The Okavango Delta, Botswana

Balwyn Meeting Report: Member’s Topic
26 June 2016
African Fish-Eagles, always on the alert 1
African Fish Eagles; always on the alert

In September 2015 Bill Ramsay and wife Shirley made an exciting trip to Southern Africa care of Rhino Africa, and they felt their experience in the Okavango Delta was the highlight of the trip. The Okavango River starts in Namibia and on reaching Botswana fans out across a vast floodplain, and the waters never reach the sea. It supports a wide variety of wildlife, and tourists are accommodated at many camps dotted around the delta. Bill and Shirley stayed at an ‘&Beyond’ tented camp called Nxabega. Game drives took up to six people, and though big game took precedence over birds they found their guide to be very knowledgeable on the birds. A leopard and her cub gave rare entertainment and they were lucky too with Wild Dog sightings. Elephant were plentiful and they also had close encounters with lions. White-headed Vultures were attracted to a lion kill but were kept at bay by the lionesses. They saw 12 species of antelope, of the 33 species resident in Southern Africa; Impala of course, Lechwe, Sitatunga and Tsessebe to name a few. Zebra never fail to delight. The species local to the delta is the Plains Zebra, which is the national animal of Botswana.

Feeding birds at a delta waterhole 1
Feeding birds at a Delta waterhole

Approximately 500 species of birds have been recorded in the delta region, and the Ramsays saw a healthy 105 species in four days. A Crested Barbet was right outside their tent. Cardinal Woodpecker, Blue Waxbill, Red-billed Firefinch and Swamp Boubou were all seen around the lodge. Guests were not allowed to wander off freely at any time, but they were free to birdwatch within the lodge boundary.

Lilac-breasted Roller, the National Bird of Botswana 1
Lilac-breasted Roller; the national bird of Botswana

Further afield was the national bird of Botswana, the impressive Lilac-breasted Roller. One mustn’t visit the Okavango Delta without being taken out in a mokoro, a native canoe, propelled by a skillful poler. Large areas of water are linked by a myriad of narrow reed-lined channels. African Jacana walked on lily pads, African Fish-eagles were common, and there were numerous species of herons and egrets. Two species of kingfisher showed their skills, the Pied and the Malachite Kingfishers.

Pied Kingfiher ready to dive 1
Pied Kingfisher ready to dive

At the end of an awesome day in Africa you just have to relax with a Sundowner!

Contributor: Daphne Hards; Photographer: Bill Ramsay

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