2017 Travel Year In Review – The Year Of The Bucket Lists

It’s time for my traditional look back at the year in review – both my personal travels and events that affected the miles and points community.  Sorry it’s late but I have been busy with personal things. Last year was epic and I knew it would be hard to top but I may just have at least equaled it.

JANUARY – FEBRUARY – MARCH
Very quiet months.  The miles and points opportunities have wound down so I have been more in a spend miles mode rather than earning.  I have begun the shift away from the US programs and back to Australian programs.  So my focus has been on maximizing the Coles (Virgin) and Woolies (Qantas) programs.

APRIL – MAY
The Godmother of All African Adventures happened over 4 amazing weeks and has been already covered extensively on this blog.

UGANDA

ETHIOPIA

ZAMBIA

NAMIBIA

On the miles and points bucket list perspective I got to have my first ever business class experience flying Etihad from Perth to Abu Dhabi and Qatar from Windhoek to Doha to Adelaide!

JUNE – JULY – AUGUST

It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind and so I did.  Earlier this year I had posted that I wanted to do an Outback Australia birding trip.  And that I was saving miles to go to the Loro Parque Conference in 2018.  Well I changed my mind and decided to blow almost all of my remaining AA and BA miles on a trip to Peru to visit the Manu Wildlife Reserve.  So I put in a lot of planning and research to make this trip happen.

SEPTEMBER

The big trip to Peru happened and was a huge success!  I will get around to blogging it in the New Year.

And this was the final miles and points bucket list item.  I traveled in First Class on Emirates between Auckland and Brisbane.  Only a 3 hour flight but it was awesome and a great use of QF points!

OCTOBER – NOVEMBER -DECEMBER

Back to a more quiet lifestyle.  I have spent almost all my miles and points (and very well I might add).  I still do the shopping promos at Coles and Woolies but now I feel like I have accomplished so much of what I set out to do in regards to travel.  I am not going to stop traveling but I will tone it back.  I still have plenty of miles in Velocity, Qantas and Amex MR to easily cover travel plans in 2019, even 2020.
You may have noticed I also scaled back on blog postings.  My personal life has become busier than it used to be so I apologize for that.  I will be doing only 3 posts a week from now on just to keep a sustainable posting frequency.

I hope you all had wonderful travels this year too!!

Rosy-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis)

The Rosy-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis), also known as the Rosy-collared or Peach-faced Lovebird, is a species of lovebird native to arid regions in southwestern Africa such as the Namib Desert. A loud and constant chirper, these birds are very social animals and often congregate in small groups in the wild.

There was a small flock along the Kunene River.

This one was seen at Oppi-Koppi Rest Camp in Kamanjab.

Spectacular in flight!

 

They have a specific range from Angola through Namibia and into the Kgalagadi NP in South Africa.  There are reports of them in Etosha NP and I personally saw them in Kamanjab, Kunene River and Omaruru.

LEARN MORE ABOUT ROSY-FACED LOVEBIRDS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

VIDEOS

Beautiful footage from Namibia

Documentary slide show in German but still interesting to English speakers.

 

 

Monteiro’s Hornbill (Tockus monteiri)

The Monteiro’s Hornbill (Tockus monteiri) is a species of hornbill that is native to the dry woodlands of southwestern Africa.  It is a common, near-endemic species in Namibia, with a total population estimated at 340,000 individuals.

I do remember seeing these guys in several places usually roadside as we were driving from one place to another so I can’t believe I only got one shot while driving from Huab Lodge to Omaruru.  They are only found in Namibia and a small part of Angola so Namibia is really you best chance to see them.

LEARN MORE ABOUT MONTEIRO’S HORNBILLS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Biodiversity Explorer

VIDEOS

Nothing on Youtube!  There are a few clips on HBW taken around the Erongo area.

Lodge Review: Omaruru Guesthouse

With a focus on birding and very little time planned for this overnight stop, the Omaruru Guesthouse was a good budget option.

The door with the lit windows is where the reception and restaurant is.  Unfortunately, they don’t have dinner service, only a breakfast buffet.  You have to go to one of the nearby hotels for a proper dinner.  In our case, we were still pretty full after a huge late lunch at the Wimpy’s (like a Denny’s or Coco’s-ish) in Outjo so we were satisfied with snacks and drinks.

There is an attractive pool area which we didn’t have time to use.

The rooms were very pleasant and the wifi was pretty good.

Omaruru is the one town we passed through that I would have liked to spend more time.  It’s quite an attractive little town and has nice cafes and gift shops and the birding in the surrounding area is excellent.  It’s unlikely that we would get enough miles to afford a return to Namibia but Omaruru would be at the top of the return visits!

Birding Around The Omaruru Area, Namibia

This would be our last chance for birding in Namibia before heading home.  After leaving Huab Lodge, we headed south to Omaruru via Outjo to avoid dirt roads.  I had had enough of those to last a lifetime!  We arrived in Omaruru around 3pm so headed off towards the Erongo Wilderness Area for birding before heading to the hotel for an overnight stop.

Approaching Erongo Wilderness Lodge which has a gorgeous setting but was way out of our budget.

What’s this?  Looks interesting!  (Seen on the Erongo Road)

Shaft-tailed Whydah

There is a guarded gate but they let us in, no problem.

We were planning to go to the lodge, have a drink at the bar and see as many birds as possible.  We were stopped in our tracks by a bad road.

Lower car park, lodge guests are given transport if they can’t drive themselves but not day-trippers.

Bad photo of a beautiful Violet Wood-hoopoe

We stopped in here for a quick look around and I was hoping they had some of those Lovebird artworks for sale (they don’t).  I wish I had known Camp Mara existed, we would have stayed here!  For future reference:  Camp Mara

With the sun rapidly going down, it was time to go to the hotel we already booked:  Omaruru Guesthouse.

Good morning!  Time for some early birding before the final drive back to Windhoek Airport and the flight home!

OK, OK we will Go-away, Bird!

Flock of Rosy-faced Lovebirds

Pale-winged Starling

Let’s see if I can get a decent shot of a Rosy-faced Lovebird in flight!

Not this one!

Getting better!

These next 2 were the best I can do, they are a pretty small and fast target!

A final goodbye to Omaruru as we drive to Windhoek.

 

Birding The Grounds Of Huab Lodge, Namibia

One of the reasons for choosing Huab Lodge is that there had been several reports on eBird of Ruppell’s Parrots in the area.  We did find ONE parrots and lots more birds!

This pretty bird was seen on the roadside.  I think it’s a Yellow-crowned Bishop.

Quite a few lizards around sunning on the rocks.

And here he is…………….the ONE Ruppell’s Parrot we saw on the whole trip!  Thankfully he stuck around for awhile.

Ring-necked dove

Ring-necked dove

Another lizard

Dusky Sunbird

Laughing Dove

Guineafowls coming right into the restaurant.

Cape Bunting

Rock Bunting

Squirrel

Workers seen from the deck

Pale-winged Starling

African Red-eyed Bulbul

Fork-tailed Drongos

White-browed Sparrow-Weaver

Lilac-breasted Roller

Monteiro’s Hornbill

Apologies for not being able to id all the birds, if anyone knows what the LBJs & stripe-faced birds are, please comment!

Dusky Sunbird (Cinnyris fuscus)

The Dusky Sunbird (Cinnyris fuscus) is found in arid savanna, thickets and shrubland in southern Africa and is duller than most other sunbirds.

They can be found throughout Angola, Namibia, Botswana & South Africa.  I saw this one right near our room at Huab Lodge in Namibia.

LEARN MORE ABOUT DUSKY SUNBIRDS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Biodiversity Explorer

VIDEOS

Here’s some slides with a sound clip.

 

Rüppell’s Parrot (Poicephalus rueppellii)

Rüppell’s Parrot (Poicephalus rueppellii) or Rueppell’s Parrot is named after the German naturalist and explorer Eduard Rüppell.

They can be found in Namibia and Angola.  I saw this one at Huab Lodge high in a tree but at least he stayed there awhile!

LEARN MORE ABOUT RUPPELL’S PARROTS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

Biodiversity Explorer

VIDEOS

There weren’t a lot of wild bird clips but lots of pet Ruppell’s Parrots out there!

 

Lodge Review: Huab Lodge, Namibia

Huab Lodge has a stunning location in Damaraland, Namibia and is one of the country’s top birding lodges.

It is accessed via a 35 km dirt road just south of Kamanjab.  Look for D2670 on the signs, then just follow the signs to the lodge.

The buildings are very cool architecturally………….

…………even the local birds think so!

They offer a variety of activities including game drives.  We didn’t do the game drive as I thought the lodge grounds offered excellent birding.

Meals are served at fixed times around one large table shared by hosts and guests.  Teh food was excellent and dinner was quite a show when one of the local ladies described the food in their language which has a lot of clicks.  Just beyond the dining area is a deck where you can watch birds and relax.

Our room was stunning!  We weren’t bothered by mosquitoes so didn’t use the nets, preferring to have an open look out the window to the scenery below.

The bathroom is actually a bit similar to ours at home with the walk-in shower and stone floor although our window doesn’t have such a nice view!

Here’s our deck and you can see how amazing the scenery is!

The swimming pool is just next to the restaurant.

You can walk down this trail to the hot pool below.

The gorgeous hot pool with the stonework is nice and hot and very relaxing.  A great place to loosen up those aching muscles………………

…………………before a nice relaxing massage!  This was our “spoil ourselves” treat after a long trip through Africa!

You can book on their website or try an online travel agent for better deals.  We used Orbitz as they had a good discount already and I was able to stack it with a 15% coupon code that was emailed to me.  We only stayed one night as it’s not a cheap place but wish we could have stayed longer.