Part 5: On to Savuti and Chobe

Photography and report by Bert Duplessis

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By midday on December 9, our small group was back in a Cessna Caravan for a flight of about 25 minutes to Savute Safari Lodge, a superb camp on the edge of the Savute Channel which stopped flowing a couple of decades ago due to tectonic shifts. There are indications that the channel may once again be starting to flow for at least some distance from its origin in the Linyanti floodplain.

My suite at Savute Safari Lodge.

Interior of my room at Savute Safari Lodge. The rooms are massive.

We were immediately impressed with the abundance of wildlife at Savute. The ‘game drive’ from the airstrip to the lodge was fantastic! There were lots of elephants to be seen pretty much everywhere, even though the camp staff repeatedly told us that all the elephants had already left (dispersed) after the onset of the rainy season. You could have fooled us!

An elephant seen on the road between the airstrip and the camp, at Savute Safari Lodge.

Slaking their thirst and taking a splash-bath at the Savute Safari Lodge waterhole. As I said there were lots of elephant around, despite this being the rainy season when they disperse into the woodlands.

Birdwatchers would have been astonished at the abundance of storks of which there were hundreds and hundreds to be seen of 5 different species, namely marabou (everywhere!), European, woolynecked, openbill, yellowbill and Abdim’s. There was also a veritable barrage of birds of prey ranging from eagles to buzzards to kites and kestrels. Finally, there were literally thousands of swallows, martins and swifts hawking insects in flight. I have been birding for more than 20 years and I have never seen such a concentration of birdlife in one area.

Savute is known as a predator stronghold and camp manager Kobus Lubbe gave us a useful and interesting introductory talk about the most visible predators in the area, namely the lions, leopards, wild dogs and cheetahs. Of these, lions are seen most frequently: over the previous 300 days there had been 248 lion sightings. Lions in the Savute area habitually hunt elephants and they employ a special technique to bring down and kill these lumbering giants. The lion dynamics of the area are in a transitional phase, with a couple of younger males recently having moved into the area. It remains to be seen how the various competing alliances and prides will re-align over the next few months. Leopard sightings from Savute Safari Lodge have been on the increase; Kobus estimated that there were some 15 to 20 leopards resident in the area. Wild dogs, which are a highly threatened species, only number from about 2,000 to perhaps 4,000 total in Africa. There are 12 wild dogs presently recorded in the Savute area. As for cheetah, there are estimated to be three males resident in the area, with females passing through from time to time.

Listening to a talk by predator expert Kobus Lubbe, the camp manager at Savute Safari Lodge.

The view from the buffet deck at Savute Safari Lodge.

The exterior fire-place at Savute Safari Lodge, adjacent to the buffet deck.

Very early on the morning of December 10, I was enjoying a cup of tea just outside the dining room at Savute Safari Lodge. It was a typical African summer morning: cool, clear and totally peaceful. Thoughts of schedules, deadlines and budgets were far from my mind and for a few minutes there, I felt truly connected to the surroundings. My senses felt as if they were in overdrive. With one ear I was trying to sort out bird calls, with another listening for the low moan of a lion which had been calling around camp the previous night. At the same time I was staring at a massive dung beetle negotiating a sandy patch right in front of me. Becoming one with nature is a rare experience for most city dwellers, and I treasure the few ‘out of Africa’ moments which invariably crop up on a trip like this. On a visit that is less hectic, with a few 3-night stays included, it is easy to fall into the rhythm and pace of the bush, and to truly appreciate the oasis of peace and quiet beyond the game drives and other activities.

Exterior view of the dining room and lounge at Savute Safari Lodge.

A dung beetle; there were many of them on the sandy trails in the grounds at Savute Safari Camp.

A few members of our group and some guests enjoying the swimming pool at Savute Safari Lodge.

Another view of the swimming pool at Savute.

Sundowners at Savute Safari Lodge.

A couple of Carmine bee-eaters trying to get their bearings at Savute Marsh.

Alas, later that morning after a last game drive (lots of elephant, hundreds of birds, especially at the former Savute Marsh) it was time to move on again, this time an uneventful 30-minute flight to Kasane. From there, it was a quick and pleasant road transfer to the well-known Chobe Game Lodge, inside Chobe National Park. I had spent some time at CGL some years ago in the dry season, when the game-viewing was excellent. This time around, the game-viewing was a bit more quiet, but the lodge was looking great.

View of Chobe Game Lodge from the deck.

Part of the lounge area at Chobe Game Lodge.

My room at Chobe Game Lodge.

The view from my room.

For visitors who would like to experience a safari, but who are not quite ready for a tented camp or for the expense of flying into the Delta or elsewhere, Chobe Game Lodge is a great option. Yes it is much larger than other lodges, but it offers a lot of activities and services that are not available in the bush. It offers game drives as well as very interesting boat excursions on the Chobe River for some great looks at hippo, amongst others. Resident professional guides also offer star gazing and guided walks, there is a beautiful swimming pool, a riverside boma area where traditional dancers perform, internet connections and a workout room complete with a treadmill. There is even a pizza oven built from the internet!

The pizza oven at Chobe Game Lodge which was constructed from plans found on the internet. Unfortunately we did not have time to ascertain whether the plans were good, but I am told the pizza is!

The newly renovated (with realistic looking rock slabs) pool at Chobe Game Lodge.

Another view of the pool at Chobe Game Lodge

A portion of the Chobe Game Lodge grounds with the pool on the left.

Chobe Game Lodge has a very well stocked shop with curios, clothing, handbags, handwoven baskets, jewelry, books, DVD’s and more. Bring dollars.

The food at Chobe Game Lodge was excellent and abundant. Amongst others I enjoyed the terrific salad buffet which is more than a meal unto itself. On the day that we were there, the restaurant offered a Mongolian barbecue night, with an amazing array of meats and other stirfry options. The next morning, for breakfast, there was likewise a huge variety of meats, sausages, eggs to order, vegetables, salads, yoghurt, cereals, three kinds of fresh bread and more.

Breakfast chefs at Chobe Game Lodge

Our morning pontoon boat outing from Chobe Game Lodge was similar to the one I had undertaken on my previous trip. Like then, we got some good close-up looks at hippo and elephant, some crocodiles, various species of birds and the locally abundant Puku antelope.

Elephants which we saw on our pontoon boat outing from Chobe Game Lodge. I always like to photograph the dark, wet elephants – so much nicer than the regular dusty ones!

This crocodile which we saw on the boat outing, was not scared off by the large pontoon boat complete with camera-wielding tourists…

However, this group of hippo were not nearly as tolerant of our approach and scuttled back into the water with quite a splash.


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