Savuti, found within the Chobe National Park, was always one of the dream destinations that I’d had on my bucket list for ages and embarking on our maiden overland trip to Botswana, Savuti delivered in every way and more.
Being completely self-sufficient was key on this trip. Extensive planning of routes, fuel & food took place before we left Jo’burg as “off the beaten track” is pretty much where you end up when you visit Savuti. No shops or fuel stations happening here…. And you can kiss that cellphone signal goodbye as well.
Think thick sand….lots of it as you approach the campsite! Definitely low range 4×4 required, with plenty of travel time allowed in case you get stuck. Fortunately our trusty Pajero didn’t bat an eyelid and ploughed through it all like a bulldozer.
With it being December and extremely hot, we were pleasantly surprised when we rolled into the campsite to find shady sites, set well apart with one ablution block located at the end. I made a mental note of a nearby bush for later. Once the sun had disappeared, I didn’t really fancy the walk in the dark…. just that little bit too far for me…. unfenced campsite and all that wildlife roaming around…..
Yellow billed kites swooped low all around us as we explored, figuring out the best place to put the car with the roof top tent so that we weren’t blocking any game trails. Each site featured a tap and a braai stand, but don’t bank on any electricity…. This is bush living at it’s best.
Once we’d scouted the area, we climbed back into the car and headed off to explore the myriad of tracks and trails for the rest of the afternoon. With it being the rainy season, it was incredibly green, certainly no shortage of grazing here.
The beauty of Savuti is it’s remoteness… during a good four hour drive, we didn’t cross a single other vehicle. First impressions on our drive left us wishing we’d booked at least three or four nights here….. huge thunderstorms building in the distance, fantastic elephant interaction around the waterholes, incredible birdlife and beautiful landscapes.
Kori bustards and bee-eaters were abundant, as well as plenty of zebra, wildebeest and little “creches” of impala and springbok. Warthog grazed while their young suckled, oxpeckers catching a ride in the process.
During this trip the Savuti channel was also flowing for the first time since 1982, due to tectonic activity in the area. Once the channel fills, it filters down to the Savuti Marsh, which covers an approximate 10 880km2.
Being the adventurous sort, we followed a rough, grassy track which brought us out onto the bank of the channel where we were treated to a small herd of elephant cooling off in the intense heat, without another car in sight. Truly special.
That night, as we were chilling under the gazebo waiting for the chicken flattie to cook on the braai, we picked up the soft sound of a gentle swishing. An elephant appeared silently from the thick bush behind and stopped between us and an adjacent tree to have a good scratch. If I’d leant over, I could have touched his leg! (So much for the game trails we’d scouted out!!) After a good two minute head rub on the tree trunk the elephant ambled off, not remotely bothered by our presence. This was our first real close up encounter with wildlife in an unfenced camp, and I won’t lie and say I was completely relaxed for the rest of the evening. Furtively looking over my shoulder as we ate the now cooked chicken…. If a five tonne elephant can appear almost soundlessly, one can just imagine what else can creep up unannounced.
However, once we’d retired into the comfort and safety of the rooftop tent, I was lulled to sleep by the chirps of scops owls and distant whooping of hyena.
The following morning, as we busied ourselves with breakfast, a few elephant suddenly appeared, padding quietly through the campsite, again oblivious to the humans. Being a “virgin” overlander, I was rather nervous initially, but once I realised that there was no cause for alarm, we kept out their way and carried on.
I think that was the defining moment for me. When one realises one is incredibly priviledged to be able to witness moments like this, sitting quietly in a camp chair letting the wild life just get on with it without any human interferance. Since this trip, we’ve made a point of doing an overland each year. Real food for the soul that would be difficult to find elsewhere.
Savuti however, remains in my top ten places to camp wild. Well worth the drive to spend a few days sharing this special place with its resident wildlife and beautiful landscape.
Credit -Alison Ross.