Home > Creativity, Photo Trips > Part 4 Savuti – Wild dogs, scary lion encounter, cheetahs and more
Part 4 Savuti – Wild dogs, scary lion encounter, cheetahs and more
February 5th, 2011 |  by

Savuti Camp is a comfortable camp providing accommodation in 7 walk-in tented rooms with en-suite facilities. Each room is raised off the ground on wooden decks. The camp has a thatched dining area, bar and plunge pool, all on raised wooden decks.  Wildlife in the area includes all of Botswana’s big animals and is one of the best areas in the country to see predators. There is also a good concentration of plains game in the area.

We waste no time and head out with our guide Lazi within 45 minutes of arriving at the camp. We soon encountered giraffe and zebras but Lazi told us we have to keep the vehicle on the trail and can’t go off road. Once he realized we were not the typical snooty tourists he quickly loosened up and we were deep in the bush off road before a torrential downpour of epic proportions.  Lazi grew up in the area and said he had never seen such rain, lucky us! The rain was so hard and flooding was severe so it took us a few hours to get back to camp.

A storm of epic proportions. We need an ark instead of a 4x4

Sparring zebras in Savuti

Giraffe and Zebra look at us and wonder why we are in vehicles with the top down in pouring rain?

We arrived took a hot shower and Michelle and I grabbed a quick dinner and Jeff just passed out. The camp is a bit pretentious and Michelle and I got scolded for not staying in the dining room for desert. We are a bit of the talk of the camp for several reasons. Before the scolding, Michelle and I dine with a couple of folks from Hawaii. The wife asks where are we from and I said Miami and Michelle says LA. She then says but where do you live now? Again I respond Miami and LA. The couple thinks we are married and we have a good time with it as we both start to talk about Jeffrey the boyfriend. The couple has no idea what is going on and we think that Michelle and I were husband and wife and we were staying with Michelle’s boyfriend Jeff. For a stuffy camp that alone was quite the talk. On top of all this we let the managers know that we don’t care about the rain but we don’t want any tops on the vehicles because they impair the shooting and we want to get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and not dine with folks in he dining room but rather eat and edit images in our rooms. Typically guests wake up at 5AM…I think you can get the picture….


I got up around 3 AM to do star trails and then our official wakeup call came at 4 AM. We had cup of coffee and headed out. On the way to the vehicle Jeff gets scolded  for not coming to dinner at all and he was reminded by the manager that Michelle and I missed desert. Jokes were flying on every front but  we had great fun with Lazi who had a standard line of 50/50 chance for just about anything from seeing a lion to the same answer whether we would get eaten by a lion.

Soon we encountered more rain but it stopped just in time for an unbelievable male lion encounter. We followed him through the brush as the rain stopped and we had gorgeous morning light. We would get ahead of him and he would walk toward us checking out his territory. At one point he started to run towards us and I actually put down the camera which I don’t normally do when I am shooting but I seriously thought I was going to be eaten as I made direct eye contact and he started to come towards me. He turned at the last second but my heart was racing.  We all joked with Lazi afterwards saying I guess it was 50/50.  We followed the lion into the brush  and he suddenly stopped and roared as lions do. I wish I had a tape recorder because the sound up close is like nothing you have ever heard. The roar is super deep and you can feel the voice resonate through your body. Full frame head shots of a roaring lion with a 300 mm 10 feet from the lion and it just couldn’t get better.

Gorgeous light as we see the male and he walks towards us

He keeps on walking and getting closer. Lazi comments that it is 50/50 whether he eats us:)

He gets closer yet and my lens won't focus this close

He turns makes eye contact and roars. He is less than 5 feet away and our vehicle is not started

OK now I am scared... Michelle and Jeff taste better than me. Why don't you look at them...

Too close for comfort and a growl and the eye contact is with me not with Jeff or Michelle. I think he is coming into the vehicle and that can't be good. I actually stop shooting and Lazi jokes that it is 50/50 whether he eats me...

Lazi wants to look for leopards and we head towards the water.  Lazi gets a call on the radio that the endangered African Wild Dogs have been sighted and asks if we want to see them.  Kind of a no brainer.  He tells us to hold on to our gear because we have to go extremely fast so as to not miss them….”Wild Dog Speed” and it was.  We encounter African Wild Dogs that just killed an impala. A gruesome but incredible site. The dogs were quite fierce and scared Michelle more than the lions.  She had her legs over the side arm rest and Lazi advised her to keep all limbs inside the vehicle.  The vulchers were covering the tops of all the surrounding trees, just waiting for they time to enjoy the kill or to eat Michelle.

Wild dogs eating an impala

Devouring an impala does not take very long

Happy after dinner

We head back to camp for our own lunch and I do my normal keywording and editing before our afternoon safari and photograph some of the beautiful African water lilly’s around the camp.

incredible color in African water lilly's

The lilly's are every color in the rainbow

At 4 PM we get into our Range Rover with Michelle in front being the bug breaker and me in the second seat and Jeff in the third seat. We hear that there might be a Cheetah at the airstrip. We race and I mean race in the 4×4 powersliding on the wet roads to the airstrip and as we head down the strip. Sure enough there is a cheetah right on the runway. Gorgeous and strong they are the fastest mammals on earth attaining speeds of 70 mph. We are so close that you can reach out and almost touch him. At one point he sprung to life and saw an impala but the impala bolted away and the cheetah was to far away to make the kill. At one point Jeff stuck his head over the back of the Range Roger and got a very quick reaction from the Cheetah who looked like he was ready to attack Jeff. It’s generally recommended that you don’t lean out of the vehicle in any direction. We stayed with him until sunset and headed back to camp.

The cheetah is all muscle and beautiful and a bit scary when they stare you down

Nice set of choppers

Before landing an aircraft always remember to ask the cheetah to get off of the runway

Upper level atmospheric rainbow on the way back to camp

Just another incredible sunset

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