Day 7 & Night 7 – Savuti Campsite
At 3pm I left the Elephant Camp and drove a very short distance to the Savuti Campsite which is next door to the lodge. There is an impressive looking gate, but although this clearly shuts at a certain time, there were tracks which showed how people had driven around the side. We read a lot of “you’re in a world of trouble if…” stuff, which I’m sure you may be, but clearly people just drove around the gate after dark. There was something about having been in the protection of lodges for the past two days that suddenly I felt very exposed out there.
The campsite has 10 individual sites with braii pits and is generally shady. You find your pitch by going to the ablution ‘bunker’ to see the map of the pitches. (This map concept would have been handy at the camps in Moremi as well). We had site 2, which was great and quite near the ablution bunker. Site 1 has a reputation for being especially good, although I couldn’t see what marked it out as better from the others. Sites 1-4 each have a view on the Savute Channel. This in itself is not remarkable because at the moment it is just a dry ditch but it does create an open aspect and an opportunity for you to sit and look out, which also makes you feel safer.
The ablution block is relatively new and in good condition with sinks for washing-up and laundry and with showers and loos. I managed to get hot water for the washing up but not for my shower. The ablution block is protected by an elephant-proof embankment which makes it look like a nuclear bunker. This place is famous. In the event of a nuclear war there will be a group of people who happened to be in this ablution block at the time who will live to tell the tale, or so the stories go. It was very impressive. The size of the campsite and distance between pitches is such that some campers drive to the ablution block after dark.
Despite the impressive ablution block the sand in the campsite was black and got everywhere and within minutes I was filthy again. Its worth noting that it was at this point that we decided to embrace the bush. This was combined with the fact that I was always covered in the bush. It gets up your nose, in your hair, under your nails, its everywhere in every pore. But that’s brilliant. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, I got back to basics. And that felt impossibly free.
I went for a short Game Drive just up to the main watering hole where I sat and enjoyed the giraffe, elephant and wildebeest swap places to drink. Then I realized the refrigerator was not working. When I opened it the stench was revolting – most of the food had gone rotten. I knew that hyena and predators come into this camp at night so having a vehicle full of rotten stinking food was not brilliant nor was the fact I’d lost a lot of our food supplies. Also, inside the broken fridge, we had cartons of orange juice that were giving off a powerful citrus waft to any passing Ellies.
As I was getting camp ready we became aware of a VERY large bull Elephant in Camp Pitch # 1, next door. He got my attention when he shook the Acacia tree on that pitch for the pods that make yummy Elephant snacks. We were parked under the Acacia tree on our pitch, and it was that tree that caught the Elephant’s attention. He finished off the first fall of pods and then came towards me. Very slowly I got into the cab of the vehicle and sat quietly while the elephant came up to the tree, wrapped his trunk around the tree trunk, and shook it with all his strength. For a moment it was like I was in the grip of a tornado, while Acacia pods rained down on the Landrover and him. Then he stopped shaking and started munching. He came closer and closer to the vehicle to pick up the pods, working his way through them like a giant Hansel and Gretal on the trail of breadcrumbs, only the trail was bringing him towards me, pod by pod. And then he took interest in me. He drew right up next to the vehicle and pressed his trunk tip up against the windows and drew it along the length of the vehicle, having a very good sniff. At which point I saw the rear view mirror and the fact the back door was open, the entrance to my home and the fridge with the stinky orange juice, was open, just resting closed, but definitely letting in daylight. “Whoopsie-Daisy.” The massive bull Elephant with huge tusks stood outside the vehicle looking in at me looking out at him. It sniffed the windows, investigating the driver’s wing very closely. I felt incredibly small and waited for what felt like hours, my eyes jumping from the open door to the Ellie’s tusks which looked like a giant can opener to me. However I was VERY lucky and the fridge clearly provided enough protection for the elephant not to pick up any scent, so it got bored and became interested once again in the Acacia pods on the ground. And one-by-one it went back to them, a trail which led him away and back into the bush. I did wonder if the dry season had been any further developed and the acacia pods had all been eaten what might have happened. Then I remembered to breathe and celebrated the fact that my mobile home was still in one piece with an early Not-Quite-Sundowner G&T.
Before the sun set the Ellie came back twice and even brought a friend on one occasion, another equally huge bull Elephant. As I was alone on the camp site I became very interested in making sure doors were shut tight and creating as much light and noise as possible. The elephants are incredibly quiet, as indeed are all Game, and as I didn’t like the idea anything turning up in the dark when I was on the ground, I lit all my lamps. I think I was trying to convince everything out there that I was one huge noisy brightly lit beast. Head torch, the fire, the gas lamp, the battery lamp, a spotlight, and even a 12 hour survival light stick that you break and shake which gives off a phosphorescent green glow all blazed brightly. A firefly would have provided more illumination than that light stick, but there was something about having a survival light stick and using it that made me feel better. The well-illuminated camp site would have been visible from space and would have put Time Square at midnight in the shade.
Dinner that night was Braai-nuked, anything I could find that hadn’t gone green and I knew wouldn’t last another day without the fridge working.
It was then, some time after dark, that a group of about 5 vehicles suddenly turned up. This proved that if you turn up when the gates are closed you can still get in. Immediately we felt a whole world better about everything, we definitely felt safety in numbers, especially when I knew from the Xakanaxa experience if anything had gone wrong I was on my own. I had expected there to always be other campers around on the Botswana bush National Park campsites. However, be prepared for when there are none or when those that are there turn up as late as they did for us at Savute.
Up in the tree house I enjoyed very much the thrill of this amazing campsite. The sound of the laughter from the nearby campers was music to my ears. I will also never forget the sounds of lions roaring very nearby and sadly a very, very stressed sounding elephant in the direction of the nearby watering hole, clearly being attacked by the lions. That elephant was screaming while the lions were roaring for as long as it took me to fall asleep.
Much to my extreme annoyance all of this was mixed with the very loud noise of a generator, which ran all night, I think from the nearby lodge.