Namibia 7 — 23 November 2015
Including Etosha National Park and the Skeleton Coast
Namibia is a land of contrasts. It’s dominated by the deserts of the Namib and Kalahari, with dramatic landscapes of brick-red dunes and craggy hills. Yet Namibia also boasts some of Africa’s richest densities of wildlife. There are huge coastal seal colonies and lagoons rich in waders, flamingos and pelicans, and the Etosha National Park has concentrations of mammals and birds considered by many to be the continent’s finest.
Windhoek and its Botanical Gardens offer a gentle introduction to the former German colony of South-west Africa – which has been independent from South Africa since 1990. Special birds here include Monteiro's hornbill, rockrunner and chestnut weavers.
The famous Skeleton Coast – so named because of the many shipwrecks – holds the Cape fur seal colony at Cape Cross, the largest in the southern hemisphere and home to about 200,000 seals in peak season. Walvis Bay lagoon is regarded as one of the most important wetlands along the west coast of southern Africa, both for the large numbers of resident species and for the vast numbers of both intra-African and Palaearctic migrants. The area also has strange seaside settlements and lichen fields on the gravel plains of Vloskasbaken.
Skeleton Coast wreck with perched cormorants; Cape fur seals.
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is one of Africa's greatest wildlife parks and it holds some 380 bird species. Centered on the vast expanse of the Etosha Pan, the park is a sanctuary to the largest population of the western sub-species of the black rhino. White rhino, elephants, black-faced impala, lions and a profusion of other mammals can be seen.
The camp itself holds sociable weaver colonies and the associated pygmy falcon. Birds more typical of drier habitats are the southern pied babbler and crimson-breasted shrike. Waterholes attract many seedeaters, including violet-eared waxbill and cut-throat finch. Impressive numbers of double-banded sandgrouse come to drink shortly after dusk. At night, marsh owls and rufous-cheeked nightjars hunt in the lights.
Games drives at sunrise help to get the best from the area. Birds that we will be searching for include secretarybird, kori and Ludwig's bustards, yellow-throated sandgrouse and Bennett's woodpecker. Several Kalahari-associated species occur this far west including the barred wren-warbler, Marico flycatcher and shaft-tailed whydah. Caspian plover, blue crane and crimson-breasted shrike are other sought-after birds.
But it’s far from hard work: camps have swimming pools, restaurants, gift shops and large flood-lit waterholes that attract a steady procession of wildlife during the night.
Sossusvlei / Namib-Naukluft National Park
At Sossusvlei, where the dunes can reach 220 metres, large camel thorn trees, dead for want of water, still stand 900 years later. The sweeping dunes, along with gravel plains and river valleys, give opportunities for photographers. It is also a fascinating insight into a world of reptiles, birds and insects living among the sand dunes – all uniquely adapted to desert survival.
We venture deeper into the desert of the massive Namib-Naukluft National Park via the Swakop River valley and the Moon Landscape, formed over 460 million years. 1,500 year-old welwitschias, lithops, hoodias and mist-gathering lichens are unforgettably strange.
Geologically, this area is of great significance: from countless small-scale mine works of hand-hewn tourmaline and rose quartz to the largest open-cast uranium mine in the world.
The Waterberg is a spectacular sandstone massif in the central region of the country. This is the only breeding site of the Cape vulture in Namibia, with a vulture feeding scheme. The Waterberg Plateau Park has the country’s breeding programme for Namibia’s endangered large mammals. There are sizeable numbers of black and white rhino within the park, as well as roan and sable antelope and buffalo.
Walks here include fig forests and reedbeds and are excellent for birds such as Ruppell's parrot and Bradfield's hornbill. On the sandstone cliffs a variety of rock-loving species include familiar chat, Verreaux's eagle, African hawk-eagle and short-toed rock-thrush. The bush below the cliffs is good for hornbills, woodpeckers, francolins, Swainson's spurfowl, pririt batis, golden-breasted bunting and much more.
Waterberg Plateau (from Wikipedia); Damara dik-dik
This holiday includes more travelling and holiday bases (seven) than a typical Honeyguide holiday, though the journeys have stops with much wildlife and landscape to absorb.
The second South African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) is one of the most intensive monitoring programmes ever undertaken across southern Africa (including Namibia). Many areas are difficult to access but critically need atlas work and ongoing monitoring work for BirdLife South Africa to understand the bird conservation challenges in these remote sites.
Geoff Crane is the man behind Crane's Cape Tours & Travel, both local leaders and ground agents for Honeyguide in South Africa. An experienced guide himself, Geoff co-leads all Honeyguide’s holidays in South Africa. More on Geoff here.
Price: £3,950 per person in twin room for 14 nights, plus travelling overnight twice (Saturday to Monday). If you wish to arrange your own flights and book the holiday directly with Geoff Crane, please contact us and we will give you a price in Rand.
Single room supplement: £200
En suite facilities
Flights: Scheduled flights, London Heathrow to Windhoek via Johannesburg, either with SAA or BA/SAA.
Number: minimum of 3, maximum 14.