THE CHOBE NATIONAL PARK HAS MORE SECRETS THAN SUNSETS, AND OUR FAVOURITE IS SAVUTE.
We all love an enchanting sunset and the incredible shades and hues it casts over dreamy landscapes below. And in places like Savute in the Chobe National Park, there is more to each sunset and landscape than meets the eye.
Did you know that sunlight is actually white in colour? At least, that is how astronauts see it. When sunlight meets the earth’s atmosphere it mixes with other molecules and passes through water droplets. As it leaks through, it scatters and breaks down into a wide range of spectacular colours, and that is where the sweeping orange, reds and yellows we see each evening come from. Knowing this, a sunset suddenly becomes less about the moment when a day comes to a close, when the sun leaves your sight, and more about a rare and wonderful interaction between a life-giving star and a life-nurturing atmosphere.
Doing a little research into what you are looking at can give you a much deeper appreciation of the beauty of each moment. The same goes for destinations: the more you know about each nuance and hue, the more powerful the magic.
So here are a couple of lesser-known secrets about one of our favourite destinations in the Chobe National Park, the Savute Region, outlined according to the colours of their eternally marvellous sunsets.
BUT FIRST, THE SAVUTE: WHERE IS IT?
The Savute region is a remote part of the greater Chobe National Park situated in the South and is a magical hue of the Chobe Region. Savute comprises of 4 magical features; the unpredictable Savute River, the Savute Marsh (a main attraction of game), the hills in the area and a cluster of 14 baobabs.
The Savute, a private game reserve, borders the Delta to the West and is located to the East of the Chobe National Park. An African savanna filled with large grasslands, concentrations of wildlife, iconic Camelthorn (Acacia), Silver Terminalia and mopane veld.
As the dense heatwaves create a mirage over the desert-like landscape the resilient wildlife cluster together in the limited available shade on the savanna. The scorching sun sends processions of elephants marching across the hot sand in search of water supply. This area is the home of iconic African sunsets and silhouettes.
PURPLE: THE SAVUTE CHANNEL
Here’s a secret: to this day, nobody quite understands the Savute Channel, just as no one quite understands how purple crops up in some sunsets and not at all in others. This is because the channel is actually an ancient super lake that dries or flows independent of the water levels or rainfall in the area. In 1880 the channel was dry and remained that way for 70 years, it once again flooded in 1957 and has since remained dry.
The Magwikhwe sand ridge is approximately 100km long and 20m high and once covered most of Northern Botswana. There is still an ongoing debate as to how the channel received its water – the most widespread theory is that the Upper Zambezi and the Chobe flowed together across the North of Botswana and down the sea via the Limpopo. A distortion of the Earth’s crust dammed the flow to create a lake. It is theorized that a change in climate cut off the lake from its tributaries.
Looking at the channel today makes it hard to believe that the harsh, desert-like landscape we see was once submerged under an inland sea.
RED: THE SAVUTE MARSH AND WILDLIFE
Red for sacrifice, red for danger, red for courage. The Marsh has one of the greatest concentrations of animals in Southern Africa, and is known in particular for its carnivorous residents, who have their own secrets to keep.
The death-defying, elephant-killing lion prides of the Savute Region have been made famous by numerous renowned documentaries, but their interpersonal relationships are constantly changing. What do we know about them? Well, the marsh pride originally consisted of thirty-two lions until January 2022 when there was a pride takeover downsizing the pride to only six lionesses and two new males. This change removed the famous boys, Sekekama and Torn Nose, who ruled the area for over a decade. They currently have four cubs which are about five months old. The north pride was led by three males, the sons of Sekekama and Torn Nose. Pretty Boy, Blondie and Tsekedi have since been pushed out by Sekoti and his three younger brothers in 2021. This pride is still unsettled; until a stable structure has been created, the females avoid them. Conservationists are still constantly learning about the dynamics of lion prides, so nobody can predict when that might be.
In addition to the cats of the Savute the marsh area is also famous for its abundance of hyenas, leopards and is one of the best places in Botswana for wild dog sightings. In November and December is the annual Zebra Migration. Waves of black and white in the thousands pass through the grassy plains making it a hot spot for hungry predators.
The Savute Marsh also attracts large secretary birds, kori bustards and small red-billed francolins. In the summer, the migratory birds begin to pass through the marsh – Abdim’s storks, carmine bee-eaters, quela finches, and fish eagles.
ORANGE: THE GUBATSA HILLS
San paintings can still be found on the rockfaces of the Gubatsa Hills, strong orange-red hues that have lasted the ages and carry the voices of people long gone, yet nobody knows who painted them.
Millions of years ago during a volcanic movement, the Gubatsa Hills were formed. Overlooking the wide-open plains of the Savute Marsh, the hills stand as a proud landmark in the area known for its ancient San rock paintings that date back as far as 1968. Although the paintings seem similar to the colour that is Tsodilo Hills, they seem to have been painted by different groups. Which groups? Well, that is yet to be discovered. All we know is that this small group of San bushmen were likely in the area to follow the migrating game.
BLUE: THE CLUSTER OF BAOBAB TREES
Blue for the sky and blue for the tens of thousands of litres that a baobab can hide within its trunk. The biggest secret of all, perhaps?
Just a few metres away from the San rock paintings is another long-lasting story: thirteen baobabs that stretch their branches towards the blue sky’s abyss. Each tree boasts a circumference of approximately 7 metres and a height of around 5 metres high. These magnificent trees have witnessed decades of change, a humbling thought as you relax overlooking the open plains of the marshland.
THE SAVUTE SECRETS
We may have outlined a few of the magical nuances of the Savute, but the only way to truly discover this mystic world, and to uncover a few of your own secrets perhaps, is to transport yourself here and explore the region for yourself.
We’ll meet you for sundowners at the Savute Safari Lodge, our luxury 12-roomed lodge poised on the very edge of the Savute Channel itself.