Naturalist Journeys, LLC - Small Group Birding and Natural History Tours

NAMIBIA Sampler: Wildlife, Birding and Spectacular Scenery
NEW! A Naturalist Journeys Scouting trip with Peg Abbott
September 13-25, 2014

Guide: Peg Abbott
Press Release: June 27, 2014
Naturalist Journeys Partners with Birding Africa to Announce a New Namibia Wildlife and Birding Tour - full press release here!


Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Dune with Trees, Ian MerrillOur trip’s focus is on experiencing the fantastic beauty of the Namib Desert, while exploring a new country for Naturalist Journeys in Africa.  We have worked with a local tour operator to craft a journey in which we hope to find most of Namibia's endemic birds, with excellent mammal watching opportunities at some of the country’s best wildlife preserves.  We combine the Namib Desert experience (we'll have breakfast atop a huge red dune while looking for Dune Lark, a signature endemic species), with several days to visit to Etosha Pan, one of Africa's most spectacular wildlife parks.

Join us for a 14-day tour to one of Africa's greatest wildlife and birding destinations. Here we will enjoy exciting game watching, panoramic desert scenery and the quest for seeing numerous desert birds, many of which are endemics.  

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Dune Lark, Ian MerrillThe Namib Desert experience is like no other. The Namib Desert (made up of wind-blown dunes and gravel plains) is one of the world's oldest deserts and encompasses some of the highest wind-blown dunes in the world.  You will be getting up before dawn to see some of these magnificent red dunes on our tour - a delight to photographers!  We also marvel at the landscapes, flora and fauna at the boulder-strewn Erongo Mountains and the unique Waterberg Plateau Park too.

Arid and rugged, the desert landscapes of the Namib provide challenges for resident flora and fauna: the incredible Welwitchias and desert-adapted animals: Oryx, Springbok, Ostrich, Black-backed Jackal. Complexity of terrain and a huge salt-pan in world-renowned Ethosha National Park with its strategic waterholes provides resources for a rich array of iconic African mammals including Lion, Elephant, Black Rhino, and Giraffe. Grazing mammals regularly encountered include Southern Oryx, Eland, Greater Kudu, Red Hartebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Plains Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Damara Dik-dik, Dalton GibbsZebra, Springbok, Steenbok, Black-faced Impala and unique to this region, the Damara Dik-dik.  On rocky terrain we find Klipspringer alongside Rock Hyrax. Black-backed Jackal and Banded Mongoose are smaller species that call our attention, and with luck and some searching, we may find Aardwolf, mainly a nocturnal species. At Walvis Bay and along the coast we may encounter marine mammals including Cape Fur Seal, and both Benguela and Common Bottlenose Dolphins.

Namibia, due to its arid landscape, is surprisingly rich in endemic or near endemic birds  and some have a limited range and distribution. Birding highlights include: Rüppell's Korhaan, Rockrunner, Burchell's Courser, Damara Tern, Rüppell's Parrot, Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Dune Lark, Gray’s Lark, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Kori Bustard,  Monteiro's Hornbill, Damara Hornbill, Violet Woodhoopoe, Benguela Long-billed Lark, White-tailed Shrike, African Pygmy Falcon, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Rosy-faced Lovebirds, Lilac-breasted Roller ( a photographer’s favorite), and White-crowned Shrike. 



Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Rosy-faced Lovebirds, Dalton GibbsSat. Sep. 13 Arrival in Windhoek
Arrive today in Windhoek’s Huseo Kutako International Airport. A guide from our local company will be a welcome sight after our long-haul flight as he will meet us at the airport. Host Peg Abbott will announce her flight from America with a welcome to join her, but you may take any route that works for you and you may wish to arrive a day early (as she plans to do) to explore the city or rest up from your travels.

Today, after a stop at our Windhoek guesthouse to freshen up and drop off your luggage, those that wish can jump right in for some Namibia birdwatching and game viewing at Daan Viljoen Game Reserve. This small conservation area, just west of the city, boasts numerous bird and several larger mammal species. Common species include Fork-tailed Drongo, several doves, and Palm Swifts, Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, and with luck we should find Red-faced Spurfowl, Rosy-faced Lovebirds or perhaps the comical Grey Go Away Bird.  Around waterholes or small dams we may spy African Spoonbills, other waders and shorebirds. The first sighting of Lilac-breasted Roller (not the last!) usually brings the van to a halt.  Equally colorful are showy Namibian Rock Agama. We should spot Eland, Greater Kudu, Red Hartebeest and Giraffe. 

We know that all are tired and want some rest, but for those awake, enjoy dinner overlooking the city of Windhoek. This is a small (10 room) Inn with personal service and hospitality, welcoming business travelers and visitors alike.
Accommodations at the Hotel Pension Onganga (D)

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Social Weaver Nest, Dalton GibbsSun. Sep. 14 Travel Day – Into the Bush!  Khomas Hochland / Namib-NaukluftToday we drive to Namib-Naukluft Park (300km south of Windhoek). Enjoy learning Namibia geography, history and culture as we make a 6-hr scenic drive though the Khomas Hochland (Highland) with scenic desert, mountain passes and gravel plains.  A good portion of our journey is on gravel roads that wind through changing elevations. We hope to time lunch for reaching a mountain pass, from which we may see Acacia Pied Barbet, Mountain Wheatear, Dusky Sunbird, and perhaps Rock Hyrax or Klipspringer on the cliffs.  In transit we watch for Rüppell’s Korhaan or perhaps a Pale-chanting Goshawk. One of the impressive sights to behold is the massive nest of Sociable Weavers, that often houses a pair of Pygmy Falcons.

Our destination is a guest farm approx 47 km outside the Namib-Naukluft National Park. The farm we stay at has encouraged wildlife conservation and has been supporting the local community since 1994. They now record regular sightings of Cheetah and Leopard, and Mountain Zebra are on the property. The arrival of large flocks of calling Namaqua Sandgrouse is a sight to behold at the waterhole outside the dining area.
Accommodations at Weltverde Guest Farm (B,L,D)

Mon. Sep. 15 Sunrise Over Red Dunes of the Desert 
This morning we get up early, to experience the iconic Namib red dunes near Sesriem and Sossusvlei at sunrise. Excellent scenery for photography, and with luck we may spot a Southern Oryx, or a Common Ostrich strutting by, possibly a Burchell’s Courser. Camelthorn trees provide us with shade, often shared with songbirds such as Rufous-vented Warblers.

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Red Dunes,, Dalton GibbsSome may want to climb a dune, and the iconic Dune 45 is the place to try. Sand beetles trace our tracks foraging for plant life we may stir with our steps. The reward for a steep climb is a view of sculpted dunes as far as one can see, exhilarating, inspiring - sensational!

In afternoon we enjoy more exploring, birding and wildlife viewing. Pied Crows and Greater Kestrels are fairly common, the landscapes are certainly not!  As the day heats up we search out shelter, enjoying a picnic in one of the park shelters. Pale-winged Starlings and Sociable Weavers are not shy to ask for a share.  A lovely bird of the brush, in song and plumage is the Bokmakierie.  Scaly-feathered Finch and Chat Flycatchers draw our attentions. At various windmills and water sources, we look for Black-headed Herons, and wait for mammals such as Southern Oryx to have their turn to drink. Helmeted Guinea Fowl appear in large numbers, running about as if competing at a soccer match.  Namaqua Sandgrouse can come by the 100’s, often as the sun goes down.
Accommodations at Weltverde Guest Farm (B,L,D)

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Greater Flamingo, Dalton GibbsTue. Sep. 16 Namib – Naukluft to Walvis Bay
After breakfast take a leisurely drive to Walvis Bay, birding along the way as we cross the Namib Plains. A picturesque gorge offers a nice place to stop, check for birds, and stretch our legs. It’s featured in the book The Sheltering Desert, a book of escape and survival by two young Germans who hid out here during World War II.

Our destination is Walvis Bay and we should arrive by late afternoon. Greater and Lesser Flamingoes appear in pink flocks alongside the road in pools that house numerous waders including Bar-tailed Godwits, Little Stints, Curlew Sandpipers and three species of plovers: Chestnut-banded, Grey and White-fronted. Soon we see sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean – to our West! Our hotel is family-run, a simple and comfortable motel near a fabulous birding lagoon.
Walvis Bay Courtyard Hotel (B,L,D)

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Dalton GibbsWed. Sep. 17 Walvis Bay and Welwitchias / Skeleton Coast / Swakopmund
We start the day at Walvis Bay lagoon where we search out waders on the mudflats and marine species from shore, such as White-chinned Petrels, or rare Damara Terns. For those that wish, we can make a boat trip into the current optional (additional cost).  There is much to see from short, as we scope out Great White Pelicans and Kelp Gulls that come to check our progress as they traverse the rich Benguela Current. An endemic species of this current is Hartlaub’s Gull, as well as the small but strikingly patterned Benguela Dolphin.  The Fur Seal colonies number in the 1000’s, something to behold.

In the afternoon we venture into the Namib Desert to look for odd desert plants, Welwitchias, found outside Swakopmund. We have a special permit to travel to this moonscape environment.  This plant is often considered to be a living fossil, an ancient, cone-bearing desert-adapted wonder. An endemic insect can be found among its curious large leaves. Gray’s Larks forage around us.

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Raft Restaurant courtesy of restaurant

We pass a line of dunes returning to Walvis Bay andstop for a coffee in the town of Swakopmund, known for its colorful German architecture. Our restaurant tonight is a curious affair, set on stilts jutting out into the lagoon with water all around.  Enjoy panoramic views of the bay, and don’t be surprised if pelicans, flamingoes or even dolphins appear out the windows. The food is as good as the view, indeed the Raft Restaurant seems to be the place to be in Walvis Bay.  Enjoy yourself, it’s your vacation!
Walvis Bay Courtyard Hotel (B,L,D)

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Rockjumper, Ian MerrillThu. Sep. 18 Erongo Mountains
We leave the beach and Skeleton Coast and head inland, drawn to some impressive granite spires along the way. At Spitzkoppe we may find Short-toed Rock Thrush, at the base of these magnificent features. We have lunch en route, before arriving to our lodge in the scenically beautiful Erongo Mountains. Warthogs like fresh grass on the lawn, and shade trees offer shelter for Common Scimitarbills.  An impressive San Rock Art site is in the vicinity.  We get excellent looks and it is fun to try to match up images with what we see today. African Hawk Eagles fly above, likely attracted by Rock Hyrax common in the area. Rockrunner is seen in this area, also endemic White-tailed Shrike, Carp’s Tit and Damara Hornbill. 

At night, by the lodge, we look for Freckled Nightjars, enjoy the quiet, and hopefully, a star-filled sky.
Ai-Aiba Lodge or similar (B,L,D)

Fri. Sep. 19 Erongo Mountains Nature Walks & Indigenous Rock Art
The scuptured geology of the Erongo Mountains is fascinating. We wake to the sounds of the desert, and on a morning walk hope to pick up the endemic Monteiro’s Hornbill or flashy Marico Sunbirds and Hartlaub’s Spurfowl. This is a world of granite outcrops, frequented by Verreaux’s Eagles.  We have time to study the rock art, sleuth out new species, and just immerse ourselves in beauty of the area.
Ai-Aiba Lodge or similar (B,L,D)

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Gemsbok/Southern Oryx, Trevor and Jenni FranksSat. Sep. 20 Erongo Mountains to Etosha National Park
After an early morning bird walk and leisurely breakfast, we drive to Etosha National Park, a world-renowned game reserve.  The ecology of Estosha is based on life around an austere salt pan, large enough to be recognized from space. Large numbers of springbok, wildebeest and zebra attract predators and lions patrol the waterholes. Our lodging is south of the park at Toshari.  Cool off with a dip in the pool, and enjoy birding in the gardens where large trees create a magnetic attraction to species such as Ruppell’s Parrots, Golden-tailed Woodpeckers, Red-faced Mousebirds, and Violet-eared Waxbills. Damara Hornbills can be quite tame.
Accommodations at Tashari Lodge (B,L,D)

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Scops Owl, Trevor and Jenni FranksSun. Sep. 21 Etosha National Park
Enjoy a full day of game viewing in Etosha National Park, from our private vehicles. We move to the central rest camp of Halali, located near the Etosha Pan. There are a number of important water holes to investigate, and at night a short walk takes us to a lit waterhole where we can watch for action. Along with ample Springbok and Oryx, time with Elephants is a real joy, with luck we may spot rarer predators such as Cheetah or Leopard and various birds of prey. At the waterhole we celebrate sundown with a cold beer, watching as flocks of Namaqua and Double-banded Sandgrouse cross the sky. Scops Owls can be found here.
Accommodations at Halali Camp, Etosha National Park  (B,L,D)

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Elephant, Dalton Gibbs

Mon. Sep. 22 Etosha National Park
We enjoy another full day of birding and wildlife viewing in Etosha, again in our private air-conditioned minibus.  We stop at various waterholes to see the animals quenching their thirst. They appear in long lines like a parade, ever watchful. Greater Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - female LionKudu, Impala, Springbok, Blue Wildebeest, Oryx, Elephant and Zebra provide us with great viewing, and interpreting the interactions is fun. When a large bull African Elephant comes in, others part way.

Open areas of the pan are attractive to larks: Red-capped, Spike-heeled, and Pink-billed are common. Marabou Storks and vultures provide clues to past and present kills or simply a sleeping group of Lions.

We move again, a good strategy in this large park, so we can inspect a good number of waterholes. The next two nights are at Onguma Bush Lodge (or similar) on the eastern edge of Etosha National Park.  At Onguma, there is a well-lit waterhole which makes for excellent viewing.
Accommodations at Onguma Bush Lodge (B,L,D)

Tue. Sep. 23 Etosha National Park / Fisher’s Pan
We continue birding and wildlife viewing in Etosha National Park, visiting Fisher’s Pan to the north, near the Namutoni gate.  We have hopes to see Damara Dik-dik and Black Rhino, two uncommon animals that occur here.  A lovely songbird of the water-filled sections is the Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, often in flocks with Blue Waxbill, always on the lookout for Gabar Goshawk or other winged-predators of the sky. The landscape is vast, and sightings of Giraffe often seem like specs on the endless, unbroken salt pan terrain.  Kori Bustards are large enough to be spotted from afar. Red-breasted and Lesser Swallows come in to mud holes.
Accommodations at Onguma Bush Lodge (B,L,D)

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Banded Mongoose, Trevor and Jenni Franks

Wed. Sep. 24 Waterberg Plateau Park
Today we leave the world-famous national park of Etosha, and start our return. Our drive is to Waterberg Plateau Park today, another stunning landscape where there are some great birding opportunities and chances to observe smaller animals like Banded Mongoose and Damara Dik-dik which can be seen around the rest camp. This evening we enjoy a walk in search of night birds and again, amazing night skies.
Accommodations at Bernabe de la Bat Rest Camp (B,L,D)

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Black-backed Jackals, Trevor and Jenni FranksThu. Sep. 25 Waterburg to Windhoek
Enjoy an optional early morning bird walk in the Waterberg restcamp area where lush vegetation can be just alive with songbirds at dawn, such as Green-backed Camaroptera and Crimson-breasted Shrikes.  Yellow-billed Hornbills and Burchell’s Starling mix with Southern Masked Weavers and White-throated Canaries, Colourful Rosy-faced Lovebirds and Rüppell’s Parrots.

We return to Windhoek via the Okahandja craft market, where you can purchase local handicrafts. Then it’s time to catch your return flight to Johannesburg.

End of tour – or continue on to our extension to Madikwe Game Reserve in North West Province, the best place in South Africa to see rare Wild Dogs.

Madikwe National Park Extension - Naturalist Journeys
Wild Dogs and Wildlife
in a Hidden Gem of Africa
September 25-29, 2014

Thu. Sep. 25
Arrive at OR Tambo airport, Johannesburg at the end of your Namibia Tour. Transfer to a hotel near the airport and enjoy a good night’s sleep. Dinner will be at your leisure.
City Lodge, OR Tambo airport

Fri. Sep. 26
We have hired an air-conditioned minibus and driver to take you to Madikwe Game Reserve in North West Province. The drive is approximately 400km and takes 4 1/2 hrs. You should arrive in time for your afternoon game drive in an open safari vehicle. Lodge at Madikwe Game Reserve on full board basis with 2 game or bird watching activities per day. (B,L,D)

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Group at Tropic of Capricorn, Trevor and Jenni FranksSat. Sep. 27 Full day looking for Wildlife, Wild Dogs & Birding
Lodge at Madikwe Game Reserve on full board basis with 2 game or bird watching activities per day. Madikwe is the 5th largest game park in Africa. It is situated against the Botswana border close to the Kalahari Desert.

From their website: In 1994, a small group of six wild dogs were introduced into the park. This founding group has seen a challenging introduction into the park with rabies outbreaks, territorial clashes and encounters with some feisty lions. Despite the odds, current day Madikwe has a thriving wild dog population with three hunting packs roaming the park. The dogs are somewhat accustomed to safari vehicles offering spectacular photographic opportunities. Madikwe Game Reserve’s conservation efforts to protect the ‘painted dog’ are in place to help conserve this majestic diminishing species.Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - White-tailed Shrike, C. Cohen

Sun. Sep. 28, 2014 Full day looking for Wildlife, Wild Dogs & Birding
Lodge at Madikwe Game Reserve on full board basis with 2 game or bird watching activities per day.

Mon. Sep. 29, 2014 After breakfast depart for Johannesburg / OR Tambo AirportWe return to the International Airport catch your flight back to the USA.


Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Double-banded Courser, Trevor and Jenni Franks   Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Rock Agamid, Dalton Gibbs

Naturalist Journeys Namibia Wildlife and Birding tour, Birding Africa - Black Rhino, Dalton Gibbs


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Cost of the journey to Namibia is $4700.00* per person, based on double occupancy. Single supplement as available is $450.00. The cost includes:

Included in the fully-guided tour Main Tour:
A Local Birding Africa Tour Leader and host Peg Abbott from USA
All Accommodation: as mentioned in the itinerary or similar
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner daily
Vehicle hire: from first to last day of itinerary
Entry & conservation fees: at parks and reserves specified in itinerary
Additional lodge tour also included: Rock art tour

Not included: International Flights, Drinks from the bar,
Personal items and services (laundry, telephone, etc.), Lodge and Guide gratuities.
The tour price is based on a minimum of 8 participants. With fewer than 8, you will have the choice to travel at a revised price, to be announced. It is important that we firm up our minimum numbers soon for this scouting tour. Please note this is a special price that won’t be seen again as we do a full promotion in future years.
Price for the extension is based on 4 persons minimum.

Naturalist Journeys reserves the right to modify the itinerary and accommodation according to availability at the time. Please discuss your flight details with Peg Abbott before booking your flights. Your airport transfers and any nights before or after the tour can be booked for you.

Cost of the Extension is $2155.00, per person, double occupancy.
Single supplement is $550.00
Included in your local lodge-guided Madikwe Safari:

Accommodation: as specified in itinerary
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner at your Madikwe Lodge
Vehicle hire: from first to last day of itinerary (Air-conditioned Minibus with Driver)
Entry & conservation fees at Madikwe Game Reserve
Two game watching or birding activities per day while at Madikwe.

Not included:
Dinner at City Lodge Hotel
Items of a personal nature such as laundry, or drinks from the bar
Guide and driver gratuities

Naturalist Journeys, LLC is an equal opportunity service provider and committed to the goal of ensuring equal opportunity for all in employment and program delivery.

All courtesy of Birding Africa:
Dune with Trees, Ian Merrill (IM); Dune Lark, IM; Damara Dik-
dik, Dalton Gibbs (DG), Rosy-faced Lovebirds (DG), Social
Weaver Nest, DG; Red Dunes, DG; Greater Flamingo, DG;
Bottlenosed Dolphin, DG; Raft Restaurant courtesy of
restaurant; Rockjumper, IM; Gemsbok/Southern Oryx, Trevor
and Jenni Franks (TJF); Scops Owl, TJF; Banded Mongoose, TJF;
Black-backed Jackals, TJF; Group at Tropic of Capricorn, TJF;
White-tailed Shrike, C. Cohen; Rock Agamid, DG; Double-
banded Courser, TJF; Black Rhino, DG.

Naturalist Journeys LLC, a top birding and nature tour company, offers specialty small group travel to many of the best nature destinations worldwide. Naturalist Journeys’ expert guides have decades of experience leading guided nature and birding tours as well as travel photography tours, all with a focus on responsible travel and eco-tourism. Naturalist Journeys also offer Utah hiking adventure tours and adventure travel in national parks and wildlife reserves ranging from in-depth Alaska wildlife tours to guided Texas and Florida birding tours. Costa Rica nature and birding tours are among our top-rated as are our Panama nature tours and African wildlife safari tours. Our many repeat clients enjoy dependable and diverse holidays on Galapagos nature tours, Arctic and Antarctica nature cruises, and birding and wildlife tours from Arizona to the Amazon and beyond.