Savuti Channel update

Jun 4th, 2008, 11:20 AM
  #1  
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Savuti Channel update

Hi all,

Returned yesterday after a month away and 17 days with clients in the Delta and Linyanti.

I am planning to add a Safari Journal to the web site soon and this will include stories and pics from the last 2 trips (Nov/Dec 07 and the May08), but thought some may be interested on the following re the Savuti Channel.

As many here know, the local rains in N Bots this year were big and, combined with the flood waters coming in from Angola, the effect has been dramatic.

Two years ago, the Savuti Channel had water reach about 7kms down from the mouth at Zib Lagoon.

I was at Savuti for 4 days (27-30 May) this past month and the water this year is now nearly 16kms down the channel (about 2kms from Savuti Camp)! Unlike 2006, this years "flow" is BIG water, with huge back-fill lagoons and deep areas throughout.

The dynamic is something that was amazing for me to see, having been there so many years in it's more usual recent state of dryness. We saw hippos 13kms down the channel. Animals of all sorts are crossing (zebras, giraffes, impalas, wildebeests and even lions). There are also very large crocs all the way down to the end of the flow.

The water is still coming in fast and it will likely go a bit further before tapering off. With so much water, I suspect that it will not dry up completely before the rains come this summer. If this cycle continues in any form, the water could easily come through past the camp this time next year.

The old Mopane Bridge at the mouth of the channel, connecting either side of the transit route was removed several years ago, but with the trucks going through the deep water, I wonder if another bridge may have to be rebuilt.

Most of the roads in and along the channel upstream from camp are no longer usable and new roads along the bank or up the banks are being used. Hopefully the old roads will be left to rehabilitate and perhaps will be filled in by the water. Perhaps 5 or 6 crossover roads could be used to get across the channel and the new roads used going forward (Grant and I have suggested this to WS Bots management).

Finally, for those cheetah lovers (Hari, etc), I was thrilled to see my old friends and new movie stars, the remaining Savuti brothers with an impala kill on the south bank just upstream from Rock Pan.

We found them in the late afternoon in great light, already gorged to the limit and digesting peacefully next to their prize. I had not seen them in 2 years and was very nostalgic to see them again. They are unmistakable and I will add a bit of a retrospective on the site with pics going back to 1998. Older yes, but still kings of their domain for certain.

Interestingly, the cheetahs were roused from their dosing and into action and snarling defence when a large crocodile snuck in silently, but not undetected to have a go at the carcass. One brother retreated up the bank, while the other dragged the kill away from the reptiles advance.

The game is pumping and we had dogs twice (once hunting to and chasing impalas around the place), the Rock Pan female (leopard) with a kill WAY high up a tall Raintree on the bank (she was right across from the 2 cheetahs and likely witnessed their kill but was unable to cross the water to try and steal it), another leopard with two 5-mo cubs, a lioness hunting and crossing the channel and more zebras than I have seen in the channel ever (more than 200 around the camp).

The bird life is also extraordinary, with the "new" water forcing insects and other small creatures up and out of the ground for the birds to feast upon.

If anyone is going to Savuti or DumaTau in the next couple months, you are in for a treat. I would have liked to stay another 2 weeks just to see this new dynamic and photograph it.

James

W
jweis is offline  
Jun 4th, 2008, 11:30 AM
  #2  
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Sorry... some of the post didn't make it... reposting here:

Returned yesterday after a month away and 17 days with clients in the Delta and Linyanti.

I am planning to add a Safari Journal to the web site soon and this will include stories and pics from the last 2 trips (Nov/Dec 07 and the May08), but thought some may be interested on the following re the Savuti Channel.

As many here know, the local rains in N Bots this year were big and, combined with the flood waters coming in from Angola, the effect has been dramatic.

Two years ago, the Savuti Channel had water reach about 7kms down from the mouth at Zib Lagoon.

I was at Savuti for 4 days (27-30 May) this past month and the water this year is now nearly 16kms down the channel (about 2kms from Savuti Camp)! Unlike 2006, this year's "flow" is BIG water, with huge back-fill lagoons and deep areas throughout.

The dynamic is something that was amazing for me to see, having been there so many years in its more usual recent state of dryness. We saw hippos 13kms down the channel. Animals of all sorts (zebras, giraffes, impalas, wildebeests and even lions) are crossing the water. There are also very large crocs all the way down to the end of the flow.

The water is still coming in fast and it will likely go a bit further before tapering off. With so much water, I suspect that it will not dry up completely before the rains come this summer. If this cycle continues in any form next year (i.e. big rains and normal flood), the water could easily come through past the camp this time next year.

The old Mopane Bridge at the mouth of the channel, connecting either side of the transit route was removed several years ago, but with the trucks going through the deep water, I wonder if another bridge may have to be rebuilt. Each time a truck crosses, the ruts go a bit deeper and it's getting difficult. There are only a few place where the Landies can sucessfully cross now and you must pick a route (south or north bank) once you hit the flow just upstream from camp.

Most of the roads in and along the channel upstream from camp are no longer usable and new roads along the bank or up the banks are being used. Hopefully the old roads will be left to rehabilitate and perhaps will be filled in by the water. Perhaps if the channel dries partially, 5 or 6 crossover roads could be used to get across the channel and the new roads used going forward (Grant and I have suggested this to WS Bots management).

Finally, for those cheetah lovers (Hari, etc), I was thrilled to see my old friends and new movie stars, the remaining Savuti brothers with an impala kill on the south bank just upstream from Rock Pan.

We found them in the late afternoon in great light, already gorged to the limit and digesting peacefully next to their prize. I had not seen them in 2 years and was very nostalgic to see them again. They are unmistakable and I will add a bit of a retrospective on the site with pics going back to 1998. Older yes, but still kings of their domain for certain.

Interestingly, the cheetahs were roused from their dosing and into action and snarling defence when a large crocodile glided in silently, but not undetected to have a go at the carcass. One brother retreated up the bank, while the other dragged the kill away from the reptile's advance.

The game is pumping and we had dogs twice (once hunting and chasing impalas around the place), the Rock Pan female (leopard) with a kill WAY high up a tall Raintree on the bank (she was right across from the 2 cheetahs and likely witnessed their kill but was unable to cross the water to try and steal it), another leopard with two 5-mo cubs, a lioness hunting and crossing the channel and more zebras than I have seen in the channel ever (more than 200 around the camp).

The bird life is also extraordinary, with the "new" water forcing insects and other small creatures up and out of the ground for the birds to feast upon. Egyptian geese in their hundreds, Saddlebills a stone's throw from camp, egrets, herons and storks all in places where I had never seen them before.

If anyone is going to Savuti or DumaTau in the next couple months, you are in for a treat. I would have liked to stay another 2 weeks just to see more of this new dynamic and photograph it.

More to come...

James

W
jweis is offline  
Jun 4th, 2008, 12:11 PM
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Very interesting . . . . What's the effect of all of the water on camps in the Delta? I'll be spending 3 nights at Kwetsani Camp in mid-July as part of my first-ever trip to Africa. Is more water good or bad news for a camp like Kwetsani? Would love to hear your views and predictions!
isabel25 is offline  
Jun 4th, 2008, 12:37 PM
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If anyone is going to Savuti ... in the next couple months

<Hand raised high, sort of jumping up & down in anticipation.>
DonTopaz is offline  
Jun 4th, 2008, 04:18 PM
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Rizzuto, put your hand down, I can't read the post.
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 4th, 2008, 06:35 PM
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Thanks for the updates, James! Appreciate it ...... Great to hear that the two boys are doing well. Agree, they are looking older, but, still a killing machine. I saw them on New Year's day and witnessed them kill red letchwe and polish the whole carcass without interruption.

Hopefully, I will see them again in September ..... but, they have serious competition up north with a new co-alition of three!

Rgds
Hari
HariS is offline  
Jun 4th, 2008, 06:43 PM
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Hi James,

If you see this - did you by any chance see the Selinda male lions? we have been reading about them in the WS game sighting reports. Any updates about them or the Selinda pride would be much appreciated.

Thanks
Hari
HariS is offline  
Jun 4th, 2008, 07:32 PM
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Amazing, James. Thanks for the update. I was at the delta 6 weeks ago, and I can say that the rains were amazing. I can only imagine what Savuti looks like right now. I am looking forward to seeing the photographs.
andybiggs is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 12:55 AM
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Not totally in line with my post title, but here's a bit of what we saw on our May Digital trip...

Grant and I spent a total of 9 consecutive days at Chitabe, 5 on our own and 4 with guests:
http://tinyurl.com/4kmego

James
jweis is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 01:27 AM
  #10  
 
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Wonderful report... I have only been to Savuti Camp once, back in June 2004 so I would love to see it now. Sadly, no trip to Botswana on the cards for now (though I can't complain as we're off to East Africa in a couple of months).

Kavey is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 02:57 AM
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James,
I was thrilled to read your report . I was at Savuti Camp in March and was so excited when I flew in to see how far the water was up the channel. One of the vehicles was stuck in the middle and it took the chaps half the day to get it out. I have been visiting the area since the mid 90's, three times to Zib and four to Savuti. I shall be returning to Savuti in early November, so I shall be very interested in the state of the channel.
In March I was lucky enough to see the wild dogs near Duma Tau, having tried to find them for two days. I also saw the two lions, milky eye and his brother, and the two remaining cheetahs. I have many photos of the three together.
I love the area, and usually include it in my itinerary when I return to Botswana once or twice a year.
I shall be looking out for your Safari Journal with great interest.
Botsfan is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 06:01 AM
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Hari,

No news on your Selinda lions I'm afraid...

The Digital group before the one I led (first 2 weeks of May08) stayed at Selinda, so I will check with the trip leader and see what he saw of the lions...

J
jweis is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 06:51 AM
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Thanks!
HariS is offline  
Jun 7th, 2008, 10:14 AM
  #14  
lbj
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Adding to the Dog situation;

On May 5th, the Selinda dogs were attacked by the Lagoon pack in the Kwando concession. A male dog from the Selinda pack was surrounded by six lagoon dogs. They tore him up quite badly before returning to chase the remainder of the pack towards Lebala/Selinda.

The severely injured male, managed to hide, then tracks were found heading north.

A week later I caught up with the Selinda dogs at Duma Tau, and they were not in the greatest of conditions. Many had cuts and one dog was looking particularly skinny.(sick) Two dogs, one the seriously injured one, were seen in the Selinda at roughly the same time.


All nine Lagoon dogs were unharmed, and their tracks were found going into the Mopane the following morning. Some of you have have realised that 3 dogs are missing, though they have split from the natal pack and are operating between Lagoon and Lebala.
 
Jun 7th, 2008, 10:16 AM
  #15  
lbj
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Correction:

*
Some of you may have realised
 
Jun 7th, 2008, 09:33 PM
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Lbj,

That's a tough bunch! Those Lagoon dogs - From memory, they held onto all 9 pups from last year for atleast 6-7 months prior to losing a couple along the way ......

Would the Natal pack be tolerant of the dispersers that operate some of the same territory? I hope so!
HariS is offline  
Jun 8th, 2008, 12:49 PM
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lbj
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Hari,

If you pick this up in Dubai, I think that maybe they will tolerate them. An interesting observation, was when the two females first split, they were with an unrelated male. Terminator, one of the Lagoon dogs, appeared to drive him off and take control.

It could be with nomads moving round and with it being so close to denning, that this aggression was observed.
 
Jun 9th, 2008, 09:23 AM
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Thanks!!!
HariS is offline  
Jun 9th, 2008, 11:31 AM
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James: thanks for the update, sounds like amazing changes.

Hari/LBJ: this reads like typical dog dispersals. Male groups often disperse and wander huge distances through multiple pack territories until they find one with females ready to join them. The young adult females likely picked up information from scent marks that wandering males (or perhaps a single male in this case) were in their territory and took the opportunity to break off to investigate. If they like the male situation a new pack will form, if it doesn't work out they are still close and can return to the Lagoon pack. If they do form a new pack it is common to 'bud' a territory from the females natal pack -- that is they form a territory that avoids the core of the natal pack but overlaps some of their territory giving the advantage that the females already know some of the area and it increases their chance of success and their natal pack is often willing to concede usage of some territory at the edge. However, if the surrounding areas are filled with core territories of other existing packs they could have to travel a great distance to establish and new range of their own.

That Lagoon pack fight with the Selinda pack must have been amazing to witness!
PredatorBiologist is offline  
Jun 9th, 2008, 12:09 PM
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I have commented on the natal territory factor over on another forum. The interesting fact is that the all three dogs are from lagoon pack, with no new male involved.
 

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