BACK IN THE GAME
We’re writing this (we were writing this) from a place called Mutinondo Wilderness, halfway between Mkushe and Mpika in northern Zambia. The last 2 weeks have been filled with the things we love most: the open road, wild places and forgetting what day of the week it is. Tanzania and the unknown await, but we’ve already had a bunch of experiences that we’ll remember for a long time to come.
The trip began at 5am on a freezing-cold winter’s morning in Jo’burg. 5 hours later the aircon was cranked up to the max, as we crossed the Limpopo into a sweltering Botwana at Martin’s Drift. 10 km before Nata Lodge, our accommodation for the night, we turned left into the Nata Bird Sanctuary to catch the sunset.
If you ever happen to spend a night in Nata, don’t miss out on the bird sanctuary. It’s situated on Sua Pan – part of the Makgadigadi complex – and it’s the perfect way to end a long, hot day in the car. Last time we were there the place was bone dry, as Botswana waited patiently for its summer rains. This time it was filled to the brim, which was quite a sight to see. We started our bird list off with some pretty good grassland and water birds, despatched a couple of ceremonious whiskeys, then headed off to Nata Lodge to dust off the cobwebs on our tent-erecting skills.
Day two saw our second border crossing in as many days, as we crossed into Namibia and the magical Caprivi at Ngoma bridge. It’s hard to imagine a border post with a better setting than Ngoma. Perched up on a hill amongst a stand of baobabs, it overlooks the fertile Chobe River floodplains, home to huge elephant and buffalo herds, and an incredible diversity of waterbirds. We got through Ngoma without too much fuss, and we were soon cruising towards Katima Mulilo and Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge.
Katima has always been a great place for birding. But a few months ago it became the centre of attention for Southern African birders, when a pair of Yellow-throated Leafloves took up residence in Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge’s garden – the first ever record for the sub-region. We were hoping to get a sighting of these special birds, and hence our slight detour through the eastern tip of the Caprivi. Unfortunately luck wasn’t on our side and the Leafloves didn’t show up during our short stay. We had a pretty great time in Katima nonetheless, and it’s definitely a part of the world we’ll go back to. We also managed to finally get a glimpse of a Pel’s Fishing Owl, a bird we’ve searched high and low for over the past few years. We were beginning to think they didn’t even really exist, so a big thanks to Curt for running into the campsite to tell us one was sitting in a tree near the lodge jetty.
The first obstacle of Day Three was yet another border crossing, this time through Katima into Zambia. Much like our last overland entry into Zambia, it wasn’t all plain sailing, but we’re happy to report that things have improved dramatically since crossing the Zambezi. We’ll save that for the next post though. It’s Mosi-Lager-O-Clock up here, and we’ve got a sunset to catch.