Cape Vidal and St. Lucia. 25th to 30th August 2013.
Sally and I went to Cape Vidal campsite for 2 nights followed by 3 at Sugarloaf campsite in St. Lucia. We endured strong wind for all 5 days. Our tent extension was defrocked one night in Cape Vidal and on the last day when we were in Umfolozi.
Despite the wind the weather was pleasantly sunny and not too hot.
The campsite in Cape Vidal was infested with Vervet and Samango monkeys. Turn your back on them at your peril as they will take any food within your arm’s reach if you are not looking – and sometimes even when you are! It is well shaded and mostly flat and sandy. Beware – it is expensive as they charge for 4 people even if there are only 2 of you. It cost the 2 of us R252 a night and that was with a 40% discount! Sugarloaf cost us R324 for the 2 of us for 3 nights (also with a 40% discount).
The Loop road past Lake Bengazi is closed as part of the road has been washed away – apparently sometime ago and there is no sign that it is being repaired.
Sugarloaf Campsite in St. Lucia is located right at the end of the road to the boardwalk beside the estuary leading to the beach. Unfortunately it is a preferred fisherman’s campsite and so to be avoided at the weekends despite it having 100 campsites.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park (Eastern Shores) is one of our preferred parks close to Durban. It has a good variety of game and is known for its leopard sightings. We go for the birds and we were not disappointed this time with excellent sightings of Southern-banded, Black-chested and Brown Snake-Eagles; adult and juvenile Cuckoo Hawks; Collared Pratincoles; etc…
(If you click on an image it will enlarge and you will be able to scroll through the rest of the pictures in that gallery. To return to the text move the mouse cursor to the top left of the screen and click on the “X” when it appears).
St. Lucia also did not disappoint with a good variety of waterbirds including African Black Oystercatcher, a sea paddling Pied Avocet, Kittlitz’s, White-fronted, Three-banded and Curlew (in partial breeding plumage) Sandpipers, Ruff, Wood and Marsh Sandpipers, Caspian and Swift Terns, Grey-headed Gulls.
However “la piece de la resistance” was a Sooty Tern amongst a group of other Terns, Gulls and Avocets. It was sheltering on the leeward side of the wind in the estuary.
If you visit St. Lucia do take a walk along the Gwalagwala Trail early morning. Park in the Office car park. Listen for Woodward’s Batis and Green Malkoha.
The campsite too has a good variety of birds.
We spent one day in Umfolozi and were not disappointed despite the extensive burnt areas in the park.
The Bhejane Hide is still under construction so our only alternative was the Mfafa Hide. Recently it has been the source of a number of leopard and lion sightings – however for us it was a number of interesting small birds and a rather large Rock Monitor.
Some photos taken around the Park:
Probably our best viewing area was at the bend of the Umfolozi river at the end past the Cengeni Gate. Here we saw quite a number of raptors: a Lanner Falcon on the river bed, a couple of Lanner Falcons dive bombing a Tawny Eagle with a little help from a pair of African Harrier Hawks and a Yellow-billed Kite not to be left out of the action, Bateleur, Brown Snake-Eagle. There was also a good view of a Southern Ground-Hornbill across the river.
Finally to cap the day we had the following sighting on the way back past the Cengeni Gate. It was no more than 20 metres from us but totally camouflaged. Look at the photos first without enlarging and you will see how easy it is to be missed.
Now click on the images and enjoy what we were able to see with the help of our binoculars.
Altogether we saw 88 Species in iSimangalizo (Eastern Shores); 71 species in and around the campsite in St Lucia and 61 species in Umfolozi.
Five months later Jenny Norman and I were back at Tala – last Sunday of the month BLPN get a special discount, although it has increased over the past 5 months it is still not expensive. We arrived around 06:45 and the day started off with a ‘bang’. In the fig tree just past the gates were a pair of Spotted Eagle Owls. Next an African Marsh Harrier quartering the hillside, then down to the dam for all the usual suspects and again we were pleasantly surprised. Lots of Southern Pochards, Cape Shovellers, Black Crake, Purple Heron, African Rail and all sorts of warblers in the reeds. On to the picnic site for coffee and muffins – the Erythrinas and Clivias in full flower. Amazingly we saw no sunbirds all day and only heard the White-bellied late in the afternoon. Red-throated Wrynecks all along the causeway, and then we spotted the Fiscal Flycatcher, the first of hundreds of Fiscal Flycatchers!! One lone stunning Scimitarbill – calling to the others but to no avail. We had some good raptors, African Fish Eagle, Long crested Eagle, Lanner Falcon, YBK, Black-shouldered Kite as well as the owls and harrier. Around 16:30 Jenny suggested a last drive up to Paperbark Lodge and around the back road which passes a number of small dams. What a great idea! As we came up to Paperbark, past the dam which is almost dry, there on the side of the road were a pair of Blue Cranes – absolute perfection. Then round to the small dams. Yellow-billed Egret, Spoonbills, South African Shelduck, herons and jacanas and just as we were making tracks for the gate 3 Red-billed Oxpeckers on the Zebra – what a great way to end the day. Our total bird count was 95!
Sally and I took Guy Gibbon with us today to check out the Quail.
We went to see whether it has a blue belly and chestnut ‘shoulders’ and flanks (Blue Quail) or a chestnut belly, blue flanks and brown shoulders (Chinese Painted Quail) – as per advice from Derek Spencer and Dave Allan.
Guy’s verdict: The bird is very definitely a Chinese Painted Quail with chestnut belly and blue flanks. It is quite comfortable in garden shrubbery and not at all concerned with human presence.
Here are a couple of poor pictures which validate the identification.
We failed to identify the following on our return from Namibia. Do you want to have a go? Add your comments at the end of this post. In some instances I have one or two more photos. Do ask if you think they will help.
Part 8. Larking Around Namibia. Chobe, Woodlands and Marakele.
We left Namibia sadly and on arrival in Botswana drove through the Chobe NP on the way to Kasane.
Having not booked to stay anywhere when we arrived in Kasane, we headed for Senyati – a campsite recommended. It is about 6 kms from the Kazangula intersection with the Kasane/Francistown road about 10 kms south of Kasane. The drive to the camp from the main road was atrocious – deep soft sand requiring low range especially as we were towing. The receptionist was very off-hand and we did not like his attitude, the campsites were not level and the surrounding area very open and dry. So we headed back to Chobe Safari Lodge to see if we could camp there.
We managed to get a campsite in a tight space which required much manoeuvring of the trailer to get it in. We were given other choices but they were far worse. The nice campsites with space and close to the water were all reserved for Overlanders and big groups – they remained empty for the 2 nights we spent there.
A number of friendly birds welcomed us to our campsite – both in song and sight. The most exciting of these a Collared Palm-Thrush who appeared throughout each day that we were there.
The campsite deck not only overlooks a large corner of the river but has excellent views over the Chobe National Park plains and wetland area. Hundreds of Buffalo and Elephants were visible with numerous species of birds intermingling among them. Skimmers and Collared Pratincoles were clearly visible. We took the scope to enjoy the sight and had sundowners there both days.
Having decided to go into Chobe NP on our own we obtained our permit the afternoon before. When we arrived at the gate at 6 am we drove straight in – in fact we simply drove past all the game drive vehicles and in without anyone checking our permit.
The main road through the Park is horrendous and 4×4 low range was essential for long stretches.
As soon as we could we got onto the minor roads which were much more manageable. They took us down to the flood plain.
Many interesting birds were seen there – probably the highlights being a Rosy-throated Longclaw and a Slaty Egret. We did not see a wide variety of game in the Park.
After the morning tea break we had had enough and headed back to enjoy the campsite deck and to prepare for the next leg home.
We thought to stay at Elephant Sands which we had heard much about but never visited – failing that then Nata or possibly Francistown if we made good headway.
The road has been recently renewed and widened – except for a 30kms stretch which they are currently working on. Gone are the potholes of yesteryear.
Elephant Sands – one km off the main road. So we turn in and round the first corner – thick sand so into low range – much needed. Anyone driving an ordinary vehicle better watch out! We arrive after 2 kms at a small waterhole with chalets dotted about, no sign of a campsite and 30 elephants at the waterhole. We did not even bother to stop but did a U-turn and scarpered – not because of the presence of the elephants but because of the smell of the elephants – it was overpowering. And as fearfully anticipated we come across a huge bull elephant crossing slowly in front of us. Fortunately he was only interested in the water and although he gave us an unhappy stare he moved on.
We had made good time so continued on to Francistown arriving early afternoon. Unfortunately the only place we knew was Woodlands Stop Over. I had forgotten I had vowed never to return. And I soon found out why when they quoted us for the night. 95 pula each then another 30 for power (20 last year .. how much next year?) then another 20 for the trailer although we did not intend using it, then another amount as a community charge. Apart from Namutomi this was the most expensive campsite. An utter rip-off. I asked to speak to the owner twice to no avail. I doubt the receptionist even bothered to call him. It is either that or he was too scared to face my criticism. I will be sending him a link to this report and I will put the info out on all the birdnets and the 4×4 forum. Sally was tired, we were unsure of the other place we had seen in the camp book for Botswana so we paid. Never again especially as the campsites were literally on top of one another.
The next morning we were up early and on our way quite quickly as we had used our Malamoo 3 second tent. The Stockport border gate was our goal – avoids the delays at Martin’s Drift. What a breeze – through both sides in less than 15 minutes.
The journey home was broken in Marakele NP. We decided to stay 2 nights so we could enjoy the park and recuperate from the long drive from Francistown. Up went the roof-top trailer tent and out we went for a drive.
The next day we rose early and went through the tunnel and up the mountain to the Marakele Bergfontein Tower – over 2000 metres up.
It is quite a challenging drive up and definitely not for the faint-hearted especially on the way down. The road has been cut into the cliff face and long stretches are wide enough only for one vehicle with no railings on the cliff edge side. You do not want to meet a car coming in the opposite direction. One of you has to reverse and pull over in the precarious passing zones.
At the top we were not disappointed and saw numerous Cape Vultures soaring close by. We also had a picnic with an extremely friendly Buff-streaked Chat. Other birds seen included Gurney’s Sugarbird and Cape Rock-Thrush.
We had clear views down the valley and could see the road below. Keeping an eye out we observed 4 cars coming up so we abided our time before heading down. Luckily our timing was right and we got down without meeting another vehicle.
Too quickly it was time to pack up and head home.
The holiday over – 3.5 lifers for Sally and 9.5 for me. The half being the Tinkling Cisticola which we had only heard.
Altogether we had seen and or heard 360 species and seen most of the Namibian endemics which we could expect in the areas we visited. Now it is back to planning our next trip!
Hope you have all enjoyed the read and the pictures.
Paul and Sally Bartho
PS I will try to lump all the photos of birds and aminals which we could not ID in another post and another with the Namibian specials (those we considered special and we were lucky enough to photograph).
Part 7. Larking About in Namibia – Nambwa and Katima Mulilo.
Our next stop was Nambwa. A 4×4 only community camp about 15 kms off the main road just this side of the Kwando bridge on the way to Katima Mulilo.
Before you enter you need a permit and they are currently only available at Bum Hill. Bum Hill of course is on the opposite side of the road and about 10 kms drive past some interesting wetland areas. Don’t follow the T4 maps to Bum Hill or you will get lost as I did! Turn into the gravel road opposite the entrance to Nambwa. Stay on the gravel road until you see a sign to Bum Hill on your right.
The permit office is about to change. They are building a reception on the main road – probably ready during the summer. It looked almost complete.
So ever onward we start the 15 kms to the camp. The road is very narrow, quite hilly and in places quite sandy. Anyway I beetle along and manage for a long way without having to use low range. Meanwhile Sally is whispering in my ear every so often “Are you going to let the tyres down?” Me, not wanting the hassle of having to blow them back up again with a rather slow pump and having gone so far already – only 4 kms to go, ignore her advice to our cost. Sure enough down a rise we go and as we hit the bottom, despite being in low range, we hit a very sandy patch and the momentum stops.
I try a quick reverse but nothing doing especially with the trailer behind. Out comes the shovel and I dig the sand away from all 6 wheels. Air out of the tyres to 1.3 bar. Try and fail. More digging. Look for rocks , anything to go under the tyres but there is nothing about. Once more Sally comes up with good advice and this time I listen to her. “Why not put the car’s rubber mats under the wheels”. “Sounds a good idea”, I say. “If I get out, I’ll stop at the top about 100 metres away. Will you please bring the mats”. Sally agrees and sure enough it works and I stop at the top of the hill.
Sally is slowly coming up the hill carrying the mats and the thick sand slows her progress. So I get out and start to walk down the hill to help her. I look down and there in front of me are the paw marks of a rather large cat! Not wanting to scare her I shout, “Quickly”. No change in pace, “I’m going as fast as I can”. Again I implore but still no change in pace. “Fresh Lion tracks here – hurry”. Immediate change of pace and I hurry to help her. Saga over. On to the camp.
Lesson. Listen to your wife! I was stupid as we needed to have the tyres let down to enjoy the trails around the camp anyway. Eventually we arrive at the camp.
Now Nambwa is a very wild campsite with no fences. At this time of the year the water levels are high and there is plenty of game about. We choose our campsite – No. 1 close to the entrance. On arrival we are told by guests not to use the path between campsites 2 and 3 – as there is a hippo enjoying the shade there. And, oh yes, last night the elephants and the lions came and caused chaos in the camp.
We chat to the staff and they confirm this and say they come every night and oh, by the way we are off to a party nearby tonight! And, take care at night as we have an old leopard which likes to roam about around and in the ablutions.
It all sounds very exciting – well for those of you who enjoy an adrenaline rush!
We settle in and very soon a party of Brown Firefinches come and inspect our camp.
The rest of the day was spent wandering around the camp and going to the lookout they have built beside a wetland area just outside the camp.
Here we enjoy the rest of the evening sun. As we decide to climb down we notice a herd of elephants with young in the distance circling the camp. We are both thinking the same, hope they are passing and don’t circle back.
Our wishes are not heard. As we start preparing dinner we hear them in the other end of the camp. Dinner is prepared and quickly eaten outside. The sound of the elephants seems to get ever closer. We light a fire to hopefully keep the animals at bay.
Smart decision. Go inside and have a game or 2 of scrabble. You cannot go to bed at 7pm!
As we are playing we hear something. We go instantly silent and this animal whatever it was, brushes past our tent breathing with a wheeze – cat we both think and freeze. In the morning we find that whatever it was had tripped over one of our guy ropes and loosened it.
Once the adrenaline had settled we finished our game and had an early night.
The next day we were up early. I nip down to the loo with my torch scouring every part of the 50 metres I had to go. No problem but when it is Sally’s turn I go with her. I look through the open ablutions from one side and there only 10 metres away is a herd of elephants with young! We back track quickly and decide to go for a drive immediately otherwise we feared the elephants would soon entrap us in our tent.
We leave and have a good morning birding down and around the Horseshoe Bend. On the way back we almost reach the camp when we meet traffic coming the other way. The elephants had only just left enabling them to get out – some 3 hours after us!
The birdlife in the camp was exciting enough for us so we relaxed there for the rest of the day getting prepared for the elephants return.
Fire well prepared and loaded with a huge log which we hoped would last all night. Dinner at lunchtime.
However as luck would have it, we had a silent and peaceful night.
The final morning we packed up early and drove back following one of the other tracks alongside the wetland area but joining up much further along with the road we came in on. This way we managed to by-pass the thick sandy area where we got stuck. It was the way we should have come in as it was very scenic and interesting birdwise.
Almost out of the Park in the hilly section (no elephants to confront us thankfully) and Sally yells “Stop”. She has seen a Roller – maybe an early returning migrant European Roller. Slowly we get out of the car as I cannot reverse with the trailer. Binoculars focused and there before us a great sighting of a Racket-tailed Roller – some 20 metres away. However each time I get my camera on him he moves off. After following him for 100 metres, reason returns and I retreat back to the car.
Our next destination was Katimo Mulilo to find the Schalow’s Turaco. But first we buy diesel and have our tyres re-inflated at the garage in Kavango on the other side of the Kwando bridge. Apparently they sometimes run out of diesel. And we saw why. All the local game parks send their vehicles loaded with empty drums to be filled.
At Katima Mulilo we investigated the local campsites just outside of town where we had heard the Schalow’s Turaco is often seen. Kalizo Lodge some 40 kms from Katima (with its reputation for Shelley’s Sunbird) was our fall back.
We knew of Hippo Lodge so headed there first – however it has been closed for a number of years. We continued down to the end of the gravel road to Namwi Island Lodge. This is a very grassy, flat and well manicured campsite on the river. If you have a tent you can camp on the grass but not caravans nor trailers. They however can park on the interlocking paving stones which are laid down. All lovely but when we tried to hammer our pegs between the paving stones it proved impossible. So after bending 3 pegs we abandoned the camp.
The management told us that they only knew of one other campsite – Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge – back up the gravel road. We had passed it on the way but thought it did not have camping.
Back we went. Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge is a small place with several chalets and 4 campsites – all sandy. We chose the most sandy as it was shady. The lodge has a nice deck overlooking the river.
Over sundowners we chatted to one of the owners and was told they have the Schalow’s Turaco visiting most days. Good news. They also were able to do a private sunset boat ride the following day to find African Finfoot and White-backed Night-Herons. We booked.
The next morning was spent in the gardens birding and waiting for the Schalow’s to arrive. We waited without luck. However we did hear a Tinkling Cisticola calling in the nearby dry scrub. This would have been a lifer for both of us – however it was to remain only half a tick as we were never able to see it.
We visited the Protea Hotel and Caprivi River Lodge in search for the Schalow’s. Both said they saw it there regularly. The owner of the Caprivi River Lodge suggested we come back later. He did also suggest we explore the area beyond the end of our gravel road – there are lots of tracks all accessible by car. So we did although the area was sparsely populated. (South African security concerns notwithstanding).
As we turned off one track we almost reached the river. We stopped and Sally heard a Schalow’s calling and another replying. I think we got too close to the first and being concerned he called his mate so they could get together. A sudden movement from where the sound of the first was heard and we were on to them – following them to try and get better views. In the end we managed but my photos were poor – they kept moving (my excuse). Another lifer for both of us.
After that we relaxed – but first had to get one of the new tyres repaired (it had done less than 1000 kms). It had a small thorn in the top – my bad luck with tyres continues.
We also visited Kalizo Lodge as we had been there before and enjoyed the birding. There were good sightings of African Skimmers on the sandbanks. However the Shelley’s Sunbird had not been seen since last November- we were told.
It is important to note that the clocks in the Caprivi (east of Divundu) keep South African time unlike the rest of Namibia. It was only because Sally double checked the time of our boat trip that we learnt this!
That evening we set out on our sunset cruise out with the owner Curt with Steven as his help. Nightjars greeted us as the sun went down. Then out came the spot lights. Within a short while we started to find the African Finfoots (Finfeet?) and White-backed Night-Herons. We saw many of each and were able to get quite close. Photography in the dark is not my forte so the quality of our pictures is poor – sorry.
Another highlight on the sunset cruise was the sight of Little Bee-eaters sitting on reeds all cuddled closely together – 6 to 10 together.
The next morning we were up early to bird round the camp and to slowly start packing . Some of the birds found in and around are shown in the next gallery.
It was while we were packing that one of the garden staff called us to come quickly. He had noticed we were keen birders so when he saw the Schalow’s he thought of us. And there in the early mist of the morning were another pair of Schalow’s Turacos – with the sunlight sparkling on their long crests.
Then it was time to say good-bye to Namibia and start our long journey home via Botswana. At Kasane we planned to stop for 2 nights then make the long stretch down to Francistown before entering RSA at Stockport. A further 2 nights in Marakele NP before the final leg Home. More on this in Part 8.
Part 6. Divundu, Nunda Camp, Mahango and Buffalo Game Parks.
We left Shamvura after a leisurely breakfast. We were in no hurry as we only had a short hop to the next area we wanted to explore – the area around Divundu (the most westerly town in the Caprivi strip). We had a number of choices at which to stay – the Goabaca community camp, Ngepi, Popa Falls, Mahango and Nunda. In the end we went to Nunda first and decided that we would be happy there. We later realised that we had made a very good choice.
We knew Mahango from before – open and grassy but none of the facilities of Nunda.
Popa Falls was closed for renovation (there went our chances of seeing the Rock Pratincole).
Ngepi has a lovely setting by the river but down 4 kms of very rough road. Also it now has a reputation of being a main Overlander destination.
The Community campsite Goabaca has a nice setting and is directly opposite Popa Falls supposedly with a view of the rapids. However the reeds were so tall you could barely see the river.
Nunda was well located on the river. We had a campsite right on the river’s edge with power, a drinking fountain and hot water from their donkey every morning and throughout the day. The lodge has a deck over the river – good for sundowners. We stayed 3 nights.
Birding in the camp was not bad but we really just used it as a base.
We spent one day in Buffalo Park and the other in Mahango Game Park. In both camps it was sharp eyes out for Sharp-tailed Starlings. It was like that in all the camps along the Caprivi strip. In the end we were tired of looking at yet another Cape Glossy Starling. Sharp-tailed Starlings are so difficult to differentiate that we suspect that they are simply a figment of someone’s imagination!
Buffalo Park. The entrance is 30 kms from Nunda, back to the main road at Divundu, turn right and go over the bridge. Buffalo Park is a ways along on the right. It’s name is appropriate as there were hundreds of buffalo about. Once in the park we headed for the wetland area by the river’s edge. Once at the wetland the drive alongside seems to go on forever – kms and kms.
There are numerous animal species to be seen, Sable, Roan, Red Lechwe were among the more usual buffalo and elephants.
Talking of elephants we had an amusing incident with one well hidden. Loo stop beside the wetland area. Very open view from the car over the wetlands with a slight bank and shade trees on the other side. Off goes Sally heading up the bank for the nearest tree. As she approaches an elephant lets off his trumpet- it must have been just over the rise. At first Sally thought I was trying to scare her but she soon realised we best move on and hot foots it back into the car.
Among the many waterbirds, we saw Wattled Crane, Rufous-bellied and Black Herons, Slaty Egrets, Knob-billed Duck, Collared Pratincoles, Spoonbill, Saddle-billed Storks, Goliath Heron, Red-billed Teal.
In total we saw 83 species in the Park – the highlight being the Wattled Cranes and the Slaty Egret.
The following day we went to Mahango Game Park. The main road to Botswana runs through the Park. The last time we were there it was very wet and difficult to get around. Since then they have improved the main road through the park to Botswana but more importantly they have renovated the main game viewing road to the east of the park – many stretches have been raised and there are bridges over the rivers. The road to the west remains the same and will be tricky in the wet season.
We followed the east side viewing road along the wetland areas to start with and had good sightings along the way, including Roan antelope, Long-toed Lapwings and an African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene) ferociously determined to extract his meal from the innards of a tree.
However the main highlight was a Western-banded Snake-Eagle. At first we did not realise what it was as it had its back to us and flew away. Then we found it a bit further along – unfortunately much further away but with the scope we were able to identify it.
We also went down the road on the west of the Park – to the waterhole and hide (very run down). There, we watched flocks of birds drinking including a variety of Waxbills and Black-throated Canaries amongst other seedeaters.
Altogether we saw 84 different species of birds in Mahango.
Our next stop was Nambwa. A 4×4 only community camp about 15 kms off the main road on the west side of the Kavango bridge on the way to Katima Malilo. More on this in Part 7.
Leaving Swakopmund it was off and on to the Waterberg for 3 nights. Sally had booked us in to the Waterberg Plateau Campsite 8 kms from the Waterberg National Park. Along the way we by-passed Spitzkoppe as you can see in the photos.
The campsite was well managed and we even had hot water early in the mornings – despite the donkey. The sites are set reasonably far apart – are level and not rocky. We even had our own ablutions.
At a number of places it was a real effort to try and get the pegs in, the ground was so hard and stony. Anyone got any secrets on how to get your pegs into very hard ground?
There were 2 lodges on the property – the old and the new. The new was situated on the top of a hill with a wide view of the area below – chalets nestled in the rocky cliff. The old lodge was approached through well wooded established grounds. And it was from here that we started our early morning walks – along the side of a cliff and up to the head of the valley where there was a spring or fountain. Water flowed/seeped down the valley all the way back to the lodge. Certainly the purest and best tasting water we had.
The birding was excellent. We heard the Harlaub’s Spurfowl calling at the old Lodge but never bumped into it. Some of the other specials we saw there included the Damara Hornbill, Rosy-faced Lovebirds, Ruppel’s Parrot, Rockrunner, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Carp’s & Ashy Tits and Violet Wood-Hoopoe.
We did see an unusual mongoose – very black with red eyes – see pictures and please id it for us.
From here it was on to the Caprivi. Shamvura with Mark and Charlie Paxton to begin with. We decided to break the journey with one night at Roy’s camp. We were hoping that we might have a chance to see the Black-faced Babblers which we had dipped on in Namutomi, Etosha.
We took the direct route – 100 kms of gravel to Grootfontein – rather than go all the way back and round which would have added at least 100 kms to the journey – albeit on tar.
And it is on this journey that my bad luck with tyres continued. We were cruising along quite nicely enjoying the scenery. Stopped for a break and I noticed we had a flat tyre. It took us an hour to change it – mainly because the wheel had stuck to the hub and I tried everything to loosen it. In frustration I gave it a kick and to my surprise it broke loose. During that hour not another car passed us. It was as we were about to get into the car to continue that a car raced past covering us in dust – talk about adding salt to the wound.
We stopped in Grootfontein to get the tyre fixed. On arrival at the new Kwik Fit centre, we checked the other tyres to discover that the other back tyre also had a puncture! The sidewall of the first had buckled and the other had a sidewall puncture! Two new tyres later and R7600 poorer we set off for Roy’s camp 50 kms further along. So instead of arriving there at 10:30 we got there after 1 pm.
Nevertheless we set up our 3 Second tent in a flash, got organised and relaxed going for a walk later on to see if we could find the Babblers. Not to be.
We planned to leave the next day after a leisurely early morning walk and breakfast. So up with the sparrows dressed for the cold we wandered around the camp birding. We had hardly started than we heard them – rather Sally heard them. About 7 Black-faced Babblers appeared heading for the restaurant. They stayed and wandered around each campsite and were still there 2 hours later when we left.
On to Shamvura, stopping in Rundu to do some shopping for Mark and Charlie’s latest addition to their family.
On arrival we set up our camp in the Ushivi campsite – slightly more expensive but level sandy ground with your own ablution and kitchen.
We met the baby – so cute, soft and furry. Their latest Cape Clawless Otter.
At Shamvura we went for a walk with Mark to look for the Rufous-bellied Tit, Tinkling Cisticola and Sharp-tailed Starlings. We dipped on all three, however in passing we saw several Souza’s Shrikes, Green-capped Eremomelas, Dark-Chanting Goshawk and Arnot’s Chat amongst others.
The birding was excellent in the area and was enhanced by a boat trip (a must do) down the river where we saw Little Bittern, Skimmers, Rufous-bellied Heron, Long-toed Lapwing, African Rail, Slaty Egret and Luapula Cisticola amongst many others.
During the time there we came across a flowering (pale yellow) Albizia full of many different Sunbirds. Amongst the White-bellied, Marico and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds we spotted one which stood out and was being chased away especially by an out-of-plumage Marico Sunbird. It was a Copper Sunbird.
We spent time driving about the area and went down to the wetland area near the river’s edge close to the camp. Coppery-tailed Coucal, African Marsh Harrier and Lizard Buzzard were present amongst the variety you would normally expect.
Around the camp, some of the specials we saw included Bradfield’s Hornbill, Meyer’s Parrots, Swamp Boubou, Mosque and Grey-rumped Swallows. However there were 2 birds that stood out for us. Both seen around our tent and in the gardens – Red-faced Crombec and Shelley’s Sunbird. The Shelleys’ Sunbird was singing its heart out all round the camp.
Too soon it was time to leave Shamvura. In 2 days we had seen 117 species – the most we had seen anywhere.