Located in the North of Botswana, Chobe was declared a national park in 1967 and it spans an area of 11,700 square kilometers making it the third-largest national park in Botswana.
The national park whose main source of water for the park’s wildlife is Chobe river is divided into four districts; Chobe riverfront (which has the largest concentration of wildlife in the park), Nogatsaa Savuti, and Linyanti.
Chobe national park Botswana consists of the largest population of African elephants, big herds of buffalos and also offers a great chance of spotting the big five making it the most visited park in Botswana. It is indeed undeniably true that Chobe national park is one of the best safari destinations in Africa to enjoy wildlife at its best.
A safari in Chobe is sure to provide its visitors with amazing vegetation, pans, wildlife- literally something new every day. Be it seeing hyenas, elephants or even hippos at your campsite or hearing roars of the lions from a distance at night, a Chobe national park safari will blow your mind away.
My experience at Chobe national park
Visiting Chobe national park had been a dream of mine having read so much about it and it being one of the best National parks in Africa.
Even though I did not spot all the “Big Five” animals, I was not let down by Chobe as my expectations were high. I was able to see a lion sitting in the grass just a few meters away from me at the Chobe riverfront, something I had never experienced in my life. If this is not what they call impressive, then I don’t know what to call it.
As my excitement for wildlife and spotting animals grew, I became obsessed with seeing a leopard or even a cheetah. I remember at one point, I saw a zebra from a distance and then I thought it was a cheetah. I screamed in excitement saying “omg, omg, there is a cheetah”. Everyone else was wondering where it was since they were only seeing a zebra and not a cheetah. As we approached it nearer, I realized it was just a zebra. I was made fun of the entire game drive for hallucinating. What can I say, I just wanted to see a cheetah.
But all in all, the safari in Chobe National park was an incredible experience for me that I consider my self lucky to have been to the best place for safari in Africa and one considered the best among Botswana national parks.
Chobe National park wildlife
Although wildlife at all the 4 districts of the park may not differ, there are greater chances of spotting lions and Cheetahs at the Chobe riverfront.
Chobe is home to approximately 120,000 elephants making it the African country with the most number of Elephants. Often times, you’ll also see herds of buffalos, groups of monkeys playing around the riverfront.
Whether it is Zebras, Giraffes, Red Lechwe, Hippos, crocodiles sunbathing on the river bank or the rare rock monitor, Chobe’s wildlife never disappoints.
Aside from the animals, beautiful common and rare birds also span this amazing park, bringing satisfaction to the bird lovers and also the vegetation and landscape that leave visitors in awe and in appreciation of wildlife.
For the 4 days, I was in the park, I was able to see a pride of lions just a few meters away from the car. However much I would have loved to see Leopards and Cheetahs, I was not lucky enough to spot any. But Some of the wild animals and birds that I was lucky to see include, a huge number of Wildebeest, Impalas everywhere, almost the entire park, big and impressive herds of Elephants including some that were swimming in the Chobe river. Spotting giraffes was the order of the day, water back, hippos and many others.
With more than 450 bird species recorded in Chobe national park, it is close to impossible to see all of them. But if you’re keen enough, you’ll be able to see some of them. I was able to spot some like the Burchell’s Coucal, Lilac-breasted Roller, Little Bee-eater, yellow-billed stork, Marabou stock, Grey Heron and so many others.
Want to make spotting animals and birds fun, buy the Chobe national park tourist map that has a checklist of all animals, reptiles, and birds that are in the park. For whichever animal/bird you spot, just check it on the checklist. This checklist is not only fun but it also gives you an idea of what to look out for within the park. The Chobe national park tourist map is not just a map but offers important information about the park and the best routes to take.
I highly recommend buying the Chobe national park tourist map plus the Botswana lonely planet guide book. The Botswana Lonely Planet guide book provides insightful information while the map showcases all the loops that you can take mapped out well with coordinates and estimated kilometers. You can buy the Chobe tourist map from any entry point to the park or at wildlife offices. And for the Botswana Lonely Planet guide book (which was extremely useful to me), you can buy it on Amazon.
Malaria at Chobe National park
Many people are always concerned about Malaria before they visit Chobe or even Botswana as a whole. But during the dry seasons, cases of malaria are not common but if you’re not sure about how safe it can be, buy an insect repellant before you visit.
During and after my visit, I did not register any case of Malaria and I also became confident about it when I asked the locals and they said that the country had done a great job in trying to kick Malaria out. Though I didn’t have an insect repellant, I always zipped the tent at night not to give any chance of mosquitos to enter the tent. But if you want to have a 100% guarantee that you will be free from malaria, you can buy this mosquito repellant.
When is the best time to visit Chobe National Park
The best time to visit Chobe is between May to October when the weather is dry which is also Botswana’s winter period. During this period, the days are sunny but the nights can get really cold. During this period, the rains have ended causing most pans to dry out. Even though the water levels of the Chobe river reduce, it becomes almost the only source of water to the wildlife in the park. This forces most animals to concentrate around the riverfront for water making it the best time to see a large number of animals in one place.
Botswana having sand roads, doesn’t make it ideal to visit Chobe during the rainy season that spans from December to March. Actually, some campsites even shut down as some roads become impassable. So if you don’t want to get stuck in the sandy roads of Botswana, May to October would be the best time to visit Botswana and Chobe National park as the roads are easily passable with a safari car or even the 4×4 Self-drive cars.
How to get to Chobe National park
There are different entry points to the park and where you enter from depends on where you’re coming from. The main entrance is the Sedudu gate in the north-east of the park, perfect for visitors coming from Kasane. If you’re coming from Namibia, the Ngoma gate will be the ideal entry point to pay your park fees. For visitors coming from Maun, the southern entrance at Mababe gate would be ideal. This is also the same route that connects to the Moremi Game reserve.
Since we were coming from Maun, we used the Southern gate of Mababe to connect to Savuti camp, which is next to Savuti Marsh which also has a high concentration of wildlife within the park. If you’re on a self-drive, you can opt for any of those gates or book a tour that comes with a transfer to the park.
Chobe National Park entrance fees.
To enter the park, you’ll need an entry permit which can be obtained at any of the gates mentioned above. The entrance fees are the same at all gates of the park and you’ll also need to pay for the vehicle. All these prices are as of June 2019, and they are subject to change.
- Non -residents Adults (18 years and above)- 120 BWP (Botswana Pula) per day.
- Non-residents children (8-17 years)- 60 BWP per day and children below 8 years are free to enter.
- 50 BWP for each vehicle per day.
Camping in Botswana at Chobe National park
Chobe national park has designated campsites providing a camping experience like no other. All campsites are well maintained with Ablution blocks that come with clean showers with both hot and cold water. Campsites also have a scullery section to do your dishes from. The ablutions are clean, with flush toilets and toilet paper is also provided. In the recent past years, all the campsites within the pack have been privatized which means you don’t have to go to the wildlife offices to make bookings but rather book with private companies in charge.
Read this post to know everything about camping in Botswana
Even though it is advised to book way in advance, this means you must have specific dates already chosen out. You call also directly call the companies for bookings.
Although booking by a phone call can be better, we sometimes found that if you’re a private visitor, you’ll be told that the campsite is full even when it’s not true. I still find that troubling as to why they would say that on phone but if you insist and just show up at the campsite, you’ll be surprised to find a number of free campsites.
The campsite you choose depends on the route you’ll be taking whether the Savuti Marsh area, Linyanti marsh, Nogatsa or Serondela area which is also known as the Chobe riverfront.
For our safari, we chose to go to Savuti Marsh Area and the Chobe Riverfront and below are the campsites I camped at.
Where to stay in Chobe national park
Savuti campsite is well located in the heart of Chobe national park just next to the Savuti Marsh which has a large concentration of wildlife. Savuti has 14 unfenced campsites, an ablution block surrounded by an elephant protective wall to keep elephants out of the shower- something that used to be an issue in the past. The ablutions are fitted with flush toilets, electricity, hot and cold showers powered by solar panels and are always kept clean.
The campsites at Savuti have no electricity and have huge volumes of sand just like most areas of the park. The campsites also have designated fire pits where visitors can enjoy a nice campfire.
While at the campsite, be sure not to leave food unattended to and not to go far away from the camping grounds at night because wild animals are always nearby.
At our campsite, we were able to see Elephants, Impalas, wild dogs running to go for a hunt, an experience that was both exciting and a bit scary.
Savuti campsite prices- 50$ per person per night for Non residents.
To make a reservation at Savuti, contact SKL Group of companies which not only manages Savuti campsite but also Khwai and Linyanti. Call them at +267 6865365/6 or email at email@example.com
If you’re to visit the Chobe riverfront, of which you should, sleep at Ihaha campsite.
Ihaha campsite which has 10 designated campsites is located at the Chobe riverfront offering breathtaking views of the hippos cooling off in the river making it one of the best campsites in Chobe.
Even though the Ablutions are a bit old and not well maintained, they still have flush toilets, hot and cold water but unfortunately no electricity in the ablutions.
Just like the Savuti campsite, Ihaha does not have electricity at the camping grounds but the clean grounds with no masses of sand makes up for it.
All campsites are just next to the river which makes the camping grounds also home to wildlife, meaning at any time, you can spot animals at the campsite and this is the exact reason why the management advices visitors not to move away from their camping grounds at night. Even going to the ablutions when it gets dark is advised against.
To make reservations at Ihaha campsite, you can call management at +267 6861448. Although this option might work out for you in my experience, it didn’t.
When we called management to make a reservation, we were told that it was fully booked for the days we wanted but that wasn’t going to make us cancel our programs because we were on a fixed itinerary. So what we did was to taste our chances and just show up. To our surprise, we reached and over 5 campsites were free yet we had called earlier and they said they were fully booked. We asked one of the staff and he said, the phone operators normally say that when they hear that you’re a private individual. That is something that still beats my understanding but hey, we got where to stay for 2 nights.
Ihaha campsite prices- 260 BWP per person per night for non-residents.
Lodges to stay in Chobe national park
If camping is not for you but still want to explore the wildlife in Chobe national park, then you can take advantage of the lodges within the park. These luxurious lodges are on the high end of the budget but offer comfort and a deluxe experience within the park.
Some of the famous lodges you can stay at include;
You can also opt for the private tented camps that offer a feeling of modern and luxurious camping. These can be booked by calling or from the camps themselves.
What to do at Chobe national park
A game drive is definitely the major activity to do within the park and that’s the main reason people travel from miles away to experience Africa’s best safari destination. You can either enjoy a game drive by booking a guided game safari or opt for a self-drive in your 4×4 car. As a self driver, you might not be aware of the best loops to take at specific times but the staff at the different campsites are always willing to tell you where to go and at what time to maximize the chances of seeing animals. If you prefer booking a guided game drive in the park with an experienced tour guide, you can book a tour from here.
The best time to go for a game drive is either early in the morning or late in the evening but even if you do an afternoon game drive, you’ll be able to see some animals.
The other activity to do in Chobe National park is to go for a cruise along the Chobe River. You’ll need to book the cruise with a tour company. The cruise offers an ideal opportunity to see animals up close and those that might have come to drink water at the river banks. You can actually book the Chobe river cruise from here.
What to take for a game drive in Chobe National park
What to take for a safari in Chobe doesn’t differ much from what you’ll need for all African safaris but here is what shouldn’t miss.
A good camera– It will be an injustice to yourself to come to the best wildlife destination and not take amazing photos. So before you go, make sure you buy a good safari camera, the more lightweight, the better.
Binoculars– Who wouldn’t want a better view of the wildlife.
To get the full list of what you’ll need for your Botswana safari, read this post.
I hope this Chobe national park guide helps you make your planning process to the best African safari destination easier. If you still have any more questions about Chobe national park, leave them in the comment section and I’ll get back to you shortly.
Enjoy your adventure of a lifetime in Chobe National park.
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