We’ve been hugely privileged to spend 5 days in my spiritual home, Savuti, right in the heart of Chobe in Botswana. Remote, tough to get to, painfully beautiful and very wild.
I’ve been coming here since I was seven and such a pleasure to see Lisa, Bea and Mila getting into it. Everyone up at 5am, itching to hit the deep rutted tracks – 8 eyes hungrily tracking the fresh lion spoor – the smells of the bush and sunrise gold pouring into our brilliant muddy car (that has been our boat-like home for the last 2 months), simply not a better way to spend the first few hours of a day.
True to the Savuti experience, we had elephants in the campsite almost constantly. And although we didn’t manage to spot them in the thick rainy-season grass, two very loud prides of lions near us from the second night onwards.
Because it’s wet there are very few other vehicles at this time of year, and wonderful camaraderie: Everyone delighted to have made it through the mud, everyone hyper-alert because of what’s around, everyone sleep-deprived because of the noises at night, and everyone excited at being there.
The fly-in safari lodge round the river bend currently charges US$1,200 per per person per night, so being able to access the area in one’s own vehicle is certainly a great privilege. With Botswana’s diamond resources dwindling and tourism becoming more increasingly important, I expect the East African model will follow, where independent travel eventually gets priced out.
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks has really got it right with these camps: self-drive access only, total self-sufficiency (but there is water), no fences round the camps, a formula virtually untouched since Chobe was formed. It results an extraordinary experience, which is what has made Chobe so famous.
Photos below: Chobe north gate 2008 and 2012.