Chobe National Park Birding Botswana
Information guide to birding / birdwatching in the Chobe National Park of Botswana.
Northern Chobe National Park and Kasane
The area from Ngoma to Kazungula, incorporating northern section of the Chobe National Park and Kasane, must rank as one of the top birding spots in southern Africa. The total bird list of this area exceeds some 450 species, which is Botswana's most comprehensive area bird list. You will need a minimum of three days, ideally encompassing trips by vehicle and by boat, to do the birding justice in this area. In three days a keen birder can expect to see over 100 species in winter and over 200 in summer.
:: The Specials ::
Western Banded Snake Eagle, Pennantwinged Nightjar, Rackettailed Roller, Collared Palmthrush, Swamp Boubou, Coppery Sunbird, Brown Firefinch, Broadtailed Paradise Whydah, Goldenbacked Pytilia, Slaty Egret, Rufousbellied Heron, Pinkthroated Longclaw, Chirping Cisticola, Luapula Cisticola, Greater Swamp Warbler, Whitecrowned Plover, African Skimmer, Pygmy Goose, Rock Pratincole, African Finfoot, Halfcollared Kingfisher, Whitebacked Night Heron.
:: The Habitats ::
Mixed broad-leafed woodland, riverine woodland, floodplains, the Chobe River and seasonal pans.
:: The Birding ::
One may not leave one's vehicle in Chobe National Park (other than at camp sites), nor may one drive off the road, but satisfactory birding can be done from a vehicle. There are also many firebreaks (accessible by 4x4) in the forest reserve bordering Kasane and Kazungula and, whilst being attentive to the presence of elephants and buffaloes, birders may walk freely in this reserve. Four principal birding habitats are found between Ngoma and Kazungula:
1. Mixed Broad-leafed woodland (Baikiaea plurijuga often dominant) a few hundred metres from the river and extending far south into the Chobe National Park and adjoining forest reserves. Within these woodlands are patches of acacia woodland Marico Flycatcher, Crimsonbreasted Shrike, Violeteared Waxbill. The 10km. track in a shallow valley from the Kazungula border post to Lesoma Village, following the Zimbabwe border, traverses very impressive acacia woodland. Threebanded Courser are sometimes found on this track, especially at night. Specials include Pennantwinged Nightjar (Oct. - Dec., especially on the roads around the Kasane sewage works) Rackettailed Roller, Broadtailed Paradise Whydah (annual summer influx from the north, and only easily recognisable Feb., Mar., Apr.), Goldenbacked Pytilia.
2. Riverine woodland, with various species including Diospyros mespiliformis, various acacia spp., Berchemia discolor, Crotonacaciaobotrys, Gardenia volkensii and Trichelia emtica. One can drive next to the river from Ngoma to Kasane. Specials include Western Banded Snake Eagle, Trumpeter Hornbill, Narina Trogon (rare in summer), Pel's Fishing Owl (rare), Bearded Robin, Redfaced Cisticola (common from Kasane to Kazungula), Collared Palmthrush (resident at Mowana Safari Lodge), Swamp Boubou, Coppery Sunbird, Purplebanded Sunbird, Brown Firefinch. Olive Bee-eater have occasionally been reported from Nov. to March.
3. Floodplains, largely relict on the south (Botswana) side and seasonally inundated and extensively covered with phragmites reeds and papyrus on the north (Namibian) side of the Chobe River. Specials include Slaty Egret, Rufousbellied Heron, Pinkthroated Longclaw; Lesser Gallinule; Lesser Moorhen; Redheaded Quelea (especially on Sedudu Island, Feb. to April), Chirping Cisticola, Luapula Cisticola, and Greater Swamp Warbler
4. The Chobe River itself, inclusive of its banks, from a point just west of Ngoma to its confluence with the Zambezi and including the rapids near Kasane. The river constitutes the border between Botswana and Namibia. Guided boat trips on the river may be organised through one of several Kasane-based operators. From late March to end June (high water) the river is navigable from just above the rapids to Kabulabula. At lower water levels the boating range is more restricted, but the stretch from the rapids to Puku Flats (usually the most productive part for birds) is navigable all year. A river trip is a must for birders. Specials include Whitecrowned Plover (Puku Flats to Kazungula), African Skimmer (best place is "Hippo Pools" just off Watercart Drive), Pygmy Goose, found in quieter backwaters, but less frequently than in the Kasani Channel. In the rapids area look for Rock Pratincole (from Sept. to Feb.), African Finfoot, Halfcollared Kingfisher and Whitebacked Night Heron.
5. Kasai Channel. A trip up the Kasai Channel (which connects the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers) is also recommended. As this channel is in Namibia there are Immigration and Customs formalities to be observed on both sides of the border, but the lily-covered lagoons next to the main channel are rewarding: Pygmy Goose, Lesser Gallinule and Purple Gallinule, African Rail, Lesser Moorhen, Lesser Jacana, and, in the fringing reeds and papyrus, Chirping Cisticola and Greater Swamp Warbler.
6. South-bound day trip from Kasane to Savute. Starting about 40 km south of the Nantanga/Ngoma road intersection are a series of seasonal pans which stretch further south and west all the way to Savute. The larger ones, such as Kwikamba Pan, support a variety of aquatic species in the summer, including Redbilled Teal and Hottentot Teal, Southern Pochard, Egyptian Goose and Spurwinged Goose as well as Dabchick, Dwarf Bittern, Lesser Moorhen and Redknobbed Coot. The extensive Seleko Plains near Nogatsaa attract grassland species such as Harlequin Quail, Yellowthroated Sandgrouse, Croaking Cisticola and, occasionally, Stanley's Bustard. The roads in this area become difficult to negotiate after rains, especially the black "cotton" soil sections. Those intending to drive all the way to Savute in the southwestern part of the Chobe National Park (two or more vehicles recommended) should be well equipped and allow a full day for this trip.
:: General ::
The section from Ngoma to Kasane, with the Chobe River forming the northern boundary, lies within the Chobe National Park. The Shell map of the Chobe National Park is recommended for travellers to this part of Botswana. With the exception of the one tarred road from Kasane to Ngoma, 4 x 4 vehicles are needed to negotiate the sandy roads in Chobe National Park near Ngoma in the west, is Muchenje lodge and the private Buffalo Ridge camp site, where birders can base themselves.
At Kasane in he east (where there is richer birding) there are several lodges for those with a generous budget and two private camp sites for those with a more limited budget. Chobe Safari Lodge has recently upgraded its hutted accommodation and campsite, and offers comfortable amenities. There is a (basic) Department of Wild Life National Parks camp site near the Chobe River at Ihaha. There are a number of lodge-based and independent tour operators, in Kasane and trips to the park can be organised through them. There are several camp sites in Chobe National Park (designated as HATAB sites) only available to people touring with registered safari operators.
Accommodation ranges from upmarket lodges to rustic self-catering, tented camps:
|Chobe National Park
As one of Botswana's top Nature Reserves, Chobe National Park, is home to many of the mammals of southern Africa. Numerous wildlife safari and tour companies operate guided tours to Chobe National Park. Popular adventure travel activities in Botswana include: horse riding safaris, elephant back safaris, mountain biking, birding, wilderness walking trails, science safaris and volunteering especially for GAP year students.
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