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Birding Botswana Safari Tour - 13 Days

Birding Botswana Safari Tour

Birding Safari in Botswana

Experience this moderately-paced  13-day Birding Botswana Tour. Botswana’s Okavango Delta is a true marvel, a massive labyrinth of channels and lagoons fanning out into the vast sands of the Kalahari. The clear water and lush vegetation attract masses of wildlife and indeed, Botswana has some of the best wildlife viewing to be had on the continent - Botswana Safaris are among the best on the continent! Expect to see 200+ bird species, including 10 Southern African endemics and 20+ mammals.

Needless to say, the Okavango is also rich in birdlife, including specials such as the sought-after Pel’s Fishing Owl, Slaty Egret, the exquisite African Pygmy Goose, African Skimmer, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Lesser Jacana, Chirping Cisticola and others.

"My husband and I had a fantastic 19 day trip with Lawsons as we experienced different landscapes, lots of great birds and wildlife and stayed in excellent accommodation often in stunning locations. The trip was well organised and our guides were skilful and knowledgeable; all of which enhanced our holiday. The itinerary was flexible enough to allow those not so interested in birds to relax at the lodges whilst the keen birders were able to be out from dawn to after sundown. My friends have told me I can't stop smiling whenever I talk about our Lawson's safari." - Rosemary Stapleton.

The surrounding woodland savanna regions, which become progressively drier as one moves away from the Delta, also have their appeal, holding birds such as Dickinson’s Kestrel, Red-necked Falcon, Souza’s Shrike, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Hartlaub’s Babbler and an array of large raptors.

Our 13 day Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe Birding Safari tour of the region kicks off in Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta. We then make our way around the western side of the delta to Shakawe. To fully appreciate the river delta environment one needs to get onto the water, and on this tour, we’ve included time on a fully-equipped houseboat in this region of the ‘panhandle’, as it’s known.

The boat has four cabins and comes with a full staff, including a chef to prepare our meals. By day we’ll be out and about on the smaller tender boat, birding and viewing wildlife as we explore the maze of channels and lagoons, perhaps stopping for a coffee stop and leg stretch on an island dominated by impressive Mahogany, Jackalberry, and other trees, while at night enjoying almost total isolation moored somewhere in a quiet backwater.

After our time on the water, we head north into Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, staying at a lodge on the mighty Zambezi River, before going eastwards into the famous Chobe National Park. Here boat rides on the Chobe River should be enthralling, to say the least, with great photographic opportunities to be expected.

From Kasane in Botswana, we make a final journey to Victoria Falls, with some time spent appreciating one of the world’s great waterfalls. This birdwatching in Botswana tour will come to an official end the next morning in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, but participants may want to spend more time in the area before flying to onward destinations.

Birdwatching in Botswana - Top 5 highlights:

  • Spend time on a houseboat on the Okavango River.
  • Do numerous birding boat trips on the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers.
  • See classic African riverine species such as Pel's Fishing Owl, African Skimmer and Slaty Egret.
  • See the big game from a boat in Chobe NP.
  • See Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Please note: this set-departure tour is also available as a private or custom tour on request. Please submit an enquiry with your preferred dates and group size to confirm availability and pricing.

Want to explore what other birdwatching tours are on offer? Check out the Eastern South Africa Endemics Birding Safari Tour.

Alternative Tour Name: Botswana: Water & Wilderness
Day 1
Day 1 - Maun

Today you’ll catch a short morning flight from Johannesburg to the rustic ‘frontier’ town of Maun in Botswana, arriving around midday. You will be met by your Lawson’s safari guide and will have lunch before settling in and relaxing at our lodge overlooking the Thamalekane River, with some casual birding in the resort ground to start off out check lists, with some time to freshen up before dinner.

Day 2
Day 2 - Shakawe and the Okavango River

Today we can do some early morning birding before breakfast and departure for our next stop, our route taking us around the western side of the Okavango Delta to the village of Shakawe, situated aside the Okavango River in the ‘Panhandle’ region upstream of the delta. Here we will board the house boat, our base for the next two nights, on board which we’ll have wonderful en-suite cabins. Our birding adventure will start as soon as we put foot on the house boat as the skipper points the boat upriver and into the sunset, and no doubt Gin and Tonics will duly be served… After some late afternoon birding from the boat we’ll have time to freshen up before dinner served on board, prepared in the galley by our local crew, before retiring to our cabins for the night.

Day 3
Day 3 - The Okavango River

Today we’ll have an early start, with a cup of coffee or tea served on the deck before we set off on a birding trip in the tender boat, leaving the house boat behind as we work our way along channels and floating papyrus islands looking for Greater Swamp Warbler, Long-toed Lapwing, Lesser Jacana, Allen’s Gallinule, Open-billed Stork, Pygmy Goose, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Chirping Cisticola, White-backed Night-heron, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Luapula Cisticola, among others. Elephants, Hippo’s and Nile Crocodiles are always present, if we are lucky we may catch glimpses of the shy and rare Sitatunga antelope, the swamp specialist of central Africa. A scrumptious brunch will await us back on the house boat and while enjoying the food we’ll have panoramic views from the deck as our skipper takes us further up river. After breakfast we’ll have time to unwind on the boat, birding from the deck, reading or just relaxing. In the afternoon, after anchoring the boat, we will get into the smaller boat for our afternoon birding trip. Pel’s Fishing Owl, Osprey, African Fish Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Western-banded Snake Eagle and African Hobby are some of the raptors we will hope to find on this excursion, among a plethora of other species, and in the late afternoon we’ll return to the boat for our second night on the Okavango River, enjoying another idyllic sunset before dinner and bed.

Day 4
Day 4 - Shakawe and the Okavango Panhandle

Today we may have time for an early morning outing on the tender boat before returning to the main boat for breakfast as we drift back downstream to Shakawe, where we’ll disembark. We will get to our next destination, Shakawe River Lodge, after midday where we will have lunch and a bit of relaxation. There will be time in the afternoon to do some birding in the gardens, where we may find Holub’s Weaver, Swamp Boubou, Black-Collared Barbet and White-Browed Robin-Chats, among others, while spotting birds from the comfort of swimming pool is another option, for those so inclined (or reclined!).

Day 5
Daya 5 & 6 - Mahango Game Reserve

An early drive to the Tsodilo Hills, a world heritage site renowned for some impressive San rock art and birding in the area, looking out for species such Dickinson’s Kestrel, Souza’s Shrike, Booted Eagle and Pale-chanting Goshawk, among others. We return to the lodge for lunch before moving on. Crossing into the Caprivi Strip region of Namibia, we will find ourselves in Mahango Game Reserve. For the next two days we will explore the reserve, using our lodge as a base camp, spending as much time out in the field as suits us. Early morning and afternoon boat trips and drives will keep us busy, and we’ll be looking out for species such as African Skimmer, Laupula Cisticola, Wattled and Grey-crowned Cranes, Bӧhm’s Spinetail, Black-faced Babbler, Grey-headed Parrot, Black-winged Pratincole, Western-banded Snake-Eagle, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Violet-eared Waxbill, Slaty Egret, African Hobby and many more. In between activities we’ll have time to enjoy the lodge, which includes tree house chalets overlooking the river, and also features a unique ‘Croc Pool’ swimming experience, akin to cage diving with sharks except in the Okavango River rather than the ocean, with Nile Crocodiles and Hippo’s lurking on the other side of the cage…

Day 7
Days 7 & 8 - The Zambezi River

After an early morning birding walk we’ll have breakfast and depart for the Zambezi River. We’ll cross the Caprivi Strip from west to east, stopping for lunch in Katima Malilo where we will look for Schalow’s Turaco before moving on. Our destination is Kalizo Lodge on the banks of the upper Zambezi River, with Zambia lying across on the northern bank. Here we’ll embark on morning and afternoon boat trips as well as walks and drives over the Zambezi floodplain, looking for species such as Black Coucal, Brown Firefinch, Greater Painted Snipe, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Rufous-bellied Heron, African Skimmer, Slaty Egret, while nocturnal species we’ll aim to see include Swamp, Rufous-cheeked, Fiery-necked and Square-tailed Nightjars. We will be staying in luxury safari tents overlooking the Zambezi, and once again we’ll aim to include some time in camp to appreciate the surrounds and simply wallow in the magnificence of the place.

Day 9
Days 9 & 10 - The Chobe River

Today we may have time for an early morning birding walk before departing from the banks of the Zambezi and crossing over into Botswana where we will enter the Chobe Game Reserve, birding and game viewing as we drive. It should take us most of the morning and early afternoon and we’ll arrive just in time to do our first birding boat trip on the Chobe River, and experience not to be missed! Today and the next day we will spend time in Chobe Game Reserve and on the Chobe River, looking for species such as Rock Pratincole, Schalow’s Turaco, Copper and Purple-banded Sunbirds, Coppery-tailed and White-browed Coucals, Collared Palm-Thrush, Long-toed Lapwing, Lesser Jacana, Allen’s Gallinule, Yellow-billed Stork and various waders and kingfishers which share the banks of the river with herds of African Buffalo, Sable and Roan Antelope, Lechwe, Impala and of course the large numbers of African Elephants for which Chobe is famous for. Our accommodation for these two nights will be around Kasane village where wildlife and humans live side by side and it’s not unusual to see an Elephant or Warthogs crossing the main street in town!

Day 11
Days 11 & 12 - Victoria Falls

After breakfast we will cross the Zimbabwe border and make our way to the village of Victoria Falls. After checking in to our lodge we will have lunch before visiting the Victoria Falls and admiring these natural wonders while looking out for birds such as Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Grey-headed Parrot, White-crowned Lapwing, Long-toed Lapwing, Racket-tailed Roller, African Black Swift, Verreaux’s Eagle, Augur Buzzard and Peregrine Falcon, before returning to the lodge with enough time to get ready for dinner. On our full day we take a boat trip on the Zambezi River during which we’ll be looking for African Skimmer, Rock Pratincole, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Rufous-bellied Heron and White-backed Night-Heron, among others. If possible we will attend the vulture feeding spectacle at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge at 13h00 before an afternoon leisurely birding stroll around the village. Species we’ll be on the lookout for include Trumpeter Hornbill, Schalow’s Turaco, Brown Firefinch, Collared Palm-Thrush, Broad-tailed Paradise-Whydah, Orange-winged Pytilia and Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, among others. In the late afternoon we’ll return to the classic Victoria Falls Safari Lodge for sundowner drinks before dinner.

Day 13
Day 13 - Departure

Today we will hopefully have time for a last birding walk in the lodge grounds followed by breakfast and departure for Victoria Falls Airport for our return flight to Johannesburg and onwards.

Wildlife species expected to see:

Aim for around 300 species on this tour including chances for the following: Pel’s Fishing Owl, Slaty Egret, the exquisite African Pygmy Goose, African Skimmer, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Lesser Jacana, Chirping Cisticola, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Red-necked Falcon, Souza’s Shrike, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Greater Swamp Warbler, Long-toed Lapwing, Allen’s Gallinule, Open-billed Stork, Pygmy Goose, White-backed Night-heron, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Luapula Cisticola, Booted Eagle, Pale-chanting Goshawk, Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Swamp Boubou, African Red-eyed Bulbul, African Mourning Dove, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, African Jacana, Broad-billed Roller, Marabou Stork, Tawny Eagle, Red-necked Falcon, Common Ostrich, Holub’s Golden Weaver, Western Osprey, Goliath Heron, Giant Kingfisher, Grey-rumped Swallow, African Fish Eagle, White-fronted Bee-eater, Little Bee-eater, Tinkling Cisticola, Violet-eared Waxbill, Black-throated Canary, Great White Pelican, Violet-backed Starling, Long-crested Eagle, Yellow-billed Stork, African Swamphen, Water Thick-knee, African Openbill, Senegal Coucal, Bat Hawk, plus Lion, Elephant, Hippopotamus, Buffalo, Sitatunga etc.

What is included?

  • All accommodation or lodgings based on double occupancy
  • Single occupancy available at extra cost (single supplement)
  • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners
  • Local transfers and all ground transport throughout the trip/tour/safari
  • Lawson's insulated water bottle (clients to purchase own water or use tap water)
  • Entrance fees to all National Parks, Provincial Reserves and other sites / attractions on the specified itinerary
  • Personalised bird / mammal checklists and itinerary
  • Specialist guide fees (professional English-speaking birding and wildlife guide)

What is not included?

  • Travel and medical insurance (incl. personal equipment and repatriation)
  • All airfares unless otherwise indicated
  • Excess baggage charges
  • Visa fees (if applicable)
  • All drinks
  • Optional excursions where applicable
  • Tips and Gratuities
  • Items of a personal nature (incl. laundry and telephone charges)
Wildlife Reviews
5 stars
- based on 2  reviews
  1. Windhoek, Namibia, to Victoria Falls
    Rosemary Stapleton09 Feb 2018







    My husband and I had a fantastic 19 day trip with Lawsons as we experienced different landscapes, lots of great birds and wildlife and stayed in excellent accommodation often in stunning locations. The trip was well organised and our guides were skilful and knowledgeable; all of which enhanced our holiday. The itinerary was flexible enough to allow those not so interested in birds to relax at the lodges whilst the keen birders were able to be out from dawn to after sundown. My friends have told me I can't stop smiling whenever I talk about our Lawson's safari.
  2. Lawson\'s Birding, Wildlife and Custom Safaris
    Gerard Lillie23 Jun 2018







    We used Lawson's for a custom guided tour and were extremely happy with our safari. We were interested in both birds and mammals. Our guide was very knowledgeable in not only birds and mammals, but with geology and flora as well. In addition, he knew the area of our safari like the back of his hand, making finding our quarry that much easier. We would not hesitate to recommend Lawson's and hope to use them again one day.

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Why book with Lawson’s Birding, Wildlife and Custom Safaris?

In 2020 we are celebrating our 30th year of running birding and wildlife safaris in Africa. So we have plenty of experience in the game, and pride ourselves in creating incredible wildlife holiday experiences for our clients from across the globe. We offer quality wildlife experiences through set-departure and custom safaris, guided by fun and experienced birding and wildlife guides. Like our motto says, "you'll want to return to Africa with us time and time again!" See more on our website.

How does the payment process work?

A deposit will secure your place on the tour, with full payment due 8 weeks before the tour starts. Terms and Conditions apply, we'll give you all the info during the inquiry process.

Is this tour for me?

This tour is primarily a birding tour, so it's suited to any level of birder, be you a beginner or more advanced birder. Wildlife, and mammals in particular, is a secondary focus and the Kruger Park in particular will deliver a rewarding mammal experience - mammal enthusiasts can rest assured that we won't bypass anything of interest just because it isn't a bird. If you aren't a birder then perhaps some of our other wildlife-focused tours will be a better bet, speak to one of our consultants for advice.

What does a tyical day on the tour involve?

On days we aren't moving location or camp, we usually meet up for a cup of tea / coffee before heading out on a long morning activity, returning for late breakfast / brunch. Then we may have a bit of down time before an afternoon activity, returning in time to freshen up before dinner. There are exceptions - on some days we may head out on longer trips, taking packed meals with us and only returning after lunch; or we may have an early breakfast before departure for the next destination. Whatever the exact program we try to keep the pace manageable, after all it is supposed to be a holiday. *Some tours, such as our Endemics tours, are fast-paced overall.

Is the tour suitabe for children?

There generally aren't any age limits on the tours, so children are welcome. However, given the nature of the tours (long periods spent in vehicles looking for birds / animals, and not always finding our target species, despite the effort put in), our set-departures probably aren't suitable for children. For families we'd rather recommend a custom-safari, where you can dictate the pace and level of interest, and include more child-friendly accommodation venues. Speak to one of our consultants for advice.

Credit cards or cash?

In general credit cards are widely accepted in South Africa and across much of Southern Africa, though Diner's Club is the exception (Visa and Master are better options). It is a good idea to have some South African Rands (ZAR) on hand for smaller purchases or times when card machines may not be working. Note that South Africa and Namibia do not accept US Dollars cash, but US Dollars can be used in most of the rest of Africa.

Can we arrange pre-tours and extensions to our set-departures?

Most certainly! We usually recommend coming in a day early to acclimatize and reduce the risk of missing out a day or two due to flight delays or other travel problems, and we are happy to arrange this accommodation for you. And if you would like to extend your time in the country, our consultants are happy to help with suggestions and bookings.

What should I pack?

In general clothes dry quite quickly for self-washing, and most private places have laundry services, so it's not necessary to over pack. In order to avoid having to tow trailers etc we ask participants to keep their luggage down to one main bag and one day / carry-on bag plus photo / optics gear. We do recommend some warm gear for the coast, as it can get a bit cool there - a light jacket or windbreaker should suffice. Hats and sunglasses are essential. A torch / flashlight is also essential, and we strongly recommend socks and closed shoes after dark. Adapters - make sure you have the right adapters to be able to charge your devices. The 'universal' adapter does not work in South Africa or Namibia.

What level of fitness is required?

Unless otherwise stated, our set-departures do not require any advanced degree of fitness, as most of the activities are vehicle-based. However, on tours with open-sided safari vehicles, getting into the vehicle does require a some climbing ability - if you have difficulty climbing up a step or two let us know in advance so we can make arrangements such as including steps to help you get up or making sure the passenger seat is available. Where there is any walking involved this is normally an optional activity so you are welcome to sit it out.

Can we cater for special dietary requirements?

In general yes - when using restaurants you are able to order whatever item on the menu suits you. When using lodges doing their own catering then advanced warning will usually enable them to cater for your needs. Please indicate any special needs to us well in advance. Note that the food is very good in general on our trips so you don't need to indicate that you are vegetarian just because you are worried about what meat may be served - for the most part it's beef, pork, lamb and chicken, though game meat may be available as an option. Speak to our consultants if you have any specific questions.

What are the expected weather conditions?

Warm to hot with chances of thunderstorms on the November tour.

What's the tour tempo like?

The tour tempo is medium-plus, with optional rests on no travelling days.

What's the birding and mammal viewing like?

The birding is excellent all round. Good savann birding, waterbirds and Kalahari species. Good game viewing in most areas with chances for big game such as Elephant, African Buffalo, Hippopotamus, and maybe some big cats. Some specials such as Sitatunga and Red Lechwe.

Can I add extra days and destinations to this tour?

Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe makes a nice add-on to this tour.

What's the accommodation like?

Medium-plus, comprising a house boat, private safari lodges and guest houses.

Join Our Fixed Tour Starting Date

Tour Dates Tour Availability From Price Spaces Left
13/10/2023 - 25/10/2023 guaranteed USD 6,750
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13 Days

Price & Availability

USD6,595 / per person
Based on twin/double room
Single Supplement USD 470
This tour is operated by: Lawson’s Birding, Wildlife and Custom Safaris
4.97 based on 21 reviews

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Operator Review Summary

4.97 Based on 21 reviews

Tour Facts

  • Botswana
  • Set Departure
  • Set Departure Tour
  • Birds
  • Maximum of 4 participants
  • No age restrictions but not suited to young children
  • Maun Aiport, Botswana
  • Victoria Falls Airport