Savuti – Fun in the rain with insects.


We have heard so much about Savuti, mostly about the difficult driving conditions. From Chobe to Savuti involves lots of deep sand and we prepare by deflating the tyres as much as we dare. It makes a huge difference in these conditions and despite our best efforts we fail to get Dad stuck! Passengers in both cars would dearly love to post a photo of one
pulling the other out of sand, mud or water. But its not to be.

On our way to Savuti

I find it hard to describe the feeling of being out in the African bush at this time of year. The grass is growing, trees are budding and animals are plentiful and looking well fed, many with babies. The sense of wellbeing you feel from just driving through the bush, or sitting around camp with the sights, smells and sounds of it all around you is fantastic. It makes you feel alive and you feel such a connection to this place that it is difficult to imagine being back in “civilisation” at all. What is it about Africa that so many people feel this connection from the very first time they visit and, for some, it feels like a second home, which they are drawn back to again and again. It is been like this for us for years, and today, in Savuti, we see the first signs of it in Dad and Chris.

Maribou Pan, Savuti
Maribou Pan, Savuti

Shortly after arriving at the rest camp and freshening up we decide to go for a drive and see what’s around before setting up for the night. Within just a few minutes we are bumping along a deep sandy track and spot a pride of lions lying under a small clump of acacias. They must have only just woken from sleeping in the hottest part of the day as they are lying on their backs, stretching, yawning and rolling over in the sand to wake up. The thing about a lion sighting is that when you catch the first glimpse it so exciting. Lion! Wow! How thrilling. Unfortunately, during the day, the just don’t do anything. They just lie there, in the shade, breathing. So its great to see these ones at least moving about a bit. Maybe we will catch up with them again later.

Mostly doing nothing!

We head in the direction of Maribou Pan and here we see a lovely big herd of elies, some of which were making the most of the shade under a lone tree. Good chance for a nice photo of Dad and Chris in their Toyota.

Elies in Savuti

We then head off around the marsh area and see some tsebbee, wildebeest, black backed jackal and warthogs. The land here is surprisingly green, I think it must have rained here too. Every now and then in the flat landscape is a rocky kopjie or a a little copse of taller trees, successfully hiding  a few giraffes, but for the most part we can see for miles.

Savuti

We arrive at a dry river bed a spot another vehicle, a game drive from the nearby lodge. They are watching a lone lioness and we come to a halt a observe her from a short distance away. She is alert, head high and gazing into a thicket of small acacias. Then we see it; a impala. And it seems to be on its own, some distance from the rest of the herd which is unusual and not really a good idea. The lioness begins to stalk, slowly, slowly getting nearer to the impala. But the impala is moving and soon both are in amongst the bush and we can no longer see them. We drive around to the other side of the trees and then around a few other tracks in the immediate vicinity but with no luck. Never mind, it is great just to see the stalking and feel the anticipation.

Zebra in Savuti

During the night we have another thunderstorm and all around us is the sound of elephants and hyenas. It is surprisingly difficult to sleep in the peaceful African bush sometimes.

Big Baobab in Savuti

In the morning we set of again and soon come across some fresh tracks in the sand and they are definitely white rhino. We have a drive around but we can’t follow them far as they head off into the bush where there are no roads. Back at the camp site we let the rangers know what we have seen and they seem surprised. Apparently they haven’t seen rhino here for a very long time but some have been released into Moremi so perhaps they have come from there. Its good news though, rhino are vary much in danger from poaching all over Africa and any sighting, especially when its not expected, is fantastic.

African Bull Frog

Sometimes in the bush it is the smaller things you see, or even don’t properly see, like the rhino who left the tracks, that are the most rewarding. We spend what could have been an uneventful afternoon huddled under the awning during a thunderstorm but nature often has a surprise in store. When the rain finally stops we notice hundreds of aliates, termites with wings, are released from the colonies to mate with others from different colonies in order to start an new one. When they find a mate they drop their wings, join together, and burrow down into the ground. It is an incredible sight as thousands of these things are flying around or crawling on the ground and this annual bonanza of nutritious insects attracts birds, frogs and other insectivores to feast on them. We saw lots of different species and even a huge African bull frog who just sat there, waiting, and as the insects wandered into his path, a quick flick of the tongue finished them off. It was a fascinating afternoon and it was then that we realised that Dad and Chris were truly loving the whole experience. Some come to Africa to see the Big Five but that is to miss the whole point of the place. Beauty, drama and adventure are everywhere here, you just need to open your heart and your eyes.

Late to the waterhole

Stunning scenery and wildlife on Chobe waterfront

Back in Botswana and off to Chobe

14 Nov. First stop this morning is Hemingways in Livingstone to pick up Dad and Chris’ car. We have used this company before and found them to be efficient with good cars. In fact the car we collect is  one we have actually driven before. After going over everything to make sure they are happy with how everything works Dad and Chris set off with us to their first African border crossing – Kazangula again – we brace ourselves.

But, after employing a helper again, it actually isn’t too bad. However Dad is absolutely gobsmacked at how disorganised it all is. It is certainly a shock welcome to your first African holiday, but we assure him that it should be a little more relaxed from here on in. Back in Kasane we have a lovely lunch at Chobe Safari Lodge and get some shopping for the next few days as the next place we will get chance to buy food is probably going to be Maun.

Our campsite for the first night is Senyati and this is our first time here. It has a lovely bar which is up high and overlooking a waterhole. Interestingly the owners have built an underground tunnel which leads to a view point of the water hole which is at ground level. This means that you are only a few feet away from elephant feet and it is quite a disconcerting, if unique, view. This was dads first elephant sighting so it was fantastic to see one so close and it is great to experience these first sightings through someone else’s eye.

http://senyatisafaricampbotswana.com

During the night we hear hyena which keeps us awake and then the storm starts, with torrential rain hammering on the tent. It seems we are destined not to sleep at the moment. We had planned to set off at 5am but as the rain was still heavy we stay in bed to see if it will stop. It seems not. We finally have to get up, rain or not, and we all get thoroughly soaked in the process of packing up, but at least it is cooler.

Chobe

Driving through puddles in Chobe

Driving through this park is always special and we are excited to wonder what we will see here. The deep sand tracks are a little firmer due to the rain and there are plenty of deep puddles to drive through; a taste of things to come in Moremi perhaps. Driving slowly along the tracks, each of us scanning the bush to find game, we decide that no matter how many times we go on a game drive it is always a very special experience. With the windows down we can smell the air and damp ground and the sounds of the bush are all around, even with the sound of the car engine. There is a fair amount of game but it is evident that this rain is much needed as there is very little grass and leaves around for animals to eat. Hopefully this much needed water will kick start the growth and make life a little easier. A lot of animals have their young at this time of the year so we should see some cute babies. As we bounce through the deep sand we spot plenty of animals, including a small group of elephants where several of them were lying down, something we don’t recall seeing before and it is something we will have to find out about. Other sightings included a couple of lionesses, some kudu, waterbuck, lechwe and even a sable antelope which was particularly beautiful.

Bird life here is prolific too and we clocked up 58 species including the very pretty southern carmine bee-eater which is probably my favourite bird in southern Africa.

View over the river flats in Chobe

Altogether a productive day, and still Savuti and Moremi to look forward to.