Savuti 2015
   
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Female Caracal (Caracal caracal), my first sighting of this rather common but elusive small cat

 

They found the shoes ..

This is how one of the stories the guide told started. A few years ago a white couple, probably visiting from Europe, got stuck in the sand with their rental 4-wheel drive car in Savuti, on their way towards Linyanti. They were planning to stock up at the next destination, and were almost out of food and water. This was on a remote and little used road, and they struggled for a couple of days to free their car from the sand without success. Running out of supply, and knowing they were less than 50 km away from the nearest Linyanti lodge, they decided the man should walk to the lodge, while the woman stayed in the car. After 7-8 days, the woman was found severely dehydrated and half-dead in the car (she survived). Of the man, they found the shoes.

This illustrates why Savuti was my main and most anticipated destination on the trip and why I chose this safari in the first place. During my last visit to Botswana, we did not go to this area of the Chobe National Park. My high expectation stemmed from numerous television documentaries about the predators in Savuti. More recently many documentaries have focused on the famous elephant-hunting lions here, but maybe the most fabled documentary was one from the early 90'ies, called "Eternal enemies". This documentary focused on the never-ending fight between the lions and the hyenas. The filmmakers followed a pride of lions with two males, of which one, called "He who greets with fire", was an expert hyena killer. This is probably one of the best documentary film on lions ever made.

So my expectations before we arrived in Savuti were very high. Especially since the Savuti channel flooded the marshes in 2010, ending decades with drought, and ensuring a rich wildlife in the region. As it turned out, however, after staying 3 nights in Savuti, it became a small disappointment. Certainly, we had hyenas in camp at night, and heard roaring lions at night. We also saw one of the prides close-up, with two males and 10 females and youngsters. But we did not find any fresh lion kills, and observed no interaction between the big cats and the spotted hyenas. There were plenty of hyenas in the area, and we heard/saw three hyenas stealing an impala kill from a leopard. The leopard was looking on from a tree as the hyenas devoured the carcass. In total we saw 4 leopards here, including a cub. And of course, one of the high-lights of the trip for me was the female caracal we found one afternoon, a species I had never encountered before in the wild. All in all, Savuti was not that wild and "raw" as I expected, and did not stand out from the other three locations. But still a very enjoyable place, and well worth a visit. A note to travelers planning to visit Savuti, the "action", i.e. elephant-hunting lions and the squabble between lions and hyenas, is more likely to be encountered in Linyanti, inside the private Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, according to my agent.

Caracal

 

Leopard cub waiting for mum

Leopard (Panthera pardus). This one was harassed by a couple of Black-Backed Jackals, which were barking continuously at the big cat. At one point the leopard appeared to regurgitate some food items. Maybe it had eaten one of the jackals pups?

 

Black-Backed Jackal barking at a Leopard

Lionesses (Panthera leo)

 

Having a sip

Two of the hyenas stealing a leopard's impala kill

 

Those pesky hyenas! A leopard at dawn looking down at three hyenas eating its impala kill

Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta)

 

African Openbill (Anastomus lamelligerus) feeding on a snail

Sandy road

 

Hills of Savuti. Home of many leopards

Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer) herd

 

A drinking buffalo with a friend or two

Steenbok (Raphicerus campestris campestris). There are two recognised African Steenbok subspecies, R. c. campestris in Southern Africa and R. c. neumanni in East Africa

 

Smith's Bush Squirrel (Paraxerus cepapi)

The coloration of the South African Giraffe (Giraffa giraffa giraffa), one of 9 subspecies of giraffes

 

Those flies. In 2016, the 9 subspecies of giraffe were split into 4 disticnt species. The South African Giraffe is a subspecies of the Southern Giraffe

The plains

 

Wildebeest

Savuti African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

 

Elephant doing its daily business, refilling the Savuti channel as the guide speculated

Swainson's Spurfowl (Pternistis swainsonii)

 

Crested Francolin (Dendroperdix sephaena)

Female Southern Black Korhaan (Afrotis afra)

 

Female Red-Crested Korhaan (Lophotis ruficrista)

Male Ostrich (Struthio camelus)

 

Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori)

Female Southern Yellow-Billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas)

 

Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros birostris)

Bradfield's Hornbill (Tockus bradfieldi) with its kill

 

Bradfield's Hornbill

Southern Ground-Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) with a frog

 

Youngster Southern Ground-Hornbill

Hill in Savuti

 

Creek still running

White-Crested Helmetshrike (Prionops plumatus)

 

Black-Chested Snake-Eagle (Circaetus pectoralis)

Southern Pied Babbler (Turdoides bicolor)

 

Southern White-Crowned Shrike (Eurocephalus anguitimens)

Southern Masked Weaver (Ploceus velatus)

 

Brown Snake Eagle (Circaetus cinereus)

A juvenile Bateleur Eagle (Terathopius ecaudatus)

 

Adult Bateleur Eagle

Yellow-Billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus)

 

Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius)

Coppery-Tailed Coucal (Centropus cupreicaudus)

 

Emerald-Spotted Wood Dove (Turtur chalcospilos)

Magpie Shrike (Urolestes melanoleucus)

 

Lilac-Breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus)

Tsessebe (Damaliscus lunatus)

 

Angolan Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus cottoni), with a load of Yellow-Billed Oxpeckers. Although five Roan Antelope subspecies have been recognised, recent genetic studies have shown that only the western African subspecies (koba) constitutes a genetically separate group from those in the rest of Africa

Mozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica)

 

Mozambique Spitting Cobra

Yellow Mongoose (Cynictis penicillata)

 

Slender Mongoose (Galerella sanguinea)

Banded Mongoose (Mungos mungo) on alert

 

Banded Mongoose

Dwarf Mongoose (Helogale parvula)

 

Black-Backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas)

Dry and sandy river

 

Savuti sunset