squacco Heron, Intermediate Egret, Black-winged Pratincole, Long-toad Lapwing, White-faced Duck, … whilst interesting animals included Red Lechwe (a new antelope species for us), Water Monitors, hippopotamus and Steve and Pippa’s first wild elephants. Apart from the hippos, that seemed a little stressed because 4 boat loads of tourists were competing for the best views, most of the wildlife was very tolerant of us, allowing close approaches that meant that we could get good views of some of the smaller species.

In the distance, somewhere over Namibia and too distant to stand a chance of identification a flock of perhaps 100+ vultures and kites circled over something that had caught their attention and we soon stopped trying to guess when a dark shape in the riverside grass resolved itself into a Slaty Egret, a species that we’d hoped to see.

Drawing close to the Botswanan shore we were able to get good views of both White-fronted and Little Bee-eaters, nesting in a termite mound whist a Broad-billed Roller kept an eye on us from a lofty perch. We then moved back out into the main river, keeping close to the islands where game was in abundance and got great views of one of our definite target species, the unmistakeable African Skimmer. The most numerous small waders were Kittlitz’s Plovers and there were plenty of Ruff present as well. Yellow-billed Storks and African Spoonbills were fairly common and the skipper turned the engine off so that we could get right up next to a large Nile Crocodile that might just have eaten an elephant, so distended was its mid-section.

Most people were interested to see a trio of Southern Ground Hornbills in the middle of an island but they were keeping well away from the boats and then after some more close encounters with elephants, many of which were in the river, it was back to the reserve entrance for a rather decent buffet style lunch.

After lunch we set of in a safari truck to explore part of the park by road. This was probably not the best time of day to look for wildlife as the temperature had climbed considerably but we derived some entertainment by laughing unkindly at one or two of the other trucks we passed that were filled with people wearing white surgical masks. It wasn’t that dusty, to be honest so we assumed that this was an attempt to keep the scary African air away from their sensitive lungs. Oh well.

JD noticed an unusual looking hornbill in a bush next to the track and got a couple of photos that were good enough to confirm that it was Bradfield’s Hornbill – apparently not uncommon but a new species for us. A Cape Vulture flying over was more interesting, even though we had seen one before.

The unusual silhouette of a Bateleur was easy to ID. We always get the impression that these birds are flying backwards. Just as easy was a noisy party of Green Woodhoopoes just next to the truck. Red-billed Francolins, seen several times on the drive were yet another new species on a day that was turning out to be quite good for lifers.

The trip back to Livingstone was uneventful and we went for a sunset stroll around the grounds of the hotel where we heard Natal Nightjar and several other birds that we couldn’t identify.

Pippa & Steve were seduced by our stories from Ngoma Zanga (we didn’t tell them about the owl “attack”) so the four of us went there for dinner. JD had a fearsome looking spiny fish for her main course and Pippa was cajoled up onto the stage by the dancers where she gave an excellent account of herself to richly deserved applause.

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