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At The Nata Bird Sanctuary

A visit to the Nata Lodge in Botswana

Gill Staden, eTN  Feb 24, 2010

Nata Lodge burned down a couple of years ago. It was a sad loss to many travelers through Nata, because it has always been a favorite stopover. Now, though, it has been rebuilt and is as popular as ever.

I stayed at the campsite the other week with a friend and, although the ablution block was first class, the actual grounds left quite a bit to be desired. There were no barbeque sites, little shade, and it was extremely sandy. I can only assume that the campsite is on the list of things to do. I hope so.

Our reason for staying at Nata Lodge was to go onto Sua Pan in the afternoon and to see the bird life at Nata Bird Sanctuary. We duly joined about ten other guests on two safari vehicles to take a tour of the pan. The bird sanctuary entrance is about 10 km south of Nata Lodge on the Francistown Road. We entered, the guides paying the necessary dues – this is a community project. And then we drove onto the pan.

Sua Pan is ideal at this time of year due to the rains, and it is the breeding ground for pelicans and flamingoes. Unfortunately, the rains had not been kind to Botswana this year, and the pans had much less water than in previous years. The pelicans had gone elsewhere to breed because there was insufficient fish in the pan to feed on. The flamingoes were there, though. Up to half a million of them, we were told.

The pans can be dangerous at this time of year, and it takes an experienced driver/guide to take clients onto the pan safely. Many vehicles have been known to get stuck in the mud on the pans, hence, the wise advice is to go with an experienced company who can look after you.

We traveled through some small puddles at first, followed by some rather large ones, splashing through with no problem. On the way, we met with a herd of wildebeest, some springbok, and three jackals. One of the jackals was most obliging by standing next to the vehicle while we took some photos. The birds on the pan were water birds – waders, swimmers. and floaters. Some spoonbills were a special treat as they scooped around in the water finding morsels to eat.

And then we came onto the pan proper. The flamingoes could be seen as a sea of pink in the far distance. The guides drove us onto the pan as far as he could go and we had to stop there, looking through binoculars. I suppose it was disappointing not to get close to such an amazing spectacle, but that is the way it goes. We had no choice.

After enjoying a sundowner on the pan we drove back to the lodge. I am so glad that I went to see. Something to talk about on many an evening stuck at home in town.

A visit to the Nata Lodge in Botswana
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