DIY safari inside the Chobe National Park
We couldn’t have ended our trip to Botswana better. After leaving the Moremi Game Reserve, our trip between Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia continued towards Kasane, to enter the most spectacular park in Africa: the Chobe National Park.
The Chobe National Park is located in the northeastern corner of Botswana, the Chobe River marks the northern border with Namibia and in the southeast with the Moremi Game Reserve.
Chobe National Park covers a protected area of 10,698 km², it is the third largest park in Botswana, after the Kalahari Game Reserve and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Established in 1967, it is renowned for hosting the highest elephant population in Africa and It is estimated that around 120,000 individuals live in Chobe.
The center of the park is completely flat with some rocks (kopjes) in the Savute area.
There are various entrance gates to the park, whatever gate you choose for access, you will have to arm yourself with a lot of patience: the staff inside the gate is very slow !!!! To access the park you will have to fill out a form and pay for access for both you and the car; this apparently simple operation becomes very complicated and takes a long time. We are in Africa!
It is possible to enter with your own vehicle, but it must be a 4×4 because the roads are very sandy and without a 4×4 it is impossible to proceed. Remember to deflate the off-road tires, the staff will be able to suggest you in the best way. Make sure to have a tow linea and a jack in the car, they will help you if you get stuck.
Inside the park it is not allowed to get out of the car, but you will find some areas called “stretching points” where you can get out of the car to stretch your legs and/or to eat; pay close attention to monkeys. Always looking for food, they will try to “steal” whatever you have in your hand, quickly close the car to prevent them from entering and taking away objects.
We have done other safaris in Kenya and South Africa, what pleasantly surprised me in this park is the amount of animals present: you will not see a single elephant but you will see hundred elephants, you will not see a single zebra, you will see hundred zebras, same thing for giraffes, impalas, …….
You will feel like to be inside a documentary.
Best season to visit
The best time to visit Chobe Park is the dry season, from June to October, when the animals gather along the river to quench their thirst and the chances of sightings increase significantly. During the rainy season some tracks become impassable and the chances of sighting are considerably reduced. October is the hottest month with a maximum temperature of 35 ° and minimum temperatures of 20 °. The coldest months are June and July with maximum temperatures around 25 ° and minimums around 6 °.
Rainfalls in the Chobe region are more abundant than in the rest of the country, the months with the greatest rainfall are January and February. In winter (italian’s summer) it never rains.
Chobe National Park Entry Gates
OPENING AND CLOSING TIMES
April – September
Opening time 06:00 – Closing time 18:30
October – March
Opening time 05:30 – Closing time 19:00
Chobe Park Areas
Chobe National Park is divided into various areas, each with its own particularity.
Savuti - Safari
The Savuti area is located in the southern part of the park, the main attraction is the Savuti canal which flows into a marshy area where herds of elephants live. Savuti is famous for the sighting of lions, it is in fact possible to see predators intent on hunting elephants that go to drink in the pools of water.
The roads are mostly sandy; pay attention in driving, we have seen some cars get stuck.
Linyanti is located in the west, it is an extension of the Okavango Delta, the main attraction of this area is the river: the permanent waters attract a large number of animals and birds.
The area is difficult to access due to the sandy road that connects Savuti to Linyanti, it is only 36 km away but it will take one hour or more.
There is a campsite overlooking the river, when we went we were only 2 families in the whole campsite. It is one of the campsites that I appreciated the most for the tranquility of the place. The river during the day is full of hippos, after sunset these pachyderms leave the river and go up to the shore to eat, this means that they will be a few meters from your tents and all night you will listen to their calls. Access to the toilets is prohibited during the night due to the presence of animals in the area. If you are lucky in the morning you will see a herd of elephants near your tent, they try to reach the river.
Most importantly here is to light a good fire, remember to get wood before to enter in the park.
Elephants are the main attraction of this area, but there are also a lot of impalas, kudus, warthogs and sables. It is a good place to see the rare roan antelope. The road to reach this area is extremely sandy,
Chobe River Front
This is one of the best areas in all Botswana for animal sighting: the Chobe river attract thousands of animals and birds everyday, this area is most famous for elephant sightings and amazing sunsets.
The road runs along the river and the sightings in this area are incredible, in addition to the elephants, you will see lots of zebras, giraffes, impalas, waterbucks, …..The sightings are greater during the dry season, when the animals get together at the river to drink, wash, play, ….
This part of the park is close to Kasane, this is an advantage but also a big disadvantage, Advantage because you can comfortably stay in Kasane and enter the park during the day, disadvantage because there is a large number of visitors and especially groups for day trips with a guide. We have seen unworthy spectacles that have made me look badly at these guides. To please their groups they try to get as close as possible to the animals by disturbing them, not leaving them even the space to move, and totally caring about the other travelers, if to see the animals better they have to get in front of you completely covering your view is not a their problem! It’s funny to see the people taking part in these day trips: in flawless light clothes, with straw hats, ….. like old African movies.
Many lodges and hotels in Kasane and in the area’s surroundings organize boat trips on the river, we haven’t tried them but people say those in the afternoon at sunset are very nice.
It is possible to stay inside the park in Ihaha camp, if you are looking for a luxury accomodation you can stay at Chobe Game Lodge.
As Kasane is very near, you can stay in the city and make daily trips inside the park. We booked late so we did not find an accomodation inside the park. We stayed outside at Mwandi View. It is a very beautiful camp, very clean with restaurant and bar, and a very large terrace from where you can see an African sunset with its strong colors.
During the dry season, the temperatures reach around 29-30 degrees during the day while during the night the temperatures drop significantly reaching temperatures close to zero.
During the rainy season at night temperatures are around 19 degrees, in the afternoon they exceed 30 degrees. The rains are more frequent in the months of January and February.
Where To Stay
All the lodges inside and outside Chobe are of superb quality and all come highly recommended. Since Kasane is only 5 km from the gate, it is a good option to stay there and do day trips to the park. If you do not have a 4×4 vehicle, day trips can be arranged through safari agencies in Kasane.
Inside the park there are various campsites, book in advance, we booked in April for July and we only found a place in Linyanti. Don’t expect large and organized campsites, it provides solar-heated water, rubbish disposal and taps with running water. However, there are no electricity points, firewood must be purchased before entering the Park as it is not allowed to pick up wood inside the park. Is is safe to go to the bathroom by veichle at night because there are dangerous animals around. The babbons can be very destructive. Keep in mind that they usually know how to open tents and it is necessary to keep food in locked trunks
These are the camps inside the park:
- Ihaha Public Camp Site: it is situated on the Chobe river, offering a beautiful view of the river. Babbons can be a problem. Bookings are done through Kwalate Safari, email@example.com
- Savute Public Camp Site: it is situated on the Savute river under big Camelthorn trees. Be aware of elephants, hyeanas and honeybadgers in the camp. Booking are done through SKL, firstname.lastname@example.org or through email@example.com
- Linyanti Public Camp Site: it is situated on the Linyanti river. Look out for elephants, hyaenas and baboons in the camping site. Bookings are done through SKL, firstname.lastname@example.org oppure email@example.com
We stayed here
Unfortunatly we only found a place for one night inside the park, in Linyanti, an isolated camp but in a beautiful location. The other nights we stayed outside the park, these are our accomodations, all are very nice.
- Mwandi View: it is a verynice place, it is not inside the park, but it is in a good location, only 18 km from the Ngoma Gate to the north-east and 4km from Kavimba to the South. The road is tar up to the gate. You can stay with your own tent or sleep in their fixed tent. If you have your own tent like us, you can stay in the campsite: there is electricity and bbq. There is a resturant and small swimming pool. The highlight of this place is the terrace, you can see the beautiful colorful sunset while having a drink and try to see some animals.
- Senyati Safari Camp: the highlight of this camp is the pool of water: sitting comfortably on the terrace of the bar, you can see the animals that come to drink, it is very exciting during the night to see the coming and going of the animals that meet at the pool. In the camp there is a “bunker” overlooking the pool to better see the animals, especially elephants, and hear the sound of their tunks when they drink. It is located in Lesoma Valley, about 20 km from Kasane.
- Elephant Trail Guesthouse and Backpackers, it is a family run lodge in Kasane. We spent here our last night in Botswana before moving to Zimbabwe. There are few rooms, each different from the other. It is possible to cook or eat something typical cooked by the staff. They are able to organize day trips in the Chobe National Park or to Victoria Falls. Tip: if you need a taxi to the border, do not use their taxi: it is very expensive, the border is very close.
Elephants: you will be fairly safe by following the golden rule – always give elephants the right of way! Never use your hooter or rev the engine, as that makes them more aggressive. Remember: do not take oranges with you, elephants love oranges and they will find them!
Hyaenas: hyaenas can become very bold in the camping sites. Do not feed them. Be awae that they will grab food from the table the minute you turn your back. Never leave dirty dishes, cooler boxes, shoes, bags, rubbish, clothes or any valuables outside at night, because the may well run off with it. They may attrack small children.
Baboons and monkeys: do not ever feed them. Be very aware of thei presence because they are bold and will grab anythong that vaguely resembel food. Do not leave camera or binoculars because they sometimes grab and damage it. They know how to open tents (mostly baboons), so it is advisable to tie the zips with tie-downs.
Honey badgers: they are common camp visitors at Savute and have been know to jump on the cars to inspect the roofrack.
Walking: if you are far from the ablutions in the camping site, it is safer to drive because of elephants, buffalo, hippos, lion and leopard.