Savuti – Elephant Land
17th January 2013 – Savuti – Botswana
Yesterday we arrived at Savuti in the southern section of Chobe NP, it had been a fairly long, but enjoyable, day of driving along sandy tracks watching out for what may be lurking in the bush along the way. As we got closer to Savuti the bush tninned out and we found ourseleves driving along the edge of a large grassland/marshy area. Along this stretch on the edge of the huge marsh, but not too far from the trees were a hundred or two zebra grazing, the largest herd we have seen so far. As we continued north a rocky hill suddenly appeared at our side and we realised that we haddnt seen any hills since Tsodilo about 10 days ago, Botswana is truely a very sandy country.
Savuti is in a stunning location, after 100’s km of getting used to flat sand the small hills and valleys look so striking and they are lush with thick green grass and bush. Its a bit of a strange place as amongst these hills was a channel of water that snaked its way SE and poured into the flat marshlands to the south. Nobody seems to know why, but the channel dried up 30 years ago and didnt flow again at all until 3 years ago.
As we got into the camp we drove past a couple waiting patiently in their car for an elephant to move off their camping spot, they may have been waiting a little while as the ellie seemed to be sleeping on its feet! We had a great spot overlooking the channel and soon had Landy set up, chairs out and a late lunch made, our staple seems to have settled down to cheese and tomato sandwiches. As we finished up we looked across and saw the elephant feeding about 150 yards away, he must have woken up. To our excitement he slowly made his way closer as he fed on the lush grass around the base of trees. Every now and then he pointed the bottom of his trunk in our direction, taking a quick sniff and checking us out. He was totally clam and nonchalant, and that rubbed off on us, we stood there in awe whispering to each other in excitement and not making any sudden moves! We thought he would stop and go around us but he kept coming, until he was so close we could clearly see his hazel brown eyes looking right back at us. He came up to within 5m of us, we diddnt feel threatened but my heart was pounding around in my chest, by this time we were looking up at this magnificent animal. I think by then he thought he had let us close enough and it was time for us to move, he looked straight down at us and held his ears out, we took the hint and backed slowly around Landy a couple of metres, whispering in comforting tones to him. He turned his head, message understood, and twirled his trunk around a clump of green grass, ripping it up and balanced it on his lower trunk while with the end he ripped up another clump and hoisted the whole amount to his mouth, green shoots sticking out of one side and the roots out of the other. A couple of munches later there was a crunch and the roots fell away just as another load of grass passed in the opposite direction and was stuffed in. A few more munches and he walked around the other side of Landy, had a scratch on the tree we were set up under and slowly moved off, feeding as he went.
We looked at each other with huge grins plastered across our faces, elation coursing through our veins, hearts pounding, and held each other. There was nothing to be said, we knew we had just shared an amazing experience, and it felt like we had been allowed to share a private moment with an elephant. We suddenly realised we had been watching him for about an hour, it felt like 10 minutes.
We slumped down into our chairs, and said, well thats it, what can top that for a day. We did go out for a drive later through the hills and past baobab trees, and came close to lots more elephant, notably a family with a raucous teenager who gave us a bit of attention and a small mock charge. This morning Lisa shook me awake to loud splashing sounds, she ripped open the window and in the predawn light we saw a family of elephant splashing across the channel just below our campsite. One lingered to have a drink and then they were gone, lost in the bush on the far side.