At first glance, Namibia’s position as a desert country means it does not spring to mind as a birding destination. However, dig a little deeper and you will find a huge variety of avian life across the country, with over 600 species found here, with 29 near-endemics and 1 true endemic – the Dune Lark. Naturally, areas with more water, so those close to the coast as well as the Etosha National Park and the Caprivi Strip are the preferred areas for birders, with a few specific locations that are truly outstanding for birding.
1. Etosha National Park
The vast salt pan of the Etosha National Park is renowned for its excellent game viewing and is the top Namibia safari destination, usually drawing visitors there in the dry months between April and November.
When the rains come between December and March the pans fill with water, the vegetation turns lush and green, with Etosha becoming a true birders’ paradise. Some 350 birds can be seen in the park, with permanent and migratory species found across its vast expanse. Of particular interest to visitors are the 35 raptor species that can be seen here, including bateleur and tawny eagles, goshawks and the striking martial eagle. Bustards and larks can be spotted throughout the year, along with the rare Monteiro’s hornbill, easily recognised for their drooping red bills.
2. Walvis Bay
The old whaling station town of Walvis Bay is still a busy working port and, as such, is often bypassed to stay in more upmarket Swakopmund, an hour up the coast. However, those who do choose to stay in Walvis, or even simply visit for a birding trip are rewarded with seeing one of the most diverse and important marine birdlife environments in Southern Africa.
With over 150 species recorded in the area and over 150,000 migratory birds it’s difficult to pull yourself away from your binoculars and bird book. A number of intra-African migratory species such as lesser and greater flamingo, cape teals, black-necked grebes, chestnut-banded plovers and pied avocets are commonly seen.
From October to April many species from Europe and northern Siberia such as grey plovers, sanderlings, black terns and Arctic terns head to the southern hemisphere for favourable conditions. As the dunes rise slightly inland you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the endemic Dune Lark.
3. Caprivi Strip
The unique geography of the Caprivi Strip makes it one of the best spots in all of Namibia for keen birders. Wedged between Angola to the north and Botswana to the south it is lush and green all year round thanks to the presence of the Okavango and Chobe rivers that flow through it. The result is this wetland area being home to some 500 resident and migratory species which are also often found in the heart of the Okavango Delta.
A few days in this area on your way to or from the Chobe and Victoria Falls area will not disappoint. Notable species include the African skimmer, coppery-tailed coucal, large numbers of egrets and herons as well as the impressive carmine bee-eaters which nest in large colonies along the riverbanks between August and November.
Found in the plains of southern Damaraland, rising some 700 metres from the desert plains, the granite mountain of Spitzkoppe is an unlikely, but hugely significant birding destination in Namibia. Despite the arid terrain, a number of interesting species can be seen with ease, including Rueppell’s bustard, Stark’s lark, Layard’s warbler and Rufous-vented warbler. The near-endemic Herero chat is arguably the most sought-after bird in the area, but is found in more remote and difficult to access areas.
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