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Savuti

The Savuti National Park in Botswana has particularly strong populations of predators and an annual zebra migration, and is the scene for many well-known documentaries and is a prime safari destination in southern Africa.

This famous western corner of Chobe is one of Botswana’s best-known wildlife areas. Savuti covers almost 5,000 square kilometres and includes the Savute Marsh and Channel, the Mababe Depression and Magwikhwe Sand Ridge – each feature fashioned by the tectonic instability of the region.

It’s hard to imagine this area was once at the bottom of an inland sea until one takes a longer look at the desolate landscape. On drying up the lake left the Okavango Delta, the Mababe Depression, Lake Xau, Lake Ngami, Nxai Pan and the Makgadikgadi Pans. The Magwikhwe sand ridge in the north represents the ancient shorelines while the road from Maun to Savute follows the edge of the Mababe Depression of which the deepest part is the Savute Marsh. The dead trees on the marsh are the result of the last flooding (the only part to have filled up in recent history), and the drying up of the Savute Channel.

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Water just outside Savuti Camp, the channel has been dry since 1985

The Savute Channel has a fascinating history of flooding and drying up independently of rainy seasons and floods elsewhere. The dead trees tell a story of a non-flowing period when the Camelthorn trees (acacia erioloba) had enough time to reach full height. This was followed by a period of flooding and the trees drowned. A possible explanation for the erratic flowing could be tectonic movements which as the area is an extension of the Rift Valley, is perfectably acceptable.

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A pride of lions hunting buffalo on the Savuti plains

The lion and hyena and zebra migrations are synonymous with Savute but the area also hosts an excellent diversity of other predators and plains game species. Its pans and waterholes in the dry season sustain a large population of bull elephants.

The scorching sand let off waves of hot air and the animals gather in clumps under any available shade even that cast by a dead tree, to escape the heat. The area forms a sharp contrast to the Chobe river-front giving a wild life experience in sharp contrast to one another and providing a good reason to combine both areas with any visit to Botswana.

 

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