To say this part of Namibia is one of the last untouched wonders of the Zambezi regions not quite true in my opinion. It might be untouched by tourists, but it is definitely marked by the local inhabitants. At least this is my personal (a western impression) view of what could be in the future, and what is in fact happening right now. Maybe it is very selfish to expect nature to be untouched, trees to grow forever, birds to fly around enjoying whatever nature can offer, and maybe most importantly to see no people around. Simply put, just seeing nature being in its purest form.
Zambezi Mubala Lodge offers wonderful accommodation that is modern, stylish and comfortable, as well as amazing welcoming drinks and ample food for the connoisseur and average food lover. Boat trips are available for fishing, for sundowners and for relaxation. You do not have to drive, think, or worry, because everything will be done for you. The only activity that offered that requires being active (you do not need to, it is fully optional) is walking around enjoying the trees, plants, “goggos” and birds on a guided walk to the bird colonies. This walk is seasonal and only bookable directly at the lodge.
It is almost inevitable for me to try to name and dot down all the kinds of birds that you might see at the lodge. I will not start with the popular Southern Carmine Bee-eaters (Merops nubicoides) who tend to fly too far from their nesting colony sometimes, a few kilometres to the east of the lodge. I suggest you give it a try and go to see colony for yourself. There is this wonderful book in the curio shop at Zambezi Mubala Lodge, called Chariots of Fire, which is about all you ever wanted to know and see about Carmines. The book can be bought at The Narrative, Gondwana’s online shop. By the way, there is also a beautiful book on the trees of the area that is unmistakably Namibian.
One major plus point for the lodge, compared to Zambezi Mubala Camp, is the occurrence of a few Ficus trees, because the figs are an indispensable part of the diet of many birds in the area. These trees provide a major source of vitamin C for most of the birds.
The woodlands around the lodge are a special area for the migrant Black Coucals (Centropus grilli) and they make a visit non-negotiable. Unlike most Coucals, they are approachable to a certain extent, moving around in groups of two or more, and following them while driving can offer some real special sightings.
The Morning or Afternoon Boat Cruises offer the same perks for both camp and lodge guests, maybe the lodge visitors have the advantage of getting a KWV 10. A must for any boat trip is a visit to the breeding site of the African Skimmers (Rynchops flavirostris). They arrive much earlier than the Carmines because of the level of the river being much lower in late winter. This is crucial for the protection of their eggs and chicks before the river level rises and floods the sand beaches, where they breed. The acrobatics of these funny looking birds on the water, with their plastic bills, are amazing, shearing the surface of the water, catching the surface fish with such ease, I have never seen one going in the water that deep with its bill and causing a summersault. I even saw a lost Lesser Flamingo which flew in from Swakopmund to verify this phenomenon.
For the passionate birder there is always something special to see, Long-crested Eagles (Lophaetus occipitalis), African Harrier-Hawk (Polyboroides typus), African Marsh Harriers (Circus ranivorus), Fish Eagles, and of course the much looked for Western Banded Snake Eagle. The Dark Chanting Goshawks (Melierax metabes) are a different variant of the well-known Pale Chanting Goshawk, and extremely easy to distinguish. Unfortunately, the Yellow-billed Kites will be busy at the Carmine colony and will seldom be seen elsewhere.
At the lodge, the flowers of the different trees will always be filled with sunbirds, and apart from the normal sunbirds, look out for the Shelley’s Sunbird (Cinnyris shelleyi). If you find or see one please take a picture and call me. Every other birder to the area has seen it except for me.
The White-crowned Lapwing (Vanellus albiceps) with a chip on its shoulder does prefer the lodge surroundings and is a rather welcoming visitor and is very special to the area.
My expectations of preserving this Garden of Eden will probably become a delusion more and more, because the number of visitors to the area will increase, tourists will come and go, and eventually nature will diminish. While this place of beauty is still there, we should thoroughly enjoy it, and in the process try to preserve it, maybe even try to improve it. Have you been to Zambezi Mubala Lodge for some birding? Share your experience with us in the comment section below.
Author: Pompie Burger