Place of Contrasts | Savute Safari Journal

Giraffe encounter in Savute
‘It is cold and very quiet, only an occasional rustle in the undergrowth disturbing the silence. I strain my ears in an attempt to pick up any sounds, hoping for the distant whooping of a hyena or the roar of a lion but the silence has permeated the being. What were the lions doing - we had being watching a pride of seven lionesses just before sunset - and why were the hyenas so silent? After what seems an eternity a tiny breeze rustles the leaves and my thoughts are broken for a moment'.

Savute Journals: Nights of contrast

'Sleep always comes slowly to me in Savute - and I find myself spending a great deal of time pondering the significance of things whilst watching the stars or listening to the sounds of the African night. I am not sure what the reason is but the Savute nights are the most primeval of any other African wilderness area. In Savute the nights are a series of extremes - penetrating silence or screaming death'.

Lions, Hyenas and Elephants

Sun-downers at waters edge at Savute Elephant CampSavuti is a place of contrasts, a place that defies our prescribed laws of nature. Savuti is the place where the bitter enmity between lions and hyenas was first recorded - documented so dramatically in Eternal Enemies - and the place where a lion pride adapted to preying on adult elephant.

Changing between a waterless enigma and a lifeline for wildlife in the dry season Savuti is a place of legend - and it is about to undergo another dramatic change with the water in the channel within reach of its destination.

October 10, 1.46 am: 'The noise is deafening. Elephants are trumpeting and lions are growling. Sleep is impossible .... The lions have not eaten for almost ten days and are getting desperate, the elephants need to drink ... there is a standoff at the waterhole'.

6.37 am: 'Sometime during the early hours of the morning the commotion stopped and you could almost hear the relief. Dawn finally brought some feeling of calm - and the lions were relaxing around the waterhole, playing as any cats would. Last night's hunt was unsuccessful - indicating another disturbed night to follow'.

The Wandering Hippo

An incident I was witness to in Savute indicated how animals behave in times of stress. A hippo wandered into the Savute area and took up residence in one of the Savute waterholes - at a time when the waterhole was dry. Wildlife officials were attempting to get the pump going to provide water for the animals but there was an issue with spare parts.

For three days the hippo lay in the dry waterhole - accompanied by a few hyenas. The pump was eventually fixed and water began to seep back in. The waterhole consisted of three sections - one of which was taken up by the hippo and hyena.

When the water began to flow back in the elephants commanded the main section and left the hippo to his section. What followed was an amazing bit of animal behavior. The elephants kept all other animals away from the pool the hippo was lying in - including the hyenas that had shared the pool for the last three days. Any animal that tried to drink from the pool was chased away by the elephants. The next morning the hippo was gone.By Leigh Kemp
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