An Incredible Sight
A well-watered oasis in a vast swathe of impenetrable woodland, Savuti has long been a sanctuary for wildlife and a must-see destination for safari travellers looking for extra-large game viewing. It is especially good for close-up encounters with elephants and lions, animals remarkably tolerant of our presence, as well as excellent sightings of plains game such as impala, giraffe and buffalo. Great for wildlife all year round but exceptionally rewarding in the well-watered Green Season, Savuti is a predator paradise and also home to a dazzling zebra migration in summer. It remains famous for its ‘anything can happen’ game drives – sightings of Kalahari wanderers like gemsbok or eland or perhaps an African wild cat, striped weasel or porcupine. Wildlife viewing in Savuti takes the form of morning and afternoon game drives; lodges set in the more watered area to the north of the region offer drives into Savuti as well as boating activities.
SAVUTI LIONS & HYENAS
The subject of a seminal 1992 wildlife documentary, the eternal conflict between Savuti’s top two land predators still goes on today: prides of lions defending kills and territory from large, aggressive packs of spotted hyenas. The enmity is deep; they kill each other’s young on sight and – depending on numbers – chase their enemies from food and water sources. At night you can often hear the rivals fighting – deep-throated lion roars punctuated by the yelps and shrieks of hyenas. Large and fearless, Savuti’s male lions are especially magnificent and are usually at ease with being photographed from a 4X4; indeed, on hot days they are known for their habit of lying in the shade of a 4X4!
Permanent water all year round, forests and lush grassland – no wonder Savuti has a reputation for elephant sightings. This is where you may see some of the biggest elephants in Botswana – huge bull elephants moving in bachelor herds or as single giants, lost in thought as they drift across the landscape. These male elephants are exceptionally habituated to our presence which allows for amazing close-up views and photography. The more cautious breeding herds generally arrive in the wetter summer months, led by a watchful matriarch and comprising female and young elephants ranging from teenagers to toddlers, complete with floppy trunks and squeaky trumpets.
SAVUTI ZEBRA MIGRATION
The November rains bring not just fresh gazing to the Savuti grasslands but large numbers of zebra too, moving down into Savuti from the remote Linyanti wetlands to the north. They are ultimately on their way further south to the Kalahari which is green and well-watered in summer but Savuti is a good staging post on the journey there and back. The zebras travel in small family herds, gathering in large numbers at waterholes and on the Savuti Marsh to feed. The air is filled with their strange whistling call and it isn’t long before they attract predators – lions and hyenas as well as cheetah and wild dog.
Savuti’s mix of woodland, wetland and savannah means a diverse bird population. The most obvious are the large numbers of ostrich and kori bustards – one of the world’s heaviest fliers – stalking around on the Savuti grasslands and there are many raptors, especially large eagles and vultures. Bird watchers will appreciate the number of Kalahari species that make their way to Savuti but are not found – for example – on the Chobe River but for the best birding, go during the green summer season when migrants arrive. Highlights include flocks of carmine bee-eaters, wildfowl and waders at waterholes and the spectacle of hundreds of kestrels and other birds of prey feasting on summer termite swarms.
Lions and hyenas make the headlines but Savuti’s grasslands are good hunting for cheetahs too, occasionally moving in for a day or two, as well as leopards, the more elusive residents of Savuti’s thickly-vegetated hills and riverbanks. Black-backed jackals are the most easily seen predator but Savuti has a reputation for the unusual ones as well: look out for side-striped jackal, bat-eared fox and African wild cat. It is also an area covered by several overlapping packs of African wild dogs, regularly seen coursing across the Savuti Marsh in pursuit of prey. Predators can be seen all year round in Savuti but December and January are especially rewarding; it is the birthing season and there are thousands of baby antelope around, greatly improving your chances of seeing a kill.