Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park is aptly and fondly known as ‘The Land of The Giants’. This Botswana National Park is in the north of the country. It is home to Africa’s largest elephant population and comprises more than 10,000km2 of rich ecosystems. There are diverse landscapes and an almost unparalleled abundance of wildlife and bird life. All are centered on the stunning Chobe River. This is in close proximity to a number of Southern Africa’s other safari must-sees.
Where in Chobe National Park Located
Chobe National Park sits in close proximity to the borders with Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. This has made this Botswana National Park popular and easy day Botswana safari tour destination. This is especially for visitors from Victoria Falls and those on tours throughout the wider region of southern Africa.
A Chobe National Park safari visit can be conveniently combined with a number of Botswana safari tours. This allows you to explore the wider region’s other unmissable safari gems including the Okavango Delta. The town of Kasane is on the border of Chobe National Park. It has a small international airport and a good array of other services and amenities.
Getting to Chobe National Park in Botwana
Most visitors to Chobe National Park will have to come through the town of Kasane, whatever mode of transport they choose.
For those that are self-driving, roads in Botswana are generally pretty good and heavy traffic will certainly never be an issue!
If coming from Johannesburg, it’s a 1300km drive via Francistown and Nata. Cross the border at Martin’s Drift and carry on straight through to Francistown, then the A3 runs from Francistown to Nata, then from Nata you take the A33 all the way through to Kasane.
If driving across the border from the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, you can take the ferry over the river at the Kazangula border. You get to the border via the M10 from Livingstone. It’s a little less than 80kms and should take about 1hr 45mins. It’s a similar distance but usually a little quicker from the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. This route takes you through Zambezi National Park and into Kasane on the A33.
Kasane also has a small but surprisingly busy international airport. Air Botswana provides scheduled services between Gaborone and Kasane. SA Airlink also flies between Johannesburg and Kasane.
Climate and Weather in Chobe National Park
There are two distinct seasons in Chobe National Park, and both offer a very different but equally spell-binding safari experience.
The rainy season runs roughly from November through until the end of March. It brings with it average temperatures of 350 to 400 Celsius in the day and a balmy 250 or so at night. The rain usually falls in the late afternoon and evening, so most of the day remains dry and the humidity is not too oppressive despite the heat.
The dry season runs roughly from April through until October. The average daytime temperatures are a much more manageable 27o or so. They start to rise fairly quickly in October before the onset of the rains. At night in the dry season it can get quite chilly. If setting out on early morning game drives at this time of year, be sure to wrap up warm.
The rainy season is the best season to experience Chobe’s spectacular birdlife in all its glory. The lush, green vegetation is stunning; this season also brings with it the Savute zabra migration. The dry season is the best time of year to see huge herds of Chobe’s famous elephants in the Chobe River, as well as equally vast herds of buffalo and the park’s many predators, all of which are drawn to the river’s banks.
Flora and Fauna in Chobe National Park
The rich ecosystems of Chobe National Park lend themselves to an astonishing diversity of flora and fauna, as well as an array of stunning landscapes, all of which ensure a safari experience like no other.
Chobe National Park is blessed with an amazing abundance of wildlife. Chobe is particularly feted for its unparalleled Kalahari elephant population (there are around 120,000 elephants in the park), which are often found in herds of more than a hundred. Buffalo can be easily found in equally large herds, while the river is home to a great number of hippos. Sticking with the bigger mammals, there are plenty of giraffe around too.
Chobe is also famous for its considerable lion population, and the lion’s age-old archenemy the spotted hyena is found throughout the park as well. Leopard are often found in the forested riverine areas, and cheetah and the endangered African wild dog in the more open grassland areas around Savuti.
Chobe is home to a few species of rare semi-aquatic antelope: puku, red lechwe and sitatunga. A total of 19 species of antelope can be found throughout the park, as well as large numbers of Burchell’s zebra.
There are a number of smaller mammals about too, including warthog, baboons, cheeky vervet monkeys, honey badgers, mongooses, jackals and even the rare pangolin to name but a few.
Of the reptiles in Chobe, crocodiles are surely the most evident, whilst there is also a good chance you’ll see large water monitor lizards around too.
Chobe boasts an incredible 450 species of bird, most of which are best seen on a boat cruise down the river.
To name but a few of the best offerings, you are likely to find giant kingfishers, green-backed herons, pied kingfishers, white-fronted bee-eaters, carmine bee-eaters African fish eagles, grey-headed gulls, great white egrets as well as much sought after rarities such as the malachite kingfisher and the African skimmer.
Chobe is also home to various different types of vulture as well as the famously strange-looking Marabou stork.
Chobe is a birder’s paradise. For photographers, bring a big lens with you and you’ll be sure to take the best bird images of your life.
Landscape, Vegetation and Ecosystems
Chobe National Park can be divided up according to four distinct and intricate ecosystems
The Serondala area or Chobe riverfront is characterized by lush floodplains and dense woodland of mahogany, teak and other hardwoods. This riverine section and the floodplains sustain a rich variety of habitats vital to the multitude of animals that inhabit Chobe.
The Savuti Marsh is constitutes the west of the park and is characterized by open grasslands and savannah woodland. This was once a large inland lake. Today, it is fed by the erratic Savuti Channel which is dry for long periods then suddenly decides to flow again as a result of tectonic activity in the area. This unreliable water supply has resulted in a number of ghostly dead trees that dramatically intersperse the otherwise open landscapes. Wildlife is very diverse here and it is often the best region to find the park’s predators, as well as the annual migration of zebras.
The Linyanti Swamp and Wetlands is found in the north-west corner of the park and the region’s lagoons and floodplains are complimented by the distinctive surrounding riparian woodlands, consisting primarily of sausage trees and jackal berry, as well as large palms and papyrus.
Between the Savuti Marsh and Linyanti you’ll find the hot, dry hinterland section consisting mainly of the Nogatsaa grass woodland. This area is the wildest and least-explored in the park, and is home to large herds of eland.
Accommodation in Chobe National Park
The Chobe National Park offers a wide range of accommodation options, to suit all tastes and budgets, both inside and outside the park. While there is only one lodge situated within the park itself, there are a variety of accommodation choices to be found on the outskirts of Chobe, particularly along the beautiful riverfront and in and around the town of Kasane. Many of these lodging options include game drives, boat cruises and other activities, but if you want an all-encompassing experience – you can even spend your trip staying aboard your own private houseboat!
There are a handful of houseboats that operate on the Chobe, giving guests the unique opportunity to experience all that Chobe National Park has to offer without even having to leave the comfort of their floating lodge. Some of the boats encompass the Upper Zambezi as well as the Chobe. Boats vary in size from 5 suites up to 14 suites. Guests are generally able to tailor their own itineraries from day to day, so you can head out on a private water-based game drive on a small tender boat directly from your houseboat, spend a day fishing, or just sit back on the sun deck, relax and enjoy the ride.