Botswana Photo Tour 2021 – Savute & Khwai
Excitement was running high and was almost tangible as one by one, my guests came to sit at my table at a cafe that I mentioned I would be waiting at in OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg.
Why were we here? Well, why wouldn’t we be? We were soon to board our flight from Johannesburg to Maun International Airport in Botswana for my Savute & Khwai Photo Tour 2021! You could see the anticipation thrumming through my guests, as for many of them, this would be the first Photo Tour they would partake on since COVID first affected our travelling souls.
This is a photo tour that I find particularly exciting. The tour duration is longer than most of our scheduled photo tours to African destinations – longer time in the wilds is always a winner – and we visit 2 very contrasting areas in Botswana that add a dynamic aesthetic to our guests’ experiences and their wildlife portfolio.
First destination: Savute
Savute is a very special place. As a person who generally seeks lusher, water-focused areas, Savute is the complete opposite to this in October when our photo tour departs.
During this season, the terrain’s grassy plains turns into a beautiful gold, and the small pans are inundated with wildlife in the mornings and afternoons when the extreme heat of the day has not settled over the landscape. The vast broad-leaved woodlands offer respite to Savute’s wildlife whilst the Apple-leaf tree’s yellowed leaves sit prettily on the light grey tree or rest on the fine, beach-looking sand where they have fallen.
This year, however, a massively destructive fire burnt its way through major areas of Savute such as the large Marsh and some woodland areas before diverting “outside” of the park. This led to some interesting visuals of wildlife in dark, burnt grass as well as superb sunrises and sunset colourings.
Our camp is situated on the Savuti Channel, now dried with years of no water running through it, with a freshwater waterhole by the main deck which attracts a variety of wildlife and birdlife, as well as multiple elephant families to quench their thirsts, bathe and play. Savute is very well-known for it’s 2 main Lion prides; the Marsh Pride which is made up of roughly 18-odd individuals when all together, and the Northern Pride. We spent a lot of time with both prides and photographed some wonderful behaviours and scenarios.
To top off an already dense wildlife sighting and photographic time in Savute, we had a treat around one corner on our way back to camp from a bush breakfast stop by some ancient Baobabs; a herd of Roan Antelope! This was incredibly special for all of us to see see as these interesting-looking creatures are not often seen, and are quite shy. We worked with what we had and made the best of the sighting.
For 4-nights we explored and photographed the wildlife and birdlife that roam Savute, always paying attention to light, angles and capturing the subject’s story as perceived by each individual.
Second destination: Khwai
Whisked away from a land of pastels to a land of saturation, we arrived by bush plane in Khwai after a 30-minute flight.
Our camp is located on the banks of the Khwai River, an extension of the famed Okavango River. Due to its location, Khwai is the perfect complimentary to Savute as it is water-based and the terrain is lush and green by the river and it’s tributaries. Again, luck was on our side as our first afternoon game drive, not even 5-minutes out from camp, we came across a male Leopard that we spent most of the afternoon light hours with. But that wasn’t all! Shortly after we left the male Leopard, which decided to tuck itself into thicket area that we couldn’t get our vehicle to, we had a large African Wild Dog pack on the hunt! Mixed with pups that were a few months old and adults, we stuck with the pack as the light faded away. It was an inspiring first day in Khwai, we were kept getting treated to more beautiful sightings as the days went by.
One sighting which really was an incredible highlight for my guests was watching and waiting for 2 lioness and their cubs to cross a river. Our local guide and myself looked long and hard at the scene and settled on a positioned for our vehicles which we hoped to offer my guests the best possible angle and view of the potential crossing.
It worked. The Lions crossed. It was epic. Smiles on my guests’ faces as well as our local guides proved that this was truly a special sighting for us all. Image reviews back at camp showed that my guests had captured the sequences, so everything was truly just perfect.
As the sun made its decline, we stopped for sundowners on our last evening at a beautiful part of the Khwai River where the golden light turned red as it bathed the grunting hippos.
Khwai truly is a rich area offering superior wildlife numbers and sightings, and a phenomenal destination to wrap up ORYX’s Savute & Khwai Photo Tour experience!
Penny Robartes is a dedicated Private and Scheduled worldwide Senior Photo Tour Leader for ORYX Photo Tours.