Savute Under Canvas
5 Meru-style tents
Best for 16+
1 February to 31 December
Savute Under Canvas offers an authentic mobile-camping experience, without forgoing many of the comforts of a semi-permanent tented camp. The camp utilises a number of different private campsites in the Savuti area of Chobe National Park, moving every five days in accordance with national park regulations.
Savute Under Canvas also has a sister camp, Chobe Under Canvas, which operates along the same lines along the Chobe Riverfront.
Savute Under Canvas has five Meru-style tents, accommodating up to ten guests. The traditional safari tents are constructed of green canvas with mesh windows and a zippered entrance. A canvas flysheet gives added shade, and shelters the front of the tent, where a couple of camp chairs provide a place to relax and enjoy the surrounding bush.
Each walk-in tent is comfortably furnished with sisal floor mats, twin beds, or a double with quality bedding (some of the most comfortable beds we have slept in!) and bedside tables with battery-powered hurricane lamps. There’s a luggage trunk, a hanging rail and canvas hanging shelving where you’ll find linen dressing gowns, insect repellent and spray, and a laundry bag. There are no cooling fans or plug points in the tents but guests can charge batteries from a 220-volt inverter system in the safari vehicles; just bring your own three round-pin adaptor (the plugs are like those in South Africa or the old-style UK ones).
Towards the back of the tent, a rolled-up canvas partition leads through to the en-suite bathroom. Though there’s no running water, there is a gravity-flush toilet and a bucket shower that is filled with warm water on return to camp each evening, or on request. Atop a wooden washstand are a standing mirror, a hurricane lamp, water glasses, a metal handbasin and a metal jug. The latter is also replenished with water for washing hands and brushing teeth. Towels, soap, shampoo, body wash and body lotion are provided.
The central main area of Savute Under Canvas is a simple open-sided mess tent with dining tables and chairs, a tea and coffee station, a bar table with a good selection of standard spirits, and a side-table stocked with wildlife magazines and reference books. Most evening meals are served under the stars, weather permitting, and a nearby campfire provides a social spot for pre- or post-dinner drinks.
Activities focus on morning and afternoon game drives, between sunrise and sunset. National park regulations do not permit night drives, guided walks or off-roading. The drives are conducted in open-sided 4WD vehicles, and cover the network of sandy roads that crisscross the Savuti corner of Chobe National Park, with regular stops for wildlife viewing along the way. The vehicles have a canvas roof for shade and three rows of three seats, with a maximum of six guests per vehicle to afford everyone a clear outer view. The national park is shared with other mobile camp and lodge vehicles, as well as self-drivers, so you can expect to encounter a number of other vehicles, particularly at significant sightings and during peak season.
The wildlife in this region is varied, with game viewing reaching its peak in the dry season, from June to October. Around April and May a small zebra and wildebeest migration passes through here, and during the wet season from December to March there’s a notable congregation of birdlife around the Savuti Marsh area, including flocks of storks, spoonbills and pink-backed pelicans.
We have found the guiding to be particularly good here – enthusiastic and knowledgeable. On past visits we have been fortunate to witness wild dogs on a hunt and a lion steal an impala kill from a leopard. This area is also well known for its elephant population, particularly during the dry season when large herds can be seen dotted across the expansive Savuti Marshes. On our last visit in May 2014 we had some great lion sightings and managed to spot (although briefly) an elusive leopard we had been tracking since our arrival! For those wishing to spot the large herds of elephants and larger numbers of plains game that fill the marsh area, we would recommend visits later in the dry season.
Savute Under Canvas suits those seeking an adventurous, yet very comfortable, mobile-camping experience. The service, food and guiding are typically excellent, run by an experienced and hospitable team. It’s more economical than many of Botswana’s permanent safari camps, particularly during the peak season from June to October. You can expect good game viewing, with the highest concentration of wildlife. Conversely, national park restrictions preclude night drives, guided walks and off-roading) and you can get crowding of vehicles at noteworthy sightings. However we think Savute Under Canvas is a terrific option for those wanting something a bit different from Botswana’s luxury and permanent accommodation – we loved it!
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a stay of two nights at Savute Under Canvas, although you might consider three nights during the dry season when game densities are at the highest. The camp combines particularly well with its sister camp, Chobe Under Canvas, and also often forms part of a trip with Sandibe Safari Lodge,Nxabega Safari Camp, Xaranna Okavango Lodge or Xudum Delta Lodge – which are all owned by the same company, &Beyond.
Directions: Savute Under Canvas is reached by light aircraft into Savute airstrip: roughly a 50 minute flight from Maun or 35 minutes from Kasane. It’s then a drive of around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the camp’s location at the time and wildlife sightings on the way.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Savute Under Canvas was very good during our last stay in May 2014, particularly considering that it’s prepared in a simple mobile camp kitchen and cooked over an open fire. Special dietary requirements need to be advised in advance as supplies are driven or flown in from Maun or Kasane.
A light breakfast of cereals, fruit, yoghurt, toast and spreads, along with tea and coffee, is served prior to the early-morning game drive. Cooked breakfast can also be made to order.
For lunch on our most recent visit we enjoyed kudu steaks, couscous and sultana salad, coleslaw, green salad, freshly baked corn bread and a cheeseboard.
Afternoon tea was a delicious banana cake (beautifully baked in a firepit!) and fresh fruit, served with iced tea.
For dinner we enjoyed an exceptionally tasty coconut and corn soup, served with fresh homemade bread. Our main course was traditional beef seswa, pap, tomato salsa, roast sweet potato and spinach. Dessert was stewed pear in a red-wine sauce.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All beverages stocked in camp are included (bottled water, soft drinks, local beers, spirits and a limited selection of generally South African wines). Champagne and premium or imported wines and spirits cost extra and must be requested in advance.
Birdwatching: The Savuti Marshes are renowned for birdlife densities, particularly from mid-December to March, when flocks of yellow-billed storks, African spoonbills and pink-backed pelicans make this a great time for birdwatching in Botswana. Year round birds range from raptors such as tawny eagle and woodland species such as pearl-spotted owlet to largely ground-dwelling species such as kori bustard.
Attitude towards children: Children aged 12 years and over are welcome at Savute Under Canvas.
Equipment: No equipment for children is provided.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend Savute Under Canvas only for older children aged around 16 years or more, who have a keen interest in wildlife. As the camp has no swimming pool or family tent and it’s open to big game, we don’t feel it is suitable for younger children.
Notes: Due to the presence of potentially dangerous wildlife around this unfenced camp, children must be under parental supervision at all times.
Power supply: None
Communications: There is no internet or cellphone reception at Savute Under Canvas. Guests should consider themselves out of contact whilst here. There is a satellite phone to contact Maun in an emergency.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: A first-aid kit is kept in camp and the camp manager and guides are first-aid trained. In an emergency, medical evacuation to Maun can be arranged. Please note that it is only possible to fly out of camp during daylight hours as the bush airstrips do not have any lighting at night.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Savute Under Canvas is unfenced within a big-game area, so guests are escorted to their tents after dark. Air horns are provided in the tents to attract attention in case of emergency.
Fire safety: The safari vehicles are fitted with a fire extinguisher and park regulations limit the size of the campfire.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included, but they do not wash underwear. Washing powder is provided on request for this purpose.
Money: There are no safes in the tents