Encompassing two environmental extremes, with the arid Kalahari desert on one side to the awe-inspiring verdant waterways of the Okavango delta on the other and the northern woodlands of Chobe, you will find out why you tick off birds in Botswana faster than any other African destination.
If you are traveling as a family, birding in Botswana can be an ultimate bonding experience.
When to Go?
Though there is a great seasonal variation for birding in Africa, the best time to plan Botswana family safari holidays is during the summer months, between May to October, heralded by the overbearing call of the Woodland Kingfisher, and a sudden influx of many other migratory species.
For the avid avian enthusiast, not only this offers a unique opportunity to experience the country’s legendary wildlife, but nonetheless provide an excellent chance for interpretive sightings of some of the prized bird species as well.
So keep your cameras charged, eyes peeled and binoculars on the ready to begin your epic birding trip to some of the best spots in Botswana for birders.
1. Okavango Delta
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Okavango Delta has since long been the biggest stronghold of a rich variety of birds who have found a peaceful abode in its winding waterways. After all, where else can you skim through the channels in a mokoro boat to get up close to some fascinating bird and animal species.
The green fingers of Okavango form one of the largest inland deltas in the world and hold the largest concentration of the rare Wattled Cranes. Other dazzling bird species that are seen easily in this breathtaking park are Slaty Egret, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Lesser Jacana.
Some good birds in the Okavango Panhandle include White-Backed Heron, Brown Firefinch, Western-Banded Snake Eagle, Black Faced Babbler and Greater Swamp Warbler. A sight which never fails to impress here is seeing a colony of Carmine Bee-eaters in full flight.
2. Linyanti Wildlife Reserve
There are a member of private game reserves within the Okavango Delta region and Linyanti occupies the southern Bank of the river of the same name. The landscape here changes quickly from marshland to clear grassland and dense forest. The Linyanti River, which forms a natural boundary between Botswana and Namibia, has formed a swamp similar to the Okavango Delta and as a result, birdlife here is abundant.
During the green season, in particular, one can be woken up at dawn by a vocal but magnificent dawn chorus of several different varieties of birds who choose to migrate here at this time of the year. While large colonies of Carmine Bee-eaters nest on the bank walls of the Linyanti River, the night sounds include a cacophony of grunting hippos, trumpeting elephants and growling lions. Linyanti is an excellent add-on to an Okavango Delta safari.
Some of the good bird species found in Linyanti are the Red-Billed Hornbill, Wattled Crane, African Fish Skimmer, Long-Toed Lapwing and the Red-Billed Oxpecker. The Linyanti region is shared by a small number of owners who ensure that guests are able to relax and view animal and bird life exclusively.
3. Chobe National Park
This region of northern Botswana, apart from having the highest concentration of African Elephants, holds an astonishing 450 different bird species as well. Chobe is a diverse mix of woodlands, floodplains and rivers, the reason the bird life here is so staggering that 300 species have been ticked off in a single day.
Some of the special bird species of Chobe National Park are the African Pygmy Geese, Western Banded Snake-Eagle and Racket-Tailed Roller among many others. A cruise in a small, and seemingly unsafe boat can provide stunning views of Giant Kingfisher and Water Dikkop.
The Chobe National Park and the gateway town of Kasane provides some of the most diverse birding opportunities and there are places along the Chobe River, where if one is patient, is almost guaranteed to come across the African Finfoot, the only spot in Botswana where it can be found.
4. Moremi Game Reserve
The outstanding birding hotspot of Moremi is accessed along the banks of the Manuchira and Khwai Rivers, past vast woodland of leadwood and mopane. While the route is excellent for mammal sightings, there are possibilities of spotting Little Sparowhawk, Scarlet Chested Sunbird and a dazzling varieties of bee-eaters.
In the wetlands of the Khwai Concession, you can see Striped Crake, Rosy Throated Long-Claw and the exquisite Black Coucal. The bush here is home to the Common Ostrich, Southern Ground Hornbill as well as the Luapula. The Moremi Game Reserve is one of the best places in southern Africa to find the Rufous-Bellied Heron.
A distinct advantage of staying in a concession is that you can opt for a night drive, which is not permitted in the National Parks. A number of Botswana’s star bird species are strictly nocturnal. Once darkness sets in, there is every chance of spotting Fiery-Necked and Pennant-Winged Nightjars and the Verreaux’s Eagle Owl.
5. Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
The 6,000 square miles of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is an area of vast landscapes dotted with large salt pans, some of those can be seen from outer space. These pans, which are the remnants of once the largest lake in Africa, now act as a magnet for the largest wildebeest and zebra migration in southern Africa, rivaled only by East Africa’s great migration.
While big game is plentiful in Makgadikgadi, what brings birders here are the high number of desert species like parks and sandgrouse, not to forget the Secretary Bird and the rare White-Quilled Korhaan.
For those who are new to Botswana, there are a few sites which provide a representative selection of birds like:
- Kgoro Pan: Located near the village of Good Hope, Kgoro Pan lies in south Botswana and is the best place to spot Short-Winged Lark, Sociable Weaver and Pink-Billed Lark.
- Bokaa Dam: This is the best site to the north of Gaborone to see waterbirds. Once the water level has receded, you can spot notably Black-Winged Pratincoles.
- Kgalagadi Transformation Park: Southwest Botswana is a bit off the beaten path, but a trip here will throw up a number of rarities. In the Mabuasehube part of the park, species like Sociable Weaver, Dusky Sunbird, Ludwig’s Bustard can be found, which are different from other parts of the country.
- Risana Pan: Located west of Opra, this is another area difficult to access. When the grass is dry, areas surrounding the pan uncover birds like Pink-Billed Lark and the Rufous-Eared Warbler are easily seen.