Savute Safari Lodge

Savute Safari Lodge: Our full report

Rooms
12 Chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (94%) From 29 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
Closed February

Perched on the banks of the Savuti Channel within Chobe National Park, Savute Safari Lodge offers a good location from which to explore the nearby Savuti Marshes. Comfortable without being luxurious, the camp enjoys views over the Savute Channel and its two pumped waterholes, which – especially during the dry season – attract vast numbers of elephant to drink in the afternoons and evenings.

The main area of Savute Safari Lodge houses a lounge area, library and bar, all comfortable locations in which to relax during the day or discuss sightings in the evening over a few drinks and some nibbles. As one of the original safari camps in this region (it used to be called Lloyd's Camp), Savute Safari Lodge is a little more dated than some modern camps. It is, for example, one of the few camps in northern Botswana where glass sliding doors are a prominent feature, and it certainly doesn’t have the ‘camp’ feel of many of Botswana’s other camps and lodges. Indeed, we think that the dining area in this main part of camp is fairly characterless.

The main lodge areas are set above the river, obscuring the views down onto the waterhole and channel. To counter that, there’s a cleverly built alfresco dining area at eye-level with the elephants that come down in the evenings to drink: a superb spot that makes up for the loss of views from above. Main meals – afternoon tea and dinner - are usually taken here, where there is a roof covering, although in really bad or cold weather meals are taken up in the main dining area. On our previous visits we have found it a remarkable experience to sit under the stars, enjoying some great food and a glass of wine, while only 20-or-so metres away elephants jostled for space along the water's edge.

There is also a firepit by the dining area where on one stay in May we had a very enjoyable evening after supper, well hosted by the superb staff and management team (and a couple of very entertaining guests!). In fact, part of the charm of Savute Safari Lodge stemmed from the friendly team of staff who clearly loved working at Savute Safari Lodge and with each other, and made our experience enjoyable and fun.

Overlooking the channel is a swimming pool with a number of deckchairs around the water's edge; very welcoming when it gets hot! During our stay, a couple celebrating their honeymoon were treated to a lovely private candlelit dinner in a small clearing on the pool’s deck.

Accommodation at Savute Safari Lodge consists of 12 thatched chalets, all raised up on stilts along the tree line on the banks of the channel. Each is large, with a shaded private deck and a couple of chairs at the front, perfect for escaping the heat of the day while keeping an eye on the waterhole for animals that come down for a drink. One family chalet features two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Inside, the chalets are contemporary in design, closer to a modern hotel room then a bush chalet – although we differ in opinion on this here at Expert Africa! Nevertheless the chalets are bright and airy, a comfortable place to relax in the afternoon between activities. Glass sliding doors in the bedroom take advantage of the panoramic views, and help to regulate the temperature – they can be closed in the chillier winter months or kept open later in the year to allow a breeze to pass through the chalet. Each has a separate gauze screen, which keeps the insects out.

In the bedrooms you'll find large twin beds, or a double, with a mosquito net. The chalets are large enough to have their own separate seating area with a coffee table, plus ample storage space for clothes and luggage, a vanity unit and desk, and a coffee- and tea-making station.

The fully tiled en-suite bathroom is reached through a doorway off the main bedroom. Complimentary toiletries are set alongside a washbasin beneath a large mirror, and there's an open, walk-in shower. Above the toilet is a window with dark plantation shutters

Activities at Savute Safari Lodge revolve around 4WD game drives in open vehicles, for the most part on and around the Savuti Marsh and along the Savuti Channel. Note, however, that as the camp is situated within Chobe National Park, night drives, walking and driving off-road are not allowed, in accordance with national park rules.

During the dry season, from July to October, huge herds of elephant and other plains game make Savuti their home, and at this time of year we have been treated to spectacular game viewing on the Savuti Marsh. This proved to be the case on our most recent visit in October 2016, when our sightings included two packs of wild dog, leopard, a pride of seven lions including a massive male, giraffe, spotted hyena and ostrich.

We’ve also had a contrasting experience during a May visit, with just a handful of elephants visiting the channel beneath the lodge in the evening, rather than the hundreds you would expect during the peak season, and general plains game was a little thinner on the ground too. That said, our guide was superb, sharing an intimate knowledge of the area and the geological forces surrounding the history of the Savuti Channel’s flow. He managed to track down a very elusive leopard, as well as some impressively big male lions and on a separate occasion a small lion pride and cubs.

Scenically, the Savuti area varies greatly from the Delta and makes a fabulous contrast for those on a northern Botswana safari. It is much more open, too, so that the inability to drive off-road is less of an impediment. However, the Savuti Marsh area does tend to be a little busier then the private reserves, and as a result you can expect to share game sightings with more vehicles.

One of the unique aspects of the Savuti area that we like is the presence of the Gubatsaa Hills. Such geographical features in overwhelmingly flat Botswana are complete rarities, and it’s possible to take photos of elephant, giraffe, and other big game with these hills in the background – an unmistakable image of Savuti!

Our view

Savute Safari Lodge has a down-to-earth feel and attracts an eclectic mix of guests who enjoy great hospitality, friendly staff and some excellent guiding, all in a top game-viewing region, particularly during the dry season. The lodge itself may not suit those wanting a more bushcamp feel, but the dining area overlooking the channel and nearby waterhole is a big plus. The region also offers a good contrast to the Okavango Delta, although a greater number of visitors than in the private reserves can make it feel less exclusive.

Geographics

Location: Chobe National Park, Botswana

Ideal length of stay: A stay of two or three nights at Savute Safari Lodge would be ideal.

Directions: Savute Safari Lodge is normally reached by a short light-aircraft flight from either Maun or Kasane, or from one of the other safari camps in northern Botswana. A game-drive transfer from the airstrip via the park gate takes about 20 minutes.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Desert and Delta Safaris

Staff: October 2016: Setch (manager), Lucky (co-manager), Osi & Emma (assistant managers)

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On our last stay at Savute Safari Lodge in October 2016, we found the food to be of very good quality and observed that all guests were enjoying the cuisine. With advance notice, the camp can cater for vegetarians and other dietary requirements.

Before heading out on the morning activities there was a light breakfast cereal, yoghurt, toast, cereal, pancakes and fresh fruit, alongside tea, coffee and a selection of fruit juices. We especially liked the crêpes with fresh honey!

Brunch is served upon returning from the morning activities. We enjoyed a Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, sliced tomato, and a delicious, rich pesto sauce, along with very tasty slices of roast beef with a light gravy. There was also a beetroot salad, and a cheese and potato quiche as an alternative to the beef.

For afternoon tea, just before the start of the afternoon activity, you can expect a savory and a sweet offering. We were offered vegetable samosas and miniature cheesecake as well as homemade lemonade and iced tea and coffee.

Dinner, usually a buffet, is served upon your return from the afternoon activity. We started with butternut soup, then were offered both eland casserole and roast chicken with couscous, peas and carrots, and creamed spinach.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Bottled water, soft drinks, local beers and spirits and a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits will cost extra and may need to be requested in advance. Each chalet is provided with glasses and a flask of drinking water, which is replenished daily. We don’t recommend that travellers drink from the tap. Guests also receive a tin water bottle that they can refill from dispensers in the main area with drinkable water filtered by reverse osmosis.

Further dining info: Meals are taken communally, although due to the fairly large size of the lodge, guests are often split over several tables.

Special interests

Wildlife safaris: Savute Safari Lodge enjoys a prime location directly on the Savute Channel, which is absolutely pumping with elephant, giraffe, hyena and other game during the dry season – ideal for a wildlife safari in Botswana. When the Channel is not running with water from the Linyanti area, wildlife still concentrates at the camp’s two pumped waterholes.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana

Children

Attitude towards children: Savute Safari Lodge does not accept children under six. Families with children aged 6–11 will be required to book private activities at an additional cost. Children aged 6–15 must share accommodation with a parent.

Property’s age restrictions: Minimum age 6

Special activities & services: Some staff members at Savute Safari Lodge are trained to work with children. Should parents wish, they can enjoy a game drive by themselves with the peace of mind that their children are having fun back at the lodge.

Equipment: None

Notes: The camp has a thin electric wire running around its perimeter but this does little to keep anything smaller than an elephant out and so large game passes through frequently. Therefore children will need to be constantly and closely supervised by their parents.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Generator

Power supply notes: The generator is shut off when the last person goes to their room after dinner and turned back on at 11.00am the following morning.

Communications: There is no cellphone reception or WiFi at the camp but there is a guest computer connected to the internet in the library area. Savute Safari Lodge is in constant two-way radio contact with the Maun Operations Office through whom important messages can be relayed. There is a laptop upstairs in the main area connected to the internet.

TV & radio: None

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: All rooms have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers as well as flush toilets.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There are trained first-aiders on site, and for serious incidents there's a medical air-evacuation system in place. Please note that it is only possible to fly out of camp during daylight hours as the bush airstrips do not have any lighting at night.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Guests are escorted to and from their rooms after dark as dangerous wildlife is known to wander through the camp. A thorough safety briefing is given on arrival. A 'fog-horn' is provided in each tent to summon help in case of emergency.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers around camp and fire assembly points are identified to guests on induction to the camp when they first arrive.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included at Savute Safari Lodge.

Money: There are no currency-exchange facilities at the lodge. There is a small safe in each room, which can comfortably fit travel documents and wallets.

Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula is accepted.

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