The next part of the trip was a 9 night/10 day mobile tented safari in Northern Botswana. A short charter flight from the surprisingly modern and nice airport in Kasane to an airstrip in Savuti.
Our pilot looked pretty young to me (he’s the one in the shorts & reflective vest) but he did a great job!
On the ground, we were met by our safari guide, Kabelo. After making sure everyone had their cameras ready, we set out on the drive to our campsite.
Along the way, we saw a Kori Bustard, the largest flying bird native to Africa and the national bird of Botswana.
It was the heat of the day, the most difficult time to find animals – they’re all in the shade, trying to stay cool and this guy was no exception.
The Savuti Marsh is a part of the Chobe National Park; located on its north-western edge. The Marsh is fed by the Savuti Channel, which runs sporadically over the years; in 2010 the area was flooded, today it is bone dry. It is a hot, dry, sandy grassland – with the ever present smell of wild sage, and the first location for the mobile tented camp.
At this camp there were a lot of yellow-billed hornbills, always posing for the camera and providing 4 am wake-up calls!
A typical day in camp would start with a 5:30 am wakeup call (the bird was an early-bird), breakfast and a morning game drive; usually heading out around 6:15. Back in camp in time for lunch and then the afternoon was free to have a shower, charge the camera batteries and download the morning’s pictures. Around 4:00 pm, after coffee, tea & cookies, we’d head out for the evening drive.
Our first game drive in Savuti took us to Leopard Rock, sadly no one was home. Not to worry though, there were elephants!
The crimson-breasted booboo (or shrike) is another of Africa’s pretty birds – with it’s striking red belly against the black of it’s wings. It makes it’s home in dry thornbush areas and doesn’t sit still for long, making it difficult to get a decent picture.
The lilac-breasted roller feeds largely on small insects and rodents and will perch on a branch or tree while searching for their next meal. When they spot their prey, they fly down to it and eat and often return to the same perch after. As beautiful as they are when sitting, they are absolutely stunning in flight. We sat and watched this roller for some time, waiting for this behaviour and hoping to photograph it.
In this first photo the roller was returning to his perch from the ground; it was taken a split second too soon!
These next few aren’t the best in terms of composition (they move pretty fast), but you can see how beautiful this bird is…
Tsessebe are found in areas with termite hills; they use them as a vantage point to check for danger. A typical tsessebee stands about 4′ tall at the shoulder, so this was a big termite mound.
Lions are active at night, and sleep most of the day and this guy was no exception. We sat with him for about 45 minutes in the hope that he might do something interesting.
The ostrich is a surprisingly large bird, and it’s no wonder they can’t fly!
We did see elephants in Savuti, but certainly not in the numbers we saw in Chobe. Quite often we wouldn’t see them at all until the afternoon. It’s hard to comprehend how an animal so large can disappear, but they do.
The Baobob tree (a succulent) is a familiar site in Africa. It is a prehistoric species that can live up to 5,000 years; reaching 50m around the trunk and 30m high. The trunk absorbs and stores water during the rainy season – allowing it to produce a nutrient rich fruit in the dry season. For this reason it is known as “The Tree of Life”. We named this one “Bob”
On many days, as the sun was setting, we would stop and Kabelo would fold down the table at the front of the vehicle and unpack the bar. As the day made way to night we would enjoy our drink and toast to another amazing day.
Spotted Hyena are fierce animals – they have the most powerful jaws of all the predatory mammals and are known as scavengers. We didn’t get to see an adult, but we did get to spend some time with 3 youngsters.
Every morning we would stop somewhere for a coffee break – coffee, tea, hot chocolate and of course, rusk. On this morning we stopped at Bob…
The damage to the base of the tree is caused by elephants – the bark is soft and can be punctured by their tusks. Then they rip off the bark to get at the tree and the water that it holds. As long as the damage is not too severe the tree can re-generate it’s bark.
Rusk is a traditional Afrikaner breakfast meal or snack, having been dried in Africa since the 1690’s as a way of preserving bread. This yellow-billed hornbill was not at all shy and felt that he should also have some of the rusk…
This bird, Burchell’s starling, is beautiful when the light hits it a certain way
A few giraffe pictures…
A few shots of the Savuti landscape…
The Kudu, another antelope species, have beautiful horns. The horns begin to grow at 6-12 months, twist once around 2 years of age and reach 2 1/2 twists by age 6.
One of the signs to watch for in the African bush is a gathering of vultures, both in the sky and the trees. This typically means that a kill is nearby. We were fortunate that one of our group (thanks Sanjay!) spotted these hooded vultures waiting patiently in a tree.
Which led us to this…
On the way back to camp for lunch, we stopped to get some pictures of this Magpie Shrike and it’s beautiful long tail…
After lunch we went back to Leopard Rock, but still no leopards to be found. So, back to the lion and her kill…
We spent the better part of the afternoon observing the lions (there were 2 females) when the call came over the radio that leopards had been spotted. We headed over there as quickly as we could; it was almost sunset.
Still looking for leopards, we saw this giraffe silhoutted against the setting sun and had to stop for the shot…
And finally, in the failing light, a leopard
Our last morning in Savuti we headed back to the lions, thinking that more of the pride may have come to feed. Our 2 ladies were still there, looking ethereal in the early morning light.
They are so beautiful, sometimes it’s hard to remember that they are dangerous predators.
In this next photo are the 2 female lions and the prey – it’s amazing how well camouflaged they are!
This next picture might help…
It was moving day and time to head out to our next camp, Khwai. It took a couple of hours just to get out of Savuti, along bumpy sandy “roads”. Almost out of the area was this oasis, with patches of green in a sea of brown.