Nata – for birds

Nata Lodge and Nata Bird Sanctuary, Botswana

13-15 June 2018

The road from Matopos to Francistown is only about 200 km. We were up very early and left Matopos National Park at 7 am. Tracks4Africa led us on a short cut to avoid going back to Bulawayo – through beautiful countryside, but the road/track was in quite bad condition in parts. We eventually hit the tar road to Plumtree, and arrived at the border post around 9am. No problems – passports and Carnet stamped, and over to the Botswana side. The queue that side was quite long, but all computerized, so it did not take ages at all. Passports stamped, then to customs to have the vehicle papers checked and Carnet stamped, then off to the cashier to pay the Road Tax (P). Entering the country one needs to dip the soles of all your shoes in the dipping tray, and one drives through a dipping tank too.

In Botswana, and beautiful road to Francistown. We arrived there around 11 am, found a shopping centre, bought SIM cards (BTC Mobile was recommended to us by the car guard), and headed for brunch. We caught up on payments, emails and other comms while munching away. Then to Pick n Pay to stock up on groceries (meat is so cheap here), and a few other odds and ends at Cape Union Mart.

Brunch in Francistown

Back on the road to Nata. This road, the A3, has bits that are littered with potholes. Very scary with the trucks barrelling towards you, while you are trying not to destroy tyres and rims in the potholes. This is the road to Maun, and about 20 km outside (S) of Nata, we reached an area that is being resurfaced. And here is the turnoff to Nata Lodge. Whew, and just before sunset.

The plan was to camp, but on arrival, Richard ask to look at their Safari Tent “rooms”, and we opted for one of these for our 2 night stay. Yay! P1 060 /night for the two of us. Very comfy, complete with en-suite loo and the best outdoor shower. More spoils, we ate dinner at their restaurant, and spent ages trying to use their wifi as we only had Edge on our phones. Bed time, and oh my word, was it cold! I had forgotten how cold it gets in this part of Botswana at night. Slept with jersey and beanie on!

Our tented accommodation at Nata Lodge in the background

This morning, Friday, we opted for the early morning drive tour to the Nata Bird Sanctuary.

Yup, Richard went birding….2 Nd time on this trip

If you have never been to this part of the Makgadigadi Pans, put it on your list. And go with a guide as the roads are confusing, plus there is an excellent chance you may get stuck in the mud. The crust looks hard, you walk on it, and it is okay, but drive, and you will be stuck – this mud is like glue.

It was sooooo cold – I had a down jacket and a wool jacket on, beanie, gloves, scarf. Worth it though – the pans in that early morning light are just something to behold.

Our first bird sighting was a Greater Kestrel perched, rather, hunched on a sign.

We arrived at the outer parts of the pan still with water and were greeted by 100s of Greater and Lesser Flamingos. Just incredible. We walked around a bit here, avoiding the moooshy, slippery, grey mud, and enjoyed coffee and rusks, and the peace punctuated by the quiet chatter of the flamingos sifting the water for their breakfast.

Our guide, Joy, provided us with coffee and tusks to warm up

Our guide, Joy, then said it was time to see the real part of the pan – I had no idea – the depression that is the pan is about 20×42 km in diameter – the water just stretches for miles. Absolutely mind-blowing. It is about half a metre deep, and fed by the Nata River. Where the river flows into the pan, in the far distance, you could see hundreds, possibly thousands of pelicans. I really don’t have the words to describe the scene. We enjoyed beautiful sightings of pelicans close up feeding, teals, cormorants, egrets, lapwings, plovers…and then, driving away from the water’s edge, we came across a pair of crowned cranes – spectacular birds.

Back to the Lodge, and spent the day blogging with the slowest internet ever (I wonder how many times I am going to say this on our trip), and Richard did a lot of admin. Tomorrow we are off to Nxai Pans for some camping and wildlife.

Slender Mongoose