To Chobe, or Not?

posted 11th March 2014 by Danica Wilson in Travel Advice

Chobe National Park

Chobe is the most accessible national park in Botswana, but does that mean you should avoid it completely? That decision is ultimately yours. What we can do is help you understand it and put together a cracking itinerary for a Botswana safari holiday.

Chobe explained

Chobe National Park boasts four distinctly different eco systems: the spectacular Chobe floodplain and river to the northeast, the Savute Marsh in the west, the Linyanti Swamps in the northwest and Nogatsaa and Tchinga, a hot dry hinterland in-between.

With an elephant population well in excess of 40,000, that is reputedly the largest in the world, the Chobe River and floodplain is one Africa’s iconic safari destinations. This and the fact the northern part of the park is situated close to the point where the four countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia meet means Chobe is hugely popular and, depending on the time of the year, can be very busy. Understandably this is often considered to be a negative and works against incorporating the Chobe riverfront in an itinerary which is a shame as, depending on the time of year, this area offers some of the best game viewing in Botswana.

Chobe riverfront is where elephants reign supreme. The sight of huge herds making their way down to the river bank to quench their thirst, bathe and have fun is incomparable. In addition to its massive herds of elephant Chobe is home to the more unusual and shy antelope species like roan, sable, tsessebe, eland, red lechwe and the rare Chobe bushbuck and puku antelope as well as high densities of lion, leopard, spotted hyena and cheetah. During the dry season months of May to October the floodplains of the Chobe River supports large herds of Cape buffalo. Birding is absolutely fabulous with over 450 bird species recorded, it is at its best between September and March as this is when the migrants breed.

The road network in northern Chobe is extremely limited and the popular Chobe riverfront is no exception. In times of high flood the network is further reduced. In an attempt to reduce vehicle congestion certain roads have been designated as one way routes by National Parks.

A safari cruise on the Chobe River is totally different to the water based activities in the Delta in that a great variety of wildlife can be seen while cruising. This is due to the floodplains that are exposed thus attracting animals in their hundreds to drink. It’s not unusual to see in excess of 100 elephants and large herds of buffalo on one floodplain along with other wildlife (giraffe, antelope, hippo and massive Nile crocodiles) as well as sightings of predators such as lion and leopard around White Sands near Chobe Game Lodge and Serondela (only accessible by from Chobe Savanna Lodge or the houseboats) are not uncommon.

From a photographic perspective, the boats can glide gently towards the animals. By vehicle it is much more difficult to photograph wildlife as guests jostle for the right side whilst travelling along bumpy roads. On a boat it’s possible to walk around and photograph whilst cruising along. It is both relaxing and very productive.

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Chobe Princess Houseboat, Botswana
Hippo, Chobe, Botswana safari
Elephants, Chobe Botswana
Chobe Sunset, Botswana
african sunset safari
Chobe Boating, Botswana
Images Courtesy of our EA team

Chobe Quick Guide

Jan/Feb: the water gradually rises. Birding is great.
Mar: the Caprivi floodplain is beginning to flood.
Apr/May: high water. The floodplain resembles an inland sea (Chobe Savanna is closed)
Jun: water levels begin to drop.
Jul – Dec: the river slowly recedes and is at its lowest around September. The river becomes dotted by exposed islands and during this period game viewing is superb.

Chobe Options

1. We like to recommend you start your itinerary in Victoria Falls, then move to the Chobe before entering Botswana proper with the Okavango Delta your highlight. It’s often a disappointment if you do the itinerary in reverse because you go from the remoteness of the Delta to the hustle and bustle of Chobe.

2. We like to recommend accommodation that’s away from Kasane and the busy section of the Chobe. Some of these are listed below! If you’re on a budget stay in Kasane, we’ll just choose wisely like Chobe Bakwena or the new Pangolin Lodge (or even a house boat)

3. We sometimes recommend avoiding Chobe all together as a ‘stay’ and instead, extend your number of nights at Victoria Falls and head to Chobe on a full day tour. We offer an exceptional full day tour with photographic specialists who own an exclusive boat with cameras set for you to use and keep the memory card. Lunch at Chobe Safari Lodge before you then game drive in the afternoon and return late afternoon/early evening to Victoria Falls. It works out more affordable and you’re on safari with photographic specialists and fellow enthusiasts.

Our choice for

Chobe Accommodation

Chobe Game Lodge

Being the only permanent lodge situated inside Chobe National Park has its advantages as guests can simply walk to the jetty for a boat cruise or step onto a game drive vehicle and immediately start game viewing. First into the park – last out. Quite simply no other lodge can offer this combination. Guests also travel west (away from incoming lodges of Kasane) thereby minimising the congestion as much as possible.

With 47 rooms Chobe Game Lodge’s draw card is its beautiful Chobe River setting and happy, friendly staff. The addition of an extensive riverside boardwalk with a number of secluded chill out spots provides guests with an opportunity to spend hours watching the antics of an endless variety of animals as they quench their thirst, bathe and in the case of elephant calves just have fun at the water’s edge. The far deck overlooks one of the most productive wildlife floodplains of the Chobe riverfront – Watercart.

Chobe Elephant Camp

This fantastic  camp is located on the western border of the Chobe National Park in the Chobe Forest Reserve, so it’s quiet. Built to take advantage of the incredible views, the camp is located high on the edge of a rocky ridge overlooking the sweeping floodplains of the Chobe River.

With 10 rooms and one family suite Chobe Elephant Camp can comfortably accommodate 24 guests. Designed to capture the feel of a traditional homestead in the African wilderness, polished floors, exposed wooden beams and weathered furniture capture the rustic charm while a contemporary style adds to the feeling of “old meets new”. All rooms are en-suite with indoor and outdoor showers; simply furnished and have a small covered verandah with wonderful views. Sandy walkways lead from the rooms to the communal main lodge. With a wide open front to take advantage of the incredible setting this area includes a lounge, dining and bar area, as well as a reading corner. A nearby raised deck has a small swimming pool and lounging area also built to enjoy the magnificent views.

Activities offered at Chobe Elephant Camp include game drives in the Chobe National Park as well as the Forest Reserve, guided nature walks in the Forest Reserve, boat cruises on the Chobe River (on transfer to Kasane) and local village walks. Transfer time from Kasane Airport is approximately 45 minutes on a tar road. This same tar road is used for access into Chobe National Park for game drives and river cruises so it can get busy.

Chobe Savanna Lodge

Chobe Savanna Lodge is situated in the eastern Caprivi Strip of Namibia, a few kilometres up river from Chobe Game Lodge and only accessible by boat (approximately 1 hour from Kasane, Botswana). With just 13 chalets this recently re-decorated family friendly lodge offers a peaceful intimate bush style atmosphere making it the ideal hideaway to end a safari.

Activities are largely water based. Boat excursions take guests up river to remote places where few, if any, other operators visit. Also available are nature walks, a cultural excursion to a local Caprivian fishing village, fishing and birding. From the comfort of the elevated bar and public areas guests can witness some great sightings and the most incredible sunsets over the Puku Flats.

 

 

Zambezi Queen

From the top deck the unobstructed 360° view of the floodplains of Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, Chobe National Park and the islands that become exposed during low water (Jul – Nov) is unparalleled! Whilst gently cruising along the waterways of the Chobe a sense of peace and feeling absolutely at one with nature prevails. The sight of hundreds of elephant and buffalo on the Chobe flood plains is something special, especially when the elephants cross the river to reach the Sedudu Island, supporting their babies as they swim across. The unfolding dramas that centre on the wildlife and profusion of birds keep guests entertained for hours on end. Like the rest of Botswana game viewing along the Chobe River and its floodplains is governed by the changing seasons and rising and falling water levels.

Chobe Bakwena

Chobe Bakwena is one of the owner run gems in Kasane we do work with. Straight up, you’ve got a 15 – 20 minute drive in open vehicle to the national park or jetty. So be prepared for chilly mornings and this drive before you start the actual safari. And that’s the only downer. Otherwise it’s fun from the moment you arrive with friendly staff that sing you a welcome song, great accommodation, waterfront location, sustainable practices to ensure eco friendly stays, great food and even a swimming pool. Jetty and cage being built to offer a unique underwater moment close to… whatever is down there.

Ngoma

This is our secret favourite away from the Chobe region because it has the most impressive views over Chobe floodplains. Each room has a plunge pool which helps in the hotter months. It’s fully inclusive stay and your home away from home. Wonderful activities, friendly staff and stunning food. You can’t go wrong if we can get you availability of course – it’s rather popular.

Private mobile camping

We work with some of the best guides in the business and they offer us exclusive use mobile camping if you’ve got a few of you travelling and in the Chobe there are some wonderful sites we use away from crowds. It gets you off the beaten track, with great guides, own vehicle and access to areas others don’t reach due to time limits and closing hours of parks.

So if you fancy the Chobe, we can make sure it’s a fantastic experience based on your needs.

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