Report by Sally and Paul Bartho

27 April to 17 May 2018

(An aside: Remember by clicking on a photo it will enlarge).

Our trip to the Kgalagadi ended when we got to Tsabong. As we were so close to Namibia we decided to pay a visit to Namibia. Our goal was to get to Epupa Falls and take in the various Parks along the way there and back.

Our first stop – Kalahari Rest Lodge and Camping – was our only stop in Botswana once we had left the Kgalagadi. It was about 25 kms north of Kang on the Kalahari Transfrontier Highway. This was a long journey (some 430 kms taking over 5 hours) to add to the day we had already driven. We left Tsabong mid-day so arrived just before dusk.

We certainly recommend this campsite as a stop over point. It is a small campsite with four bathrooms – each with toilet, shower and basin- as the ablution block. After a long day we ate at the restaurant and the food and ambiance was good.

The next day we headed to Windhoek to a campsite near the inner city Eros airport – Arebbusch Travel Lodge.  A distance of about 710 kms taking close to eight hours. The border post was a tad busy so it took us a while to get through. However checking our insurance documents later we found they had entered the licence place of our campervan incorrectly. We hoped it would not be noticed at the police check points.

Some Namibian Scenery:

At Arebbusch we spent two nights, the first in a chalet and then camping. There are only 4 campsites all of which are under cover round a large glassy patch.

Our provisions needed replenishing otherwise we would have only stayed one night. Unfortunately our night’s camping was loudly disturbed by the antics of an open air concert right next door after a soccer match. Avoid Saturday nights camping here.

No bookings had been made for our time in Namibia. We called Etosha for a booking but all they could offer us was 5 days camping at Halali in three days time – we took it. So we booked a campsite ten kms before Okaukuejo at Etosha Safari Lodge for two nights. Nice grassy sites and entertaining ablutions. 420 kms taking a almost five hours due to the police checks. Very nervous at the first as he was fairly thorough checking the car licence plate. However he did not see it necessary to check the campervan licence plate. This was the case fortunately at all the police stops.

Etosha Safari Camp

Campsite birding was good. We had a nesting pair of Great Sparrows right beside us.

Other campsite birds

Time was spent in Etosha around Okaukuejo puzzling over the various larks and other ground birds favoured by the open flat grassland/scrub area. We saw a good variety of different species which we did not see elsewhere in the park.

However there is one big criticism that I have to make. Outside of the main camps there are no ablution facilities fit for humans at the various run down picnic spots. Some picnic sites are so bad that they have been closed. We never found one that had an even passable excuse for a toilet. I dread to think what foreign tourists think. For the cost of entering and staying in the park this is shameful.

Okaukuejo waterhole – very quiet
Blue Crane – double header

At last we arrive in Halali – the central camp between Okaukuejo and Namutoni – about 70 kms from each. We just miss the best campsite – No. 37 – by about 5 minutes. However we did recamp there when the people left after two nights.

Many overlander safaris visit the camp and they can be very noisy at night. I don’t think we would camp there in future although the waterhole can be interesting at night. While there this time we saw Elephants, Black Rhinos, Hyenas and Jackals there plus hundreds of Double-banded Sandgrouse each night, maybe more.

Sandgrouse in their hundreds at Halali waterhole every evening

Perhaps because of the rains we did not see a wide variety of game. We did have one sighting of three Cheetah on the first morning leaving the camp. After that no big cats. Much of our time was spent away from the camp in and around Namutoni.


There were of course many Black-faced Impala, Springbok, Burdhell’s Zebra, Steenbok, Black-backed Jackals about with campsite Banded Mongooses, Tree Squirells, lizards etc.

In the camp wew had a selection of special birds visiting us. There was a flock of about twelve Violet Woodhoopoes, a Pearl-spotted Owlet, a Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Southern Red-billed and Monteiro’s Hornbills, and a Red-billed Spurfowl.

For birding, one of the nearby waterholes – Goas- had the most interest for us.

Goas Waterhole close to Halali

Just north of Namutomi is Fischer’s Pan. It was full of water so we had excellent sightings of numerous water birds.

Great White Pelicans in various poses

At Namutoni picnic site there were some interesting birds.

Palms around Namutoni

Then at the Klein Namutoni waterhole south of the camp there was a mix of animals and birds.

Here are some photos of unidentified birds that we saw which we hope you can identify.

After five nights in Halali it was time to move on. Epupa Falls was our goal via Ruacanna and Kunene River Lodge, then on to Epupa along the recently improved road. We called Epupa Falls Lodge to book a few nights there and quickly learned that flooding had severely damaged this road and we would not be able to get through that way. We would have to go via Opuwo – a route I did not particularly fancy.

So after this disappointment and a disappointing time in Etosha we considered going home via the Caprivi. Not on. Most of the places we were interested in staying were flooded. When we contacted the Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge for a campsite so we could see the Leaflove, they told us “Sure you are able to see the bird but we will have to come by boat to fetch you”.

Then we considered simply heading back home.

On the day of departure, Sally said that as we had come this far we ought to go to Epupa Falls. I agreed reluctantly as I was not looking forward to the drive. We contacted Epupa Falls Lodge and booked ourselves in for three nights.

Fruit and Flora which Sally had photoed

We had always wanted to see the recently opened western side of Etosha and decided that we would do so on our way to Epupa Falls. 70 kms to Okaukuejo then another 200 kms to the Anderssen gate at the west of the park.

It was too long a journey to comfortably get to Epupa Falls in one day. That being the case we unthinkingly booked ourselves a campsite in Kamanjab for a night as there was nothing close to the Anderssen gate. Instead we should and could have camped in Ruacana and given ourselves a chance to find the Grey Kestrel. It would have meant backtracking about 40 extra kms compared to going to Kamanjab. Unfortunately we only considered this as we reached Kamanjab.

The west side of the park was quite different from the rest of Etosha. It started much like the area around Okaukuejo for a long part of the journey to the new campsite at Olifantsrus where the road forks. We took the left fork to the campsite and were quite impressed. Although there is no shade nor power for the 10 campsites, they were neatly arranged and the ablutions good. One of the big plusses was the double level hide. Walk along a boardwalk to the hide which is situated overlooking a wetland area.

Continuing along the left fork to the gate the landscape changes and we drive through rugged and hilly country well vegetated. Quite different and unexpected. We would like to spend a short time to explore this area in the future. The problem is that the campsite is extremely popular and hard to book.

Kamanjab to Epupa Falls is about 430 kms and takes a good 6 hours to do when you are towing. In fact it took us four hours from Opuwo – a journey of 180 kms. The last 70 kms travelling through over 100 marked dips in the road. It meant virtually stopping at the bottom of the dip each time to protect the tow hitch.

Smiley sign means dips ahead. We counted over 100 of these on the way back.

The scenery was spectacular along the way especially as we approached Epupa Falls.

Epupa Falls was was worth all the effort to get there. Fortunately we were there when the Kunene River was flowing strongly. The dam gates up river in Angola had been opened.

We checked in to Epupa Falls Lodge. The campsite is right beside the river and from our site we could see the spray as the water started going over the falls. It is a well palm shaded campsite but without power. The solar panels had to be constantly moved every hour to find some sun.

On our first evening we went up to the lookout point over the Falls. What a view especially to see it in flood.

Epupa Falls complete

Truely Spectacular.

The birding was excellent. We had birding round the camp with numerous Rosy-faced Lovebirds, Rufous-tailed Palm-Thrushes and Ruppel’s Parrots amongst them.

Then there was the birding beside the banks going upstream along the road towards Kunene River Lodge. We drove 20 kms along this road without difficulty.

Big Bug. Many in the fields from road to river. Body alone about 4 cms.

The local population were always smiley and friendly.

Undoubtedly Epupa Falls was the highlight of our trip to both the Kgalagadi and Namibia.

Sadly leaving Epupa Falls behind we headed back to Windhoek – the car was due for a service there.

We had a one night stopover at Buschfeld – Igaba camp near Otjiwarongo. 670kms taking about 10 hours. The campsite is small but attractive. The restaurant was excellent and the birding not bad.

In the garden there was a large bird party of Green-winged Pytilias and Violet-eared and Blue Waxbills.

Then we had a two night stay at Erindi camping at R850 a night plus a daily R300 charge to access the wilderness area. The campsite had its own ablution and wash-up area with power – pretty smart. However, despite camping in Namibia being double RSA rates, we felt the price here was a rip-off.

The wilderness area is small and not all that exciting from an animal perspective.

Erindi scenery

Most of the game animals were seen in the camp along with some very annoying buzzing bugs hovering around your ears.

The camp does have a waterhole where animals came in to drink. Two hippos are also resident there and kept us entertained with their antics.

However the highlight of our stay was right in our campsite. I was busy copying photos onto my PC inside the trailer. For no particular reason I got up to see what Sally was up to outside. So I walked out to her totally unaware of what was beside me. When I reached Sally she pointed. I looked round and was most surprised I had walked within feet of the animal. I could not believe my eyes as we had scoured around Namutoni to see one of these.

Damara Dik-Dik

The best birding in the Wildereness area was when we heard a Hartlaub’s Spurfowl.

When we entered Windhoek from Botswana we had noticed a campsite just before entering the city and close to Avis Dam. The Vineyard Country Lodge. It looked inviting and as it turns out we are sorry we did not stop there originally. This was our next stop for three nights. It took us less than three hours to get there – about 190 kms. And it was one of the cheapest places we camped at in Namibia at R 180 per person per night. It was the best value for money as well as being close but out of town.

Train bridge close to Vineyard Country Lodge as viewed from Avis Dam

The car went in for service the next day and we caught up with laundry and shopping once the car returned. We had parked and set up camp next to our own ablution facilities. Sally outside, me inside when I hear a quiet call from Sally. This time I sneak out of the campervan and there on a post very close was a Rockrunner. However it had gone before I was able to get my camera. Such a lovely and unexpected sighting.

We visited both Avis Dam and Daan Viljoen the next day. At Daan Viljoen we had a few sightings of birds we had not yet seen on the trip. The picnic site area is slowly collapsing unfortunately. The camp grounds look flat, grassy and level – inviting. Perhaps one should check if any events – like weddings – are planned if you wish to camp there.

Travelling round the park we came across some interesting birds, the odd scorpion and lizard.

At Avis Dam there were numerous Long-tailed Paradise-Whydahs and a Rock Martin which caught our interest.

Rock Martin

Eventually it was time to return home. We could have gone through Botswana on the Trans Kalahari Highway but we could not find a place to safely camp in South Africa near the Botswana border. So we headed south to the White House just before Grunau. (660 kms in about 7 hours). Little did we realise that this was owned by people we met in Epupa Falls. We recognised each other on arrival. We did not camp but took a cheap room in the house including dinner as a treat.

Interesting Tree at White House

Getting there early we had a short drive round the property and were pleasantly rewarded by some special birds.

Our intention was to take two more nights on the road to get home in Howick. However we sort of made a detour to find a place near Kendall to stay. It was not where we expected so we pushed on doing almost 1000 kms when we fortunately saw a sign for Kandirri Game Lodge. The detour had cost us an extra 200 kms and several hours more.

We were thankful to have arrived there as it was almost dark. We were the only guests. Not wanting to cook, we asked if the restaurant was still open. No problem, we were told they will call the chef to come in just for us – fish and chips never tasted so good.

Our campsite was surrounded by caged lions and other animals (a good security shield if ever you need one). Next to us was a white lion – obviously a youngster and very good looking. As we set up tent we noticed a large black dog in its cage. Oh no, we thought – not for dinner surely. Then we saw the dog playfully give the lion a swipe on its head – the return cuff was markedly stronger but it was obvious they were playmates – must have been brought up together.

The next day we set off early to do the last 630 kms taking about 7 hours to get home with daylight to spare.

Altogether our bird list was 195 different species. Click here to see our list as well as the list per area.

Paul and Sally Bartho

Bye bye





Larking About in Namibia. UI Birds.

Birds and Beasts for you to ID.

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.

Enjoy the challenge.

Paul Bartho

Larking About in Namibia. Part 7.

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.

Little Bee-eaters cuddling together
Little Bee-eaters cuddling 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.

Larking About in Namibia. Part 2.

Larking About in Namibia. Part 2. 

After five days camping at Kunene River Lodge we headed for Etosha.  We left on Saturday 22nd June. Our plan for Etosha was 2 nights at Namutomi followed by 3 nights at Halali.

Etosha as expected was very expensive. Not just the campsites but also the daily charge for 2 people and the car. Namutomi was R440 and Halali R290 per night plus the  daily charge of R130!! Our mistake, we should have camped just outside the Park.

Namutomi  was run down. The only saving grace was the flat grassy campsite.

The Park was exceptionally dry and very dusty. The man-made waterholes were the main source of interesting birding. And of course this is where the animals congregated.  The natural springs and fountains near the Pan’s edge were all dry.

We circled the Dikdik Drive 3 times looking for the Black-faced Babblers without success – we did see lots of Dikdik though.

The highlights were the waterbirds and the raptors.