19 January 2024: Day 1, Fly to Johannesburg, South Africa — Road Scholar Southern Africa Birding Safari
Note: All of the articles about this trip to Africa were written weeks ago based on the tour itinerary. This morning I begin my journey at Pittsburgh International Airport where snow is accumulating 1-3 inches before my flight leaves. The weather may alter how soon I get to Africa.
Today I’m on my way to Road Scholar’s Southern Africa Birding Safari: From Zimbabwe to Zambia & Beyond. The tour begins tomorrow in Johannesburg, South Africa but it will take me 24 hours to get there.
Africa is huge — more than three times the size of the continental U.S. — so we will see only a small part of it. For most of the trip we’ll be inside the red circle (below) in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. All four countries meet at the only international quadripoint in the world, the Four Corners of Africa.
After Johannesburg we will fly to Victoria Falls to begin our regional tour of birding hotspots and national parks in safari vehicles, by boat and occasionally on foot. Late January is the rainy season and the height of summer with highs as much as 100°F and lows in the 60s.
We’re sure to see the Big 5 mammals at Hwange and Chobe National Parks — elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo and (maybe not) rhinoceros — plus assorted other critters on our travels. Here a just a few from my Wish List.
We’ll also see birds! Up to 400 species and nearly all of them Life Birds. Most are unique to Africa. Some have migrated from Europe or Asia to spend the winter. I hope to see the endangered gray-crowned crane (Balearica regulorum), at top, and the birds in this slideshow below plus many more.
Because of the 7-hour time zone difference and the on-the-go birding schedule I’ve written all 15 days of articles in advance. I’ll post to Facebook and X (Twitter) when I get a chance but I can’t guarantee it. If you don’t see me on social media, look for my latest posts here on the blog’s home page.
For the next two+ weeks I’ll be mostly off the grid.
(photo and maps from Wikimedia Commons and Road Scholar. Click on the captions to see the originals.)
Autor Kate St. John