Thursday, 23rd February 2012
We landed safely at Chobe Airstrip a little before 2.00 p.m. and taxied to the unloading area. I was surprised to see a rather smart Pilatus aircraft tied-down there. I later discovered it was the PC-12 NG, a high-performance single-engined turbo-prop from the Swiss manufacturers (more information on their website here).
The Cessna pilot let me off the aircraft and quickly found my luggage. There were two Land Rovers parked-up behind the Pilatus. One, with just a Botswanan driver, had apparently come to meet me. The other Land Rover disgorged a party of guests and their luggage who were clearly about to leave on the aircraft which had brought me in. As my driver and I left the airstrip, the pilot of my aircraft was still loading his new passengers and their baggage.
My destination was Savuti Safari Camp, a drive of perhaps 50 minutes from Chobe Airstrip. Around the airstrip, the area seemed notably drier than Duba Plains. The track we were following was, as usual, sand but dry, powdery sand which threatened to halt our progress as we swayed from side to side in the deep ruts. It was not a very comfortable journey but, eventually, we arrived at the camp itself.
I'd some idea now what to expect from the Safari Camps so I was not surprised to see three members of the Camp Management (a bearded South African and two young ladies) waiting to greet me before leading me to the lounge area, a large, open-sided building with a massive thatched roof.
I was presented with a Welcome Drink and the usual broad Indemnity to sign. In this part of Africa, it appears that no business is prepared to do business with you unless you absolve them from any responsibility for the various problems which might arise.
One of the young ladies then conducted me along a boardwalk connecting the central complex of buildings to my room so that I could prepare for Afternoon Tea and the late afternoon Game Drive. The accommodation was very satisfactory and, at Savuti, the customary verandah overlooked a stretch of tranquil water - a loop in the Savuti Channel. Although, like Duba Plains, the 'room' was canvas sided, this time the roof was a very substantial thatched affair.
When I returned to the central lounge area for Afternoon Tea, I met a friendly, boisterous group of guests who, I discovered, had arrived in the Pilatus aircraft I'd admired at Chobe Airstrip. The party was well-known at Savuti and this appeared to be a regular visit to have fun. As far as I could make out (their high spirits made coherent conversation difficult), the leader had once been employed by Wilderness Safaris before setting up his own business in South Africa supplying 'high-end' safaris using the aircraft I'd seen. All the members of the group were involved in this business. The leader appeared to be a Guide in his own right, so the Camp merely provided a 4 x 4 vehicle and, after refreshments, the group piled into the waiting Land Rover and took off into the bush.
My own afternoon game drive was with a pleasant couple living in southern Holland - a Dutch lady and her English partner. Our guide was a Botswanan called Lets. We saw various birds and then encountered a group of Carmine Bee-eaters. These birds seemed interested in 'buzzing' our 4 x 4 and a number followed us for some distance, circling the moving vehicle and apparently delighting in their ability to repeatedly swoop in front of the Land Rover and emerge safely.
We came across a number of groups of elephants although some seemed rather shy. This is most common when a female has a youngster when they follow the principle of "discretion is the better part of valour" and they will unhurridly move into the cover of the bush. Elephants are fastidious creatures and, when away from water, will indulge in 'dust bathing' where they use their multi-purpose trunks to cover their backs with scooped-up dust.
There were also Impala, usually just standing and watching us as we passed, an adult Warthog and a couple of Giraffe. With their long necks, Giraffes always appear rather supercilious and their unhurried movements when browsing give them a certain serenity.
We returned to the Camp in good time for Dinner. A South African couple I'd not previously seen joined the couple from Holland and myself for dinner, as did some of the camp management. The jovial group with their own aircraft had dinner at a separate table and, I understand, carried on late into the night with their high jinx but I retired to bed immediately after the enjoyable meal.