Botswana covers a large territory in Southern Africa and spans between latitudes 18 and 24. While the country is very wildlife oriented throughout, the type of wildlife differs from one region to another. The central and southern parts are occupied by vast dry beds, but the northern part is lusher. It’s the transition from arid regions into tropical areas that creates the richest wildlife. Chobe National Park, although not the largest in Botswana is the most diverse and densely populated.
Chobe National Park is the oldest wildlife establishment in the country. Its history dates back to the nomadic San (Bushmen) who lived as hunter-gatherers. The rock paintings in the park must have been drawn by them during their Shamanic trans experiences.
The foundation of Chobe as a national park was initiated in the 20th century. The area was on the verge of exposure to hunters and poachers. In 1931, it has been declared a protected area, where hunting was prohibited. However, conservation efforts took much longer than anticipated, so Chobe became a national park only in the 60s.
Chobe National Park has four main ecosystems.
- The northeast part of the park consists of grassy floodplains and woodland with mahogany and teak. The Chobe river that runs through this region breaths life into here, attracting so many thirsty animals all year round. It’s also quite close to Victoria Falls, serving as a gateway into this magnificent natural wonder.
- The Savuti Marsh area in the west is an inland lake with fluctuating levels of water. It dries up completely during the dry season but occasionally fills back up receiving flows from surrounding rivers. The region is suitable for Savannah and grassland, which consequently draws herbivores. You will also see many dead trees that suffered from inconsistent water levels.
- The Linyanti Marsh is at the northwest corner next to the Linyanti River and two smaller national parks. This is the moistest area full of small lagoons, flood plains and riverine forests.
- The remainder of the park is a dry hinterland where grass woodland is prominent.
Chobe National Park has one of the richest wildlife in Africa, owing to its diverse habitat.
Chobe is primarily known for its extremely large elephant population with approximately 50000 members. These distinct Kalahari elephants occupy areas nearby Chobe River and Savuti Marsh.
The Chobe riverfront is inhabited by hordes of, elephants, buffalo, giraffe, and a rare type of antelope called puku.
Savuti Marsh is abundant in big five, especially rhinoceros and African bush elephant during the dry season. Other species spotted frequently are zebra, kudu, impala, warthog, and wildebeest. Although less frequent, lions and cheetahs are also encountered.
The Linyanti Marsh is the primary spot for viewing big cats and elusive animals. You will likely spot large packs of lions, leopards, wild dogs, as well as rare antelope species such as sable and roan. The marsh’s wealth of water sources makes it an ideal home not only for bird species but also for hippo and Nile crocodiles.
The dry hinterland is not as promising as the other regions, but you will occasionally come across elands.
The lakes and lagoons attract about 450 species of birds, so Chobe will not disappoint bird lovers.
You could spend an entire month joining a different tour every day and you would still not get bored in Chobe.
A scenic game drive in Chobe is the best method of exploring all four habitats of the park at once. The safari vehicles will drive along the Chobe River that runs through various regions of the park. This will provide the chance to encounter the members of big five, antelopes, and birds occupying different regions of the park yet scouring the water sources near the river. The guides will give you a helpful trivia of the park as you go along. The game drives depart three times daily, at 6 p.m., 9 p.m., and 3 p.m; and each tour takes three hours. Drinks and cookies are also provided.
A more romantic way of discovering the park is the Chobe River itself. This will provide you with extraordinary sightings of herds of elephants and buffalos who come near to quench their thirst. A much closer encounter will occur with crocodiles and hippos, while bird watchers will be pleasantly surprised.
You have a few options when it comes to river cruises.
- The Lunch Cruise where a tasty lunch is included (obviously)
- Sunset Cruise that includes snacks and drinks such as Gin and Tonic.
- River fishing is an unconventional way of cruising along the river. The catch & release fishing of illusive tigerfish is quite popular in Chobe.
If you’re somehow tired of wildlife, you can organize additional tours to nearby regions and combine your safari with a day trip to Implalila Island along the Zambezi flood plain at the intersection of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana. The island is taken up by small villages occupied by indigenous Subia people of Namibia.
Another smart addition would be to Victoria Falls close to the northwestern border of the park.
In general, Chobe National Park has a hot climate all year round. There is a dry and wet season.
The dry season runs from May to August. The days are still just as hot as a summer day around 29 degrees, however, the night temperatures can drop down to 8 degrees. October usually sees the temperature peak at 35 degrees.
The rainy season runs from November to March. While the rains are not long-lasting, they are heavy and accompanied by thunders. The temperature range is between 17 and 31 degrees.
The transition periods during April, May and September are the ideal times with a perfect balance between rain, sun, hot and cold.
The most easily accessible point of Chobe National Park is Chobe Gate near the riverfront which is only 6 km from Kasani village. It is only 80 km from Victoria Falls if you want to tick that off your bucket list as well. The establishment of Chobe made Kasani an accessible part of Botswana through the Kasana Airport. Maun is the next closest airport to Kasane, a long 600 km drive from the Chobe gate.
Both airports have 4×4 rental companies.
TIPS AND ESSENTIAL INFORMATION
- The roads in Chobe National Park require 4×4 vehicle because of sand gradually piles up and hardens on the road. The wet season is the worst, as th sand piles turn to mud. In any case, only a 4×4 can handle the harsh conditions of the park.
- Don’t forget to bring warm clothes during sunset cruises and drives in winter.
- You must prefer the morning drives if you are visiting in summer since the thunderstorms usually occur in the afternoon.
- Chobe has both budget and luxury accommodation options. Chobe Game Lodge has 45 guest rooms as well as glamping areas. Those who don’t want to splurge on accommodation must book at one of the three public campsites, Ihaha, Savuti or Linyanti. There are also houseboats along the Zambezi River.
- Chobe National Park is in a high-risk malaria zone, so you must consult your doctor regarding prophylactics that are anti-malarial. Besides, insect repellents with a minimum of 20% DEET are recommended.
- Take note that only certain areas are safe for leaving the vehicles. If you are self-driving, enquire at the reception about these spots.