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Botswana Safari

Botswana's Chobe National Park

Safari Information

Return to Map of Chobe / Linyanti


Chobe is well know for both its Elephants and its LionsChobe National Park is one of the world's last remaining true wilderness areas and one of Africa's greatest game parks. Chobe is the third largest park in Botswana (after the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the remote Gemsbok National Park in the south-western corner of the country) and covers an area of 10,698 square kilometres. Chobe however, is unquestionably the most spectacular and diverse of Botswana's areas, even more so than the celebrated Okavango Delta.

Chobe National Park is home to huge herds of Elephant, Buffalo, and Burchell's Zebra and high densities of predators such as Lion, Leopard, Spotted Hyena and Cheetah. The park is also notable for the presence of more unusual antelope species like Roan and Sable, Puku, Tsessebe, Eland, Red Lechwe, Waterbuck, and the rare Chobe Bushbuck. Other more popular species such as Giraffe, Kudu, Warthog, Wildebeest and Impala also abound.

The Chobe area became popular in the mid-19th century with European hunters, who flocked to the area to shoot big game. Prior to this the wildlife had only been hunted by traditional means for subsistence by the native people. However, the white hunters introduced firearms to the indigenous people and this soon led to a massive increase in the killing of wildlife. The locals were encouraged to shoot far more than they needed in order to barter for European goods like tobacco, clothes, blankets and more guns.

Later visitors exploited the timber of the indigenous forests along the Chobe River. Commercial logging began prior to World War I and then again from 1944-1955. Teak was the major timber species and these trees still exist in Chobe, but not along the river. Thus, the lumber industry drastically altered the vegetation along the Chobe River; however, many today blame Elephants for this carnage. The lumber mills along the river closed down in the mid 1950's because there were no more trees remaining.

The Chobe Game Reserve was proclaimed by the colonial Bechuanaland Government in 1961 to control the widespread hunting and logging in the area. The park first opened to the public in August 1964 and it was upgraded to national park status in 1968 after Botswana's independence.

Chobe can be divided into four main regions: The Chobe riverfront which supports the greatest concentration of wildlife and outstanding birding, the Savuti marsh which also offers prime habitat, the Linyanti swamps, and dry hinterland in between them all.

Elephants on the Chobe RiverThe Chobe Riverfront:
The riverfront is well known for its vast herds of Elephant and Buffalo that concentrate to drink from the river in the dry season. This area is perhaps the most frequented by visitors and its proximity to the Victoria Falls makes it an even more popular destination. This area therefore has a wide variety of tourist facilities ranging from posh five-star lodges to fully catered safari camps and do-it-yourself campgrounds.

Most of the wildlife activity occurs along the banks of the river - especially during the drier winter months when animals must congregate at the river to quench their thirst. Game viewing here is by vehicle along the river or by boat on the river. Both offer excellent game viewing, especially of the large herds of Elephant and Buffalo. Because of the large number of tourists in this area, the density of vehicles can become a bit high and this can detract from the wilderness experience. Still, for game viewing, especially large herds, the Chobe riverfront is the place to go in Botswana. Birding enthusiasts will also find the riverfront a fantastic destination, especially during Botswana's summer months when the migratory species return. The Chobe River offers great birding and within the park there are over 400 different species. Occasionally, Carmine Bee-eaters can be seen building their nests in the sand banks of the river.

Zebras on the Savuti MarshThe Savuti Marsh: The Marsh area is well known for its coverage in a number of well known wildlife documentaries, especially the National Geographic films by Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Situated on the bed of a once-huge Paleo super-lake, Savuti is comprised of rich grasslands, savannah woodland and a large variety of trees and vegetation.

In years when the Savuti channel has flowed (see more on the channel in our Linyanti page), the grasslands of the Savuti Marsh were perhaps the greatest wildlife paradise - especially for big game and predators - in all of Africa. The channel is currently dry, but it could flow again at any time based an minor tectonic movements far beneath the Kalahari sands upon with it exists. Still, each year, with the coming of the summer rains (December through March), the Savuti marsh transforms back to at least some of the splendor it has known in prior years when the channel was flowing.

Savuti has three distinct seasons: the wet (and hot) rainy season, the early dry season - when there is still water available in the seasonal pans, and the late dry season, which extends through the winter months until the onset of summer and the rains. During the dry period, when Savuti is parched, the only available water is from the man-made waterholes (which pump water from below ground). After the rains finally arrive in late November, the area is transformed almost overnight into a lush grassland and within days, the herds of herbivores begin to arrive - Zebras, Wildebeest and Buffalo appear in the thousands.

The Zebra and Wildebeest pass through Savuti on their annual migration south from the Linyanti marshes. The herds remain in Savuti for several weeks to have their young and feed on the new grasses before moving further on into the Mababe Depression. These same herds then reappear in Savuti later in the season, around March-April, when they are again passing through on their long migration northwards back to their dry season range along the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers. This Zebra-Wildebeest migration is on of nature's great spectacles and it provides a bounty for the predators which depend upon them to survive.

Although game viewing in the Savuti marsh is an all-year activity, during the peak rains the animals are scattered over a wide area and more difficult to see, especially when the grasses grow long and tall. The wet season is however a fabulous time for birding as the migrant waders and waterbirds appear to take advantage of the new water in the pans. Throughout the remainder of the year, the area is full of wildlife with a huge variety of species. Giraffe, Kudu, Impala, Tsessebe are always present. The wide-open plains attract Cheetah and the various rocky areas around Savuti provide excellent habitat for Leopard and the agile Klipspringer antelope.

Game-viewing conditions are generally better in the dry season, with its shorter grasses, thinned-out vegetation and the animals being more restricted as to their water sources. Also, the days are cooler. When dry, the Savuti landscape, with its long-dead, skeletal trees against the deep blue sky provides for excellent photography, particularly when the plains game begins to move back towards the woodlands at dusk and stir up clouds of dust into the red sunset sky.

Tourist facilities in the marsh include several upscale safari camps, as well as public campsites.

The LinyantiThe Linyanti Swamps: The western section of Chobe, known as Linyanti, along the Linyanti and Chobe Rivers and its surrounding swamps, is one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Botswana. However, guests at the private safari camps in the Linyanti are able to fly in to private airstrips and experience this amazing wilderness area. For a detailed write up on the Linyanti area, please see our Linyanti page.

(Portions of the information above were excerpted from Daryl and Sharna Balfours' excellent book, Chobe - Africa's Untamed Wilderness)

Which time of year is best to visit Chobe?
The best time for visiting the riverfront area is in the dry winter months from June to October, when the dry inland forces the animals to congregate around the rivers and permanent water sources. Given that this area is such a short distance from the Zimbabwe border and Victoria Falls, it is ideal to combine with a short visit to the Falls.

The Savute marsh becomes home to thousands of Zebra when they migrate from the Mababe Depression round about May and then return in November. The Savute region is also well known for its Lion population and given the high concentration of plains game in this area, the entire predator population is high.

Top           Return to Map of Chobe / Linyanti

Water / Land Activity Table for Botswana camps:  Water/Land Botswana
Flying Times between Botswana camps:  Fly Times Botswana

For further information about the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, click More Linyanti
For further information about Botswana, click More Botswana

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