Birding in Botswana Khama Rhino Sanctuary by Harold Hester

Khama Rhino Sanctuary (KRS)

We just love Botswana, especially its natural heritage.  

The magnificent variety of game, trees, insect life, reptiles, birds, flowers, unpolluted night skies and the rest keep us amazed by their wonder and beauty.  Added to that is the sheer scale of the place and that an adventure or interesting interaction with nature lies around every bend in the road.  If we were asked which was our favourite destination, we would be hard-pressed to make a decision.  Would it be the remote Western Woodlands with their tall camelthorn trees and waving grass, the Mababe grass plains in Savuti, stocked with herds and herds of zebras and elephants, the water front of the Chobe River, the quietness of being paddled in a mokoro through the Delta, our reverie being disturbed only by the grunts and snorts of a nearby hippo, the silence of the Central Kalahari with its unspoilt starry skies or a quiet section of the Limpopo River with the call of an Orange-breasted Bush Shrike or Woodland Kingfisher?  To these options we have to add the Khama Rhino Sanctuary with its huge herds scattered randomly on the grassy pans.  Of all the countries in the world, Botswana must approach the original Garden of Eden more closely than any other.  It is special.

But I want to write about Khama Rhino Sanctuary.  Situated about twenty-two kms north of Serowe and a comfortable four-hour drive from Gaborone, this little piece of Heaven is run and operated by the local community.  It is an excellent example to other communities as to what can be achieved by good management and attention to detail. 

The booking office is efficient as is the office at the front gate; the camping facilities are basic and acceptable with excellent shady campsites under manketti trees.  All in all, one immediately feels welcome.

 A few kms down a sandy road to test one’s four-wheel drive, brings us out onto the pans. There one is met by a vista of animals unmatched anywhere else except in a zoo.   Here there are no fences to keep the animals apart.  One’s first instinct is to look for rhino.  Our initial search yielded eighteen of these mammoths including calves.  Included in this first amazing scanning were impala, springbok, oryx (gemsbok), zebra, wildebeest (gnu), giraffe, waterbuck, eland, ostrich, warthog, Secretary Bird and Kori Bustard.  What an array!  Then there were the frequent arrivals and departures of Burchell’s Sandgrouse with our favourite call of choc-lit, choc-lit!  (As a chocoholic, the thought crosses one’s mind: just as the honeyguide leads one to honey, does this sandgrouse lead one to chocolate?)

Further searching of the Sanctuary yielded steenbok and duiker.  Others claimed to have seen a leopard.

Then it was back to camp with its attractive manketti trees (Schinziophyton rautanenii).  In camp one is hosted by starlings and hornbills of several descriptions.  With some luck one will be visited by Meyer’s Parrots and possibly a Pearl-spotted Owlet.  Then there are always the squirrels, dragonflies, lizards and skinks to keep one amused in the hot mid-day.

A return trip to the pans in the afternoon may yield a convocation of eagles and a wake of vultures.  A close-up of a Bateleur is always a rewarding sighting. Then there are always the littlies which give so much pleasure; the Scaly-feathered Finches, the Violet-eared Waxbills, the Pin-tailed Whydahs always rounding up their harems, the firefinches and on and on.

Truly, Khama Rhino Sanctuary is one of Botswana’s uncrowded tourist hotspots, always ripe for a revisit.  It is so good for the soul and so soothing to just sit there gazing over the pans and take in the harmony and beauty of nature.  Our thanks and appreciation go to all those, past and present, who have had a role to play in establishing and maintaining KRS.

Harold Hester