Chobe National Park

The land of giants of Botswana


Chobe, Kasane, Botswana

GPS: -17.838727337036, 25.123070456103

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Named after the river, Chobe National Park is distinguished by its ecological continuity without fences or barriers. It lies at the crossroads of five southern African countries : Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and, to a lesser extent, Angola. Once a hunting ground, the Chobe swamps and floodplains were under British Crown land before being protected by the park’s constitution in 1968, two years after the country’s independence (Botswana is a member of the Commonwealth).

Located in the far north of Botswana, Chobe National Park is one of the region’s most prolific game reserves, along with the neighbouring Okavango Delta. Its floodplains are home to a high concentration of wildlife and a diversity of colourful birds. The park’s protected area covers a territory of around 12,000 km². It is nicknamed “the land of giants” for its large herds of elephants and its several pachyderms, which are among the largest on the continent. During the dry season, Chobe National Park rivals the best safari destinations in Africa. The rainy season is less crowded with visitors and is ideal for boat cruises on the Chobe River. Bordering the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, it allows you to get up close and personal with a high density of animals (such as herds of hippopotamus, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, antelopes, crocodiles) without scaring them away while venturing beyond the park’s boundaries. On its 1,500 km journey, Chobe River passes close to seven of Southern Africa’s national parks and ends its course in the Zambezi River. Its flow fluctuates greatly between the dry season when much of the river’s water evaporates and the rainy season when it floods.

With four ecosystems (the lush Serondela plains along Chobe River, the Savuti Marsh, the Linyanti Marsh and the arid hinterland savannah of the Nogatsaa grass woodland), the areas of Chobe National Park combine dry and wet environments. This little-known destination in northern Botswana is a world-class destination for viewing a wide range of wildlife, both on land and in the water. It is also the birthplace of the first ancestors of early modern humans (Homo sapiens), who appeared around 200,000 years ago.

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  • Guided land and river tours are available from Kasane, the northern gateway to Chobe National Park (this town has an international airport).
  • During the dry season, from May to October, animals, including elephants, are more easily seen due to their concentration around waterholes and along the Chobe River. However, this is also the period when the park is most visited due to its proximity to Victoria Falls, only 100 km away.
  • The wet season is the best time to see the many birds in Chobe National Park.
  • For travel, the use of an all-terrain vehicle is recommended, regardless of the time allocated for your stay.
  • The great diversity of wildlife (elephants, hippopotamus, buffaloes, antelopes, wildebeest, kudu, zebras, cheetahs, leopards, lions, hyenas, giraffes, crocodiles)
  • The migration of thousands of elephants, zebras and wildebeest during the wet season (November to April)
  • More than 500 varieties of birds and waterfowl including many endemic species
  • The thousand-year-old rock paintings of the San people (called Basarwa in Botswana) in the rocky hills of the park (including the archaeological site of Gobabis Hill)
  • River cruises on the Chobe River (also called Kwando, Mashi or Linyanti depending on the territory it crosses); fishing in the Linyanti channels and swamps dotted with alluvial islands
  • The monoliths of Leopard Rock; the mopane and acacia forests (Ngwezumba section)
  • The wildlife rich areas of Chobe Riverfront (Serondela), Linyanti Marsh and Savuti Marsh
  • The Caracal Biodiversity Centre in Kasane
  • The sunset show on the Chobe Riverfront
  • It is estimated that there are over 50,000 elephants in the park, which migrate depending on water resources from the Okavango Delta in Botswana to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Like Hwange National Park, many artificial waterholes are set up in Chobe National Park during the dry season to provide for the animals’ needs.
  • The elephants of Chobe National Park are referred to as “Kalahari elephants”, the largest species of pachyderm in Africa and the largest land mammal on the planet. The latter is generally more massive than its Asian counterpart and weighs 4-6 tonnes. But the Kalahari elephant moves very quietly because it has pads under its feet.
  • An elephant consumes 180 to 300 kilograms of varied food (grass, fodder, foliage, bushes, plants, fruits, roots, tree bark) every day but digests less than half of what it ingests due to its superficial transit (the elephant is a monogastric animal). For this reason, it plays an important role in the renewal of vegetation by spreading partially digested seeds via its excrement. This giant of the African savannah can drink up to 200 litres of water when thirsty and can go without water for up to four days at a time. In the end, the elephant spends most of its time eating and drinking because it sleeps only 4 hours a day (compared to 20 hours for a lion). Its trunk is vital to its daily life. Equipped with 150,000 muscles (compared to 36 for the human hand), it serves as a hand, an arm, a nose and a tool for eating, drinking and defending itself.
  • The elephant is an animal that tends to grow even as an adult and communicates with its fellow creatures by infrasound. Its life expectancy is comparable to that of humans, but the gestation period for females is 22 months (one of the longest in the animal world). It lives in a matriarchal group and can detect a storm from up to 250 kilometres away. The oldest female is the leader of the group because she has a very detailed cartographic memory of the locations of waterholes or mineral-rich salt pans (she usually follows in the footsteps of her ancestors). Females of the same family stay together to raise the young. As soon as they reach the age of 10 or 12, the young males are excluded from the herd to reproduce elsewhere and pass on their genes (they generally mate at the age of 20 or 25).
  • Contrary to what one might think, the size of an elephant’s tusks does not indicate its real age. On average, an elephant changes its teeth 6 times during its life (teeth fall out and grow back naturally). As soon as its molars become too worn and it reaches an advanced age, the elephant has difficulty chewing and can die of starvation. To protect itself from the sun and parasites, this pachyderm likes to bathe in dust, sand or mud (this has the effect of sun lotion on its skin).
  • Poachers in search of ivory are depleting the African elephant population by 10% a year. It is estimated that around 100 elephants are killed every day for their ivory tusks.
  • The increasing elephant population in the country regularly creates conflicts with farmers whose crops are attacked and destroyed. While elephant hunting had been banned by the Botswana government, it was allowed again in 2019 to regulate their numbers and reduce conflicts with human activities.
  • More than 10,000 years ago, the Chobe River and the Okavango River formed a single river. This fed the ancient Lake Makgadikgadi, of which a salt desert (pan) remains in the Kalahari basin.

Where to eat

  • The Old House
    (very pleasant setting)
  • Pizza Plus Coffee & Curry
    (healthy and hearty)
  • The Raft Floating Restaurant
    (grills on a floating restaurant)

Where to go

  • Moremi Game Reserve
    (Okavango Delta Nature Reserve)
  • Impalila Island
    (tigerfish sanctuary)
  • Nxai Pan National Park
    (large animal migration area)

Where to stay

  • Ihaha Public Campsite
    (wild and rustic place)
  • Chobe Marina Lodge
    (spacious and well equipped)
  • Chobe Chilwero
    (elegant and luxurious)