British Birdfair 2017 – number 23 for Lawson’s!

Not long to go now to that biggest global event for birding and nature enthusiasts… 20 000+ visitors over the three days! Dubbed the ‘Birdwatching Glastonbury’, the British Birdfair takes place at the usual spot in Rutland County on 19, 20 and 21 August. Lawson’s will be appearing for the 23rd year in a row, in Marquee 6, Stands 44 – 45. If you are going to be there, please come and chat to us! If you would like to find out more about this fair, which this year is going to be the biggest ever, check out the website: www.birdfair.org.uk.

Lawson's stand at the 2015 Birdfair.
Lawson’s stand at the 2015 Birdfair.

Visa-free travel in Africa for Americans, by Jackie Edwards.

Visa Free Travel to Africa


Freelance travel writer Jackie Edwards has kindly given us this short blurb on visa-free travel in Africa for American passport holders. Just another good reason to come on safari in Africa!

Attention American Travellers! These African Countries are Visa-Free!

According to VisaIndex, the American passport is one of the most respected passports around the globe, ranking fourth in the world. However, not all countries allow Americans to enter for extended stays, requiring special visas and other documentation.

When planning your next vacation, you may be envisioning an exciting destination in the wild that offers adventures on a safari amongst exotic animals and plants. If you are an American and this sounds like you, the good news is that Africa has many options for U.S. passport holders to visit the continent without applying for a specific visa.

The countries in Africa that allow Americans to enter for free (and some that grant a visa on arrival) include:

1.     Botswana – maximum stay of 3 months

2.     Comoros Islands – visa on arrival

3.     Ivory Coast – maximum stay of 90 days

4.     Djibouti – visa on arrival

5.     Egypt – visa on arrival

6.     Equatorial Guinea – maximum stay of 90 days

7.     Lesotho – maximum stay of 180 days

8.     Malawi  – visa on arrival

9.     Morocco – maximum stay of 90 days

10. Namibia – maximum stay of 3 months

11. Rwanda – visa on arrival

12. Senegal – maximum stay of 3 months

13. Seychelles – maximum stay 1 month

14. South Africa – maximum stay of 90 days

15. Swaziland – maximum stay of 30 days

16. Tanzania – visa on arrival

17. Togo – visa on arrival

18. Tunisia – maximum stay of 90 days

19. Zambia – visa on arrival

20. Zimbabwe – visa on arrival

With all of these African visa-free options for US citizens, you can easily plan an unforgettable vacation and see many of the stunning sights that the wildlife in Africa has to offer.

Destination Pafuri…

Pafuri Camp

Pafuri Camp 

At night, while sitting on your porch for a few minutes before you retire, the soulful two-note call of a Pel’s Fishing Owl reaches you from across the river (just too far to catch it in the beam of your torch!). From downstream in the big trees on your side of the river an African Wood-Owl pair breaks into a duet, somewhat livelier than the languid call of the Pel’s. Then, from the more open Acacia woodland just behind the camp, the deep pig-like grunting of a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl comes through, while Fiery-necked Nightjars (“Good Lord deliver us!”), the whoops of foraging Hyenas and a plethora of insect clicks, rasps and chirps provide a sonic backdrop to the calls of the three owl species. What a way to end off the day at Pafuri Camp!

Pafuri Camp is located on the northern bank of the Luvuvhu River, in the Makuleke Concession area of the far northern Kruger National Park. This is the way to do the northern Kruger – from the closest public camp, Punda Maria, you can only really scratch the surface as you are basically limited to the southern bank of the Luvuvhu River. It’s north of the Luvuvhu, ie: between the Luvuvhu and the Limpopo Rivers, where it really gets exciting. Habitats are incredible, including Baobab savanna, iLala Palm savanna, incredible riverine forest, Fever Tree groves that glow yellow in the sun (see banner photo at top), seasonal pans holding amazing water birds, fantastic rocky gorges and more. Special bird species include Pel’s Fishing Owl (sometimes seen fishing in the river at night from the bar at Pafuri Camp), Racket-tailed Roller, Arnot’s Chat, Three-banded Courser, the rather strange Bӧhm’s Spinetail, Tropical Boubou, Meve’s Starling plus the ‘usual’ range of Kruger birds. Big cats are not encountered here as often as they are in the south of Kruger, but for birders and those not overly concerned about cats, Pafuri is hard to beat. The camp is made up of 19 individual luxury safari tents, all spaced out along the river front for views and privacy. Three wonderful meals per day take care of all things gastronomical, while activities include morning and afternoon / evening wildlife and birding drives. In between drives one can continue birding and wildlife viewing from the public areas or your private porch, which is as idyllic as it sounds (see photos below). All in all this adds up to one incredible birding and wildlife destination. Experience Pafuri Camp on our Eagles, Elephants and Baobabs Birding and Wildlife set-departure, 3 – 15 March 2018. From ZAR 49 550 Per Person Sharing (based on 4 participants).

Rockjumpers on the moon.

On March 19 a runaway fire tore through the dry Fynbos vegetation around the village of Rooi Els east of Cape Town. Two homes were destroyed in the blaze, and the area still resembles a moonscape as the scorched earth awaits much needed rain. Into this lunar-like scene we stepped on the afternoon of Saturday 6 May in search of the endemic Cape Rockjumpers – one of the region’s most sought-after birds. The wind was howling, as it often does, and the comments from the two American photographer were understandably negative in terms of the chances of seeing anything, never mind the Cape Rockjumpers.  Still, as their guide I thought it was worth some effort at least, and managed to stretch it into a 45-minute search, which proved to be fruitless, so they returned to Cape Town empty-handed but not quite defeated. The Sunday was taken up by a pelagic birding trip and thus Monday morning was dedicated to giving it another shot – reports from another guide indicated that they were seen on the morning of the 6th, so it was perhaps just a matter of timing. Eventually we spotted a pair moving high up on the slope below the massif known as ‘Hangklip’, or ‘Hanging Rock’, despite the lack of anything resembling a food source. The advantage of the recent burn was that it was easy to move up the slope towards the birds, which we duly did. We managed to move in carefully enough that the birds weren’t disturbed and soon were sitting down with two males and a female jumping around on the rocks within 20 feet of our position. Believe me when I say that Gorges, with his 500mm f4 Mk11 with converter and Canon 1DX, got some absolutely cracking images! As the Rockjumpers moved off a flock of Cape Siskins moved through right past us, followed by other species such as Cape Bunting, Grey-backed Cisticola and Cape Rock Thrush. Talk about a high-5 moment!  Back at the car we had a well-needed cup of coffee and some food while photographing sunbirds before heading off to Stony Point for some more Penguin shots. What a great day in the field!

Male Cape Rockjumper, Rooi Els.
Male Cape Rockjumper, Rooi Els.
Female Cape Rockjumper, Rooi Els.
Female Cape Rockjumper, Rooi Els.

The most peaceful lodge.

Ok, so we can’t say that we’ve visited EVERY lodge in Southern Africa. Far from it, we’ve probably only scratched the surface so to speak, though with our high standards there are probably quite a few that don’t really warrant a visit, at least not when there are better alternatives. Over the years however we have visited quite a few lodges across the region, and we have a number of firm favourites. Now each lodge offers something unique, even though their ‘offerings’ may be the same as many other lodges. Design, location, situation, staff and other factors combine to create a unique experience, and it’s that experience that, at the end of the day, determines which lodge is a favourite and which lodge isn’t. Of course each lodge also has its strengths, where for example the game viewing might be so good that one is willing to compromise on other aspects. Or the game viewing might not be so great but the lodge experience is so good that it warrants patronage. Mkhaya’s Stone Camp in Swaziland is the perfect example of the latter. It’s not a Big Five reserve so forget about Lions and Leopard etc, though the Rhino sightings can be very good.  But the camp itself is wonderful, and it takes the award for ‘Most peaceful camp’. There’s no electricity, the open-sided chalets (yes, it’s pretty unique!) are situated far apart from one another, and there’s a very small but efficient staff compliment. This adds up to an incredibly quiet camp, far enough from the outside world that one is spared from the ‘village’ sounds in the background, while the staff are very good at keeping a low profile when they are not busy serving the guests (at some lodges the staff area can produce a lot of noise!). Daytime siestas are very relaxing, while by night all one hears is the calming chirps and clicks of crickets, the odd night bird or Spotted Hyena whooping as it passes by on a foraging mission. Lack of WiFi means that one tends to take a bit of a break from electronic devices and return to paper and ink, making Mkyaha Stone Camp a very good place to just get back to simplicity, peace and relaxation.