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This area from Ngoma to Kazungula, incorporating northern Chobe National Park and Kasane, must rank as one of the top birding spots in southern Africa. The total bird list now exceeds some 450 species, which is Botswana's longest area list. A minimum of three days, ideally encompassing sorties by vehicle and by boat, would be required to do the birding justice in this area. In such a period keen birders can expect to see over 100 species in winter and over 200 in summer.

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Specials

Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Racket-tailed Roller, Collared Palm-Thrush, Swamp Boubou, Copper Sunbird, Brown Firefinch, Broad-tailed Paradise-Whydah, Orange-winged Pytilia, Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Chirping Cisticola, Luapula Cisticola, Greater Swamp-Warbler, White-crowned Lapwing, African Skimmer, African Pygmy-Goose, Rock Pratincole, African Finfoot, Half-collared Kingfisher, White-backed Night-Heron.

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Habitats

Mixed broad-leafed woodland, riverine woodland, floodplains, the Chobe River, seasonal pans.

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Birding

One may not leave one's vehicle in C.N.P. (other than at camp sites), nor may one drive off the road, but satisfactory birding can be done from a vehicle. There are also many firebreaks (accessible by 4x4) in the forest reserve bordering Kasane and Kazungula and, whilst being attentive to the presence of elephants and buffaloes, birders may walk freely in this reserve. Four principal birding habitats are found between Ngoma and Kazungula:

1. Mixed Broad-leafed woodland (Baikiaea plurijuga often dominant) a few hundred metres from the river and extending far south into the C.N.P. and adjoining forest reserves. Within these woodlands are patches of acacia woodlandMarico Flycatcher, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Violet-eared Waxbill. The 10km. track in a shallow valley from the Kazungula border post to Lesoma Village, following the Zimbabwe border, traverses very impressive acacia woodland. Threebanded Courser are sometimes found on this track, especially at night. Specials include Pennant-winged Nightjar (Oct. - Dec., especially on the roads around the Kasane sewage works) Racket-tailed Roller, Broad-tailed Paradise-Whydah (annual summer influx from the north, and only easily recognisable Feb., Mar., Apr.), Orange-winged Pytilia.

2. Riverine woodland, with various species including Diospyros mespiliformis, various acacia spp., Berchemia discolor, Crotonacaciaobotrys, Gardenia volkensii and Trichelia emtica. One can drive next to the river from Ngoma to Kasane. Specials include Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Trumpeter Hornbill, Narina Trogon (rare in summer), Pel's Fishing-Owl (rare), Bearded Scrub-Robin, Red-faced Cisticola (common from Kasane to Kazungula), Collared Palm-Thrush (resident at Mowana Safari Lodge), Swamp Boubou, Copper Sunbird, Purple-banded Sunbird, Brown Firefinch. Madagascar Bee-eater have occasionally been reported from Nov. to March.

3. Floodplains, largely relict on the south (Botswana) side and seasonally inundated and extensively covered with phragmites reeds and papyrus on the north (Namibian) side of the Chobe River. Specials include Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, Rosy-throated Longclaw; Allen's Gallinule; Lesser Moorhen; Red-headed Quelea (especially on Sedudu Island, Feb. to April), Chirping Cisticola, Luapula Cisticola, and Greater Swamp-Warbler

4. The Chobe River itself, inclusive of its banks, from a point just west of Ngoma to its confluence with the Zambezi and including the rapids near Kasane. The river constitutes the border between Botswana and Namibia. Guided boat trips on the river may be organised through one of several Kasane-based operators. From late March to end June (high water) the river is navigable from just above the rapids to Kabulabula. At lower water levels the boating range is more restricted, but the stretch from the rapids to Puku Flats (usually the most productive part for birds) is navigable all year. A river trip is a must for birders. Specials include White-crowned Lapwing (Puku Flats to Kazungula), African Skimmer (best place is "Hippo Pools" just off Watercart Drive), African Pygmy-Goose, found in quieter backwaters, but less frequently than in the Kasani Channel. In the rapids area look for Rock Pratincole (from Sept. to Feb.), African Finfoot, Half-collared Kingfisher and White-backed Night-Heron.

5. Kasai Channel. A trip up the Kasai Channel (which connects the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers) is also recommended. As this channel is in Namibia there are Immigration and Customs formalities to be observed on both sides of the border, but the lily-covered lagoons next to the main channel are rewarding: African Pygmy-Goose, Allen's Gallinule and African Purple Swamphen, African Rail, Lesser Moorhen, Lesser Jacana, and, in the fringing reeds and papyrus, Chirping Cisticola and Greater Swamp-Warbler.

6. South-bound day trip from Kasane to Savute. Starting about 40 km south of the Nantanga/Ngoma road intersection are a series of seasonal pans which stretch further south and west all the way to Savute. The larger ones, such as Kwikamba Pan, support a variety of aquatic species in the summer, including Red-billed Teal and Hottentot Teal, Southern Pochard, Egyptian Goose and Spur-winged Goose as well as Little Grebe, Dwarf Bittern, Lesser Moorhen and Red-knobbed Coot. The extensive Seleko Plains near Nogatsaa attract grassland species such as Harlequin Quail, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Croaking Cisticola and, occasionally, Denham's Bustard. The roads in this area become difficult to negotiate after rains, especially the black "cotton" soil sections. Those intending to drive all the way to Savute in the southwestern part of the C.N.P. (two or more vehicles recommended) should be well equipped and allow a full day for this trip.

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General

The section from Ngoma to Kasane, with the Chobe River forming the northern boundary, lies within the Chobe National Park. The Shell map of the Chobe National Park is recommended for travellers to this part of Botswana. With the exception of the one tarred road from Kasane to Ngoma, 4 x 4 vehicles are needed to negotiate the sandy roads in C.N.P. Near Ngoma in the west, is Muchenje lodge and the private Buffalo Ridge camp site, where birders can base themselves. At Kasane in the east (where there is richer birding) there are several lodges for those with a generous budget and two private camp sites for those with a more limited budget. Chobe Safari Lodge has recently upgraded its hutted accommodation and campsite, and offers comfortable amenities. There is a (basic) Department of Wild Life National Parks camp site near the Chobe River at Ihaha. There are a number of lodge-based and independent tour operators, in Kasane and trips to the park can be organised through them. There are several camp sites in C.N.P. (designated as HATAB sites) only available to people touring with registered safari operators.

Richard Randall 2001

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