Chobe National Park is situated in the north west of Botswana and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and popular nature and game reserve throughout Africa. The area was first protected as a game reserve in 1961 and proclaimed as national park in 1968 to preserve its unique flora and fauna. Chobe National Park is the third largest conservation area of Botswana and it has one of the largest concentrations of game in Africa. The park is well known for its elephants, currently estimated at around 120.000, and for all all other types of African wildlife like lions, cheetahs, hippos, hyena, crocodile, buffaloes, giraffes, warthogs, otters, zebras, antelopes, jackals and many bird species.
The best time to visit the park is during the dry season, from June to October, that is when a great concentrations of elephants, buffalos, zebras, giraffes, impalas and others gather along the river to drink. The rainy season, which runs from November to March, is a good time to visit the park if you want to spot birds and see baby animals, as this is when they are born, but at the same time it could be a bit risky. In fact, during my last visit around Botswana in June 2017, I found out that a part of Chobe Park and the Moremi Game Reserve were temporary closed during March and April due to the heavy rains that stroke the area and the most part of the park tracks road were flooded. Anyways it said it was an exceptional event, the heaviest of the last 30 years.
Chobe National Park covers an area of 10,566 square kilometers and can be divided up into four sections with different habitat, making it a true rarity and an explorer’s paradise: Serondela with lush plains and dense forests in the extreme north-east River area; the sprawling wetland and savannah that make up the Savuti Marsh area in the west; the inland delta with islands, streams and shallow of Linyanti Swamps in the north-west and the ”hot dry surroundings” in between the other three. The most accessible area of the Park is the Chobe Riverfront ( Serondela section ), this is also where you will find the largest concentration of wildlife. Here, the town of Kasane is next to Sedudu Gate, the main entrance gate in the north east riverfront area ( 80 km from Zambia and Zimbabwe border ), and its location makes a good base for visiting to the park.
I’ve visited Botswana and Chobe National Park twice and with no doubt I can tell that it was a beautiful experience not to be missed. One of the most cool activity that could be done in Chobe Riverfront area, is the sunset cruise along the Chobe river to spot the wildlife from the water. Here you’ ll see elephants streaming to the river banks for their last drink, large herds of buffalo bathing in the river, zebras, giraffes, impalas and hippos with nile crocodiles are also easy to sight basking in the sun. Birding is also great during the cruise with common sightings of Fish eagles, King fishers, african Darters and other waders and water birds.
During my cruise I was extremely lucky because I could spot a leopard walking on the bank and disappearing in the bush. Elephants also frequently cross the river to the islands where the grass is lush green all year-round. Almost at the end of the trip on your way back, it is stunning to admire the sunset disappearing into the horizon when with its warm orange rays color the river and the banks with the huge elephants in the background. During the 2 game drive in Serondela section, one in the early morning and the other in the afternoon, mostly done along the track roads that line the river, I spotted any kind of wildlife but above all 3 lions resting under the sun and big group of elephants.
Kasane is also the starting point to visit the other sections of the Park, with no doubt much more wild that the Chobe riverfront that is the most touristic and visited area. During my trip I went throughout the park spending 3 days and camping at Mwandi view and Savuti , leaving the Park through the south gate of Mababe, along the route that connects with Moremi Game Reserve.
How to get there: Kasane it’s only a few kilometers from the Zambia and Zimbabwe border, then the closest international airports are Livingston ( Zambia) or Victoria falls town ( Zimbabwe ). Kasane has its own airport but i could find only 1 flight a day from Jo’burg. Usually all the tours around Botswana start with the visit of the majestic Victoria Falls, a wonder of the nature and and highlight of the south part of Africa. With no doubt the best choice is to book the trip with a local tour operator because they usually use open-sides 4×4 vehicles and the drivers know every corner of the Parks and they also have excellent knowledge of the wildlife. The budget alternative is to rent your own car in nearby Kasane and drive yourself around Chobe National Park, although it is advisable to rent a 4×4 and above all have some knowledge about the off road drive.
Where to sleep: the best way to enjoy Botswana and its wild nature is with your own tent sleeping in the campsites in the park that are also the best budget choice. There are only a few campsites at Savuti, Linyanti and Ihaha, but you can also find some Lodge. Have a look here for campsites and Lodge: http://chobenationalpark.co.za/chobe-camping/
In Kasane there is a wide range of accommodations and usually also the lodges allow you to sleep with your own tent in their campsites ground. I slept at Chobe safari Lodge with my own tent http://www.chobe-safari-lodge.net/. You can book the cruise and also the game drive with 4×4 open-sides vehicles through your accommodation ( usually around 40$ each ). In case you have your own kitchen stuff and you decide to rent a gas cylinder, you’ll find a big supermarket in Kasane ( next to the Chobe Safari Lodge ).