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The Mysterious and Magical Savute!

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Deep in south west corner of Chobe National Park lies a raw wilderness area known as Savute. Where predators are abundant and wildlife documentary filmmakers trip over themselves to capture this dynamic area on film.

Wild and remote, the Savute is best known for three things; the Savute Channel, the Savute Marsh and lions. In particular, the world-famous marsh pride, (not to be confused with the marsh pride from the Masai Mara and Big Cat Diary fame) offer one of Africa's most exciting lion viewing opportunities. The marsh pride of the Savute caught the world's attention for their ability to hunt and bring down elephants, something scientists and lion experts thought an impossible feat.

The Savute Channel

The Savute channel is a mysterious river channel that was dry with no flowing water from the late 19th century until 1958 when it mysteriously started to flow again. Nowadays, the channel runs with water sporadically that is seemingly unrelated and unaffected by rain patterns. The channel can be dry for decades before flowing water re-emergences without warning. The reason for the dramatic and unpredicatble changes are thought to be caused by underground tetonic forces that change the structure of the earth's surface and subsequently the path of flowing surface water. The word Savute in the local Bayei dialect means 'unclear' suggesting that these unpredictable changes are a phenomena that has been occurring for centuries.

The Savute Marsh

When the channel is full of flowing water, it follows a path to the Savute Marsh, where it empties into the expansive open grasslands. The abundance of water draws in birdlife and vast numbers of grazing animals. The area hosts a little-known migration every year between January and February when Zebra travel from the Chobe Flood Plains south to Savute to graze on the nutritious grass.

Lion Prides of the Savuti

Elephants are usually off limits for lions, and rightly so. Bringing down the most powerful land animal that is 20 to 30 times your weight is something most predators would consider unachievable. That is until the lions of the Savute showed what a 30-member pride of lions can achieve. The marsh pride have learnt to specialise in bringing down adult pachyderms and regularly target elephants as a source of prey. Dereck and Beverly Joubert's film Ultimate Enemies (National Geographic) immortalised this incredible lion behaviour when they captured it over three years (1993 - 1996) during a period, the lions of the Savute went on a killing spree and brought down approximately 74 elephants.

Today the Savute prides are much smaller in size and the days of 30 members strong lion prides are over and as such the predation on elephants is a much rarer occurrence. However, the legacy lives on and lions hunting elephants in the dry season when elephant are at their weakest still occurs.

Including a visit to Savute on your Botswana safari is an easy task and there a number of incredible lodges that provide access to this area. Our personal favourite is Savute Safari Lodge for it's accessible price and incredible deck overlooking a productive waterhole. Our 9 Night Untamed Botswana itinerary features 3 night in the Savute area combined with 3 nights Okavango Delta and 3 nights Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

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