Much inspired thought has gone into Savute Safari Lodge, resulting in a harmonious blending of respect for its beautiful surroundings with quiet luxury and unstinting service. Chobe National Park is renowned for its exuberant plentitude of wildlife, nurtured by the Savute Channel, as it flows—sometimes one way, then in another, rather mysteriously—to and from the vast wetlands of northern Botswana.
This is one of Africa’s great gamelands. Wetland antelopes and hippos abound, and the continent’s second largest zebra migration attracts crafty predators: cheetah, leopard, and, of course, lions, inheritors of what the great Isak Dinesen called “thousands of years of unrestricted supreme authority.” (Savuti’s many elephants might loftily challenge that supremacy…though they wander and play without much concern for the hierarchies of lesser beasts.)
Savute Safari Lodge’s 12 suites are imaginatively built with natural woods and thatch, decorated in subtle colours to blend with their setting. Each superbly equipped suite features a large bedroom with spaciously inviting, canopied beds, an adjoining lounge area, well-designed en suite bathroom, and a wide open deck from which we can relax in that air and light paradise and gander at the animals who throng to the Savute Channel, right in front of us.
The double-storied main building has its own extra-expansive deck, a neat little library, comfy lounge and bar, and a bright blue swimming pool, all of them sited for views of the ever-active Channel and, even closer, a water hole that attracts a full cast of natural characters, including, of course, Savute’s elephants.
About those grand elephants: 50,000 or so of them call Chobe home (they’re Kalahari elephants, largest members of the elephant family). We see them from our suite, from the main lodge, on game drives, and after a short while we’re likely to agree with Peter Matthiessen, a great lover of Africa, who once wrote that “I can watch elephants (and elephants alone) for hours at a time….There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, an ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.”
Such are the joys of game viewing in Chobe National Park. Our game walks and drives, during the day and in the star-lit evening, are exceptional. We sometimes see all the fabled Big Five in the course of an exhilarating day. And as compelling as lions, elephants, leopards, Cape buffalo, and rhinos are (and they are unexpectedly, enthrallingly compelling even though we think we’ve known since we were toddlers), Chobe enchants us with many less celebrated animals: jackals and hippos, cheetahs and spoonbills, lovely antelopes of various sizes and markings, each as fine-tuned as a Swiss watch. Wild dogs, regal fish eagles, and crocodiles biding their dinosauric time.