Another 06:00 Bibi alarm sounded. Today were leaving this camp near Kasane and heading for Savuti, so we had to pack not only our kit bags but also our sleeping kit back into the bag it came in. Given a reasonably orderly mind, I went for the “fold the sleeping bag and blanket” approach before stuffing in my pillow. I did manage to make it fit but received wisdom is “just stuff everything in”. Then I remembered being told to do just that by the salesman when I had bought my sleeping bag for Australia. “Don’t try to fold it, just stuff it into its bag”.
Anyway, there was plenty of room so all was well. With 10 identical bags, we had to attach something personal to the sleeping roll to ensure that we got the same one at the other end.
Savuti was to be a 1-night stop only. It was really to break the journey to the following stop, that being too far to do in one day. Rasta and Ona had to break down the Kasane camp, get to Savuti ahead of us and set up the camp camp there, including, of course, digging two new toilet pits.
To give Rasta and Ona more time, we began the 170kms trip with a morning game drive which was a circuitous route out of the park at his location.
The most interesting wildlife en route seemed to be birds. Here’re a couple of cases in point. These are two Lapwings (a.k.a. Plovers). The one with the large, prominent yellow wattles is a White-crowned Lapwing (Vanellus albiceps). The one with the smaller, less significant wattles is the African Wattled Lapwing (Vanellus senegallus). GO figure, as they say in America, Aren’t common names wonderful?
As well as Lapwings, Storks, of which Africa has several, proved quite popular. We passed a gang of Marabou Storks (Leptoptilos crumeniferus) and saw our first, rather magnificently marked Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhyncus senegalensis), though I have to say that its common name at least looks logical and is rather easier to say than its scientific name.
A small collection of African Spoonbills (Platalea alba) at last provided me an opportunity for some reasonably clear pictures. I’d seen a Spoonbill sweeping its beak back and forth at Hondo in Spain but it never presented itself well. Here, one even tried a quite balletic move for me.
Eventually we left the Chobe National Park and hit the road to Savuti. When I say road, it’s a loose term. The tarmac stopped quite quickly and we got onto tracks of soft sand. At the bottom of a particularly soft area going up a decent incline was a sign saying, “select 2nd gear and put foot”. Bibi duly “put his foot” and we arrived at the top to see a witty second sign. How the mighty have fallen. No place for Chelsea tractors in this part of Africa, maybe.
Savuti was home to something quite special. Since we were to be there for only one night but were all keen to see it, Bibi suggested that we go straight to the spot rather than go to the new camp first; there wouldn’t really be time otherwise.
Our celebrity was the African Wild Dog (a.k.a. African Painted Dog or African Hunting Dog) and Savuti held a den including puppies. We arrived at the den at 15:00.to see a huddle of puppies relaxing above ground outside the den. What I assume were the alpha male and female were lying down nearby. The pups were utterly captivating and here is an animal that still looks attractive as an adult.
We arrived at a good time and had the den all to ourselves for an hour. Bibi eventually drove a short distance around a corner where more adults were lying down, one sporting a sizeable radio collar, something that doesn’t help photography. It’s a good thing, though, these delightful animals are endangered with numbers declining so study and protection are vital.
Other trucks began arriving so observation wouldn’t have been as good had we been any later. This was proved when a pair of Cheetah, lying in long grass, were surrounded by three trucks leaving us little room to see. The idiots in one of the trucks holding pole position weren’t even looking, rather they simply occupied the spot whilst chatting over sundowners and nibbles. Arseholes!
Even had we had a better spot, photos of Cheetahs buried in grass would not have been very worthwhile. We had much better luck a little distance away where we watched a Secretary Bird working the grassland. These are elegant, large birds, up to 1.5m, that hunt snakes. It would’ve been too good to see that happen but it just strutted its stuff.
Clearly my conversion to birder was continuing.
Our diversion made the day very long and quite tiring, considering the original drive would have been a mere 170kms, but the privilege of seeing African Wild Dogs was absolutely worth it. We finally arrived at our new camp at about 18:30 just after dark, so no showers. We freshened up in the hand basins before enjoying the steak with pepper sauce, mashed potato and sweetcorn that Rasta and Ona had prepared for us. Well done men.
My diarist does not record what we had with our custard. 😆