8 Mar 2008

A Holiday in Namibia with my wife and as much Birding as I thought I could get away with!!!!

92.Grey Wagtail
93. Sparrowhawk
94. Woodcock

Peregrine's Bird Photographer Recommendations

As I have just come back from 11 days in Namibia I am going to recommend Chris van Rooyen a South African Bird and Wildlife Photographer. His website can be found HERE

I am going to post my trip report as a day by day blog. This holiday is the first Penny and I have been on in 19 years of marriage without the children. Over the eleven days I identified 140 different species of birds and photographed a few of them. I also drove about 3500 kilometres and probably came quite close to the divorce courts. So here is the first days diary.

We set of from Belfast Airport at lunchtime to fly to Gatwick just outside London where we were flying the 5000 miles to Windhoek in Namibia. As we were going down the runway in Belfast I noticed a Snipe flying alongside the aircraft as we were about to take off. I took this as a good omen!!

The flight to Windhoek takes about nine and a half hours and is quite a pleasant way to fly as you get on the plane in the evening and with the time difference of +2 hours you arrive at around 9.30am hopefully having had some sleep.

The plane landed at Hosea Kutako International Airport about 25 kilometres from Windhoek. It was a nice 70 degrees Fahrenheit and there were swifts and swallows flying round the airport. African Palm Swift, Rock Martin, Greater Striped Swallow and Common Swift.

We were then taken into Windhoek to pick up our hire car. On the way I was seeing all sorts of birds but had no idea of what they were which is where my bible for the next eleven days came in handy.

Ian Sinclair incidentally was born and educated in Northern Ireland

We also saw a group of Baboons on the side of the road which really made us feel as though we were in Africa.

We picked up our Dodge Nitro and the hire company gave me a short walk around a shed full of cars that had been rolled or totalled due to excessive speed on the gravel roads. It was definately a successful scare tactic as he said two people died in this one, three children died in this one etc etc. The hire companies lose 7% of their cars a year. A pretty high statistic. Our car in fact was a bit of a sore thumb and was looked at where ever we went.

We then made our way to our first stop which was Amani Lodge about thirty Kilometres from Windhoek.On the way we saw a European Bee Eater on the side of the road.

The lodge was four miles off the main road up a very rough track where four wheel drive was a necessity.

Amani Lodge is known as the highest Lodge in Namibia at 2,150 metres above sea level. It is run by Alain and Olivier Houlet, who are originally from France. Unknown to us its major attraction lies in its big cats. Orphaned Cheetahs

that have been given to them by the Africat Foundation to bring up and then release into the wild. A pair of lions
which had been appaulingly treated in captivity and were now in a 40 hectare paddock and an ill Leopard which they are rehabilitating.

For those of you in the UK who watched Simon Reeve's programme about the "Tropic of Capricorn" which started in Namibia will have seen the dishy (according to my wife) Frenchman feeding the Cheetahs. So it was very bizarre to have watched this programme and a week later be at the same place.

We walked into the reception and were met and brought a glass of ice cold freshly Squeezed Orange Juice which was a nice touch before being shown the bungalow that we were staying in. It was pretty comfortable with a deck looking out over the Bush. We were pretty exhausted and both had a kip for a few hours. After a shower I went onto the deck and saw my first Red Eyed Bulbul of which we were to realise are one of the most populous birds in the region.

We then decided to take one of the lodge trails through the bush while I birded my wife followed. I heard a Willow Warbler and then saw it an earlier tick than last year! Then I saw a Red Backed Shrike and a Pririt Batis. We were walking along this track when my wife bent down and nearly touched this object that looked dead.Until it hissed!!! It was a very deadly Puff Adder. So I nearly lost her before the holiday had really started.

Well I was told later that we would have had an hour or two to get to the hospital. Anyway it was a sober reminder that we were in an environment which isn't as safe as the UK. Needless to say from then on I looked at where I was putting my feet all the time.

We then went back to the Lodge and had a Windhoek lager which was very refreshing and just outside the seating area there was a Mountain Chat and a Scarlet Chested Sunbird singing.

We had to remain inside as a storm arrived with lightening and heavy rain. Not that different from Ireland then !!! A nice dinner followed. The most amazing thing to me was the night sky the stars were so bright and I saw the Milky Way like I have never seen it before. I never realised how much light pollution there was in the UK.


Anna Simpson said...

Some great pictures on your blog. Your very lucky to go to Namibia, I've wanted to go there for years, and haven't yet managed it. I may be going to Gambia though at the end of the year though.
Did you manage to get to Etosha National Park? In northern Namibia.

Anonymous said...

The snake is in fact a Horned adder (Bitis caudalis), not a Puff adder. So while you would most certainly not have lost your wife she would've been in serious discomfort had she been bitten.
Lovely photographs.