Chobe Safari Diary

© Patio game viewing at Savute Elephant Camp
Savuti is an enigma, a place where the laws of Africa are extended beyond the recognizable. At times it is a river providing a lifeline in a harsh environment, in other times a stark, waterless wilderness.

Savuti - A Place of Contradictions

There are no seasons to this contrast, only periods dictated by the forces of nature. Savuti is now dry, a stark paradise where the cries of a not so distant past echo in the haunting silence of the present. Within this silence is the stirring call of the Africa of legends.Savuti Safari Lodge sits on the edge of the dry Savuti channel, with a waterhole situated in front of the dining room attracting animals seeking relief from the harsh environment. It is a place of great drama where you can sit at your room and watch scenes as ancient as your first memory happen in front of you.The Savuti night is the time when the ancient memory returns. The lion roar in the darkness and the answering of the hyena from a distance pulls the emotions of the past from the deep recesses of our souls. When we are lying in our beds, safe from all earthly dangers, we realize that we are alone and the long hidden fear pulls at our being. We cannot fight back for we are trapped in our self imposed prisons. Our evolution is our undoing.


The first light was caressing the horizon as we silently sipped tea and coffee around the fire, each tied in our own thoughts and emotions. Reluctant to break the moment I nevertheless got everyone onto the vehicle and we set off through the Kalahari apple leaf trees on our way to the marsh. During the night I had heard a lot of lion activity from the direction of the marsh and I wanted to find out what was happening.We came across a hyena ambling in the road from the direction of the camp. It was the same one that had been scavenging for food in our camp during the night. He picked up to a mild run as we got closer and finally left the road and disappeared into the bush.The marsh was caught in the dawn, the bare earth shimmering and silhouetting the dead acacias. I turned the motor off and listened. It was quiet, the quiet between night and day, with only the fading stars seeming to cry out as they disappeared into the sky.

We found the lion tracks on the road heading toward Marabou Pan. They were of two males and looking at them closely it was obvious the lions were moving fast. With a heightened sense of excitement we followed the tracks.

At intervals there were signs of contact. Thinking back on the roars last night I thought that the lions may have been fighting and the tracks bore this out. After a while the tracks disappeared into the mopane. We had lost them!

A Break in Paradise

There were some elephants at Marabou Pan and I decided to stop for a break.
'A break from what?'
'From bouncing around'
'Okay I thought you meant a break from paradise'
That is what Savuti is - a paradiseSavuti is the place where the lion / elephant phenomenon was first noted as a behavioural pattern. It was an adaptation by one pride of lions to a situation, and became part of the enigma that is Savuti.As I lay in bed I thought of Savuti and how it always works itself under the skin. Over the years I have seen it become an irritation to some who can not appreciate it for what it is. For those who want the green hills and vast herds, Savuti in the dry months is a massive let down.

Chobe - The Scent of Dust

From the air the Chobe floodplains are a vast game rich plain stretching into the beauty of the Chobe / Zambezi Delta. The plains are dotted by elephant and buffalo and sprayed by the dust of the season harvested by the need for water.08.05 am: The dust was hanging in the air, a sign of the big herd of buffalo that were moving across the floodplain. Silhouettes appeared at intervals.The Chobe River floodplains are a relief from the dust and heat of the late dry season, a time when the vegetation is thinned to exhaustion and the animals need to wander further in search of food. With the onset of the rains the Chobe riverfront falls silent. The big herds disappear and, except for a variety of birds and the permanent denizens, will stay away until the interior begins to dry up again.

Journal November '95:

It is almost eerie! Yesterday as we drove into Chobe the air was filled with dust and the visions of thousands of elephants and buffalo. It was a spectacular afternoon. During the night there was a spattering of rain and as I lay in my sleeping bag I could almost hear the silent movement of the herds. This morning the plains were deserted, but for the baboons and puku. The air was infused with the beautiful scent of renewal, a scent of damp earth and the tart smell of wet elephant dung. On the drive this afternoon I marveled at the silence and the flow of the seasons. The difficulty was explaining the lack of game to some members of the group.

In the dry season the Chobe floodplains are a haven for the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. When the pans dry up in the vast interior the herds move to the river where there is permanent water.

This has not always been the cycle of the seasons here. In the not too distant past the elephant had a much larger traverse, until war broke out in the Caprivi Strip and the movements stopped at the Chobe. Over the years the bush has undergone a drastic change, keeping in tune with the manmade changes. The spectacle we see at Chobe today was brought on by our desire to control each other.

In the dust and marsh scent of the Okavango Delta and Chobe River lies something deeper than a mere game experience. Here is the story of ourselves, our society, and how we understand the concept of wilderness. It is a cross section of ideas and principles and is an indication of where we stand in our evolution as the dominant species.From Botswana Journals by Leigh Kemp
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