2020 Botswana and Zambia tour information
Tour details for 2020
Applications have closed. Unfortunately, travel restrictions mean that we are unsure if we will be able to complete the tour this year. Further details will be provided to short-listed applicants as they become available.
Associate Professor Paul McDonald is the Unit Coordinator and Fieldtrip Leader for this program. Also travelling this year will be Dr Deborah Bower, who will form the second member of the teaching team. Both Paul and Deb have travelled in Africa previously, and are familiar with the local wildlife and areas. Their interests are also complimentary, with Paul having expertise with avian biodiversity and behaviour, whilst Deb has a highly successful research portfolio examining the conservation ecology of frogs and reptiles. Both also have extensive First Aid training in the extremely unlikely event that it will be needed.
Group size and accommodation
A total of 14 students will be selected to go on the trip, which will also include a highly skilled guides who double as our drivers. When on safari we will split into two groups of nine, with each truck having a staff member, seven students and a driver who doubles as out guide. Teaching staff and our guide will help students identify animals encountered, but the aim is that students develop their own identification skills during the trip so that by the end you are able to clearly separate your Banded versus Dwarf Mongooses, or Cape Turtle versus Red-eyed Doves.
Students travel in twin-berth accommodation, so you’ll share a tent during the safari with a colleague, and have twin-share hotel rooms when staying in towns (Maun, Gabarone, Livingstone or Johannesburg). The bulk of the trip is spent camping, and students are expected to help put up their own tent and sleeping bed, however a mattress, pillow and blanket are provided. Several staff will also look after the campsite, so that when we return from game drives showers and toilets will be available. Camp staff also cook meals, with tea and coffee provided. We will purchase bottled water and a small selection of soft drink and juice to enjoy as well. Dietary requirements can be catered for if communicated in advance.
The trip operates from Sydney to Sydney – that is teaching staff will meet students in Sydney International Airport, and escort them throughout the entire trip until we return to Sydney on the return leg. Students are responsible for organising their own transport to and from Sydney International Airport.
Key travel dates are:
6 Nov: Fly from Sydney to Johannesburg, South Africa, overnight in a hotel near airport.
7 Nov: Fly through to Gabarone, Botswana. Visit University of Botswana campus, then explore the vulture rehabilitation centre and reptile enclosures at Mokolodi Nature Reserve.
8 Nov: Morning game drive at Mokolodi NR looking for Eland, Impala and Duiker. Travel by air-conditioned bus to Serowe and the Khama Rhino Sanctuary for dinner, before undertaking a night time game drive searching for nocturnal specialists such as aardwolf, aardvark, genets and porcupine. Stay overnight in the dormitories at Khama RS.
9 Nov: Morning game drive, searching for both Black and White Rhinoceros at Khama. Air-conditioned shuttle bus back to Gabarone, before flying back to Johannesburg and overnighting in a hotel.
10 Nov: Fly into Maun, Botswana and head out to Planet Baobab to spend your first night camping in the African wilderness.
11 Nov: We visit and spend a morning walking with a habituated group of meerkats, keeping an eye out for other species such as ground squirrels. These animals are wild, but it will be hard to get any closer – if you stay still long enough they just may use your head as a lookout post.
11-13 Nov: After lunch, we will drive west to Nxai Pan National Park for two nights camping. This area is famous for its Oryx, Elephants enjoying waterholes at sunset, and the iconic sound of lions at night. If we’re lucky our camp will be visited by Bushbabies, and you’ll be hearing the cries of Black-backed Jackals regularly as they look for a meal.
13 Nov: Back to Maun and a night in a hotel to relax, refresh and recharge your batteries (literally). We stay at the Sedia, a beautiful hotel with a pool, poolside restaurant and lovely green surrounds. It also has internet for your status updates and checking in with family and friends.
14-17 Nov: For the first time we will spend three nights camping in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and the world-renowned Deception Valley. This is a dry landscape that will contrast with the wetter, more forested areas to the north. Here we hope to find Cheetah, Brown Hyaena and Honey Badger, as well as other more southerly distributed taxa like Eland.
17 Nov: After a shower and refresh at the Sedia, we spend a night with Bonte and her crew learning about life as a Batwanan. Prepare to hear lots of stories, eat local cuisine, and unfortunately observe your teaching staff dancing in traditional kit.
18 Nov: Optional trip to Lake Ngami, a high diversity wetland site that, depending on water levels, could be a prime location for flamingos, pelicans, and other waterbirds. For those who wish to rest, they can spend the day by the pool at the Sedia.
19-21 Nov: We travel into Moremi Game Reserve, and spend two nights camping in the Xakanaxa region. This includes a boat trip where we explore the channels of the Okavango Delta, looking for Hippopotamus, Cape Clawless Otters, African Fish Eagles, and Nile Crocodile. If we’re lucky, we may also see the elusive Sitatunga.
21-23 Nov: Travel to the Khwai River region of Moremi for two nights camping. Without a doubt this is Paul’s favourite area in Botswana. In 2018, one morning game drive saw 2 cheetah, 2 leopards, and a pair of mating lions, all in the first few hours! As well as these species, we will also keep an eye out for Greater Kudu, Zebra, and Reedbuck.
23-25 Nov: Two nights camping in the Savuti region of Chobe River National Park. Highlights here might include Dwarf Mongoose, African Wildcat, Secretarybird, and an unforgettable visit to rock paintings that are at least 2000 years old.
25-27 Nov: Our final two nights camping are spent on the Chobe River, within Chobe River National Park. Here we may encounter herds of buffalo in their hundreds if not thousands, Giraffes grazing in mixed herds with Impala and Kudu, as well as hear the unmistakable calls of Spotted Hyaena at night. We take a boat trip to see how Elephant ignore international boundaries and cross the river into Namibia looking for an easy meal, and if we’re lucky see Bushbuck, Puku and other species like Warthog at the water’s edge. On top of this we will also get close to a range of bird species, such as whistling ducks, bee-eaters, kingfishers, herons, water monitors, and likely some incredibly large Nile Crocodile.
27 Nov: Our Botswana safari ends, and we cross the Zambezi River into Zambia, and check-in at Livingstone. After a relaxing lunch and shower, we head out to the breathtaking Victoria Falls for a truly unforgettable day. You can hike down into the Boiling Pot to look for Dassies, or brave a drenching crossing the Knie-edge bridge where a small patch of rainforest holds such exotic species as the Trumpeter Hornbill and Schalow’s Turaco. We return to have dinner on a deck overlooking the Zambezi River for our final night in Africa.
28 Nov: We fly home via Johannesburg, arriving in Sydney on 29 November.
One of your best memories of the trip will likely be lying back in your tent at night listening to the sounds of the Botswanan bush. Click here to hear a few sound bites from the 2018 trip to wet your appetite.
For more information, contact Assoc. Prof. Paul McDonald