The Savuti Channel dried up in the early 1980's, leaving the natural course of events to transform. The years that followed were harsh for the wildlife in the region. Crocodiles sought shelter in caves, hippo fought over the last drying mudpool and the wildlife seasons changed.
For the next twenty five years the Savuti wilderness echoed the sounds of the past whilst revealing a new face - a face that would capture the imagination of many who experienced it. For some Savuti was a place of ghosts, seen in the haunting visions of the dried trees on the marsh and in the channel, whilst for others it was a place that restored the beautiful lonely recesses of the soul.
Today Savuti is undergoing a radical transformation. The channel has begun to flow, the marsh is flooded again, and the wildlife is adapting to this new environment. No one knows how long this flooded phase will last, but what is certain is that the Savute of the past 25 years will never be experienced again.
But this story is not about the new dawn. Instead it is about the Savuti of legend, the Savuti I knew for almost twenty years. It is about the drama's that played out over this time and the life-changing aura of this legendary wilderness - it is a place that will never be known again.
My first visit to Savuti was a few years after the drying of the channel and the area had almost settled into its dry-time rhythm. It was at the beginning of the rainy season and the marsh had greened, wildlife was plentiful and Savute seemed to in a state of peace, save for the pride of lions lolling around a buffalo carcass.
The concept of the Savute Channel was lost on me during my first visit into the area. It was 1985 and the channel had only recently dried up and the idea of the channel drying, and the effect it would have on the environment, did not mean much to me as the area at the time seemed lush. It was to be few years after my initial visit that I connected with Savuti again - this time for almost ten years.
In the ten years I watched the seasons pass, the rains and the dust, the herds and the loners and the place captured my imagination and inspired me like few places have before. I have never been able to understand why Savuti affected me in the way that it did. It was a restorer of my soul, a friend and a confidant.
The Present: Waters Return
The channel began to flow again in 2008, reaching the Marsh nearly two years later. After the water had reached its destination I was sent images of the marsh in flood by a friend who thought that I would appreciate 'seeing my favourite place renewed'. The picture showed herds of elephant and buffalo wading through what looked like a floodplain of the Okavango Delta, it was a great sight but when it dawned on me that this was the new Savute a wave of disappointment swept over me.
The place I knew was gone and in its place was something I did not know. I had followed the changes but the image was the final confirmation that it was real. It was almost like seeing a cheating partner's new love interest for the first time after months of denial.