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Africa Geographic
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Shenton Safaris

The Return of the Rivers

If you know anything about the northern half of Botswana then you will know that the prime wildlife areas are heavily dependent upon three, life-sustaining rivers: the Okavango, the Kwando/Linyanti/Savuti (which is in fact one river with many names), and the Chobe.

In the past few years there has been a marked rise in the levels all of these rivers, and the increased availability of water is having far-reaching effects on elephant movements and their impact on vegetation. The Savuti has had the most influence since it began to flow again after drying up in the early 1980s. When it dried, six artificial waterholes were created along the length of the channel, which in the dry season had the effect of concentrating wildlife numbers at these water sources. While this was great for game-viewing, it created a situation where elephants, zebra, impala and other herbivores were forced to feed heavily on the vegetation close to the waterholes.


Today the Savuti is flowing again, and is a river almost 90 kilometres long. The waterholes are gone. The presence of water obviously determines where the animals spend their time and the wild animals that were previously crowded around the waterholes in the dusty, trampled sand, waiting their turn to drink, have dispersed along the length of the ‘new’ river.


With the permanent water, the vegetation has flourished. The grasses that grow along the channel edges and on islands are much favoured by elephants, reducing the impact and incidence of the grey giants feeding on trees. At a time and in a place where elephants are often blamed for ‘destroying’ vegetation, the influx of new water is both spreading the load and restoring old balances.

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Africa Geographic Travel

I am a South African who grew up in the former Transkei, (now the Eastern Cape) and I spent much of my time along the Wild Coast. For over ten years I have been working as a guide in northern Botswana, for a company called Wilderness Safaris. I spend many days of each year leading photographic safari trips with small groups of people through our fixed camps in the Kalahari, Okavango, Linyanti and Savuti regions, mostly. My special interests are birds, lions and photography, in no special order. When I am not guiding in the field, I take part in some of our companies environmental projects. Botswana is a country with a solid conservation ethic, and I am fortunate to be able to share some of what I do and see by means of my writing and my images. Visit my photography page