In my last post, I talked about our stay in Zimbabwe, at a camp called Little Makalolo. We stayed in “Little Mak” for four nights and then moved on to our next stop, which was in Botswana. Flying to Botswana was really interesting because you could see the dry landscape of Zimbabwe change to a more green, water-filled terrain. We also got an extra treat during our flight because the pilot got permission to fly us over Victoria Falls, which is the largest waterfall in the world. It was spectacular! Next time, I’d like to see it from ground level as well. Our group traveled on a total of four bush planes to get to the next camp. There was one plane for gear/baggage, and three others for people. Since they had to plan for so much photo equipment, the planes were all half-full to compensate for the weight of our gear.
After customs stops in both Zimbabwe and Botswana, we finally arrived at Savuti, our next camp. Of all the places we stayed during this trip, Savuti camp was my favorite. The common area was open like the last camp, but reminded me of a lodge, with dark wood floors and deep red fabrics. The camp was located right on the Savuti Channel, so all of the structures overlooked the water. All of the tents and common areas were raised up several feet and inter-connected by boardwalk-like pathways. Since the water in the channel was shallow, the elephants would often walk through and end up in camp! The “tents” were all gorgeous and each one was completely private and overlooked the water.
This was our patio right outside the sliding front doors of our room. There were always elephants nearby, and they loved to cross the channel and just hang out in the water. We also got to see a huge variety of bird species, right from our deck. At about 4 am, the birds, frogs and who knows what else would create an orchestra of sounds that reminded us that we were, in fact, in the wild.
While Savuti was absolutely beautiful, we didn’t actually spend a lot of time in camp. As I mentioned in my last post, we were off on game drives from 5:00 am – 11:00 am and then 3:30pm-sunset. During most of these drives, we were in the open Land Rovers, but at this camp, we also had the option to go out on a boat. Ben and I did this once, and it was a refreshing change from being bounced around on land. Not only was the traveling smooth, but we were able to see hippos from water-level, as well as some small bird species that can be hard to spot from land.
Our experience in Botswana was also very different than in Zimbabwe due to the lack of restrictions. In Zimbabwe, we were staying in a national park where the guides were often limited to driving on these dirt paths. In Botswana, however, everything was fair game, and we learned how bad-ass those Land Rovers truly were. They could take down small trees without even slowing down! Three feet of water? No problem! This made it so much easier to get close to the animals, especially the cats. I still can’t get over how close these cats let us get. As long as we were in the vehicles, they could care less that we were there and they often walked within feet of the Rovers! It’s actually hard not to think about the fact that there’s nothing separating you and some of the most successful predators in the world. We even got to see two lions mating, from less than three meters away. I learned that when lions mate, they go at it for three days, doing their thing every 15 minutes (like clockwork). It was crazy!
At this camp, we also got really lucky to see a pack of wild dogs. The wild dogs are one of the most endangered mammals in Africa, with only about 2,000 left. They also have a very interesting social structure and behave more like a family than most other species. When they hunt, the adults make the catch and then back off to let the “kids” eat first. And if one of the pack gets sick or injured, the others will actually care for it and bring food back for it. It was fun seeing their “meet and greet” session at sunset, which is when they wake up and get ready to hunt. It kind of reminded me of Christmas morning when I was little. The kids would wake up and congregate, then slowly start to rouse the adults out of excitement.
On our last night in Savuti, the camp staff had a surprise for us. Instead of having dinner in the dining room, when we returned from our evening game drive we were ushered into the boma, which is an outdoor circular enclosure. In the middle was a giant bonfire, surrounded by a bar, buffet table and a half-circle of chairs and place settings. Not only did we have a traditional African dinner under the stars, but the staff and guides put on an incredible show for us, with singing, dancing, fire-blowers, etc. I have to say, I was pretty bummed to be leaving Savuti camp.
I’ll be posting my third part to the African safari blog series soon. But for now, here are some more photos from Botswana, near the Savuti camp…..