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A Report from

Botswana and Victoria Falls October 2002,

Tony Coatsworth

Safety - What to take - When to go - Health - Travel - Accommodation - Itinerary - Lists


The only real hazard in Botswana is the wild animals, remember to give them maximum respect and they always have right of way on the roads. The advice in the National Parks is never to leave your vehicle and anyway most animals are used to them so you can drive up real close. However as soon as they see a human shape they will run off, apart from Elephants, Lions and Hippos. More people are killed each year by Hippos than any other animal so always give them plenty of room. Elephants will flap their ears and stomp about and will let you know they are unhappy. They will rarely charge unless really provoked or feel their young are threatened. We didn't see a single snake in four weeks travelling.

Zimbabwe is a different proposition, especially with the current political climate. Victoria Falls was fairly safe but take care with money and valuables.

What to take

See my other 'what to take' advice pages, take as few clothes as possible. If you are flying into the Okavango Delta you are limited to 12kg of luggage as the flights are on tiny Cessana six-seaters. We left some bulky items at the Delta Air office in Maun for a few days.

We both have Opticron 10 x 42 binoculars - the 'High Resolution' and Sequoiah models. On this trip I also took my Opticron Piccolo Telescope with 30x WA eyepiece and a Cullmann Video tripod. In hindsight the tripod was unnecessary as I used a beanbag most of the time.

We used the second edition of SASOL birds of Southern Africa by Sinclair, Hockey and Tarboton. The Third edition has just been published which looks even better. Also a Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa by Chris and Tilde Stuart was handy. The Lonely Planet guide to Watching Wildlife in Southern Africa was useful for planning the trip, and the Shell Tourist Maps of Botswana, Moremi and Chobe National Parks are absolutely essential if you are driving yourself.

When and where to go

We decided to go in October which is the end of the dry season. The Game tends to congregate at the water holes and migrant birds are just arriving. Also the roads are passable, with soft sand in places. In November the rains start and the sand gets compacted but the soil gets sticky and marsh roads get flooded.

However at this time of year the water is very low in the rivers, so the Victoria Falls aren't as spectacular and we encountered difficulties at Oddballs Camp in getting a decent mokoro trip


Malaria tablets are required although we hardly got bitten at all


We flew Manchester - London - Johannesburg - Victoria Falls, British Airways all the way. At Victoria Falls we picked up a Land Rover TDI110 which had a tent on the roof and a fridge in the back. This was to be our home for two weeks and we were very lucky not to get lost or stuck in that time. We drove 1500km, mainly on sand tracks.

A big thank you to Meregan Turner at Migration Safaris for making all the arrangements and to Adam Slater at Dalestrax for a one-day off-road driving course which was essential.


We stayed at a wide range of accommodation varying in price and quality - the two not necessarily going together ! 

Victoria Falls - The Sprayview Hotel was cheap and cheerful but very average food. It did have a pool though and was about 20 minutes walk into town. Get a taxi to the Boma restaurant at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge for a fantastic meal with entertainment for about $15 US, or the Victoria Falls Hotel for High Tea - we couldn't afford to stay at those two though.

Kasane - The Chobe Safari Lodge was in a delightful setting by the river with nice rooms, buffet style meals and they could arrange Game Drives, Boat Trips etc.

Camping - We stayed at the following Public Camp Sites in the National Parks - advance booking is essential. Savuti was dry and dusty, North Gate was nice, Third Bridge had a terrible problem with Baboons which arrive at around 8:00am and wreck tents, steal food etc. South Gate was very nice in a shady wood but not much Game around, and Nxai Pan South was the nicest by far.

Xakanaxa Lodge - luxury tents , marvellous food and very welcoming. They also do Game Drives and boat trips. Set in the heart of the Delta and surrounded by wilderness and animals this is a fantastic place - at a price though.

Audi Camp - a few kilometres from Maun but comfortable tented accommodation , very good food and a pool - all for a reasonable rate.

Oddballs Camp - very pricey for poor service, tinned food and a rip-off mokoro/camping trip which only lasts one hour on the water then a lot of walking. Pity as the camp itself is in a lovely location but I'm afraid I wouldn't recommend it.

Itinerary: Victoria Falls - Botswana October 2002

This is a brief summary of our or page down to lists of Birds or Animals that we saw

Lists of species seen


The following list is what we saw, names based on the SASOL Field Guide, but there may be a few Sibley and Munroe names creeping in, due to my eccentric spreadsheet containing all the world's bird species.

1   Struthio camelus		Ostrich			   Maun-Nxai Pan Road
2   Francolinus sephaena	Crested Francolin	   Victoria Falls
3   Francolinus adspersus	Red-billed Francolin	   Common especially at the campsites
4   Francolinus swainsonii	Swainson's Spurfowl	   Fairly common
5   Numida meleagris		Helmeted Guineafowl	   Victoria Falls
6   Dendrocygna viduata		White-faced Whistling-Duck Chobe river (boat)
7   Alopochen aegyptiacus	Egyptian Goose		   Very common
8   Plectropterus gambensis	Spur-winged Goose	   Chobe and Kwai rivers
9   Nettapus auritus		African Pygmy-goose	   Small numbers where there are water Lillies
10  Anas undulata		Yellow-billed Duck	   Gau Pan, Xakanaxa
11  Anas erythrorhyncha		Red-billed Duck		   Chobe river (boat)
12  Anas hottentota		Hottentot Teal		   Gau Pan, Xakanaxa
13  Dendropicos namaquus	Bearded Woodpecker	   North Gate campsite
14  Lybius torquatus		Black-collared Barbet	   Xakanaxa woodland
15  Trachyphonus vaillantii	Crested Barbet		   Xakanaxa - very tame at the camp
16  Tockus erythrorhynchus	Red-billed Hornbill	   Very common
17  Tockus leucomelas		Yellow-billed Hornbill	   Few in woodland areas
18  Tockus nasutus		African Grey Hornbill	   Small numbers
19  Ceratogymna bucinator	Trumpeter Hornbill	   Victoria Falls Hotel and Chobe Safari Lodge
20  Bucorvus leadbeateri	Southern Ground-Hornbill   Small numbers
21  Upupa africana		African Hoopoe		   Small numbers in woodland areas
22  Phoeniculus purpureus	Green Woodhoopoe	   North Gate, Chobe
23  Rhinopomastus cyanomelas 	Common Scimitar-bill	   Nxai Pan
24  Coracias caudata		Lilac-breasted Roller	   Very common
25  Coracias naevia		Rufous-crowned Roller	   Savuti
26  Eurystomus glaucurus	Broad-billed Roller	   North Gate and Mboma Island
27  Megaceryle maxima		Giant Kingfisher	   Victoria Falls and Chobe river
28  Ceryle rudis		Pied Kingfisher		   Very common
29  Merops bullockoides		White-fronted Bee-eater	   Small numbers along the rivers
30  Merops pusillus		Little Bee-eater	   Fairly common
31  Merops hirundineus		Swallow-tailed Bee-eater   Chobe (game drive)
32  Merops apiaster		European Bee-eater	   Victoria Falls 6 flew over the town
33  Merops nubicoides		Southern Carmine Bee-eater Fairly common on Chobe river
34  Urocolius indicus		Red-faced Mousebird	   Chobe safari Lodge carpark
35  Centropus cupreicaudus	Coppery-tailed Coucal	   Chobe river (boat)
36  Centropus senegalensis	Senegal Coucal		   Chobe river (boat)
37  Poicephalus meyeri		Meyer's Parrot		   South Gate campsite and Oddballs
38  Glaucidium perlatum		Pearl-spotted Owlet	   Only heard at South Gate
39  Otus senegalensis		African Scops Owl	   Only heard at South Gate
40  Cypsiurus parvus		African Palm-Swift	   Fairly common
41  Apus barbatus		African Swift	           Victoria Falls - a few, late afternoons
42  Apus affinis		Little Swift		   Victoria Falls - one or two daily
43  Corythaixoides concolor	Grey Go-away-bird	   Fairly common, very tame at Xakanaxa Camp
44  Streptopelia senegalensis 	Laughing Dove		   Most areas
45  Streptopelia decipiens	Mourning Collared-Dove	   Small numbers
46  Streptopelia capicola	Ring-necked Dove	   Small numbers
47  Streptopelia semitorquata 	Red-eyed Dove		   Fairly common, call at sunrise and sunset
48  Turtur chalcospilos		Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove  North Gate, Chobe
49  Oena capensis		Namaqua Dove		   North Gate, Chobe
50  Treron calva		African Green-Pigeon	   North Gate, Chobe
51  Ardeotis kori		Kori Bustard		   Chobe (game drive) and Nxai Pan
52  Eupodotis ruficrista	Red-crested Bustard	   Nxai Pan
53  Eupodotis afraoides		White-quilled Bustard	   Nxai Pan
54  Eupodotis melanogaster	Black-bellied Bustard	   Savuti and Nxai Pan
55  Grus carunculatus		Wattled Crane		   3 at Xakanaxa
56  Amaurornis flavirostra	Black Crake		   Victoria Falls, Chobe and very tame at Xakanaxa Camp
57  Tringa stagnatilis		Marsh Sandpiper		   Small numbers most areas
58  Tringa nebularia		Common Greenshank	   Small numbers most areas
59  Tringa glareola		Wood Sandpiper		   Small numbers most areas
60  Tringa hypoleucos		Common Sandpiper	   Small numbers most areas
61  Calidris minuta		Little Stint		   Small numbers most areas
62  Calidris ferruginea		Curlew Sandpiper	   Small numbers most areas
63  Philomachus pugnax		Ruff			   Gau Pan, Xakanaxa
64  Actophilornis africanus	African Jacana		   Fairly common
65  Burhinus capensis		Spotted Dikkop		   Heard only at night at Nxai Pan
66  Burhinus vermiculatus	Water Dikkop		   Victoria Falls and Chobe river
67  Himantopus himantopus	Black-winged Stilt	   Kwai River and Chobe
68  Charadrius pecuarius	Kittlitz's Plover	   Third Bridge
69  Charadrius tricollaris	Three-banded Plover	   Chobe (game drive)
70  Vanellus crassirostris	Long-toed Lapwing	   Chobe river (boat)
71  Vanellus armatus		Blacksmith Lapwing	   Fairly common
72  Vanellus albiceps		White-headed Lapwing	   Victoria Falls
73  Vanellus senegallus		Wattled Lapwing		   Chobe (game drive) associates with Buffalo
74  Vanellus coronatus		Crowned Lapwing		   Third Bridge and drier areas
75  Glareola pratincola		Collared Pratincole	   Chobe river (boat)
76  Glareola nuchalis		Rock Pratincole		   Victoria Falls and rapids on Chobe river
77  Rynchops flavirostris	African Skimmer		   Victoria Falls and Chobe river
78  Chlidonias hybridus		Whiskered Tern		   Chobe river (boat)
79  Pandion haliaetus		Osprey			   One at Gau Pan, Xakanaxa
80  Elanus caeruleus		Black-winged Kite	   Vic Falls - Kasane Road
81  Milvus parasiticus		Yellow-billed Kite	   Very common 
82  Haliaeetus vocifer		African Fish-Eagle	   Very common, especially Chobe river
83  Necrosyrtes monachus	Hooded Vulture		   Small numbers at kills
84  Gyps africanus		White-backed Vulture	   The commonest Vulture
85  Torgos tracheliotus		Lappet-faced Vulture	   3 at Nxai Pan
86  Circaetus pectoralis	Black-chested Snake-Eagle  1 over Xakanaxa
87  Circaetus cinereus		Brown Snake-Eagle	   1 or 2, Xakanaxa
88  Circaetus cinerascens	Banded Snake-Eagle	   1 in the reeds, Chobe river (boat)
89  Terathopius ecaudatus	Bateleur		   Small numbers Kwai river and Xakanaxa
90  Circus ranivorus		African Marsh-Harrier	   Xakanaxa and Oddballs
91  Melierax canorus		Pale Chanting-Goshawk	   Common at Nxai Pan
92  Micronisus gabar		Gabar Goshawk		   Xakanaxa
93  Buteo buteo vulpinus	Common 'Steppe' Buzzard	   South Gate - Maun Rd
94  Aquila rapax		Tawny Eagle		   Vic Falls - Kasane Road
95  Aquila nipalensis		Steppe Eagle		   Chobe (game drive)
96  Aquila wahlbergi		Wahlberg's Eagle	   Xakanaxa
97  Hieraaetus spilogaster	African Hawk-Eagle	   Daily on Chobe river (boat)
98  Polemaetus bellicosus	Martial Eagle		   Chobe (game drive)
99  Sagittarius serpentarius 	Secretarybird		   2 at Nxai Pan
100 Falco dickinsoni		Dickinson's Kestrel	   Oddballs Camp
101 Tachybaptus ruficollis	Little Grebe		   Surprisingly rare, only seen at Oddballs Camp
102 Anhinga rufa		African Darter		   Very common
103 Phalacrocorax africanus	Long-tailed Cormorant	   Very common
104 Phalacrocorax carbo		Great Cormorant		   1 or two at Victoria Falls
105 Egretta vinaceigula		Slaty Egret		   Kwai river
106 Egretta ardesiaca		Black Heron		   A few on the Chobe river (boat)
107 Egretta garzetta		Little Egret		   1 or two daily Chobe river (boat)
108 Ardea cinerea		Grey Heron		   Fairly common
109 Ardea goliath		Goliath Heron		   Victoria Falls and Chobe river
110 Ardea purpurea		Purple Heron		   Chobe (game drive)
111 Aredea alba 		Great Egret		   Small numbers
112 Mesophoyx intermedia	Intermediate Egret	   1 or two Xakanaxa
113 Bubulcus ibis		Cattle Egret		   Fairly common
114 Ardeola ralloides		Squacco Heron		   Fairly common
115 Ardeola rufiventris		Rufous-bellied Heron	   Kwai river and Xakanaxa
116 Butorides striatus		Striated Heron		   Small numbers on the rivers
117 Nycticorax nycticorax	Black-crowned Night-Heron  1 near Mboma Island (boat)
118 Scopus umbretta		Hammerkop		   Victoria Falls and Chobe river
119 Plegadis falcinellus	Glossy Ibis		   Xakanaxa - roosting on lagoon
120 Threskiornis aethiopicus 	Sacred Ibis		   Small numbers
121 Platalea alba		African Spoonbill	   Chobe river (boat)
122 Pelecanus onocrotalus	Great White Pelican	   1 at Xakanaxa and 1 in a thermal Third Bridge
123 Mycteria ibis		Yellow-billed Stork	   Small numbers
124 Anastomus lamelligerus	African Openbill	   Small numbers
125 Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis Saddle-billed Stork  Kwai river
126 Leptoptilos crumeniferus 	Marabou Stork		   Small numbers, nesting at Xakanaxa
127 Corvinella melanoleuca	Magpie Shrike		   Most areas
128 Eurocephalus anguitimens 	White-crowned Shrike	   Third Bridge and South Gate
129 Corvus capensis		Cape Crow		   Maun - Nxai Pan Rd
130 Corvus albus		Pied Crow		   Common in urban areas
131 Dicrurus adsimilis		Fork-tailed Drongo	   Common
132 Terpsiphone viridis		African Paradise-Flycatcher Odd numbers in woodland
133 Dryoscopus cubla		Black-backed Puffback	   Small numbers
134 Laniarius bicolor		Gabon Boubou		   Chobe river
135 Laniarius atrococcineus	Crimson-breasted Gonolek   North Gate, Chobe
136 Prionops plumatus		White Helmetshrike	   Chobe safari Lodge
137 Batis molitor		Chinspot Batis		   Chobe safari Lodge, more often heard
138 Turdus libonyanus		Kurrichane Thrush	   Xakanaxa
139 Bradornis mariquensis	Mariqua Flycatcher	   Nxai Pan
140 Cossypha heuglini		White-browed Robin-Chat	   Very tame at Chobe Safari Lodge
141 Cercotrichas leucophrys	Red-backed Scrub-Robin	   Chobe (game drive)
142 Saxicola torquata		African Stonechat	   Xakanaxa
143 Oenanthe pileata		Capped Wheatear		   Nxai Pan
144 Lamprotornis nitens		Red-shouldered Glossy-Starling	North Gate, Chobe
145 Lamprotornis chalybaeus	Greater Blue-eared Glossy-Starling Chobe (game drive)
146 Lamprotornis australis	Burchell's Glossy-Starling	North Gate, Chobe
147 Lamprotornis mevesii	Meves's Glossy-Starling	   Chobe (game drive)
148 Creatophora cinerea		Wattled Starling	   Chobe river - associates with Buffalo
149 Acridotheres tristis	Common Myna		   Joburg airport
150 Buphagus africanus		Yellow-billed Oxpecker	   Small numbers Xakanaxa
151 Buphagus erythrorhynchus 	Red-billed Oxpecker	   Most areas
152 Parus niger			Black Tit		   Mboma - dead tree island
153 Riparia paludicola		Plain Martin		   Chobe (Boat trip)
154 Riparia cincta		Banded Martin		   Xakanaxa
155 Hirundo fuligula		Rock Martin		   Joburg airport
156 Hirundo rustica 		Eurasian Swallow	   Xakanaxa and Chobe river late October
157 Hirundo smithii		Wire-tailed Swallow	   Common on Chobe river
158 Hirundo semirufa		Rufous-chested Swallow	   Joburg airport
159 Pycnonotus barbatus		Garden Bulbul		   Very common
160 Pycnonotus nigricans	Black-fronted Bulbul	   Nxai Pan
161 Chlorocichla flaviventris 	Yellow-bellied Greenbul  Very tame at Chobe Safari Lodge
162 Phyllastrephus terrestris 	Terrestrial Brownbul	   Victoria Falls
163 Prinia subflava		Tawny-flanked Prinia	   Victoria Falls
164 Prinia flavicans		Black-chested Prinia	   Nxai Pan
165 Camaroptera brachyura	Grey-backed Camaroptera	   Chobe safari Lodge
166 Bradypterus baboecala	African Bush-Warbler	   Oddballs Camp
167 Turdoides hartlaubii	Angola (Hartlaubs) Babbler Tame at Xakanaxa
168 Turdoides jardineii		Arrow-marked Babbler	   Most campsites
169 Sylvia subcaeruleum		Rufous-vented Warbler	   Chobe safari Lodge
170 Calandrella cinerea		Red-capped Lark		   Third Bridge
171 Nectarinia senegalensis	Scarlet-chested Sunbird	   Victoria Falls
172 Nectarinia talatala		White-breasted Sunbird	   Audi Camp, Maun
173 Nectarinia mariquensis	Mariqua Sunbird		   Third Bridge
174 Passer motitensis		Southern Rufous-Sparrow	   Nxai Pan - south campsite
175 Passer diffusus		Cape Sparrow		   North Gate, Chobe
176 Motacilla aguimp		African Pied Wagtail	   Victoria Falls
177 Motacilla capensis		Cape Wagtail		   Kwai river
178 Macronyx ameliae		Rosy-throated Longclaw	   Chobe (Boat trip)
179 Anthus cinnamomeus		African Pipit		   Chobe (game drive)
180 Anthus vaalensis		Buffy Pipit		   Xakanaxa
181 Bubalornis niger		Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver  South Gate campsite
182 Sporopipes squamifrons	Scaly Weaver		   South Gate and dry areas
183 Plocepasser mahali		White-browed Sparrow-Weaver Small numbers
184 Ploceus intermedius		Lesser Masked Weaver	   Chobe safari Lodge
185 Ploceus ocularis		Spectacled Weaver	   Chobe safari Lodge
186 Ploceus xanthops		Holub's Golden-Weaver	   Xakanaxa
187 Ploceus velatus		Southern Masked-Weaver	   Victoria Falls
188 Ploceus cucullatus		Village Weaver		   South Gate
189 Anaplectes rubriceps	Red-headed Weaver	   Xakanaxa camp
190 Euplectes axillaris		Fan-tailed Widowbird	   Chobe (Boat trip to Namibian side)
191 Mandingoa nitidula		Brown Firefinch		   Mboma Island, Third Bridge
192 Lagonosticta senegala	Red-billed Firefinch	   Chobe safari Lodge
193 Uraeginthus angolensis	Blue-breasted Cordonbleu   Small numbers
194 Estrilda erythronotos	Black-cheeked Waxbill	   Third Bridge campsite
195 Vidua regia			Queen Whydah		   Chobe (game drive) by entrance
196 Alcedo cristata		Malachite Kingfisher	   Xakanaxa


1  Vervet Monkey 	Most areas
2  Chacma Baboon 	Most areas - real menance at Third Bridge campsite
3  Elephant		Most areas, very common at Chobe
4  Hippo		Most areas with a reasonable stretch of water
5  Warthog		Most areas - very tame at Chobe Safari Lodge
6  Cape Buffalo		Chobe and small numbers in Mosi-oa-Tunya NP
7  Bushbuck		Vic Falls, and darker race on river bank by Chobe Game Lodge
8  Nile Crocodile	Most areas with a reasonable stretch of water
9  Lechwe		Common at Chobe
10 Tree Squirrel	Very common in woodland
11 Monitor Lizard	Chobe river
12 Giraffe		Most areas, very pale individuals at Mosi-oa-Tunya NP
13 Impala		Common at Chobe and Moremi, small numbers at Nxai Pan
14 Sable Antelope	Small herd at Chobe
15 Slender Mongoose 	Odd ones crossing the road
16 Kudu			Most areas, common at Chobe
17 Puku			Small numbers at Chobe
18 Waterbuck		Most areas with open water
19 Roan Antelope	Small herd at Chobe
20 Lion			Most areas, hard to spot though
21 Zebra		Fairly common
22 Spotted Hyena	Only seen after dark at North Gate and Third Bridge campsites
23 Gnu			Small numbers near South Gate
24 Banded Mongoose	Xakanaxa and Chobe Safari Lodge
25 Wild Dog		3 on Dead Tree Island, Xakanaxa
26 Steenbok		Odd individuals seen alongside the road in Moremi and Nxai Pan
27 Tsessebe		2 en route to South Gate
28 Dwarf Mongoose	South Gate campsite
29 Springbok		Common at Nxai Pan
30 Black-backed Jackal 	Small numbers at Nxai Pan
31 Gemsbok		1 by track to Nxai Pan

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