Botswana! I do love this African country. Politically stable, safe with wonderful people and awe-inspiring animals. What more could you ask for? The fact it has probably the best guide in Africa, in my opinion, seals the deal! Brian Gibson is simply amazing. He thinks we come back for the photographic safari, but, it’s him that we actually come back for.
After an amazing flight over the Botswana savanna in the Cessna, for which Scotty gave a salute, we approached the dirt airstrip and could see Brian waiting for us in the Toyota Land Cruiser- the limousine of the African Safari! As mentioned previously, Teresa had decided [with our grateful acceptance] that the theme of this safari would be “In search of the leopard” and insisted we all wore T-shirts stating that fact when we met up with Brian. This was a bit of a running joke from our previous safaris. Brian prides himself on ensuring that guests have the best experience and leave with photographs of all the major animals they wish to. This was certainly accomplished on previous safaris, however, we never had luck with photographing leopards. We were close on several previous occasions. We often joked about this and jibed him, jokingly, with comments about this deficiency. He certainly had a good laugh when he saw the T-shirts. All joking aside, I really didn’t care if we photographed a leopard or not as long as Brian was along for the attempt.
The plan for this safari with Brian was to spend equal amounts of time in Savuti, Khwai and then Moremi. As before, we would be in luxury safari camps which I prefer over safari lodges. There is just something about camping in remote locations and Brian does it the best. He is very experienced and has absolutely committed and wonderful staff who really take care of you. The accommodation is extremely comfortable and the food is top-notch. Because Brian is so experienced, you really learn a lot about the animals, the geography as well as the flora and fauna of this amazing country. He is also able to deliver on photographic opportunities with this extensive knowledge. He is extremely engaging and entertaining and a complete professional through and through. Most guides could learn from him.
Our initial days were spent in Savuti. The Savuti Marsh area, 10,878 km² large, constitutes the western stretch of Chobe National park (50 km north of Mababe Gate). The Savuti Marsh is the relic of a large inland lake whose water supply was cut a long time ago by tectonic movements. Nowadays the marsh is fed by the erratic Savuti Channel, which dries up for long periods then curiously flows again, a consequence of tectonic activity in the area. It is currently flowing again and in January 2010 reached Savuti Marsh for the first time since 1982. As a result of this variable flow, there are hundred of dead trees along the channel’s bank. The region is also covered with extensive savannahs and rolling grasslands, which makes wildlife particularly dynamic in this section of the park. This region is indeed reputed for its annual migration of zebras and predators. Previous visits had been very fruitful in terms of photographing wildlife. I can certainly say that this time was no exception. I can also state that the curse of not seeing leopards was indeed broken. Not just broken, but, smashed! we were rewarded with the most amazing leopard experiences we could have hoped for. They are very secretive animals and difficult to view. We were lucky enough on several occasions to see actual leopard cubs, large Toms and protective and loving mothers. We also witnessed a leopard cub suckling from his mother in the open during daylight hours. What a privilege to observe and photograph. This occurred on the latter days of our time in Savuti. On the first day we were blessed with sightings of the African Wild Dogs. An amazing animal, but, often misunderstood and hunted by locals and endangered. We were able to add to our photographic collection of these magnificent beasts. For the first time we were also privileged to see a mass migration of water buffalo. The herd must have numbered over 1000. They created a dust cloud as they moved that eerily encompassed them leading to ghostly images gratefully captured. Where game goes predators follow. That first day we also came upon an elephant enjoying a mud bath, which we had not witnessed previously, as well as beautiful and stately Water Bucks. We were also rewarded with a beautiful sunset over the African savanna that first evening. Exceptional, Savuti was living up to expectations. This was going to be good!