Day Eight — To Savute

August 24

Today's another of those "moving" days. This time we take a short walk behind the Camp O lodge to the airstrip, where we have three small planes waiting for us to take us to Savute (sah-VOOT-tay). One of the great things about flying over the delta is that you get a very different appreciation for the terrain that the animals are wandering through. Note at the top of this next image we have that dry, partially forested terrain you've been seeing in a lot of the shots. There's a doubletrack dirt road up near the top, there, too, just in front of the big group of trees. But look at what happens as you move from the dryer area into the wetter area: those are all animal tracks, and you'll notice that they tend to go from "high point" (a tree) to high point.

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Humans leave far less of a mark on the Chobe park than the animals do, by far. But it also tells you a bit about how challenging that terrain is the for the animals. We're in the flood season right now, with the waters still expanding out a bit, which is why all those trails near the top look like canals: the water's moving up into them. But in the dryer times those are just paths, often muddy ones, that lead to the water that's much further away from the animal's usual grazing, breading, and sleeping ground. 

What you see above is just a very small patch of the delta. I mean really small compared to the overall delta. We flew for 15 minutes of this type of terrain before getting to more dryer terrain, to eventually get to the flooded Savute itself:

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No, your eyes don't deceive you. Those little black dots are hundreds of buffalo moving from the dryer Savannah to the wetter grounds of the marsh. Here's a 100% view of a piece of the above image:


Now the interesting thing is that waterway known as the Savute channel is pretty small. Where it runs into the top of that marsh, it's a stream that I can ford across and easily throw a rock across (actually a large rock; it isn't very wide). But that water is pushing down into a broad open area where it just spreads and creates this wonderful creature attraction. Before we get to those, let's get down on the ground, shall we?

Savute airport 1.JPG
Savute airport 2.JPG

Don't ever say that the Botswanans don't have a sense of humor.

Oh wait, why was that top image so greenish? Cessna syndrome. Those little Cessna's have tinted windows. Obnoxiously-tinted windows. So much so that I also make sure to position Tony outside the planes with a reference so that people can later post process to a known color:


If you ever shoot from small planes, take a close look at the windows. With the small Cessna's, you'll almost always have this puke green tint to deal with (a 30M filter sometimes works fine to counteract it). But a lot of other brands of planes have tints, too. Bring a reference and have someone hold it outside while you take a shot from inside. Process that reference image to get correct color, then apply that processing to all the images you shoot from the plane. That's really easy to do with Aperture and Lightroom, but it's not all that difficult with Photoshop, either, especially if you know how to use Bridge.

Okay, we've landed and gone back to the Land Cruisers, which took us to camp for lunch. In a sand storm. Followed by image review. In a sand storm. So much so that my MacBook had a coating of sand on it by the time I finished.

Our camp isn't far from the channel, but it's further from the marsh, so it's sandy. As in:

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That's where we parked at camp for lunch. Unfortunately, this led to Adam trying to get his Cruiser out with all of us in it, and I got a lap full of sand in the attempt. Unfortunately, my 200-400mm was sitting in my lap. Oh well, it needed to go back for its biannual servicing anyway, now I just have an excuse (I actually partially disassembled it to get some of the sand out of the focus ring). 

Eventually, we needed a pull to get out:

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See that big blast of sand at the front wheels? That's what landed in my lap the first time. 

Once freed from our sandy confines, it was back to animals. 

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These elephants at the marsh were moving in so close to us that I was almost all the way zoomed out on the 200-400mm and having a hard time finding good framing spots. They were basically oblivious to us and let us get plenty of nice shots once I moved the vehicle back a bit.

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We got our leopard-in-the-tree shots, too, though sleeping leopards in trees no longer really interest me much. Actually, I used the word "we" in the last sentence, and that's not quite right. In Savute, more than anywhere else, we start spreading the four vehicles far and wide. Right now, there are interesting things happening all over the Savute. Because of the channel and the marsh, once you commit to an area, it will take you a long time to navigate over to something else. So while we call in sightings over the radio to one another, often times it's just not worth it to respond and go see what another vehicle is shooting, because it'll be a long trip and what you've got in front of you is just as interesting. So during our wanderings here, we don't often see one another, though we do see other vehicles:

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And yes, we drive through the marsh a lot. In some places, it's the only way to get from point A to point B. 

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Even the animals sometimes are doing the same thing. This is a grab shot with my pocket camera. This mongoose was coming across the channel to check out whether there was anything interesting in the tree stumps sticking up (remember, the channel had been dry for over a decade, and even in wet years it is dry much of the year). 

I think I'm going to leave things there for today. We only had an afternoon drive today, and I suspect that we're going to have a big day tomorrow. 

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