One of the delights of being a birder is the way events unfold when an unexpected bird puts in an appearance. On our way from Namushasha to Kalizo Lodge, we were driving through the Caprivi, happily anticipating our visit to the Zambezi, when Rob spotted a Southern ground hornbill wandering through a field adjacent to the road. He immediately slammed on brakes and the excitement began. Southern ground hornbills (listed as vulnerable) are not very common outside the large game reserves and here we were seeing one at quite close quarters.
With camera in hand, Rob set off to get his ‘up close’ photograph. The Ground hornbill was having none of it though and flew off with Rob following as best he could on foot. I turned the car around and headed off in the general direction of the bird (thank heavens for an all-terrain vehicle), only to discover that there was actually a pair of the enormous birds. We tracked them through the unfenced veld on foot, careful not to get too close and stress the birds, or panic them into flight, but wanting to get close enough for a few clear photos. About forty-five minutes later we had wonderful photos of the birds and were able to resume our journey. What a happy diversion that turned out to be!
Kalizo Lodge is situated on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River about forty kilometers from Katima Mulilo, and its claim to birding fame is that it is home to breeding colonies of both Carmine bee-eaters and African skimmers. After checking into the lodge and booking a late afternoon boat trip to visit these birds, we settled into our comfortable little bungalow with views over the river.
We were pleased to be given our own personal guide and boat for our trip by the obliging manageress of the Lodge, who perhaps realized that we were more interested in seeing the Carmine bee-eaters and African skimmers than crocodiles and hippos that are the more usual attraction. It was great to be back on the Zambezi, being driven past a lazy croc sunning itself on a sand bank, passing local folk fishing from wooden mokoros and watching visitors from other lodges in the area trying their luck fishing for tigers and whatever else they could haul in as the sun went down.
We were taken to a sand bank where a half a dozen or so African skimmers were gathered. Our helpful guide climbed out of the boat and found a nest – just a scrape in the sand – with three eggs. We moved away quickly as we didn’t want to upset the mother bird, who settled back onto the eggs just a few minutes after we returned to the boat. All the while the Skimmers flew around, dipping their beaks into the water as they skimmed along the surface.
The highlight of the outing was seeing thousands of Carmine bee-eaters as they returned to their nests for the night. With the sun lighting their pink feathers, it was an awe-inspiring sight. This will be the subject of a post on its own.
Kaliso Lodge is a fantastic spot for birds and, judging by the pictures in the delightful pub, for fishing as well.
The trees around the lodge abound with an endless variety of birds that are a continual source of delight. But the most amazing sights are to be found on the flood plains near the lodge that attract thousands upon thousands of birds. How the pans can sustain such numbers is a mystery to us.
Marabou storks, Yellow-billed storks, Openbills, numerous types of ducks, egrets and herons, Pygmy geese, Ibisis, African spoonbills, Hamerkops, African fish-eagles.
An abandoned mokoro with no less than eight Pied kingfishers perched on it, three or four with fish in their bills.
We instantly regretted the fact that we had planned for only one night at the lodge. We had come to see the bee-eaters and skimmers, but there is so much more to see and do, and the lodge is so wonderfully situated that it deserves a much longer stay. There is also a great looking campsite overlooking the river that is very inviting. We will be back!!