After leaving Cape Town for Maun airport in Northern Botswana, we transferred to a light plane that dropped us off after a 40’ flight at the airstrip serving Camp Savuti. This consists of 5 upmarket ‘Meru’ style tents on wooden platforms with outdoor showers and a common dining/bar area. After settling in we met our excellent guide, universally known as P-man, and we set off on the first of the game drives that yielded a fantastic range of sightings over the next 3 days (see also my recent posts “Patience rewarded” and “Rehabilitating the hyena”).
Savute lies in a geologically unstable region of the eastern Okavango, where not only are there annual rains and flooding as seen elsewhere along the Okavango river, but the Savuti channel’s linkage to the Linyanti river system has been alternately blocked and opened over an approximately 10-year cycle.
After the latest blockage event we are currently in a period of intense drought in the reserve, and in September when we visited, the only water available for large animals is found in 3 artificially filled waterholes, supplied from wells via solar pumps. This results in concentrations of predators and prey at the waterholes, while the rest of the landscape is desiccated and heavily dusty. Not for the first time on this trip I was grateful for having brought 2 Olympus camera bodies with dust and weather-proof lenses, so I didn’t have to switch lenses while dust was hanging in the air (i.e. most of the time).
Probably as a result of the food pressures on large game species in Savute, the two local lion prides (known as the Marsh and Northern prides, not to be confused with their more famous Kenyan counterparts) have learned how to hunt able-bodied adult elephant, which is unusual elsewhere in Africa. We saw the results of one such kill over 3 days: the lion had killed and eaten the soft parts of the carcass the day before, but it wasn’t until hyena opened the rest with their powerful jaws on day 3 that vultures, jackals and marabou crane joined in the feast. By that stage you really didn’t want to stay too long downwind…
Six low, rocky hills provide cover for leopards, and the stones of some carry ancient San bushman art. Parts of the landscape show the blackened, dead skeletons of trees killed by drowning during the last inundation.
Click on the first thumbnail, which will open it in a Lightbox and you can then click right to follow through the series of landscape images:
Elephants apparently digest only a maximum of 60% of their vegetable food, so their dung makes rich pickings for many creatures, including the banded mongoose.
The unique Savute environment has been the subject of a wonderful wildlife photography book by James Gifford ( https://www.nhbs.com/savute-botswanas-wildlife-kingdom-book ), and a beautifully filmed 2-part National Geographic channel production ‘The Flood’ (highly recommended as long as you ignore the portentous narration: https://www.natgeotv.com/za/shows/natgeowild/the-flood )
We had the lodge to ourselves for the second and third nights, which was a great luxury, and the staff gave us a lovely lantern and candle-lit supper on our last night.
P-man drove us deep in to the Savute Marsh area on our last day. Currently dry savannah, this is perfect cheetah country, and gave us a prolonged sighting of a pair of brothers who hunt co-operatively.
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The grid below shows a further selection of my images of a variety of species in Savute: these include yellow hornbill, lilac-breasted roller, elephant, warthog, magpie shrike, Kori bustard, go-away bird, giraffe, lion, tawny eagle, blue wildebeest, blacksmith lapwing and roan antelope.
Click on the first thumbnail, which will open it in a Lightbox and you can then click right to follow through the series: