We might return to Savute Safari Lodge in a cooler shoulder season in search of quality game viewing and fewer crowds.

Overall Impression When we visited the Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana, as part of a Desert & Delta Safaris itinerary, we stayed at the Savute Safari Lodge. Since it was our second visit to the property in a decade we noticed significant differences in the property itself, the reserve and the general game viewing conditions. As on our previous visit, we liked the Savute Safari Lodge’s game viewing opportunities as well as its luxury spacious waterhole facing rooms. Thanks to the comfort oriented and stylish design of the glass and thatch tents and their waterhole views they were our favorite rooms during that six property circuit in Botswana and Namibia.

Dry conditions at the time of our visit meant animals from near and far walked to the manmade waterholes in front of our property, providing excellent game viewing opportunities within the camp. In addition, the wild animals were surprisingly relaxed. Such was the appeal of the rooms that but for the sweltering summer heat we might have been tempted to forgo the game drives to remain in our rooms and enjoy the view of the wildlife that strolled by in search of water.

The property was named Savute for the unpredictable character of the channel that passed through its midst. In the past, it had suddenly dried up for years, and for no apparent reason flowed again years later. In the time since our previous visit to the lodge the rooms had been gussied up and were even prettier than we remembered. The river, dry during our stay, had flowed for a while before our return, drawing regional and international visitors, and prompting the establishment of new properties. That was reflected in crowded conditions within the park. Every encounter meant multiple vehicles and brief sightings to make room for those awaiting their opportunity. It also resulted in shared sun downer locations where several vehicles parked adjacent to each other. Such conditions, something we had not experienced before in Botswana, reminded us of a theme park ambiance rather than the remoteness we longed for in our travels to the Botswana bush.

It was uncomfortably hot with hardly any respite for the entire duration of our stay. Daytime temperatures reached 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). The property relied on daytime generator power as its sole source of energy, and was not equipped for the intense heatwave that blanketed the region. Although a dip in the pool was cooling there was limited shade in the pool deck and nowhere else that was less hot. Sitting in the over heated tents, which remained closed most of the day, was almost as unpleasant as sitting outdoors.

We enjoyed good game viewing sightings of three of the Big Five while at the property. In addition to the rooms, we liked the cooling pool, the best place to spend the mid afternoon hours when the heat peaked. We looked forward to the tasty food at meal times when we shared tables with fellow travelers from our vehicles as well as other property guests. We might return to Savute Safari Lodge in a cooler shoulder season in search of quality game viewing and fewer crowds.

Children Families with children six and older were welcome. They rode in game viewing vehicles and participated in activities with other guests. The property usually requested that they book private vehicles, according to a representative. During our stay, there was a large family with three boisterous small children. They ran screaming along the pathways and in the common areas, including at meal times when they played on the platform railing.

Class of Accommodation Luxury Tents

General Manager Bruce Petty. During our visit Kenny, Onka, Taz, and Unami shared management duties.

Handicapped Access The lodge welcomed handicapped guests. A representative explained that guests in wheelchairs would be able to move around rooms and pathways that were wheelchair friendly.

Length of Stay Three nights

Location The concession was in the southwestern corner of the Chobe Game Reserve. We flew in via a bush charter flight from the previous Desert & Delta Safaris property in our circuit. Our guide picked us up at the airstrip and drove us to the property with other guests from our flight.

Managed Desert & Delta Safaris

Owned Chobe Holdings Limited. As of August 2015, the directors of Chobe Holdings Limited, a company incorporated in Botswana, were P. M. Van Riet-Lowe, chairman, J. M. Gibson, deputy chairman and chief executive officer, J. A. Bescoby, A. D. Chilisa, B. D. Flatt, R. Gerrard , K. Ledimo, J.M. Nganunu-Macharia, D. S. Ter Haar, and A. M. Whitehouse.

Size The five hectare property had 12 rooms, 37 employees, including six guides, and five safari vehicles

Year Opened and Date of Most Recent Renovation The property opened in 1999. Between 2008 and 2009 the entire lodge was renovated.

Lobby and Common Areas The property was decorated in a contemporary safari style. In the main building, there was a partially open computer room above the bar with a shelf that housed a dozen or two fiction books and a handful of board games. There was also a bar and sitting area, a curio shop, the staff office and a dining room where we had breakfast each morning. A short pathway from the main building led to a deck with a waterhole facing dining area and next to it a swimming pool. One of the most attractive features of the property was the sandy bush area it faced and its night lit man made water holes that drew animals, especially elephants from afar during the dry season.

Bathrooms A wood door lead from the living area into the bathroom. A toilet took up the corner next to a Corian base and ceramic sink with dual hot and cold water faucets beneath a wood framed rectangular mirror. The walls were tiled in white. The doorless shower enclosure was half glass and half wall with a deck and bush view.

Rooms I loved the rooms, especially the expansive views and deck looking out onto the waterholes. We stayed in 7.8 meter by 4.85 meter large Luxury Tents, Room 8 and Room 6, facing the waterholes. Our rooms were on opposite sides of the pool and partly open dining area where we had lunch and dinner. The predominant decorative elements were glass and thatch.

I stayed in Room 8 and my travel partner stayed in Room 6. The rooms were identical in most respects except for their location within the camp and their layout. The layout of Room 8 was a mirror image of the one for Room 6. Room 6 was the first room to the right of the main building whereas Room 8 was the second room to the left. There was a waterhole immediately in front of Room 6 so that room had outstanding direct views of the waterhole. There was a waterhole to the right of Room 8, allowing partial side views of the waterhole. Those seemed to be among the best locations in the lodge.

The second pathway from the main building lead down to my room. The pathway was uneven and at an incline requiring attention to avoid tripping. At the end of the pathway, several wood steps lead onto a wooden deck that wrapped around part of the front of the room. Triple sets of sliding glass doors faced the interior of the room. The first set opened into the sleeping area, the second into the living area and the third into the bathroom. The room had a high thatched roof and ceiling and wood floors throughout. Earth tone curtains hung over the sliding glass doors for privacy. Two sides of the room had dark brown wooden shutters. The walls had khaki textured wallpaper. Tiny bits of thatch from the ceiling fell onto the white duvet and sheets as well as on the Corian sink basin in the bathroom.

The only way to adjust the temperature was to open and close the windows and shutters and turn the fans on or off (when the generator was operating). Lighting came from battery-operated lamps and generator operated track lights. From my room I could hear the sounds of animals by the waterholes, such as the elephants trumpeting and the hyena, as well as other guests and staff around the property, especially if the fans were off.

A double bed with a wood frame, set against a half wall and sandwiched between twin glass topped designer night tables, occupied the left side of the room. Each of the night tables housed battery operated nightlights. A rectangular framed mirror hung on the wall behind the bed. A three blade fan hung from the ceiling above the bed. A mosquito net on a square wood frame hung from the ceiling also above the bed. The staff spread the mosquito netting around the bed at night. Twin khaki stools stood at the foot of the bed, serving as a luggage rack or stools. An upright fan stood in the right corner facing the bed.

Comfortable cushioned rattan armchairs took up the center of the living area facing a khaki cloth coffee table. They stood atop a black-and-white rectangular rug. A wood table and cloth armchair took up the corner next to the shutters and the sliding glass doors. An identical armchair took up the rear of the living area. A decorative lamp hung above the living room furniture. There were two wood closets painted black against the living area wall. A lock box, two umbrellas, an emergency horn, mosquito repellent, insect spray, a flashlight, and hot beverage ingredients were inside as well as hanging and shelf space.

The layout of my travel partner’s tent was reversed from mine so that the first area he reached from the pathway was the bathroom. Because the curtains were open most of the time if anyone walked onto the deck they risked a full view of the bathroom. On the plus side it meant Room 8 had a wonderful view of the waterhole from the bathroom. While my bathroom was further away from the waterhole it also had a view.

Food Meals, served buffet style, were at the same times every day. Breakfast was between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., immediately before the morning activity. Brunch was immediately following the morning activity. Tea was between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., immediately before the afternoon activity and dinner was at 8 p.m. Staff banged on a drum before each meal to inform us that the buffet was served and the staff were ready for us. Before dinner, several of the staff lined up, introduced themselves and described the menu for the evening. The property management worked toward serving fresh ingredients and a range of traditional and game dishes. We looked forward to meal times.

Amenities A handheld vanity mirror, cotton bathrobes, Charlotte Rhys shower caps, conditioning shampoo, shower gel, and body lotion in refillable plastic containers. There was mosquito repellent and rain ponchos in the vehicles, according to a property representative.

Facilities Pool, boma (outdoor dining enclosure), and main building with library, dining room, internet room, and bar lounge. A curio shop was adjacent to the main building.

Pool There was a gray bottomed pool on its own deck adjacent to the waterhole deck area where we had brunch and dinner. The outdoor pool was 1.5 meters deep and about 7 square meters large. The water clarity was very good. There were six cushioned lounge chairs, two large khaki canvas umbrellas, and towels in a wooden box.

Shop The curio shop sold postcards, branded fleece, women’s t-shirts, Botswana and South African bead, leather, gold plated and pewter jewelry, and sundry souvenirs ranging in price from 7.50 pula to 749 pula.

Game Viewing Gwist, our guide and driver, had nine years of experience as a guide. Game drives were on a Toyota LandCruiser with a canvas top and seating for eight in the back and one next to the driver in the front. The configuration was two in the front row and three each in the other two rows, which were slightly higher than the first row. The front and last rows had an opening on one side of the vehicle with a half step that facilitated climbing on and off. On our first two game drives there were four of us. During the remaining four game drives there were six guests. Because the park closed at sunset we had to depart immediately after our sun downer stop, heading back to the exit at a quick clip in the dimming light before the sun set completely.

During our stay we saw the following animals: buffalo, caracal, African wild cat, elephant, giraffe, hippopotamus, scrub hare, spotted hyena, impala, kudu, lion, dwarf mongoose, slender mongoose, roan antelope, tree squirrel, tsessebe, warthog, wildebeest, and zebra.

And saw or heard the following birds: crested barbet, kori bustard, Denham’s bustard, Senegal coucal, African mourning dove, red-eyed dove, fork-tailed drongo, tawny eagle, Egyptian goose, crested guineafowl, helmeted guineafowl, pallid harrier, red-billed hornbill, yellow-billed kite, northern-black korhaan, red-crested korhaan, blacksmith lapwing, red-billed oxpecker, red-billed quelea, lilac-breasted roller, purple roller, double-banded sandgrouse, common sandpiper, secretarybird, magpie shrike, southern grey-headed sparrow, chestnut-backed sparrowlark, red-billed spurfowl, Burchell’s starling, Meve’s starling, spotted thick-knee, Cape turtle-dove, shaft-tailed whydah.

We saw the following flora: baobab and common wild fig.

Activities The only activities available where twice daily game drives on very bumpy sand roads. In the morning, wake up time was at 5:30 a.m. At 6 a.m., our guide would escort us from our rooms to the dining room in the main building. We departed between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m., returning at about 10:30 to 11 a.m. In the afternoon, we departed at between 4 p.m. and 4:15 p.m., returning between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Viewing and photography time at each sighting was brief, often less than a minute, with the exception of elephants and lions. At those sightings we encountered as many as 11 vehicles at times, each angling for a view of the animals. More than once another vehicle blocked us or someone else in our own vehicle blocked our review. Due to the brief viewing time there were no second opportunities for viewing or photos. Our guide was focused on locating predators and large game such as elephants.

In case of rain during a drive the guide assessed the intensity of the rainfall to decide whether to continue or not. According to a spokesperson it was quite rare for an activity to be called off because of rain.

Other Water for the property was sourced from a well. Although we liked the conservation minded concept behind the refillable non thermos metallic bottles the staff provided us on arrival at a previous Desert & Delta Safaris property, in practice the idea did not work well. Our gravest complaint was that the water chilled from the cooler became warm within minutes. Also, carrying the bottles from our rooms to refill them in the main building was inconvenient, especially during the rest period between activities when it was hot and uncomfortable everywhere and we sought water to lower our body temperature and quench our thirst and after sundown when we could only walk around with a staff escort. Refilling our bottles also required queuing up at the single water cooler when everyone was preparing for departure.

The property ran on generator power. Usually, it was on between 5 a.m. and the time the last guest retired. That meant the fans and regular lights stopped when the generator was off. There were battery operated lights for the evening. As part of the turn down service the staff closed the sliding glass doors in the room. Due to the lack of ventilation the temperature rose, especially on a hot day when the sun beat on my room all the afternoon. When I asked why they closed the sliding glass doors at night even though it made the room hotter the staff member explained that there was a danger that a predator, such as a leopard or a hyena, might venture into the room and mosquito screens would be no obstacle. One night during our stay staff kept the generator running all night so that the fans in our rooms would work. It was a welcome respite from the sweltering heat.

The lodge had received a Trip Advisor 2015 Certificate of Excellence. In the past, the lodge had been eco-certified by Botswana Tourism Organisation.

Cleanliness Very good

Date of Last Visit November 2015


Article by Elena del Valle

Photos by Gary Cox

Service Staff, especially management staff, were welcoming and efficient. My room was serviced twice per day, in the morning during our game drives someone made up the bed and picked up the laundry. In the afternoon, while we were on the game drive, someone delivered the laundry, brought departure papers and prepared the bed with mosquito netting. My cleaning lady was Ineeleng.

Connectivity There was no cell phone service within the property. There was one computer shared by all guests in the main building. It had slow internet connectivity (one megabyte, 1-100 kilobytes per second).

Would You Stay Again? Maybe in a cool season

Contact Information