Ever wondered what it would be like to have your own private Nature Reserve – one you can explore at your leisure, with a major African river on its doorstep?
That seems to be part of the deal when you visit the Seboba Nature Park in Kasane, northern Botswana. Introduced to it by a colleague, I have been fortunate to visit this idyllic spot a few times this year and each time I have been the only visitor. Clearly it is not always as quiet, particularly when school and other groups visit – it was probably a question of being lucky in choosing the times we did.
Seboba Nature Park is a small nature reserve located on the outskirts of Kasane, bordered on the one side by a stretch of the Chobe River and on the other by the tarred road into Kasane, and was developed by the Botswana Government to support tourism in the area – by all accounts it has proved to be successful up to a point, but I would say it needs the support of tourism companies to persuade more tourists to visit.
The notice board and map near the entrance spells out its origin and some of the attractions, which include cultural villages, information centre, curio shop, dance arena and walking trails :
There are paths from the parking area that meander down to the river’s edge and to the top of a low hill, called Commissioner’s Kop, which has a deck with tables and chairs and magnificent views up and down the river.
A raised boardwalk leads off the reception area and meanders through the riverine forest and bush, creating opportunities to see some of the variety of bird life and a few animals.
The boardwalk ends at the picnic site, but paths take you further through the dense bush should you want to be a little adventurous – it’s best to have a ranger accompanying you from here as the chances of “bumping into” wild life increase.
A small deck at the end of the boardwalk allows you to view the part of Chobe River known as the Seboba Rapids – a section of river with faster flowing water and small islands, some bedecked with trees and favoured by hundreds of birds for roosting and nesting.
Seboba is not a game park as such, but a wildlife corridor to the river has been maintained by leaving openings in the fence between the adjoining road and the park, which is regularly used by elephant and other wild life to gain access to the river, as they have for millennia in all likelihood.
One of my visits turned into a bit of an adventure and reminded me that the area is very much “Wild Africa”…….
After parking near reception, I slung my binoculars around my neck and my camera over my shoulder (two items which have become part of my outfit when birding) and headed down the track to the river. I could not help noticing the fresh-looking elephant tracks in the sand and equally fresh-looking elephant dung, which I had to step around in places, bush signs which had my senses on high alert.
The river was not far, so I carried on to the river bank and started birding, while looking around carefully all the while. Just then, one of the rangers came down the track to tell me there were elephants in the bushes to my right and suggested, with a hint of urgency, that I move away . I could see the elephants through a gap in the trees and decided the ranger had a point, so I followed his further suggestion that we head along the river, the ranger in front and me behind. We stuck to the river’s edge, which was flowing high, wide and strong from the rains in Angola some weeks prior.
We were now walking away from the elephants, so I was feeling a tad more relaxed and enjoying the solitude of the river and the adjoining thick bush – until I started thinking about crocodiles, having seen the warning notices. Besides that, we were now literally on the edge of the Chobe River, even treading in the water where the steep bank caused my shoes to slip here and there.
I casually asked the ranger whether crocodiles were present and he nodded to say yes – not a minute later a loud splash ahead of us announced the first croc as he was scared off by our approach. Further ahead we spotted a croc about 50m away, lying in the shallows next to the bank – we approached slowly and cautiously and as we got closer the croc slid silently into the river, swam behind a partly submerged tree and eyed us as we passed.
All in all, an eventful and exciting walk that I had not planned for at all – Africa can make you feel very small and vulnerable at times!
My primary purpose in visiting Seboba was, of course, to do some birding and the park did not disappoint. My first sighting on my first visit was Collared Palm-Thrush on the reception building’s roof – a most desirable species for Southern African birders. This set the tone for what could be expected and as I explored further the list grew, including a pleasing number of “specials” –
Along the boardwalk –
- Grey-headed Sparrow, not scarce by any means but interesting because Kasane is one of the few places in Southern African region where both Southern and Northern species occur. This one turned out to be the Southern species
- Noisy Arrow-marked Babblers
- Trumpeter Hornbills with their eerie “crying-baby” calls echoing through the woodland
- Bradfield’s Hornbill
- Broad-billed Roller
- Woodland Kingfisher, its position given away by its trilling call
Commisioner’s Kop viewing point –
- African Golden Oriole in its bright yellow plumage
- African Green Pigeon – good at hiding behind foliage
- Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove
Down by the riverside –
- African Jacana
- African Darter
- Yellow-billed Stork
- Pygmy Goose
- African Openbill in the shallows, probing for molluscs
- Reed and White-breasted Cormorants in numbers
- Water Thick-knee, flying away low over the river when disturbed
- White-crowned Lapwing, also prone to flying off but often landing a short distance further
Hillside and open areas –
- White-browed Sparrow-Weaver
- Blue Waxbill
- Little Bee-eater
This small park is well worth a visit even if for just an hour or two – the variety of habitats in a concentrated area can be covered in a short time, although the longer you can stay the better … oh and don’t wander around too much unless there’s a ranger nearby (which they tend to be)
Special thanks to Derek Thomas for showing me this spot, and others, in Kasane.