I best start with the trip from Xobega to Camp Savuti. We had to leave by 6 to avoid the heat and also see animals on the way to the airstrip 30mins past 3rd Bridge, a total of 2hrs if we didnt delay. Our plane was at 10.45.
The boat trip with Sam was fast, though we did stop briefly for elephants. Then onto a jeep for the rough ‘Botswana massage’ on the sandy track, passing numerous herds of impala, elephant, zebra, wildebeest, the rare tssebe, giraffe, warthog (their knees are allow them to kneel as their necks are too large to bend), two very large hyena, hippo, and lechwe. Some silverback jackals were harassing the hyena, but we didnt see any kill to defend. Many birds including the ubiquitous yellow bill hornbill, and yellow-billed kite.
Who could not love Africa? Memories forgotten fill my mind and heart – times lost. The baking soil, bush, and animal scent, mixed with wood smoke.
We were fortunate to find a mother and young leopard in the shade of a big tree, next to a full size lechwe several metres up on a branch, an answer to prayer – just hope I did it justice as we had a plane to catch and still many km to go on the sand horrible road. I think leopards are much more photogenic than lion, though not as ‘regal’. Before leaving Perth, I had a list of animals to shoot – a leopard in a tree was one, so I was grateful to find these two. We had driven past some 100m away, 20mins before, and returned on being told by another driver. The images were taken at a distance of about 20m using a 100-400mm lens.
Dust blew on the airstrip on this cool windy day as we watched an elephant cross it. We were in a very small 7 seat Quest Kodiak plane, a tight fit for the 30min flight to Savuti. The bags were no problem though – glad I didnt buy new ones.
The drive to the Savuti camp is fairly long, once again on those corrugated roads, relieved a little by three lions next to their kill, a small elephant, watched by vultures and a kite. And we saw our first Blue wildebeest, a strange dark colour. A lonely hippo lay in a muddy pool surrounded by, at times, wild dogs and impala.
Savuti camp (near the gate) is shown near the top of the map image. Our drives will be to the south into the low elevation green area, the Savuti Marsh, which is fed in the wet months by water channelled from the north (the blue line). The surrounding yellow area is slightly higher, the Mababe Depression.
Savuti gate has an ‘armchair’ with horns attached. I sat on it and asked a ranger to take the image. The camp is luxury after the last two. A very large tent with an enormous high king bed, full power (solar), hot and cold in a separate section with a bath – but the shower is in the open again, shielded only by thin heavily varnished poles leaving small gaps! My tent is the furthest from the dining tent, hard walking in the deep soft sand ‘path’.
The first afternoon drive at Savuti was fairly tame. The lions were still being watched by the vultures. Across the road, a giraffe was looking for a meal of acacia, another with a pair of lechwe were drinking from the diminishing waterhole, in which the hippo still hoped for a water covering. The drive ended with a stop at the large baobab, and then we watched the sunset from the ridge on the west of the depression nearby. No sign of the promised leopard hiding in the rocky hill bush.
Ring-neck doves are common, reminding me of my life in Rhodesia. The acacia trees often produce convoluted branches, thickened in parts. The pretty lilac-breasted rollers are here too, as are the Kori bustard, the largest bird of flight. The Red crested korhaan was looking for its mate, and a Yellow-billed kite perched amongst the twisted branches hoping for a feed.
As dusk fell quickly, we were able to stop next to an unconcerned meerkat on the way back.
Tonight, we discovered, is Independence Day. Before dinner we were entertained by the entire camp team with several songs and dance to celebrate their Independence Day. They are very proud of their history of continued non-aggressive behaviour – the flag is white, black, and blue (white & black for people, blue for sky and water). I found the evening very touching, especially the short speech by the manageress, Jessica. The dinner was amazing – with just a touch of the local ie stiff maize meal (pap)! (The two images are from the iPhone, the ‘best’ available camera.) The Ba Tswana are growing on me; they really are as described in the book by Alexander McCall-Smith, The No 1 Detective Agency. Even better, so many, and I’m told 90%, are Christian, though some are probably a mix with their old beliefs, but tonight has touched me deeply.