Botswana is a place of strange rivers, referred to by some as miracle rivers, and none are more unique than the ever-changing Linyanti and Savuti river systems.
© Sunset over the Linyanti River
By Leigh Kemp
The Linyanti River rises in the Highlands of Angola and goes through several name changes on route before forming a delta wetland
on the Botswana Namibia border. One of Africa's most dramatic wildlife areas the Linyanti is also the source of the Savuti Channel.
A River in the Sands of the Kalahari
The Savuti Channel flows out of the Linyanti system and disappears into the sands of the Kalahari after a 75 journey across arid wilderness. Renowned for its habit of drying up for undisclosed periods of time
the Savute is once again in flood after more than 25 years.
I saw Savuti from the air 15 years after having first experienced it and the experience was almost overwhelming. Having previously arrived overland via the silence of the Gocha Hills
or the morbidly romantically named Mababe Depression the sight from the air put the soul of Savute into perspective. The whole picture of the enigma fitted into place.
The snaking of the channel, the sand ridge
and the habits of the elephants in the scorching heat all made sense. I often wondered at the movements of the elephants of Savute in their comings and goings from the waterholes. From the air I could see how they huddled in the sparse shade of the Acacia tress that dotted the landscape.
Some years later I again saw the area from the air. This time the snaking channel was shimmering in the midday light
, the green banks contrasting vividly with the dry wilderness that embraced it. And the elephants were still clinging to the limited shade of the acacias, a scene that had not changed in ten years.
Death is a daily occurrence in the African wilderness, and the scavengers are ever present, often waiting for the death throes
but there is a time in Africa, at the end of the dry season, when the survival struggles seem so much greater, a time when water becomes as much a curse as a blessing.
Animals in search of water reach their security each day, but as the dry season wears on even the great rivers adhere to the time, with the shallows becoming mud traps as the waters recede, leaving many weakened animals to succumb to the heat of the time.
The waterways of Africa and the part they play in the survival of wildlife are no better exemplified than in the Linyanti eco-system. It is here where a river forms a delta and provides a haven for a vast array of wildlife
. Once the haunt of trophy hunters the area has now been taken over by photographic safari operators and is quickly returning to the glory of its past.
Attracting countless numbers of animals to the life-giving water in the dry season, including the continents greatest elephant numbers and many predators, Linyanti is now a firm favourite for many travellers to Botswana.
Destination for All Seasons
Although the dry season in Savuti and Linyanti has the animal numbers the wet season is no less dramatic, what with the resident antelope giving birth and the great numbers of migrant birds that join the collage.
Journey Through Botswana Series
Chobe River Journey
Okavango Delta Journey
Savuti & Linyanti Journey