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Situated along Africa's mostinhospitable coastline, Namibia is awild and spectacular country of desertlandscapes and deep blue skies. The nameNamib is a Hottentot word meaning 'greatplains', epitomised by the magnificentEtosha Pan, whose amazing wildlifespectacles we have all seen so many timeson television. To the east of Etosha lies thegreat Kalahari Desert, whilst to the west isthe beautiful Namib Desert which stretchesalong the full length of the country'scoastline. Namibia is truly vast: three timesthe size of its colonist, Germany, yet with apopulation of less than two million! Notsurprisingly its wildlife has suffered less atthe hands of man than in most other African countries, and such endangeredspecies as the Black Rhinoceros still retain a viable toehold.Namibia's scenery is varied and full of contrasts. It is a land of towering brick-red sand dunes-the tallest on earth-of deep canyons, shimmering plains, highmountains and plateaux, and endlessbushland. Along the appropriately namedSkeleton Coast-the grave of so manyships -the cold Benguela Current sweepsnorthward, transporting plankton-richAntarctic waters into warm subtropicalregions. It is this current that has createdthe Namib Desert, since the Benguela's lowtemperature prevents evaporation andassures an incredibly low rainfall in theregion. Yet, if the Benguela limits theland-based flora and fauna, itsnutrient-packed waters are a haven for fish,seals and seabirds.Although Namibia was colonised byGermany from 1894, and presents a German flavour and architecture in its townseven today, modern Namibia still boasts therich indigenous cultures of its tribes-theBushmen, Himbas, Hereros, Ovambos andDamara. Thus it makes a most interestingcountry through which to travel, and inwhich to enjoy unique habitats and afabulous range of mammal and birdspecies, many of which are endemic.Our holiday begins in Windhoek, Namibia'scapital, from where we will drive to theNamib Naukluft National Park for a stay oftwo nights. Here the Naukluft Mountainsand the world's highest sand dunesconspire to offer some of the finest sceneryin Africa. Amongst them we will find somewonderful walking, such drought-tolerantmammals as Hartmann's Mountain Zebra,Gemsbok and Springbok, and an excellentrange of desert birds, including BlackEagle, Ludwig's Bustard, Rosy-facedLovebird, Bokmakierie and Dune Lark.The long drive to Walvis Bay, at thesouthern end of the Skeleton Coast, is unique in its utter desolation. We will crossthe dry Kuiseb Canyon, the remarkableMoonland, and arid plains where greatflocks of Ostrich and herds of Hartmann'sMountain Zebra roam. We will spend threenights in Walvis Bay in order to fully explorethe surrounding mudflats, marshes anddeserts. The bay holds one of the highestconcentrations of waders in southern Africa,and is also home to thousands of Greaterand Lesser Flamingoes, White Pelicans,grebes, ducks, gulls, terns and, quite often,vagrant American species into the bargain!If the weather permits, we will also set out tosea for a morning to look for the excitingpelagic species that feed offshore. We willalso venture inland in search of the peculiarWelwitschia mirabilis,a remarkable desertplant that lives for as long as 2,000 years!En route to the spectacular wilderness ofDamaraland, we will stop on the SkeletonCoast to look at the Cape Cross seal colonyand in the beautiful valley of Twyfelfontein toenjoy its wealth of rock art. Damaraland is anunpeopled wilderness of rolling, bush-covered hills and plateaux. Here we will stayin a comfortable tented camp and explorethis unique environment, hoping for a chanceencounter with the region's Black Rhino, Lionor 'desert' Elephant, and some outstandingbirding. At night we will have an opportunityto go spotlighting in search of some of theregion's nocturnal mammals such asAardwolf, Bat-eared Fox and Honey Badger. Covering 22,000 square kilometres, Etoshais one of the finest parks in Africa, and oneof the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth.At its heart is the Etosha saltpan, anenormous shallow depression-over 100kilometres across-with numerousperennial springs around its edges, whichattract large concentrations of birds andmammals.This is one of the last places inthe world where Elephant and Black Rhinomay both be seen, plus predators such asLion, Cheetah and Leopard, and antelopesranging in size from the giant Eland to thediminutive Damara Dik-dik. We will nowspend four full days enjoying the best of thepark's wildlife.We will break our drive back to Windhoekwith a night at the Waterberg Plateau Park.Rising almost 200 metres above thesurrounding bush, the Waterberg Plateau ishome to a tremendous variety of birds. Over200 species have been recorded and theseinclude Hartlaub's Francolin (a Namibianendemic), Black Eagle, Bradfield's Hornbill,Rüppell's Parrot, Rock Runner, Grey-backedBleating Warbler and the beautiful AfricanParadise Flycatcher.Namibia's Etosha Pan & Skeleton CoastA 17-day wildlife safari in search of the birds and mammals of Namibia's desert habitats including the Etosha Pan, the Namib Desert, the Waterberg Mountains, Damaraland and the Skeleton Coast. Friday 2nd November - Sunday 18th November 2012 Cost: £5,495Friday 1st November - Sunday 17th November 2013 Cost: £5,495Outline itineraryDay 1 Depart London. Day 2 Arrive Windhoek andtransfer to NamibDesert. Day 3/4 Sossusvlei and Sesriem,Namib Naukluft NationalPark. Day 5/7 Walvis Bay. Day 8/9 Damaraland. Day 10 Andersson's Camp. Day 11/14Etosha National Park. Day 15 Waterberg Plateau.Day 16Depart Windhoek. Day 17Arrive London.AccommodationComfortable chalets, lodges andpermanent tented camps, most withprivate facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingGrade A. A mix of gentle bird andgame-viewing walks and drives. FocusBirds and mammals. LeaderRob Mileto or Rob Murray, pluslocal guide(s). Single room supplement£750.Web quick search: NAM02166Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryANGOLABOTSWANAKAOKOLANDETOSHANATIONAL PARKNAMUTONITSUMEBWATERBERGDAMARALANDPLATEAUSKELETON COAST PARKOKAUKUEJOANDERSSON'SCAMPWINDHOEKNAUKLUFTSESRIEMSOSSUSVLEINAMIB-NAUKLUFTNATIONAL PARKWALVIS BAYSWAKOPMUNDCAPE CROSSATLANTIC OCEANNAMIBIADunes of the Namib Naukluft National Park'Desert' ElephantsNorthern Black Korhaan

The Republic of Seychelles is composedof a scattered archipelago of wonderfulislands in the equatorial western IndianOcean. Although the combined land area ofthe islands is small (only 455 squarekilometres), they hold an exceptional andincredibly diverse natural history, and thelarger granitic islands have a rugged andoften precipitous relief that accentuates theappeal of this unique country.On Mahe, by far the largest island, asinuous 30-kilometre spine of verdantpeaks rises spectacularly to 900 metres,above idyllic bays of clear, turquoise sea,beaches of shining white sand anddelightfully old-fashioned coconutplantations. High on the winding andpanoramic Sans Soucis road, and in theMorne Seychellois National Park, a richflora includes the strange, carnivorousSeychelles Pitcher Plant and SeychellesWild Orchid. Wild ginger, cardamon andphilodendron vines grow in the ditches andup the trees here, and in the mountain mistforests we may chance upon the endemicSeychelles Bulbul, the dazzling but highlyendangered endemic butterfly, the King ofthe Seychelles, or the elusive TigerChameleon. Our exploration of Mahe willalso take us to lovely beaches, pastCreole-style houses and tea plantations,and over the reefs at nearby MoyenneIsland. A roost of endemic Seychelles FruitBats is another highlight on Mahe, while onthe mudflats of Victoria many species ofmigrant shorebird congregate, amongthem the striking Crab Plover, PacificGolden Plover and other waders. By daythere will be the chance to roam amongspices such as Cloves, Patchouli and Nutmeg, enjoying their exotic scents to thefull, while at night we will search for theisland's interesting nocturnal inhabitants,among them the Seychelles Scops Owl.On Praslin we find an environment that isutterly unique. The Valle de Mai is the lastrelict of an ancient palm forest that oncecovered much of the islands. Walkingalong the narrow trails here induces aprofound sense of timelessness,augmented by the relative absence of birdsong. A variety of palms and the bizarrepalm-like pandanus create an eerie, thoughfascinating environment. Only theoccasional flock of endemic Black Parrots,weaving their way through the palmcrowns, reminds us that we are in amodern and not prehistoric age. Along theGlacis Noir Nature Trail, Takamaka Trees,Santol and the vulnerable Coco de Mer areamong the vegetation of interest; the latterproduces the largest seed in the world and,until the true source of the seed wasdiscovered in 1768, it was believed to growon a mythical tree at the bottom of the sea!Praslin will serve as a base from which tovisit the smaller granitic islands whichshelter vulnerable but still survivingpopulations of rare species such as theSeychelles Black Paradise Flycatcher andSeychelles Fody. From Praslin we will visitthe islands of Aride, Cousin, Curieuse, St.Pierre and La Digue. The former risesimpressively from the sea, cloaked in richwoodland with a fertile coastal plateau onthe south side and it is the picture of anidyllic tropical island. The wildlife here hasremained undisturbed for centuries and theisland is, arguably, the most important birdreserve in the Seychelles. It is host to morethan 750,000 pairs of 10 breeding seabirdspecies, including several thousand Greaterand Lesser Frigatebirds, and five speciesendemic to Seychelles, amongst them thevery rare Seychelles Magpie-robin. La Digueis the fourth largest of the granitic islandsand famous for its unique Seychelles BlackParadise Flycatcher, which can be seen inthe Veuve Special Reserve.Owned by the conservation organisationNature Seychelles, the tiny island ofCousin has provided a sanctuary for theSeychelles Warbler and efforts to protectthis species have certainly resulted insaving it from extinction. Some 250,000birds nest on the island each year, most of them seabirds, but among the othersare Seychelles Fody, Seychelles Sunbird,Seychelles Warbler and Seychelles TurtleDove. The reserve is also home to a widerange of other fauna, including skinks and giant tortoises. There will be opportunities for snorkelling for those who wish, and among the exciting potential underwaterdelights of these islands is the criticallyendangered Hawksbill Turtle, which nests in the Seychelles.On Bird Island the emphasis is on leisureand wildlife in whatever blend you fancy,making it the perfect location to round offour Seychelles holiday. White-tailedTropicbirds and Common Noddy nest onBird Island in large numbers and, thanks tocareful management practices, the islandhas seen a return of vast numbers of SootyTerns - about a million pairs at the lastcount! Fairy Terns, Lesser Noddy andGreen-backed Heron are all seen here,and Bird Island is also home to Esmerelda,the largest tortoise in the world! Together with the warm hospitality of thepeople and delicious seafood, this relaxing yet rewarding holiday in theseenchanting islands is sure to fulfil andexceed all expectations.The SeychellesA 14-day holiday in search of the unique birdlife and natural history of the mountains, forests and islands of the Seychelles.Tuesday 25th September - Monday 8th October 2012 Cost: £4,995Tuesday 24th September - Monday 7th October 2013 Cost: £5,195Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationINDIAN OCEANMAHE VICTORIAPRASLINCOUSINBIRDISLANDLA DIGUECURIEUSEARIDEOutline itineraryDay 1 Depart London.Day 2/5Mahe.Day 6/10Praslin; island visits.Day 11/13Bird Island.Day 14 Arrive London.AccommodationComfortable hotels with privatefacilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Easy day walks only.FocusBirds and other wildlife.LeaderGemma Jesse.Single room supplement£425.Web quick search: SYC01167Saint Pierre Island, SeychellesFairy TernSeychellesGiant Tortoise