Chobe National Park is a rich, diverse, ecosystem packed full of wildlife and a wide variety of birds. Best known for its huge herds of elephants around the river in the dry season, it is the ideal location to be included in any Botswana safari.
The first glimpse of the Chobe River– deep and dazzling in the sandy terrain – is always breathtaking. It appears as a swathe of brilliant, peacock blue ribbon, winding its way past the tiny border town of Kasane and on through ensuing wilderness of Chobe National Park. The park supports a diversity and concentration of wildlife unparalleled anywhere else in the country. The Chobe River rises in the northern Angolan highlands and travels enormous distances before it reaches Botswana at Ngoma. Like the Okavango and Zambezi rivers, the Chobe River’s course is affected by fault lines that are extensions of the Great Rift Valley. These three mighty rivers carry more water than all other rivers in Southern Africa.
Established in 1968, the park covers approximately 7,270 square miles encompassing floodplains, swamps and woodland. The Chobe River forms its northern boundary and there are four distinct geographical areas in the park: the Chobe Riverfront, the Ngwezumba Pans, Savute and Linyanti. The most accessible and frequently visited of Botswana’s big game country, the Chobe Riverfront, is most famous for sightings of elephant and Cape buffalo, which converge upon the river to drink and can be seen in huge numbers during the dry winter months. During this season travelers may find themselves surrounded by hundreds of elephants on an afternoon safari game drive, as the main Serondella road becomes impassable and scores of family herds cross, making their way to the river to drink, bathe and play.
A safari along the river’s edge gives the opportunity to see a wide variety of wildlife including waterbuck, lechwe, puku, giraffe, kudu, roan and sable, impala, warthog, bushbuck, monkeys and baboons, along with the accompanying predators lion, leopard, hyena and jackal. Another wonderful way to experience Chobe National Park is out on the river. In a power boat or on a pontoon, a water safari allows for an up close and personal experience with hippo, crocodile and a mind-boggling array of water birds.
Over 460 bird species have been recorded in the park, making it one of Africa’s premier venues for bird safaris. Common species to be seen include the Sacred Ibis, Egyptian Geese, the ubiquitous cormorants and darters, Spur-winged Geese, the rare Pel’s Fishing Owl, Carmine Bee-eaters in season, most members of the kingfisher family, all the rollers, the unmistakable Fish Eagle, the Martial Eagle, and many members of the stork family.
At the heart of the park, Savute boasts most of the species to be found in Chobe. This area is best known for its predators, particularly lion, cheetah and hyena, of which there are large resident populations. The Savute channel flows from the Linyanti River for about 100 kilometers, carrying water away from the river and releasing it into a vast swampland called the Savute Marsh, and further south onto the Mababe Depression, which is also fed by the Ngwezumba River from the northeast. The Mababe – immense and flat and fringed by thickets of trees – was once part of the Makgadikgadi super-lake. When filled with water, it becomes the venue for thousands of migratory birds and animals, particularly large herds of zebra.
Geographically, Savute is an area of many curiosities. One of its greatest mysteries is the Savute channel itself, which has over the past 100 year inexplicably dried up and recommenced its flow several times. This irregular water flow explains the numerous dead trees that line the channel, for they have germinated and grown when the channel was dry and drowned when the channel flowed again.
Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest safari news, exclusive offers and more!