Catch of the day in big cat country
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