Winter in the bush in Botswana

Posted on 23 July 2012

It’s July, which means that in Botswana we are at the business end of winter. And with winter comes bitterly cold mornings and cool evenings, right?

Well, not exactly! During most of June we enjoyed rather mild conditions. I recall last year being a far chillier experience and distinctly remember the pain and misery of dragging myself out of bed at 04h30 in the morning. The temperatures were so low I had to wear a vest, long shirt, two jackets and a beanie. This time round the mornings have been somewhat joyful. Sure, there has been a nip in the air but nothing a light jacket couldn’t handle.

Out in the wilderness however, the dry winter season has made its mark. The once lush trees now stand bare, almost completely stripped of their leaves. The many large pans, normally a good source of water, have all dried up, forcing wildlife down to the Savute Channel for water.

The large elephant herds (read more about the elephants of Savuti) once again frequented the camp. In the summer season the herds tend to disperse due to the ease of availability of water and food. Now, with less vegetation and fewer water sources, they have moved closer to the permanent water source. The camp is perfectly located for us to enjoy the elephant sightings. Sitting on the deck while watching the elephants peacefully feed along the water’s edge has been one of my favourite experiences at Savuti Bush Camp. It’s something I will never get tired of seeing.

From time to time they make their way into camp to forage through the remaining greenery between the guests rooms and along the boardwalk. What amazes me is how quickly and quietly they able to sneak into camp. On one such occasion after meeting guests from the morning safari I headed back the way I had just come only to be met by several massive grey bodies blocking the path. They were not there when first walked to the parking lot and I had no idea the elephants were even in the area. It was a stark reminder to walk with my head up and always be aware of what’s going on around me.

While the elephant sightings may be good at this time of the year, it is not necessarily a good season for them. As the dry season settles in, food begins to diminish. The herds have to work hard to sustain their diets, working at every tree for the remaining leaves. Many of the older and weaker elephants won’t survive the season. Already, several elephant carcasses have been discovered in the concession: proof that it’s going to be a difficult season ahead.

For many it’s a saddening experience to find a dead elephant while out on safari. But as with everything in nature there is a balance. These dead elephants provide a good food source to the predators in the area. The large lion pride that seems to have settled in the concession was seen on two separate occasions feeding on these elephants.

The pride, which has 14 adults (or sub-adults) and a young cub, have spent much of their time in the concession, specifically along the Savute Channel. As most frequent safari travellers know, lion sightings can be somewhat boring when the big cats are napping in the shade. But now, with an energized cub in the group, the dynamics have shifted. The little critter entertains all as he stalks, pounces and bites his unsuspecting pride members. I have enjoyed some of my best lion sightings with this pride and I look forward to many more.

With the large buffalo herd back in the concession, the lion seem to have focused much of their attention on herds, often following them for days on end. On a late afternoon game drive, our guides spotted the herd running across the road with several lionesses close behind. They watched in amazement as the lion flanked the buffalo in a war-like strategy.

But the buffalo fought back. Using their massive horns as lethal weapons they drove the lion away. Wisely the lion backed off. An injury from a buffalo horn can be fatal. Instead, they opted to follow the herd from a safe distance, watching their every move. The interaction between them continued well into the night and I suspect we will see a lot more in the coming months.

Updates from the guides suggest that the wild dogs are looking for a den site with the dominant female now heavily pregnant. Once the dogs have denned and the sight is located it will be closed off to all vehicles until the pups are older and out of the den. Wild dogs are a highly endangered species and we cannot risk any interference with the sensitive site. If the dogs feel they are under threat at any stage they will abandon the site and the litter will be lost. Hopefully in the coming weeks we will have more news.

This is now my second winter in Botswana and I have enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the first. The wildlife sightings continue to enthrall me, each experience as amazing as the first. This winter may have started a little milder than the last but I don’t believe it’s over yet. Maybe we will get lucky and will continue to enjoy the comfy conditions. Or maybe not! Only time will tell …


Lion sleeping in the late afternoon






From bush camp to safari lodge, find accommodation at Savuti with Getaway Accommodation.

yoast-primary -
tcat - Safaris
tcat_slug - safaris
tcat2 -
tcat2_slug -
tcat_final -