Savute Under Canvas has the perfect balance between comfort and camping.
Savute Under Canvas: Our full report
Akin to its counterpart in Chobe, Savute Under Canvas offers an authentic mobile-camping experience, without forgoing many of the comforts of a semi-permanent tented camp. Situated in the Savuti area of Chobe National Park, the camp moves every five days between private campsites in the region (as per national park mobile-camping regulations).
The camp has five Meru-style tents, accommodating up to ten guests. The traditional safari tents are constructed of green canvas with mesh windows and a zippered entrance. There’s a second canvas roof for added shade. Camp chairs beside the entrance provide a place to relax and enjoy the surrounding bush. Each roomy, walk-in tent is comfortably furnished with sisal floor mats, twin or double beds, quality bedding, and bedside tables with battery-powered hurricane lamps. For storing belongings there’s a large luggage rack, a hanging rail and canvas shelving where you’ll find linen dressing gowns, insect repellent and spray, a laundry bag and a goodies box with wildlife checklists and a backgammon set. There’s no cooling fan or plug points in the tents but guests can charge batteries from a 220-volt inverter system in the safari vehicles, provided that they bring their own adaptor to convert to Botswana’s three round-pin plugs (which are the same as South African plugs, or the old-style UK-plugs.).
Towards the back of the tent, a rolled-up canvas partition leads through to the en-suite bathroom. Though there’s no running water, there’s a gravity-flush toilet and a bucket shower that is filled with warm water on return to camp each evening, or anytime on request. Atop a wooden washstand are a standing mirror, a hurricane lamp, water glasses, a metal hand basin and a metal jug. The latter is also replenished with water for washing hands and brushing teeth. Towels, soap, shampoo, body wash and body lotion are provided.
The central main area is a simple open-sided mess tent with dining tables and chairs, a tea and coffee station, a bar table with a good selection of standard spirits, and a side-table stocked with board games, wildlife magazines and reference books. Most evening meals are served under the stars, weather permitting, and a nearby campfire provides a social spot for pre- or post-dinner drinks.
Activities focus on morning and afternoon game drives, between sunrise and sunset. National park regulations do not permit night drives, guided walks or off-roading. Conducted in open-sided 4WD vehicles, game drives cover the network of sandy roads that crisscross the Savuti corner of Chobe National Park, with regular stops for wildlife viewing along the way. The vehicles have a canvas roof for shade and three rows of three seats, with a maximum of 6 guests per vehicle to afford everyone a clear outer view. The national park is shared with other mobile camp and lodge vehicles, as well as self-drivers, so you can expect to encounter a number of other vehicles, particularly at significant sightings during peak season.
The wildlife in this region is varied, with game viewing reaching its peak in the dry season from April to November. Around April and May a small zebra and wildebeest migration passes through here, and during the wet season (December to March) there’s a notable congregation of birdlife around the Savuti Marsh area, including flocks of storks, spoonbills and pink-backed pelicans. We have found the guiding at Savute Under Canvas to be of a very high standard and on our most recent visit in June 2012 we were fortunate to witness wild dogs on a hunt and a lion steal an impala kill from a leopard. This area is also well known for its elephant population, particularly during the dry season when large herds can be seen dotted across the expansive Savuti Marshes.
Savute Under Canvas suits those seeking an adventurous, yet very comfortable, mobile-camping experience. The service, food and guiding is typically excellent, run by an experienced and hospitable team. It’s a more economical option to many of Botswana’s permanent safari camps, particularly during the peak season from June to October. You can expect good game viewing, with the highest concentration of wildlife between April and November. The potential drawbacks are the national park restrictions (no night drives, guided walks or off-roading) and crowding of vehicles at noteworthy sightings, more so during the busy season. If you’re visiting Savuti in combination with private reserves elsewhere in Botswana, then we recommend that you start with the national park if possible, before moving on to the more remote wildlife areas where you will encounter fewer visitors.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a stay of two nights at Savute Under Canvas, although you might consider three nights during the dry season when game densities are at their highest. The camp combines particularly well with its sister camp, Chobe Under Canvas, and also often forms part of a trip with Sandibe Safari Lodge, Nxabega Safari Camp, Xaranna Okavango Lodge or Xudum Delta Lodge – which are all owned by the same company, &Beyond.
Directions: Savute Under Canvas can be reached by light aircraft; roughly a 50 minute flight from Maun or 35 minutes from Kasane. It’s then approximately a one hour drive from Savute airstrip, depending on the camp’s location at the time and wildlife sightings on the way.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Savute Under Canvas is generally very good, particularly considering that it’s prepared in a simple mobile camp kitchen and cooked over an open fire. Special dietary requirements need to be advised in advance as supplies are driven or flown in from Maun or Kasane.
A light buffet breakfast of cereals, fruit, yoghurt, toast and spreads, along with tea and coffee, is served prior to the early morning game drive. Cooked breakfast can also be made to order.
For lunch on our most recent visit we enjoyed a vegetarian curry, beef wrap, green salad and freshly baked bread roll.
Afternoon tea was a delicious banana cake and fresh fruit, served with iced tea.
Weather permitting, an ambient candlelit dinner is served under the stars. To start we had a tasty creamy mushroom soup and a wholemeal bread roll. This was followed by fragrant lamb curry with basmati rice, mixed vegetables, poppadoms and side-dishes of cucumber raita (yoghurt), sweet chutney, and diced tomato and onion. The dessert of fruit pie and cream rounded the meal off nicely.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All beverages stocked in camp are included (bottled water, soft drinks, local beers, spirits and a limited selection of generally South African wines). Champagne and premium or imported wines and spirits cost extra and must be requested in advance.
Solo Travel: Seek out the great wildlife of Botswana’s wild and remote Chobe National Park, from your base at Savute Under Canvas. It’s great for solo travellers: meals are usually served communally and Savute doesn’t charge single travellers any additional supplements.See more ideas for Solo Travel in Botswana
Birdwatching: Botswana birdwatching in the Savuti Marshes is best during the wet season (mid Dec –March). Yellow-billed storks, African spoonbills, pink-backed pelicans, tawny eagles and pearl-spotted owlets can be found here.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children aged 12 years and over are welcome at Savute Under Canvas.
Special activities & services: No special activities or services are provided for children.
Equipment: No equipment for children is provided.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend Savute Under Canvas for older children aged around 16 years or more, who have a keen interest in wildlife. As the camp has no swimming pool or family tent and it’s open to big-game passing through, we don’t feel it is suitable for younger children.
Notes: Due to the presence of potentially dangerous wildlife around this unfenced camp, children must be under parents’ supervision at all times.
Power supply: None
Communications: There is no internet or cellphone reception at Savute Under Canvas. Guests should consider themselves out of contact whilst here. There is a satellite phone to contact Maun in an emergency.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: A first-aid kit is kept in camp and the camp manager and guides are first-aid trained. In an emergency, medical evacuation to Maun can be arranged.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Savute Under Canvas is unfenced within a big-game area; hence guests are escorted to their rooms after dark. Alarms are provided in the rooms for use in case of an emergency.
Fire safety: The safari vehicles are fitted with a fire extinguisher and park regulations limit the size of the campfire.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included, but they do not wash underwear. Washing powder is provided on request for this purpose.
Money: There are no safes in the tents. Everything is included in your stay at Savute Under Canvas, other than premium or imported beverages which need to be ordered in advance. Hence no payments are required at the camp and there are no credit-card or money-exchanging facilities. Tips can be made in US dollars, Botswanan pula or South African rand.