The drive up from Maun is quite easy, apart from a stretch where we have to drive around a flooded area where another car shows us the way. There are several points on the way where we see elephants, and we are looking forward to exploring Savuti. After registering at Mababe gate, where we are told not to take the Marsh road but follow the Sandridge road instead, we quickly get our first taste of Savuti. On our left, there are trees and bushes, while on the right is a vast open plain that stretches to the horizon: the Mababe Depression. Savuti once was an inland lake, but shifting tectonic movements temporarily cut off the inflow of water to the marshes. This, of course, has an immediate effect on both animals and trees. In fact, we see a lot of dead trees, with their bare branches into the sky, in the plains. The open views also mean that animals are easily spotted. Indeed, we see the first herds of elephants, giraffes and different kinds of antelopes appear instantly as we drive north. As the sun is sinking towards the horizon, we light is only getting better.
After a while, the track moves into the vegetation, and there are frequent pools of water. I like them: it is fun to drive through them, splashing the car with muddy water. At one point, we see a small family of giraffes, and we stop to take pictures. They are very close, just across another small pool of water. When I start driving again, we get stuck in the water, and it takes the unexpected arrival of a small truck to help us out, one hour before sunset. We are now very careful crossing any water. Our camp is still far: it means that we drive the last part in darkness. We are up early next morning for a long drive through the plains of Savuti. We cruise the sandy tracks, and find out the Savuti Channel is dry, and a great way to drive through. On both sides, we see hills sticking out of the otherwise flat plains of the Savuti marshes. We stop at Bushman Painting Hill, get out of the car, and walk up the hill in search of rock paintings. It feels exciting to walk around a park known for its predators. Indeed, we would later learn that these hills are often used by leopards. For some reason, we fail to see the paintings, but anyway enjoy the sweeping views from the top of the hill before we continue driving down the channel.
We come across a big herd of buffaloes, stop the engine, and then just watch and admire these big beasts with their curly horns until they decide to move on. On our way south, we see more elephants, giraffes, hartebeest and many other animals, until we talk to one of the guides in another vehicle and hear rumour about lions. Thanks to their clear indications, we drive up to a bush, where we indeed find a lioness resting in the shade. The next bush appears to be the hiding place of a male and female lion. We stand still, just within arm's (or one jump) length away, and take our time to admire these beautiful cats, resting in the shade, yet breathing rapidly. If only we could get out and cuddle them! Standing here, watching these felines in total silence, is without doubt the highlight of our Savuti visit. On our way back, we cross the marshes to Motsibi island, and drive back north through the Savuti channel again, where we spot some big raptors, and a herd of impala, before having a late breakfast. When we continue our exploration of Chobe National Park, we see another big herd of elephants roaming through the high grass of Savuti. While they may be under threat in other countries, Botswana has a healthy population of elephants, and we are reminded of that fact every single day here.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
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