I recently read an article providing tips for prospective safari goers in Africa. One of those tips was do not overlook the birds. Being a passionate birder, I did not need this tip, but others definitely do. I had been in Africa for almost a month and done safaris in Etosha and Kruger. I had seen some incredible birds, but both of those parks are a little dry, especially Etosha. With a floodplain and a river as the main geographical feature, I hoped the birds in Chobe National Park would be just as cool as the big five.
Tell your guide you want to see birds in Chobe National Park
One reason why the tip about not forgetting about the birds is an important one has to do with your guides. You need to make sure they do not forget about the birds either. Most guides think that everyone is interested in the big five (lions, leopards, Cape buffalo, rhino, and elephant), so it is important to let your guides know that you also like birds. They will make an effort to point out birds that they may have passed by. I was really amazed and impressed by how knowledgeable all the guides I had in all the parks knew about the birds. They were happy to share this knowledge with their guests.
Birdwatching enhances the safari and does not take away from the Big Five
If you think that if you bring this up you might annoy other guests who do not care about birds, I would not worry about this. The guides will show you birds, but not at the expense of seeing what everyone really is here for. During a safari, when hunting the big five, there is a lot of time between sightings, so birdwatching is a great way to fill those moments instead of just aimlessly driving around looking for the next lion. I think the other guests were happy that I told my guide I wanted to see birds as they seemed as enthused about seeing birds and knowing their names.
Boat tour gets you close to the birds in Chobe National Park
We boarded a boat in Kasane and started our Chobe National Park tour on the Chobe River. Immediately we saw elephants, hippos, Cape buffalo, and Nile crocodiles. We went from animal to animal and when we had enough pictures and time with these amazing animals, our tour operator slash boat captain began to make stops for birds. He did not have to go far as they were everywhere. An Africa fish eagle soared overhead, an African spoonbill was feeding amongst the elephants and Cape buffalo. Storks, herons, egrets, darters, geese, and kingfishers were just everywhere. We just drifted along the bank and out guide was point and name out the ever growing list of species.
Kingfishers take center stage
There was an island that had an impressive number of pied kingfishers. We probably saw 20 kingfishers flying everywhere along this stretch. Usually, kingfishers are extremely difficult to photograph, but they posed beautifully for us on the small trees along the shore. I asked our guide if the park featured any other kingfishers besides pied, and he said they also have malachite kingfishers. This last sentence is a literary technique known as foreshadowing.
Closing out my Ugly Five
I had learned from guides in Kruger National Park that besides the Big Five, there was also the Ugly Five. The Ugly Five consists of the warthog, wildebeest, hyena, vulture, and marabou stork. The only species missing from my Ugly Five was the marabou stork. When our guide pointed and said “marabou stork,” I was filled with a sense of ugliness. I was over uglied. What is the expression one uses when he is so happy to see so much ugliness. I am not sure, but I was pleased to have my Ugly Five stamp.
African spoonbill is my second spooner
One of my favorite U.S. birds is the roseatte spoonbill. I have seen several during trips to the Everglades, other Florida rivers, and the Okefenokee Swamp. I was excited and hopeful to get a second spoonbill on my list because we all need more spooning. Chobe did not disappoint as we saw several Africa spoonbills.
Malachite kingfisher is the perfect way to end the trip
I spent two days in Chobe with an overnight camping trip. The tour consisted of a boat trip in the morning and safari drives in the afternoon and evening. We then had a campfire, dinner, wine, and a leopard almost join our camp. The next day we did the same itinerary in reverse without the leopard. We enjoyed breakfast, had a morning safari drive, and finished with a boat tour on the Chobe River. Our guide was actually preparing to back up and go full speed back to pier, when he pointed and said malachite kingfisher. It was the perfect way to end our Chobe National Park adventure,
Birds in Chobe National Park photo gallery
Enough of my idle chit chat. Below is a photo gallery of the amazing birds in Chobe. You might also like this account of our guided trip which includes many of the Big Five and other African animals.
Birds in Chobe National Park – inland species
I booked this tour in Chobe National Park through Victoria Falls backpackers.