Botswana’s Nata Bird Sanctuary – A community conservation project
As the only protected reserve in the northeastern periphery of Sowa Pan, Nata Bird Sanctuary is a community-managed project. This avian sanctuary opened in 1993 with the objective of wildlife conservation. The sanctuary is home to about 165 bird species.
The bird sanctuary provides one of the pans’ best views from an elevated wooden platform, a beautiful panoramic vista. The sanctuary is located at the mouth of the Nata River delta about 15km from Nata Village. Nata bird sanctuary is described as one of the largest breeding sites of lesser and greater flamingo in the world.” The areas is 230sqkm of what was once a grazing area for over 3500 cattle before the locals moved the cattle, understanding the significance of the area when it was declared protected. The Manxotae, Sepako, Nata and Maposa Communities were the original inhabitants of the region.
The rainy period from December to March when the banks of the Nata River are full as these waters flow into the Sowa Pan, attracting a multitude of bird species. During the rainy season 4x4s are a requirement for exploration of the area. Greater and lesser flamingoes as well as great white pelican are the most common bird species, annually arriving in large numbers in the winter season as part of their migration. The African Fish-eagle, Ostrich, Kingfisher, the black winged stilt, the blacksmith lapwing, martial eagle, kori bustard and secretary birds are notable species of the sanctuary. Birds migrate from Etosha in Namibia.
Being close to Nata Village means that there is a wide variety of accommodation to choose from. For northward bound travelers, Nata Sanctuary is a perfect stop over on your way towards Kasane or Maun. Nata Lodge is another excellent place to stay or alternatively the campsite near the park entrance, offering showers, toilets and braai areas.
As birds don’t live in isolation from other species there are other animals to make a visit to the Nata Bird Sanctuary a worthwhile safari. Almost half of the Reserve lies in the Sowa pan. There are antelope, kudu, monkeys, reedbuck, springbok, jackals, foxes, eland, gemsbok and Zebra. There are tour guides available to assist visitors and they are particularly helpful for education on the various species available, their behavior and migration patterns.