view-countries-simple.phtml

Savuti Marsh - A view from our expert author


The newly-flooded Savuti Marsh is rich in wildlife and history, with countless stories linked to the game reserve.

Unlike most game-viewing areas, Savuti isn’t just about animals. Its game can be great, but that’s only half the story. To understand the rest, and discover some of its spirit, you must dig into its history – from the geological past, to the first humans and then the European hunters, ‘explorers’ and conservationists – and learn of the reputation of some of its famous characters.

Savuti seems to have more stories linked with it than all the other game areas in Botswana combined. So seek these out before you come, as only then will you really appreciate why Savuti has a legendary quality about it.

Fauna

Spotted hyena in a waterhole, Botswana by Mike Dexter, Shutterstock

At the heart of the park, Savuti sees most of the park’s species, with the normal exception of the Chobe bushbuck and the water-loving species – though with the return of the water, reedbuck and waterbuck may well make their way back.

Whereas when the channel was dry, much of the interest was concentrated around the three remaining waterholes, now there is plenty of water to be found. Either way, there is invariably a lot of game. Lion are frequently found lying around, and big herds will pause as they approach, or wait until their thirst overcomes their fear.

Savuti’s elephants are notable for a number of old bulls that live in the area permanently, and are often individuals known to guides who have spent a lot of time in the area. These are augmented by large breeding herds which pass through. Whenever it’s dry you can be sure that there’s action and jostling for drinking positions at waterholes and along the channel.

(Photo: At the heart of the park, Savuti sees most of the park’s species © Mike Dexter, Shutterstock)

In recent years, at least one of the local lion prides has grown so large that they will kill elephants to satisfy their hunger – traumatising the local elephants in the process. (The Khwai River area in Moremi has a similar phenomenon.)

Spotted hyena have always been numerous and very noticeable at Savuti. In the late 1980s and early ’90s they would appear at the campsite, skulking around the bins, as soon as the sun set. After dark, and when people had gone to sleep, they’d pick up anything that they could carry, and eat anything small enough to crunch up – including, I was once assured, a glass lens from a 35mm camera! My aluminium camping cooker was stolen by a hyena once at Savuti, and still bears the scars of its strong jaw.

At the heart of the park, Savuti sees most of the park’s species, with the normal exception of the Chobe bushbuck and the water-loving species – though with the return of the water, reedbuck and waterbuck may well make their way back.

S M Cooper studied the clan sizes here in 1986–88, and found that there were five territorial clans in the area, and a number of transient animals passing through. The clans each averaged about 18 adult females, six males, five of unknown sex and ten cubs under two years of age – so around 39 members of each clan. They tend to prey on reliable, low-density resident game species like impala and warthog throughout the year, and augment this by feasting on the herds as they pass through the area, especially the new-born zebra foals.

Despite the presence of so many lion and hyena, leopards also do well here, perhaps helped by the presence of the rocky kopjes which make a perfect habitat for them. Daryl and Sharna Balfour have some lovely shots of leopard at Savuti in their book on Chobe.

Once, when driving with one of Lloyd’s guides (who shall remain nameless), we realised that there was an early-morning commotion in the air, and followed this to a young female leopard that had just killed an impala. The guide knew that she had a cub nearby to feed. However, our vehicle’s approach had, unwittingly, frightened the leopard off her kill, and soon after we arrived so did a hyena – which proceeded to claim the prize.

Such was the maverick nature of Lloyd’s Camp that this guide simply jumped out of the cab, grabbed the hindquarters of the impala, and started upon a tug of war with the hyena for the carcass. Spurred on by this, and the realisation that the cub would otherwise miss a meal, I joined in. Eventually we won the carcass and hauled it up on to a low branch hoping that the leopard would reclaim it.

Back to the top

Botswana articles

View all

Wetlands of the world

From Botswana to Brazil, we've picked our favourite wetlands from around the globe.

Read more...

The 7 Natural Wonders of the World

How many of these natural wonders are on your travel list? 

Read more...

The Khoisan

There is not another social group on this planet which has been studied more than the Khoisan.

Read more...

Related guides and other books

View all