The north-east of Botswana has some of the best and most varied safari opportunities with terrain that changes from lush river floodplains to scorched almost desert-like landscapes. It is renowned as being a prime game viewing area.
© Waterway in front of Savute Elephant Camp
A choice game area
is the Savute Marsh (also spelt Savute), which has something of a mystical quality, as it is known to dry up or flood regardless of local rainfall. The channel feeding water to the marsh has long since dried up, so these odd occurrences are a bit of a mystery. The eerie-looking lifeless Camel-thorn trees along the course of the Savute Channel did not die because of drought, on the contrary they were drowned in an unexpected flood. As the channel and marsh dried out again, they became a conspicuous feature of this unusual landscape.
The parched grasslands of the Savute are boosted into life with the onset of summer rains from November to March, and thousands of Zebras
and many Elephants migrate south from the Linyanti to gorge on the abundant grazing. The pans fill with water and several remain wet long into the dry season, enabling animals to remain in the area. Game drives through Savuti are enhanced by the herbal aroma of the Sage bush (or bitter bush), which releases its fragrance when crushed by your safari vehicle.
Savute has several strikingly different terrains
, none less surprising than the Gubatsa Hills that rise high out of an otherwise flat landscape. These extraordinary dolomite peaks reach an astonishing 90 metres (290 feet) in height and were formed about 980 million years ago during volcanic activity. In contrast is the Mababe Depression, which was once a super-lake that covered much of Botswana. Smooth pebbles can still be found on what was the ancient shoreline.
Flying in by light aircraft is the most common way to arrive at most of Botswana's safari lodges and it is sometimes easy to forget that you are landing in the heart of Africa with wild and dangerous animals around you. The 1994 edition of 'Traveller's Guide to Botswana' reminded the reader that: 'If the camp vehicle has not arrived to pick you up, do not allow your pilot to leave you at Savute airstrip, as this is a favorite haunt of Lions!'
Dry season in Savute
Most water pans dry up from May to October
, although some keep water well into the dry season. There are also three artificial waterholes to sustain the animals. Elephants take pride of place at these water holes and other animals just have to wait their turn, while keeping a watchful eye open for the many predators. Game viewing is very rewarding, as you don't have to venture far from a waterhole for good animal viewing
. By September and October the temperatures have risen to around 30°C (86°F).
Rainy season in Savute
Botswana's rainy season is from November to April, which is also the main summer months, so heat and humidity are high
. As the grasslands of the Mababe Depression burst into life after the rains, thousands of zebras and other animals migrate to Savuti. They turn around and go back again in February and continue their ceaseless quest to take advantage of the best grazing.