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Not a great year, but it ended well

 

2018 was not a great year for me. More trips aborted than fulfilled. A seemingly endless succession of medical issues affecting various family members meant being confined to barracks for far too long.

 

But, as the year drew to a close I did manage to fit in a flurry of short trips which kept me from going insane.

 

May last trip of the year was a quick visit to Botswana. It really was brief, just 7 nights, but it did give me the opportunity to visit some very lovely places in the company of some very lovely people.

 

Starting in Kasane and finishing up in Maun, we managed to spend time in Chobe NP, do a short mobile safari in Xakanaxa, game walks on Chief’s Island and get a glimpse of Central Kalahari.

 

In terms of animal sightings it was mediocre at best, but I did see some lovely birds, including one I’d never seen before, much less photographed, and a couple that I’d seen but not managed to photograph properly before.

 

01 Babbler, Arrow-marked

02 Barbet, Black-collared

03 Barbet, Crested

04 Bateleur

05 Bee-eater, Blue-cheeked

06 Bee-eater, Little

07 Bee-eater, Southern Carmine

08 Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed

09 Bee-eater, White-fronted

10 Boubou, Tropical

11 Bulul, African Red-eyed

12 Bulbul, Dark-capped

13 Cisticola, Rattling

14 Coot, Red-knobbed

15 Cormorant, Reed

16 Coucal, Coppery-tailed

17 Coucal, Senegal

18 Crake, Black

19 Crane, Wattled

20 Cuckoo, Jacobin

21 Darter, African

22 Dove, Cape Turtle

23 Dove, Laughing

24 Dove, Namaqua

25 Drongo, Fork-tailed

26 Duck, Knob-billed

27 Duck, White-faced

28 Eagle, African Fish

29 Eagle, Brown Snake

30 Eagle, Tawny

31 Egret, Little

32 Egret, Slaty

33 Egret, Western Cattle

34 Falcon, Red-necked

35 Firefinch, Jameson’s

36 Fiscal, Common

37 Flycatcher, African Paradise

38 Flycatcher, Southern Black

39 Francolin, Crested

40 Goose, Spur-winged

41 Goshawk, Gabar

42 Goshawk, Pale Chanting

43 Grebe, Little

44 Guineafowl Helmeted

45 Hamerkop

46 Heron, Goliath

47 Heron, Grey

48 Heron, Squacco

49 Hoopoe, African

50 Hornbill, African Grey

51 Hornbill, Southern Ground

52 Hornbill, Southern Red-billed

53 Hornbill, Southern Yellow-billed

54 Ibis, African Sacred

55 Ibis, Glossy

56 Jacana, African

57 Kestrel, Dickinson’s

58 Kingfisher, Giant

59 Kingfisher, Pied

60 Kingfsher, Woodland

61 Kite, Yellow-billed

62 Korhaan, Red-crested

63 Lapwing, Blacksmith

64 Lark, Sabota

65 Mousebird, Red-faced

66 Openbill, African

67 Owl, Pel’s Fishing

68 Owlet, Pearl-spotted

69 Oxpecker, red-billed

70 Oxpecker, Yellow-billed

71 Parrot, Grey-headed

72 Parrot, Meyer’s

73 Pelican, Great White

74 Pigeon, Africa Green

75 Pipit, African

76 Robin, White-browed Scrub

77 Robin-Chat, White-browed

78 Roller, Broad-billed

79 Roller, Lilac-breasted

80 Sandgrouse, Double-banded

81 Sandpiper, Common

82 Sandpiper, Marsh

83 Shrike, Crimson-breasted

84 Shrike, Lesser Grey

85 Shrike, Magpie

86 Shrike, Red-backed

87 Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed

88 Spoonbill, African

89 Spurfowl, red-billed

90 Spurfowl, Swainson’s

91 Starling, Cape Glossy

92 Starling, Greater, Blue-eared

93 Starling, Meve’s

94 Starling, Violet-backed

95 Starling, Wattled

96 Stilt, Black-winged

97 Stork, Marabou

98 Stork, Woolly-necked

99 Stork, Yellow-billed

100 Sunbird, Marico

101 Swallow, Wire-tailed

102 Swift, African Palm

103 Teal, Red-billed

104 Thick-knee, Water

105 Thrush, Groundscraper

106 Thrush, Kurrichane

107 Turaco, Schalow’s

108 Vulture, White-backed

109 Waxbill, Blue

110 Weaver, Southern Brown-throated

111 Weaver, Southern Masked

112 Weaver, White-browed Sparrow

113 Whydah, Long-tailed Paradise

114 Whydah, Shaft-tailed

115 Woodhoopoe, Green

116 Cormorant, White-breasted

117 Stork, Saddle-billed

 

 

I am sure there are others that I saw and didn’t mark down and even more that I saw and didn’t positively identify but I was happy with my list, especially with my first ever sighting of the Schalow’s Turaco.

 

I’ve listed them alphabetically for simplicity, but I’ll write the location beside each photograph.

 

Kasane

When in Africa (or India) I’ve got into the habit of spending time roaming round the grounds of my hotel or guest house. It is amazing how rich the bird life can be.

 

On my first evening, I was sitting in the bar when a distinctive shape flew past and settled in a nearby tree. The light was almost gone and I couldn’t see where it had landed, but I knew exactly what it was, Schalow’s Turaco. It is the only Turaco found on Chobe waterfront and Chobe Waterfront is pretty much the only place you find it.

I’d never seen one before but I really hoped I’d get a better sighting than this.

 

Next morning the birdsong was loud, on both sides of my room. There was a tree right beside the balcony of the room so I went outside to see what might be there. Blow me down, there was a Schalow’s Turaco in the tree about 5 metres away from me, in amongst the branches. I rushed back inside for my camera, hoping it would stay put.

It did, sort of, it hopped higher up in the tree and became almost hidden from my viewpoint.

I went outside and looked for a way round the block to get a better view. I didn’t find one. So 2 sightings but no photo. 2:0 to the Turaco.

 

There was plenty of other birdlife though; with flycatchers, thrushes and weavers flitting from tree to tree.

It was only when I tried to get some photos of them I realised it was still only 6am and the light was pretty poor.

I took the photos anyway. Worry about the quality later.

 

Brown-throated Weaver - I'm sure I've seen these birds before without paying too much attention to what they were. This is my first known photograph of one. Horribly grainy.

 

Brown-throated Weaver

 

Southern Black Flycatcher

 

Southern Black Flycatcher

 

 

Southern Black Flycatcher

 

 

Kurrichane Thrush

 

Kurrichane Thrushes

 

African Paradise Flycatcher - this seems to be my year for Paradise Flycatchers. Once again I found myself in an area where they were abundant

 

African Paradise Flycatcher

 

African Paradise Flycatcher

 

White Browed Robin Chat

 

White-browed Robin Chat

 

White-browed Robin Chat

 

African Openbill - During the time I was in Kasane there was a steady flow of Openbills, flying eastwards along the river.

 

African Openbill

 

African Openbill

 

African Openbill

 

 

Edited by Soukous
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Martin, your thrush is a collared palm thrush

 

it looks as though you packed a lot in to little time

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58 minutes ago, Tdgraves said:

Martin, your thrush is a collared palm thrush

 

it looks as though you packed a lot in to little time

 

Oh yes, thank you for that corrction @Tdgraves 

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Based on the reddish eye in the first picture, I think you're flycatcher is a drongo. But those two can be hard to tell apart.

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Like the first six photographs of the bird species, hopefully you will show us the other 111, please.

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17 hours ago, ForWildlife said:

Based on the reddish eye in the first picture, I think you're flycatcher is a drongo. But those two can be hard to tell apart.

 

@ForWildlife I did consider it might be a drongo, but the brown on the outside of the wings persuaded me it was a Flycatcher.

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Chobe

When we left Kasane we didn’t travel very far. Just as far as the Ngoma section of Chobe NP and the excellent Muchenje Safari Lodge.

 

Muchenje has long been a favourite of mine as it is far enough away from the cluster of lodges in Kasane to ensure that game drives into the National Park can be enjoyed without too much interruption.

 

The location is fabulous, overlooking a vast flood plain that stretches away to Namibia.

 

View from Muchenje Lodge

 

At this time of year (December) the river waters are low and the flood plain is dry, allowing farmers from Botswana and Namibia to graze their cattle.

It was weird seeing mixed herds of zebra and cattle grazing below us.

 

When the waters are high, this whole area is underwater and is a spectacular sight to see.

Muchenje itself is going through a bit of a transition.

Matt & Lorna Smith who have been the faces of Muchenje for as long as I can remember have exited and there are new shareholders. Shaun Metcalfe, one of the original founders is still on board.
At present the owners are working out what they want the lodge to look like going forward. Toff & Kiddy are still there as hosts so guests are treated very well, as always, although I was not at all impressed with our guide when we were there.

 

Game drive

A couple of days earlier we’d had the first showers of the rainy season, prompting a large proportion of the wildlife to start migrating away from the river to areas where they would find lusher vegetation.

Because of this, our game drives were largely mammal free, with game being very sparse indeed. Although we did see extensive evidence of Aardvark digging along the track into the park. It would have been great to be able to be in there during the night. That said, the light was lovely and the birdlife was prolific.

I was already getting the feeling that this would be another safari where I’d need to stimulate my fellow travellers’ interested in the birds.

 

We did see some animals; a few impala, some zebras, an elephant (yes, it is Chobe and we saw just one elephant),some jackals and a glimpse of a lion’s backside as it disappeared into the bush and refused to come back out.

 

Greater Kudu

 

Zebras

 

 

Black-backed Jackal

 

Black-backed Jackal

 

The highlight of our drive came when we were stopped for sundowners.

I saw a silhouette glide across the tree tops and settle in a tree about 50 metres away. It was just a dark shape in amongst the branches, but I knew what it was, what it could only be; it was a Schalow’s Turaco.

No-one else seemed to share my excitement at seeing this beautiful bird but I was too busy waiting for it to emerge sufficiently for a photograph to care.

I could see it, hopping from one branch to another; each time I thought ‘this is it’, it moved deeper into the foliage. Then it appeared at the top of the tree, not a clear shot but the best I was going to get as I was certain it had gone to the top of the tree just so that it could fly away. I was right.

The whole sighting probably lasted about a minute, maybe 90 seconds, buy hey, I got a picture. Who cares if there are no animals?

 

Schalow's Turaco

 

Schalow's Turaco

 

Schalow's Turaco

 

Schalow's Turaco

 

Goliath heron

Goliath Heron

 

Goliath Heron

 

Grey Go Away Bird

Go Away Bird

 

Go Away Bird

 

and no safari would be complete without a Lilac-breasted Roller

Lilac-breasted Roller

 

Lilac-breasted Roller

 

Lilac-breasted Roller

 

Southern Carmine Bee Eater

Southern Carmine Bee Eaters

 

Southern Carmine Bee Eaters

 

AfricanJacana

African Jacana

 

Reed Cormorant

Reed Cormorant

 

Greater Blue-eared Starling

Greater Blue-eared Starling

 

Red-billed Teal

Red-billed Teal

 

Marsh Sandpiper

Marsh Sandpiper

 

Red-billed Spurfowl

Red-billed Spurfowl

 

African Openbill

African Openbill

 

Yellow-billed Kite

Yellow Billed Kite

 

African Fish Eagle

African Fish Eagle

 

Coppery-tailed Coucal

Coppery-tailed Coucal

 

Yellow-billed Oxpeckers

Yellow-billed Oxpeckers

 

White-backed Vulture

White-backed Vulture

 

White-backed Vulture

 

Dark-capped Bulbul

Dark Capped Bulbul

 

Broad-billed Rollers

Broad-billed Rollers

 

We watched quite some territorial skirmishes between these guys, and a Lilac-breasted Roller

Broad-billed Roller

 

Blue-cheeked Bee Eater

Blue-cheeked Bee Eater

 

Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron

 

 

 

Edited by Soukous
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16 hours ago, CDL111 said:

Like the first six photographs of the bird species, hopefully you will show us the other 111, please.

 

Sadly @CDL111 I didn't get photos of that many. I wish I had

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A couple more birds from Chobe

 

African Pipit

African Pipit

 

Violet-backed Starling

Violet-backed Starling

 

Violet-backed Starling

 

Senegal Coucal

Senegal Coucal

 

 

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Really lovely shots of so many beautiful birds Martin! You really know how to make that D500 sing!

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11 hours ago, Treepol said:

@Soukous beautiful photos, especially the Schalow’sTuraco.

 

Actually I don't think the photos of Schalow's Turaco are the best but they are the ones I value most because getting them was a specific goal of mine.

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Xakanaxa

From Chobe we flew across a very dry delta to Xakanaxa, where we met up with our guide and vehicle for our mobile safari.

Even elephants look small when viewed from 6500 feet

even elephants look small from 6500 feet

 

 

The sky was filled with smoke as we landed, someone burning something but no-one could tell us who or what.

 

Delta Air

 

landing

 

While waiting for the rest of the group to arrive we made full use of the VIP facilities.

 

VIP-lounge

 

We were surprised to see lots of big yellow road moving vehicle at the airstrip and were informed that they would be starting work as soon as we had left, also that the airstrip would be closed for a couple of days so we wouldn’t be able to fly out as planned. Hmm.

 

The drive from the airstrip to the park gate was about 10 minutes, with a further 10 minutes inside the park to our campsite. Or at least that was the plan.

 

We’d been driving just 5 minutes when it began to rain, just a few drops at first but it very quickly turned into a real downpour. We had to shelter under the entrance gate of the park for about 15 minutes, while we waited for it to cease.

 

hiding-from-the-rain

 

No surprise then that we arrived in camp to find it is chaos. The rain had caught them completely unawares and wreaked havoc.

Awnings were bulging with water, tents that had been left open were wet and bedding that had been put out to air was sodden.

 

Mobile camp in the rain

 

The camp crew were beside themselves as they had just finished getting everything ready for our arrival.

 

There was not a lot that we could do to help them, except get out of the way – so we went for a game drive.

Of course, because of the rain we were warned repeatedly that the animals would have moved deeper into the bush. Sure enough, we saw very little. A couple of elephants, some zebras, some impala and a dwarf mongoose.

I really should put more effort into taking videos, but for me it is always an afterthought, usually when I see someone else doing it. Consequently they are always a bit late and a bit crap, but they fill the gaps when there is no decent photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dwarf Mongoose

 

The birds were a bit better, with a pair of Ground Hornbills being the highlight.

 

This is the male

Southern Ground Hornbill (m)

and the female

Southern Ground Hornbill (m)

 

Yellow-billed Oxpecker on a stripy animal

Yellow Billed Oxpecker

 

Coppery Tailed Coucal

Coppery-tailed Coucal

 

Saddlebill Stork

Saddlebill Storks

 

For those who haven’t been, Xakanaxa is a weird landscape, with large numbers of dead trees that give it an eerie atmosphere.

 

Dead Tree Sunset

 

In the absence of animals we spent a while enjoying the sunset.

Xakanaxa sunset

 

We were kind of dreading getting back to camp and spending a night in wet bedding, but by the time we returned the crew had done a terrific job of clearing up the devastation and found enough replacement bedding from somewhere.

Wine and brandy with dinner made us all feel much more cheerful, even though at this stage we were not sure where we would be heading in the morning. We needed to catch a flight to Chief's Island, so it could either be Maun, which was a shorter drive, but which would be a real pain, or it could be Khwai Concession airstrip. 

 

Next morning things looked a lot brighter in camp.

It look sbetter when the sun shines

 

The news over breakfast was that we were going to drive to Khwai to catch our flight to Chief's Island. That made us all very happy as we could treat the journey as a game drive rather than just a transfer.

 

Ready to roll

Xakanaxa camp

 

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@Soukous, I can understand your excitement at seeing a Schalow's Turaco, sightings must be rare. l am thrilled at being able to see a photograph of one.

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Full medical facilities including a spinal board and firefighting station, VIP indeed :D

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On 1/15/2019 at 9:42 AM, Soukous said:

 

@ForWildlife I did consider it might be a drongo, but the brown on the outside of the wings persuaded me it was a Flycatcher.

 

I think those wingparts can come across as lighter (than deep black) in drongos too, depending on the light. Just like that in one picture the eye appears black, in the other one it's reddish/brown. The fly catchers black eye will never show as reddish. Just my view :) It's been some time since I've seen either of them.

 

PS: I think the coucal is a white-browed coucal.

Edited by ForWildlife
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Oops, I just noticed I posted the same picture of the Ground Hornbill twice. 

This is the female

Southern Ground Hornbill (f)

 

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@ForWildlife Thank you. You are definitely correct about the Coucal. I just accepted what the guide shouted out. In my guide there are no illustrations that show the banding on the tail feathers, but the white brow is very distinctive.

 

As for the Drongo/Flycatcher, I am not a proficient enough birder to argue with you, so it may well be a drongo. :(

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Xakanaxa to Khwai

 

Our drive through to Khwai was interesting but not spectacular. It really did seem that the animals had all gone walkabout.

We saw practically nothing until we got to Moremi and even after that it was sparse.

 

some Wattled Cranes

Wattled Cranes

 

a pair of Namaqua Doves

Namaqua Doves

 

Brown Snake Eagle

Brown Snake Eagle

 

Tawny Eagle

Tawny Eagle

 

Tawny Eagle

 

Spoonbills

spoonbills

 

White-faced Ducks

White-faced Ducks

 

Saddlebill Storks

Saddlebill Storks

 

Saddlebill Stork

 

Saddlebill Stork

 

Openbill

African Openbill (Open Billed Stork)

 

Black-winged Stilt

Black-winged Stilt

 

Ellies

Elephants

 

Elephant

 

 

 

Marabou Stork

Marabou Stork

 

Chief’s Island

 

Another light aircraft flight over a very dry looking Delta brought us to Chief’s Island and Delta Camp.

 

When there is water in the channels, guests travel from the airstrip to Delta Camp by mokoro. In December though, with very little water, we had to walk. Even though the distance was not great, we’d arrived in the middle of the day and were melting by the time we got to camp.

 

This is what it is like when there is water

Delta-Camp---Communal-Guest-area-(2).jpg.229b862c3745803292f86271f55be1cc.jpg

 

Delta-Camp---Communal-Guest-area-(1).jpg.245f85bebb79aff0d8a2506b3dc31f5e.jpg

 

Delta-Camp---Communal-Guest-area-(23).jpg.420a36eb2988159db667033a5c2e5ef0.jpg

 

Although it is called Delta Camp, the accommodation is not tented. It is very very unusual. Each guest room has been built to fit in with its specific location, using locally available materials. The walk to some of the rooms is long, so they are all very private.

 

My room on this occasion was the tree house, and it was quite a climb to get up there. But once there the view was wonderful.

my-room-at-Delta-Camp.jpg.df644c14c260dd0bce9846a1a9c8020a.jpg

 

delta-camp-tree-house-1.jpg.e94e3e2e73b2b4caab4c2b8febf0fe2f.jpg

 

delta-camp-tree-house.jpg.e9991191b2c230afc00d33b9d0ec5547.jpg

 

my-room-at-Delta-Camp1.jpg.1d896e973b5e999d81dd340c64f0963b.jpg

 

amazing views

my-room-at-Delta-Camp---the-view.jpg.6bd771229d9adb0147ec0c058be4311f.jpg

 

Several of the other rooms were designed with one side completely open, looking out onto the floodplain. All in all a very eclectic place.

delta-camp-room-9.jpg.d5038fdf64eefecb0dad6a70517cbb59.jpg

 

The main lounge / dining area is large and comfortable with great views out over the flood plain. Food and drink were excellent.

Delta-Camp---Communal-Guest-area-(5).jpg.e7e79d64a281037e135669556e4a9ec1.jpg

 

There are no game drives at Delta Camp, walking is the main activity, together with mokoro rides. It had been our plan to go for a short walk late in the afternoon, but one by one we all cried off, none of us keen to set out in the heat. So we just mooched around camp for the afternoon, until it was time for sundowners. It’s a hard life.

 

A movement in the grass below my lofty room turned out to be a pair of White-browed Coucals foraging

White-browed Coucal

 

White-browed Coucal

 

White-browed Coucal

 

The view from the lounge area

flood-plain-in-front-of-delta-camp.jpg.98088c772673d3a5790d2ae7afb66e74.jpg

 

buffaloes

 

Buffaloes

 

Fish Eagles, 2 adults and a juvenile. It looked as though the adults were giving their offspring flying lessons

African Fish Eagles (m, f & Juv.)

 

A timid Bushbuck came down to drink

Bushbuck

 

During the afternoon, we had a visitor to the main lounge. This elephant had been browsing just outside but then decided that there were better pickings inside.

The Elephant in the room

 

The Elephant in the room

 

Elephants wandering along the paths inside camp was something we had to constantly be on the alert for.

 

Next morning, when it was nice and cool, we strolled down to the mokoros for a very short ferry across to the other side of the channel. We were now in Moremi Game Reserve.

Mokoros

 

Mokoros, Okavango Delta

 

Mokoros, Okavango Delta

 

One of the guides saw me with my long lens and told me I’d be much better off with a short lens. So I changed.

We’d only been walking for about half an hour when I spotted a Dickinson’s Kestrel in its favourite perch, on top of a dead palm tree. No problem with my long lens, impossible with the short one.

I shrugged off my backpack and began the process of changing lenses. I’d barely got started when someone called out that it had flown off. Hmm.

 

It was a lovely walk but we didn’t see many animals and there were 2 further occasions when I wished I had ignored the guides and stuck with the long zoom.

 

I was surprised, however, that I managed to get close enough to this Green Woodhoopoe for a shot. I was using a 140mm lens so this is cropped quite a bit.

 

Green Woodhoopoe

Green Wood Hoopoe

 

Green Wood Hoopoe

 

Adventure Trails – a real wilderness experience

One of the options on offer at Delta Camp, and its sister camp Oddballs, is the chance to head off into Moremi with a guide. Not just a walk, but an extended mokoro trail, camping out at night, for a minimum of 2 nights. They provide all the gear and even set up the camp for you. It sounds very appealing.

 

In high season prices for Delta Camp are expensive – US$900 per night in peak season – but in low season they drop to US$505. Oddballs offers more basic accommodation and is considerably cheaper - from US$315 in low season to US$476 in peak. But what they both promise, which I think is brilliant, is one guide for every 2 guests. If you are travelling as a couple you will never be lumped together with other guests unless you want to be. You’ll always have your own private guide.

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Very glad you scored your turaco! I also liked seeing the juvenile fish eagle. Even if the mammals were a bit thin on the ground, your incredible birding seems to have made up for it. And the elephant in the camp and the elephant with its avian retinue are also excellent sightings.

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Central Kalahari

 

Another hot walk brought us back to the airstrip for the next leg f our journey, a flight to Central Kalahari and Deception Valley Lodge with the always punctual and friendly Delta Air.

 

Although the Delta was a bit dry it did at least still look green. The Kalahari, by comparison was really dry and mostly brown. It is a desert after all.

The drive from the airstrip to the lodge confirmed what we had seen from the air, it was very dry; a sandy, dusty landscape with little green on the trees.

 

Deception Valley Lodge is quite a sprawling place; the guest rooms are spread out on either side of a central lounge & dining area. There is a deck that looks towards 2 waterholes; a large one about 60 metres away that attracts mammals throughout the day and a much smaller one about 10 metres from the deck that is frequented by a variety of birds.

 

Shaft-tailed Whydah ( for some reason I could not embed these as links to Flickr, so I posted the actual files.)

shaft-tailed-whydahs.jpg.32ff061e9a65e1785ee7f9c5d38a09a6.jpg

 

shaft-tailed-whydahs-2.jpg.99ea85eb3a13d1660d7a7b611d2c06c1.jpg

 

shaft-tailed-whydahs-3.jpg.a55a76296a64af1691ec4fd6e1278f5e.jpg

 

 

African Red-eyed Bulbul

African-Red-eyed-Bulbul.jpg.2899168afaa8a5b64590f0e79f2008cd.jpg

 

The lodge itself is undergoing (or has just undergone) a change of ownership; apparently the process can be quite drawn out in Botswana.

Anyhow, the reason I mention it is that several aspects of the lodge were dilapidated. Walkways had planks lifting, (just enough to catch an unsuspecting foot and cause a fall) the guest chalets were dated and in need of a bit of TLC and the umbrellas around the swimming pool were practically shredded.

We were told that the needed refurbishment had been on hold until the change of ownership had been completed.

Hopefully it will happen soon.

That said the staff were friendly and efficient, the communal areas were comfortable and the food was excellent.

 

The Bushman Experience

One of the activities that is promoted by DVL and other lodges in the Kalahari is a San bushman experience.
This is something that was of particular interest to me as the bushmen and the way that they were dispossessed of their lands once the Dutch East India Company arrived in the Cape in 1652 is one of the central tenets of my latest book. What was perpetrated against them through the 18th Century has been described, I think with good reason, as a genocide.

 

The bushman experience was to be our afternoon activity.

Oh dear! This might be something for young children, but to inflict this pantomime on adults was just sad.

 

We set off, together with some other guests from the lodge in 2 vehicles; each vehicle had a guide and a Bushman tracker. After driving for about 20 minutes we stopped and the the trackers dismounted. We were told they were going to get changed into their traditional clothing. About 10 minutes later they emerged from the bushes in what looked like large diapers..

 

They then led us on a circuit through the bush, stopping at various points to carry out some traditional activity or explain some aspect of their lifestyle. The places where they stopped were clearly used on a regular (possibly daily) basis.

bushman-experience.jpg.7b856950966053821e5b74611f3efac4.jpg

While they chattered away in their own dialect, our guide translated for us. (A word here for our guide, Knowledge. Knowledge was first rate. He knew his stuff and he was good at communicating.)
We were told how they made their backpacks and other tools from a duiker, showed how they used ostrich eggs to store water and how they hunted. Our trail finished up at a couple of replica huts where they showed us how they made fire by friction and where one of them attached some seed pods to his legs and did a ritual dance.

 

I found the whole experience excruciatingly embarrassing.

 

My point of view is this.

I think there is tremendous value in educating people about the indigenous people of the Kalahari, but this is not the way to do it.
The fact that we drove from the lodge with the 2 trackers sitting on the front of our game vehicles and then waited while they changed into traditional clothes got the whole thing off the the wrong start. It would have been so much more effective if we had left camp and met them in the bush, already in their traditional garb. At least then we might have bought into the theatre.

 

The other thing that annoyed me intensely about this was that the whole charade was put on to give us an insight into the Bushman way of life and how it is in tune with their environment. Yet – presumably because it is politically incorrect to do so in Botswana – no mention at all was made of the way that they have been hunted, massacred, treated like livestock and denied access to their ancestral lands. For the bushman experience to have any relevance at all, it must be preceded by information about their history.

 

Rant Alert!

We hear so much about the re-distribution of land in Southern Africa and how it must be taken from white farmers and given to the black population because it was taken from them at some point in the past. No mention is made of the fact that the Bantu tribes were complicit with the white settlers in driving the Bushmen from the land.

Up until the early 18th Century vast areas of Southern Africa were inhabited almost exclusively by San & Khoisan.

 

Phew, rant over.

Luckily our Bushman experience was brought to an abrupt end when a message on the radio told the guide that we should hurry back to the lodge because there were lions at the waterhole.

 

We had to wait a few minutes while our Bushmen changed back into their khakis and hopped onto their tracker seats.

By the time we got back to the lodge darkness had fallen, but sure enough, there they were. A fine young male and three lionesses.

 

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Dinner that night was excellent. We dined outside to the sounds of the bush at night and I enjoyed the best meal of our trip.

 

The focus of our game drive the next morning was to try and find the lions we had seen the night before. We spent a couple of hours following tracks, which our guide told us were very recent. Every once in a while the guide and tracker would walk off into the bush in search of clues.

We never found them.

 

Gabar Goshawk

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Red-billed Spurfowl

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Crimson-breasted Shrike

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The irony is that later that morning, on our way to the airstrip, we found them resting by the side of the road with the remains of a kill they’d made the night before.

Excuse my cynicism, but so much for the skill of our trackers. They had spent all morning following tracks that they told us were very fresh and yet these lions had been here with their kill since the night before. As far as I could determine, we had not even been on the correct side of the lodge.

 

Never mind.

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Stormy skies on the horizon

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We did not see a lot of animal life at DVL but, as has been mentioned before, the rains had started and waterholes were no longer the only place to get a drink.

 

Apart from the lions, the visitors to the waterhole by the lodge included a dazzle of zebras and a very thin looking gemsbok.

The birds were pretty good though, and I managed to add a few species to my list.

 

This had been a lot of fun; short but sweet. It reminded me just what a great destination Botswana is, even in low season. The contrast between the different habitats is amazing and with a bit of careful planning it is possible to put together a neat safari at a very reasonable cost.

 

In the words of Arnie, “I’ll be back.”

Edited by Soukous
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@Soukous, thanks for another report that was a pleasure to read. I do enjoy looking at you photographs of the birds. You are certainly not the first nor l doubt the last to find that a tracker/guide has just got it wrong.

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Lovely trip and great report, thank you!

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Thank you @Soukous interesting to see it at this time of year.

Some fantastic birds - and photos.

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Great photos @Soukous!    And the ones of the Schalow's Turaco are excellent!    So hard to get a clear photo of that species.

 

I agree 100% on the injustices done to San Bushmen.  I would love to go on a safari that supports them and has authentic guiding/tracking/fieldcraft/bush lore communication.      But not the farce you so aptly described. 

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