WildSpot Sightings

Red-billed hornbill seen in Manyeleti Game ReserveWarthog seen in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park
Lion seen in Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Rhino seen in Addo National Park
Hippo seen at Lake St Lucia
Waterbuck seen in the Okavango Delta

Recognised as a prime game viewing area, the Savuti (also spelt Savute), covers almost 1,930 sq. miles (5,000 square km) in the south west of Chobe National Park.


The western edge of Savuti is encircled by the Magwikhwe sand ridge, 156 miles (100km) long and 65 feet (20 metres) high, which is the ancient shoreline of a super-lake that covered much of northern Botswana. It is difficult to imagine that this harsh dry landscape was once submerged beneath an enormous inland sea.

A channel from the Linyanti River once fed the now dry Savuti Marsh, which is the deepest part of the Mababe Depression and is the only part to have filled with water in recent history.

This marsh has something of a mystical renown as it can dry up or flood regardless of local rains. David Livingstone, on his way to 'discover' the Victoria Falls in 1851, commented, that it was a "dismal swamp," but sometime around 1888 it started to dry up and remained completely parched until 1957. Camelthorn acacia trees established themselves in the channel and along the banks and grew to full size. During unexpected floods these trees were drowned but as the channel and marsh dried out again, the dead trees became one of the most prominent features of the landscape.

Today, parts of Savuti are almost desert-like with a scorching sun and hot sand, while at the other extreme are vast grass plains full of game, reminiscent of Tanzania's Serengeti. These rich grasslands are boosted into fecundity by summer rains, at which time huge herds of zebras migrate south from the Linyanti to gorge on the abundant grazing. Savuti also contains a number of pans that hold water for months after the rains, enabling animals to remain long into the dry season.

Another strikingly different terrain found in Savuti, are the Gubatsa Hills. Formed some 980 million years ago during volcanic movement, these dolomite rock outcrops create a series of extraordinary hills. They rise to an astonishing 290 feet (90 metres) high, out of a completely flat landscape.

The area promises sightings of endangered wild dog, which is said to be the most efficient hunter in Africa. Large concentrations of lion follow the annual zebra migration intently, and leopard and cheetah are to be seen. Many hyenas live here and researchers have found that lions loose 20% of their kills to them. Hyenas are formidable hunters in their own right but are opportunistic feeders who will annoy and threaten a pride of lions until they give up their meal. Savuti is also famous for its elephants that roam great distances for the best fodder.
Abdim Stork

Large secretary birds and kori bustards are often seen strutting around the Savuti marsh and small redbilled francolins provide as a noisy morning wake up call. Interesting summer migrants and water birds include Abdim's storks, carmine bee eaters and even fish eagles. Little quelea finches are quite a spectacle as they gather in thousands. They reach a frenzy of numbers in about April when a single flock could contain tens of thousands of these small twittering birds.

Rainy season: Rains arrive from November to April, at which time the animals make their way to pastures rich in new grass. Sometime in November or December thousands of zebras migrate from the Linyanti in the north and move south through Savuti to the grasslands of the Mababe Depression. In February they start heading northwards again. Humidity and heat is high.

Dry season: From May to October the water pans dry up and the animals are attracted to three artificial waterholes. Elephants dominate these while other animals have to wait their turn. September and October can be extremely hot but game viewing is very rewarding as predators are concentrated around the waterholes.

· Rare and endangered wild dog are a pleasure to observe
· Thousands of zebras moving slowly across the plains in their twice yearly migration, is a sight to behold
· Hyenas have the most complex social system of all African animals and are fascinating to watch at their den when youngsters are around
· Sit for hours watching elephants at waterholes
· Safari lodges offer luxury in a completely different environment from Chobe or Linyanti
· Quelea finches gather in flocks of tens of thousands
· The sage bush (or bitter bush) releases its herbal aroma as it is crushed by foot or vehicle

Savuti is in Chobe National Park so off-road and night driving are not permitted
This is a malarial area.

Rather than a delta, it is in fact an alluvial fan of sediment and debris, which filled a trough formed by the sinking of the earth's crust, between a series of parallel faults across the Okavango River.

The fan (or delta as it is more commonly called), resembles the shape of a hand. The palm is a permanent delta of constant water, and the fingertips are seasonally flooded swamps and lush floodplains. The water of the Okavango literally floats on a saturated sea of sand.

The Delta is fed by the Okavango River originating over 800 miles (1,280 km) away in the highlands of Angola. The Angolan highlands have an average rainfall of between 1,200 and 2,000mm per year, compared to around 400-600mm in the Okavango. The delta therefore fluctuates in size depending on local rains and the Angolan floodwaters. The spill over from the rising river starts pushing gently into the Okavango in January and reaches a peak at the top of the Okavango in about May. By June or July each year (depending where you are within the Okavango), the water levels are at their maximum.

The Okavango region contains the state-run Moremi Game Reserve surrounded by a number of strictly controlled, privately managed wildlife concessions. The game viewing in all of these areas is no less than outstanding and activities can either be undertaken on foot, in a game-viewing vehicle or in a mokoro (dug-out canoe) or motorised boat. Such varied opportunities in a beautiful and diverse range of habitats, makes the Okavango the best all-encompassing safari destination in the world.

Moremi falls within the tribal land of the Batswana and is named after the late Chief Moremi III. It was clear to his wife, who reigned after his death, that the game in their traditional hunting grounds was fast disappearing. With encouragement from conservationists, Mrs Moremi proclaimed the Moremi Game Reserve in March 1963 and the tribe agreed to vacate the land.

Chief's Island is the largest landmass within Moremi and was the Batswana tribe's richest hunting grounds with a vast array of animals. The dry sandy interior of this 100,000 hectare (1,000 square kilometer) island is full of mopane woodland and acacia thornscrub interspersed with clay pans.
Leopard male resting. Pic: Norman Goldberg
These pans fill with rain and attract large herds of buffalo who seem to prefer drinking from the pans rather than the river. They also like the sparse but sweet grasses found here, as opposed to the long but courser fodder of the floodplains. As the mopane bush gives way to floodplains and riverine forests, other animals become abundantly visible and the whole spectrum of Africa's game can be seen.

Today, Moremi rates as one of the leading wildlife areas of the world. The mosaic of grasslands, floodplains, palm-tree islets, forests, lily lagoons and winding water channels combine to form a perfectly constructed puzzle, in which animals wander as they please.

Chitabe in the south of the delta has classic Okavango scenery of rivers, waterways and marshlands with season flood plains contrasting with dry acacia woodland and open grasslands. Safari activities are more land than water based and provide exceptional opportunities for photography. Wild Dog sightings are the special treat of this area.

The Duba Plains in the furthermost reaches of the delta are famous for high concentration of lions. They are sleek fit and well fed from the huge herds of buffalo that graze these seasonal flood plains. Floodwaters provide the opportunity for mokoro (dugout canoe) trips from May to September, which is the most romantic way to experience a safari.

The Jao Reserve in the western delta is a water wonderland where you float through a fairytale of water lily lagoons. It is here that you will find the rarely seen sitatunga - an aquatic antelope that may submerge under water if disturbed. There is a variety of terrain and almost all the big game is here plus a bewildering selection of birds.

In the Vumbura Concession you will undoubtedly see what appears to be giant salamis hanging from trees. The 'sausage tree' epitomises this area which contains both wetland and savannah. As such the range of animals and birds is extensive with considerable numbers of elegant chocolate-coloured sable antelope with majestic sweeping horns.

The Pom Pom private concession is in the central reaches of the Okavango Delta and will warm the heart of the safari traditionalist. Here you can indulge in every kind of safari including fishing and nature walks with spectacular bird and animal watching.

The lure of the Okavango and its extraordinary range of habitats provide the perfect environment for African animals to thrive and people to watch them. Great herd of antelopes, zebra, buffalo and elephants roam the pastures, and lions, leopards, cheetahs and all the other carnivores prosper. As Moremi Game Reserve contains large areas of constant water, game viewing during the dry season is particularly good as animals are drawn to the permanent water sources.

There are no fences between Moremi and the private reserves so the entire Okavango merges into a unified animal kingdom of grand proportions.
Elephant-back safari. Pic: David Anderson

Each area has its own particular habitats, resident herds and familiar predators, and night drives in the private reserves, (also soon to be permitted in Moremi), often reveal secretive animals like porcupine, pangolin, aardwolf and genet.

Wet Season: November to March is the hot rainy season and the roads can be quite bad. The advantage of this time of year is that most of the animals give birth, providing a wonderful game watching experience. The landscape is lush and green and there is an abundance of wild flowers.

Dry season: April to October is the dry season and the drier it becomes the easier it is to spot animals close to permanent water holes. At this time much of the Okavango dries out, apart from permanent rivers in Moremi Game Reserve and the northern reaches of the Okavango. The heat starts to build in earnest from October onwards.

· Being poled in a dugout canoe through lagoons crammed with water lilies
· Tracking big game on foot
· Peaceful fishing excursions
· Choice of game drive, game walk, canoe or motor boat safari
· Exceptional animal watching
· Abundant birdlife
· Exquisite thatched lodges and tented camps providing unsurpassed luxury in the bush
· Watching animals at waterholes
· Exceptional variety of scenery
· Perfect honeymoon destination

Moremi Game Reserve was first established in 1963 but during the 1970's it was enlarged to include most of Chief's Island. In 1991 another area was added bringing the total area to 1,880 sq. miles (4,871 sq. km).
The only free-roaming rhino in Botswana are those recently introduced in the Mombo area of Chief's Island.
Moremi Game Reserve covers one third of the entire Okavango Delta
This is a malarial area.


Last modified on Tuesday, 18 June 2013 12:11
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