Trip Report: Botswana’s Savute & Khwai Photo Tour 2019
2018 saw the creation and execution of ORYX’s first scheduled photo safari to Botswana, my Savute & Khwai Photo Tour. With it being such a well-designed photo safari with stunning accommodations and locations, combined with excellent wildlife sightings and photo opportunities that exceeded all of our expectations, you can guess how excited I was to be taking guests back to these two destinations in 2019.
Returning back to a destination has a lot of ease and comfort to it and a great surge of excitement that carries over from my last experience. Following on the tail-ends though, a sense of “unknown” and wonder did make an appearance as so much had happened within a year since my last Botswana photo safari. Rains failed to appear en masse and strength earlier in the year when they were expected to, not soaking deep into the earth in order to tide the fauna and flora over during the dry winter months.
As with many areas in Southern Africa, and in this case Botswana, by September the effects of the drought was very apparent and much of the landscape was what you would expect to see and experience when visiting in late October before the rains begin again.
Understanding that regions in Southern Africa were hit hard, my guests and I were still longing to reach our destinations and have the 9-day tour begin!
First destination: Savute
Savute is a very special place. As a person who generally seeks lusher, water-focused areas, I was surprised initially how quickly Savute won me over.
The terrain is a beautiful mix of grassy plains, small pans and vast broad-leaved woodlands. What I do love most about the landscape however, is during the season that our tour takes place in, the Apple-leaf tree leaves have turned yellow and are either sitting prettily on the light grey tree or resting on the beach-looking sand where it has fallen. It creates very soft scenery and, in the morning and afternoon when the sun is either just about to rise or set, the blue-purple tinge in the sands seems to take on a whole new, saturated look.
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. As there are no permanent water sources in Savute, the wildlife relies solely on the lodge and the Park’s fresh water pumped waterholes for their daily intake. We have had over 50 Elephants gathered at the camp’s waterhole one-night, African Wild Dog grabbing their dose before heading back out into the bush to hunt, Hyena, Leopard, Cape Buffalo… the list goes on!
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
A 30-minute plane ride later departing from Savute, and we were whisked away from a land of pastels to a land of saturation.
Our camp is located on the banks of the Khwai River, an extension of the famed Okavango River. Where Savute was dry, Khwai is water-based and much greener. A perfect place to spend the last portion of our Botswana photo safari! Looking across the river you will find Moremi Game Reserve, and it is not uncommon to see Lion crossing to and fro from one side of the river to the other.
This is the land of the African Wild Dog and Leopard, and we were lucky to see great sightings of both these beautiful creatures. It just so happened that my guests were all lovers of birds as well, so when mammalian sightings were not good, or “hiding” very well, we had a lot of bird species to train our lenses on as the combination of water and land birds is plentiful.
With my concerns about the drought and the affect it would have on the wildlife and fauna, it could definitely be seen in the areas that are usually wet, now being dry. A lot of the wildlife where congregating even more so around remaining water sources which in turn, led to predators being more prevalent and hunts occurring more often. Such is the nature of the natural world.
Stay passionate and explore the world!
Your international Photo Tour Leader and host, Penny Robartes
For more information on photo tours conducted by Penny, please click here.
For more information on Penny’s newly-crafted Women-only Photo Tours, please click here.