Catch of the day in big cat coun­try

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

Bri­tish Air­ways (ba.com) flies from Heathrow to Vic­to­ria Falls, Zimbabwe, via Jo­han­nes­burg, with fares from £1,037 re­turn. Trans­fers to the Botswana bor­der take just un­der two hours. Sa­fari op­er­a­tors can ar­range do­mes­tic flights be­tween lodges.

On the banks of the Chobe river, five-star Chobe Game Lodge is a good spot to start or end a sa­fari with 44 well-ap­pointed rooms. Adventures are guar­an­teed at Savute Sa­fari Lodge, which has 11 thatched chalets in the heart of Savute. Leroo La Tau lies in­side a pri­vate con­ces­sion be­side the Boteti river with 12 serene water­front chalets. Xu­gana Is­land Lodge borders a la­goon in the Oka­vango Delta with eight chalets in a colo­nial theme. For reser­va­tions see de­sert­delta.com.

Botswana Spe­cial­ists (01473 599083; botswana spe­cial­ists.co.uk) of­fers tai­lor-made pack­ages. An eight-night sa­fari in early Oc­to­ber (at the end of the dry sea­son), spend­ing two nights at the four lodges above, costs from £7,425 per per­son full-board in­clud­ing flights, trans­fers, ac­tiv­i­ties and park fees. 1967 to 1982, then stopped for 28 years, then re­turned in 2010 with the sud­den­ness of a flash flood.

One fas­ci­nat­ing con­se­quence of this fickle trickle is how wildlife has adapted. While Botswana is renowned for of­fer­ing sa­fari su­perla­tives, it is Savute that gets its con­nois­seurs and nat­u­ral­ists truly ex­cited. In the words of Brad Bestelink, a Botswanan film-maker who doc­u­mented the re­gion for the re­cent National Geo­graphic minis­eries Sav­age King­dom: “Never in my life have I wit­nessed such an in­tense and fo­cused pe­riod of preda­tor in­ter­ac­tion and be­havioural firsts.”

More of his words fea­ture in Savute, Botswana’s Wildlife King­dom, a cof­fee-ta­ble book from the award­win­ning Bri­tish pho­tog­ra­pher James Gif­ford that cap­tures the trauma when a river runs dry – in par­tic­u­lar, some as­ton­ish­ing images of leop­ards that be­came adept at catch­ing 5ft-long cat­fish trapped in muddy holes as the wa­ters re­ceded. Their cubs proved equally re­source­ful, learn­ing how to

by James Gif­ford (HPH Pub­lish­ing; £30). A new edi­tion of

(Bradt; £17.99) by Chris McIn­tyre will be pub­lished on July 5. For tourist information, see botswana­tourism.co.bw. kill great white pel­i­cans, while wild dogs de­vised a way of hunt­ing im­pala by chas­ing them into the river. Savute is also fa­mous for lions that can bring down adult ele­phants – which Gif­ford cap­tures with bru­tal can­dour.

To­day the Savute Chan­nel is once again dry – who knows for how long – but that doesn’t mean there is noth­ing to see. Thanks to a net­work of wa­ter­holes, both nat­u­ral and man­made, this un­for­giv­ing pocket of the Kala­hari Sands guar­an­tees re­mark­able en­coun­ters with wildlife, par­tic­u­larly in the dry sea­son from May to Oc­to­ber. At the su­perbly re­mote Savute Sa­fari Lodge I sat on a deck just 80ft from a wa­ter­hole where ele­phant, gi­raffe, lion, buf­falo, kudu, ze­bra, jackal, hyena, warthog and marabou storks all Also known as the colugo, this oh-so-cute mam­mal with big eyes spends its nights glid­ing through the So named be­cause it ap­pears to run on wa­ter when threat­ened, the com­mon basilisk does so on ac­count of its large feet with flaps of skin be­tween the toes. The lizards are of­ten seen on streams and lakes in forests, in­clud­ing in Costa Rica’s Cor­co­v­ado National Park and Caño Ne­gro Wildlife Refuge. For a star per­for­mance on our doorstep, look no fur­ther than Tring Reser­voirs. This is where the elab­o­rate courtship

A leop­ard wres­tles a fish from the Savute Chan­nel. Left, an aerial view of the re­gion

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