Botswana’s top 12 birding sites

Photo by Gary Ashworth

Botswana is renowned for having some of the best wildlife areas in the world, but it is also a bird paradise with over 500 species recorded. Birdwatching in Botswana is indeed a rewarding experience and the best part is that it is a year-round activity. Bird lovers are spoilt for choice while exploring wild and wonderful Botswana.

Botswana has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Africa. With the great diversity of plant species found here, large numbers of birds are attracted to this region. There can be no better way to experience this birding wonderland than with a knowledgable and passionate guide accompanying you. Botswana’s birding safari is the ideal tour to experience the best of African birding.

You cannot safari in Botswana without noticing how brilliant the birdlife is. The Northern parts of the country, especially along the Chobe River, are recognised as especially rich in birdlife – both for species diversity and sheer numbers. About 450 species have been recorded in the Chobe and Okavango regions, with a total count of 580 for the whole of Botswana.

Let it be said, there is no “bad” time of year to bird in Botswana, but there certainly is a “best” time. November through to March (summer months), when summer migratory birds visit Botswana – some even to breed. Specialist birders should plan to visit during this time. 

For visitors who are not familiar with the country, a few sites, which provide a representative selection of birds species found in the country, are recommended here.

1. Kgoro Pan is in the southeast of the country near the village of Goodhope. It is a good place to see Short-clawed Lark; several pairs are resident on the open sloping sides of the large pan. A good variety of other birds are present in the area, including notably Sociable Weaver and Pink-billed Lark.

2. Bokaa Damto the north of Gaborone is the best site, in terms of numbers of birds and variety of species, to see waterbirds in the south of Botswana. When water levels are dropping it is very good for waders, including, notably, Black-winged Pratincoles. A permit, obtainable for a small fee from the Water Utilities headquarters in central Gaborone, is necessary to visit this site.

3. Moremi Gorge in the Tswapong Hills to the east of Palapye, is a deep gorge through which a stream flows, with a breeding colony of Cape Vultures. Both African Black Swift and Alpine Swift should be looked for here in summer and Boulder Chats are present on the steep sides of the gorge. A good variety of other species are found in the area.

4. The Limpopo Riverin the east of Botswana has a distinctive avifauna. Birding in the riverine woodland along the river is very good. There are several camps or lodges along the river which provide access to the river and excellent bird-watching, including Stevensford, near Martin’s Drift, Limpopo River Lodge, near Platjan, and Tuli Lodge, near Pont Drift.

5. Khutse Game Reserve,200 km northwest of Gaborone is an excellent area to see a great variety of raptors, bustards and other bird species typical of the Kalahari.

6. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Parkin the southwest of the country, though far from the main population centres, is well worth a visit. The Mabuasehube section of the park is well known for its raptors. The Nossob Valley has an avifauna, including species like Sociable Weaver, Pygmy Falcon, Dusky Sunbird and Ludwig’s Bustard, which is quite different to the rest of the country.

7. Nata is one of the best localities in the whole country to look at birds. Within the Nata Sanctuary, saline lagoons, the Nata River delta, the open waters of Sua Pan and dry grassland all provide different habitats to look for a great variety of birds. Both species of flamingo are found at Nata Sanctuary in large numbers when water levels in Sua Pan are favourable. The vicinity of Nata Lodge is also a good locality to look for birds.

8. Rysana Pan, to the west of Orapa, though somewhat difficult of access, has large numbers of waterbirds when it is inundated with water. The grass and dry bush surrounding the pan are also very good for birds, particularly species like Pink-billed Lark and Rufous-eared Warbler.

9. Lake Ngami is an outstanding site for birds. Access, however, can be difficult especially when water levels are high, when access is probably best by boat. Huge numbers of birds, especially waterbirds, and a great variety of species can be found here. Some 30 km west of Lake Ngami, along the road to Kareng, the dry grasslands of the Dautsa Flats also provide good birding, with a quite different range of species to that found at Lake Ngami.

10. Shakaweon the Okavango River is an excellent locality to look for birds. The Okavango River, the extensive reedbeds along the river and the well-developed riverine woodland all provide different habitats to look for birds. Species such as Pel’s Fishing Owl and White-backed Night-Heron are easily located here. Most birders stay at the camps along the river to the south of Shakawe.

11. Savuti Marsh, between Maun and Kasane, has, with the exception of a few years in the early years of the 21st century, has generally been dry. Nevertheless, it is an outstanding locality to look for raptors, notably Bateleurs and vultures, and also other species such as bustards and pratincoles.

12. The Kasane area probably provides the best birding, in terms of species variety, in the whole of the country. The Chobe floodplains west of Kasane, the Chobe River between Kasane and Kazungula and the teak woodlands to the south of Kasane all provide different habitats to look for a great variety of bird species.    


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