Savute Safari Lodge is situated in the Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Savute Safari Lodge: Our full report
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 channel, which is now dry once again, but the presence of a permanent waterhole still attracts large numbers of elephant – especially during the dry season.
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 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 afternoons and evenings to drink: a superb spot that makes up for the loss of views from above. Main meals – lunch, 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 located by the dining area to enjoy an after dinner drink, hosted by the superb staff and management team. In our experience, part of the charm of Savute Safari Lodge stems from the friendly team of staff who clearly loved working at Savute Safari Lodge and with each other, and have made our visits 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! This area is nicely shaded by acacia trees, which are also dotted around the grounds of the lodge, and host a good variety of birdlife – yellow-billed hornbills, Cape glossy starlings, blue waxbills, and Meyers parrots.
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. Eight of the rooms directly overlook the channel and the ever-changing panorama of animal activity at the waterholes. Each chalet is large, with a shaded private deck and a couple of chairs at the front. Inside, they are contemporary in design, closer to a modern hotel room then a bush chalet. Nevertheless the chalets are bright and airy and are a comfortable place to relax in the afternoon in between activities. Glass sliding doors in both the bedroom and bathroom take advantage of the 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.
Inside the chalets 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 his and hers washbasins beneath a large mirror, and there's an open, walk-in shower.
There has been a camp on this location since the 1970s, so the local wildlife is not shy around people. On our last visit in July 2016, we were woken several times in the early hours, firstly by the cough-like call of a leopard prowling through camp, and later by the deafening chorus of roaring lions as they walked along the channel in front of camp - all of which added to the atmosphere and made for a memorable stay.
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, now that the Savuti channel has stopped flowing again, much of the game is concentrated around the waterholes. This area is renowned for a number of old elephant bulls that reside here permanently, and on our most recent visit, we saw many impressive individuals as well as good numbers of giraffe, zebra, impala and wildebeest. Savute also has a reputation for predators – in particular lion, hyena and leopard, and we certainly have not been disappointed on our visits over the years. On our last trip, we spotted some striking male lions, and tracked an elusive leopard that was putting the dry channel bed to good use to stalk its prey! As on previous occasions, our guide was superb, and had an intimate knowledge of the area and the geological forces surrounding the history of the Savuti Channel's flow.
From about December to March, Savute plays host to a large wildebeest and zebra migration between the Linyanti and Chobe areas, which is closely followed by lion prides. So it is typically an area we would recommend for a safari during the rainy season.
Scenically, the Savuti area varies greatly from the Delta and makes a fabulous contrast for those on a northern Botswana safari. Much of this area was part of a long-dead super lake, and the landscape is very flat with some dramatic interruptions – skeletons of drowned trees on the Savuti Marsh, and low basalt hills scattered with baobabs. Because it is so open, the inability to drive off-road here is less of an impediment. The area does however, tend to be a little busier then the private reserves, and as a result you can expect to share game sightings with more vehicles.
Our viewSavute 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.
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
Owner: Desert and Delta Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our last visit to Savute Safari Lodge in July 2016 the food was simple home cooking but generally good. 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.
Brunch is served upon returning from the morning activities. During our stay this consisted of beef lasagna, vegetable moussaka and an assortment of salads, including a couscous salad and a beetroot salad. To finish there was fresh fruit and a cheese platter.
For afternoon tea, just before the start of the afternoon activity, you can expect a savory and a sweet offering. We were offered a vegetable pizza swirl, a chocolate cake, fruits and homemade lemonade and iced tea and coffee.
Dinner, usually a buffet, is served upon your return from the afternoon activity. We enjoyed a filo tart with a cranberry, walnut and brie filling, followed by a choice of battered hake fillet or beef stew (which was a bit sinewy for our taste). Accompanying this were stuffed gem squash, steamed broccoli, a potato bake and rice. The meal was rounded off with an amarula crème brulee and a cheese platter.
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.
Further dining info: Meals are taken communally, although due to the fairly large size of the lodge, guests are often split over several tables.
Attitude towards children: Savute Safari Lodge has a large family tent with two bedrooms and a shared en-suite bathroom.
Property’s age restrictions: 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.
Generally recommended for children: While there are no special activities to keep children entertained Savute Safari Lodge has a lovely friendly laid-back feel, so could be a great option for those travelling with teenagers, provided that they have a genuine interest in wildlife and nature.
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.
Power supply: Generator
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.
TV & radio: None
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: All rooms have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers as well as flush loos. Each room is provided with glasses and a flask of drinking water, which is replenished daily. We don’t recommend that travellers drink from the tap.
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' in each tent is available 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.
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. Rand, Pula, US Dollars and Sterling are all accepted.
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.