On Saturday, August 10th, Rebecca and I touched down in the heart of Botswana’s Chobe National Park, Savuti. I even got to co-pilot from the front seat on the short charter flight from the Okavango Delta. It took about 20 minutes to reach Savuti Safari Lodge by road, but the game viewing through the expansive savannah wilderness set the tone for the next two days. We were shown a warm welcome and had made it in time for a spot of lunch. Our guide Isak introduced himself and we chatted about Chobe. The lodge is situated on the winding waterways of the Savuti Channel that stretches from the Linyanti River all the way to the Savuti Marsh. It has a fascinating history of flooding and drying up, but does have permanent pools that bring in the game from far and wide so there is always something to see there. He asked what animals we wanted to see and I told him that the elusive leopard was on the top of my list. We got settled in our timber thatched chalet and relaxed before afternoon tea. We started our drive with Isak at 3:30pm and met two couples that would be with us in the Landrover for the next two days. The afternoon drive proved abundant with wildlife spotting two jackals, lion, dwarf mongoose, warthog, giraffe, blue wildebeest, impala, kudu, steenbok, spur-winged goose, and Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. Isak heard talk over the radio about two leopards with a kill in a tree so we raced off to the location. Sure enough, there was a male leopard with an impala hanging by its horns in a big dead tree. The fact that the tree was dead and bare with no leaves made for great viewing. The male fed while a female lay on the ground hoping for a snack to fall from above. The sun was setting and all vehicles must be out of the park by 6:00pm so off we went. We spotted three old buffalo bulls on the way back to the lodge and one of them charged the truck. Isak punched the gas and got us the heck out of there. We had drinks by the campfire followed by a communal dinner while being amazed at the hoards of resident elephants coming to drink, bathe, and play at the local watering hole.
First game drive in Chobe
Impala munching on some tender leaves
Marsh Pride male lion
First sighting of the elusive leopard
Sunset in Chobe
Morning wake up call was at 6:00am and we were in the 4×4 by 7:00am. Isak thought it would be good to head straight back to the leopard kill to see if they were still around. To our surprise, there were now three leopards there; the male, the female, and her cub. Being solitary animals, Isak figured the only way the male would tolerate this gathering was if he had sired the cub. The female made her way up to eat, then, after some nervous attempts, the cub got up there and Bec and I were sure he was going to make it fall to the ground. After seeing enough of his prize disappear, the male climbed up and, with a not so playful swipe of a paw, got the youngster quickly looking for the ground. It was an amazing encounter. When the guides all have their cameras out and are busy snapping away, you know you are seeing something special. A call came across the radio for another rare spotting. The two resident cheetah brothers were sleeping off the previous night’s kill near the marsh. We left the leopards and were soon watching the two brothers lounging around. They seemed to take turns keeping an eye out for any lions. The last wildlife stop of the morning was to visit the Marsh Pride, a group of lions that are very well filmed and documented. Isak told us that the two dominant brothers have ruled for a number of years longer than the average male would, and that his sons have been sending some serious threats their way. We stopped to visit the ancient San rock paintings at Gubatsa Hills and then it was back to the lodge for the usual lunch, siesta, and tea. The afternoon drive was a little quieter with the leopards having moved on. We went down to the marsh and watched a huge herd of elephants before visiting the Marsh Pride once again and were lucky to see a litter of newborn cubs.
Male leopard advising the cub to step aside
Down he goes
Marsh Pride cub
Marsh Pride male
Monday was our last day in Chobe, and Africa for that matter, but that didn’t mean Desert & Delta did’t squeeze one last drive in for us. We were off with Isak again in the early morning and he told us that the guides had heard much commotion from lions in the hours just before sunrise. We found a lone female lion who seemed to be looking for something, so we tailed her for a bit. She then turned into some trees and found the cubs she was looking for. There were calls on the radio that a leopard had been seen crossing a road, but disappeared into the thick bush. Isak was also gathering an interesting story over the radio. The Marsh Pride had come into the North Pride’s territory (sons of Marsh Pride) and had killed a buffalo bull. The North Pride had skirmished with the Marsh Pride and had successfully chased them off and this was what the guides had heard. We soon found the North Pride and watched them until it was time to go. On our way to the airstrip, the buffalo kill lay in the middle of the road seemingly yet undiscovered by the North Pride. The lives and goings-on of the animals really pulled in Bec and I in such a short period of time.
Lioness searching for her cubs
In need of some rain
North Pride male
Southern yellow-billed hornbill or “flying banana”
North Pride male on the lookout
Cruising in Chobe
The winding Savuti Channel from the Cessna
We flew out on the Safari Air Cessna Caravan 12-seater aircraft to the largest centre in the Delta, Maun, dropping off passengers on the way. We picked up our large suitcases that were in storage and came to learn that our Air Botswana flight to Jo’burg was delayed, thankfully not enough though to cause any problems with the overnight flight back to AD. It was an unforgettable journey through Southern Africa and the perfect way to celebrate our 10 years of marriage.