While on a tour of Southern Africa, we visited the renowned Chobe National Park in Botswana. We travelled from Victoria Falls to the park’s northern entrance in the town of Kasane, close to Africa’s “four corners” where Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe all meet.
Chobe is Botswana’s first national park, and it has one of the largest concentrations of game in Africa. By size it’s the third largest park in the country after the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the Gemsbok National Park.
Chobe National Park is one of the best places in Africa to see elephants, particularly in the water. Some herds contain hundreds of elephants and the total number in the park is estimated at 120,000.
There are equally large herds of buffalo to be found. Both buffalo and elephant – and sometimes other animals as well – can often be seen outside the park boundaries wandering around the outskirts of Kasane, seemingly oblivious to traffic or people.
The park also affords lion and leopard sightings, while the Chobe River has an abundance of hippos and crocodiles and an almost inconceivable wealth of birdlife, including a number of particularly rare species that attract top wildlife photographers to the park.
We took a boat cruise of about three hours on the Chobe River. Having seen elephants frequently in the African bush and on the dry, dusty plains, it was amusing to see how much they love the water.
The elephants love frolicking in the river and sometimes swim through to the magical Sedudu Island, famed for its spectacular sunsets.
From our boat we could see across the Caprivi Strip into neighbouring Namibia. Extending like a long finger from the northeast corner of Namibia, the Caprivi Strip is bordered by Angola and Zambia to the north and by Botswana to the south. As well as being the focal point for a number of conflicts over many decades, including the Rhodesian Bush War, the Angolan Civil War and clashes between the Namibian government and the Caprivi Liberation Army, the Caprivi Strip was the subject of a longstanding territorial dispute between Botswana and Namibia.
The Botswana government considered it an integral part of the Chobe National Park, whereas the Namibian government argued that not only was the island a part of the old German-British agreement, but that generations of inhabitants had used it for seasonal grazing, reed gathering and even as a burial site. The matter was resolved in December 1999 when the International Court of Justice found in favour of Botswana.
After our boat trip we took a safari ride through the park, which consists of four areas: Ngwenzumba Pans, Linyanti, Savute and the Chobe Riverfront. When the dry season begins, large herds of elephant and buffalo seek the permanent waters of the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers, some coming all the way from Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.
All year round, Chobe’s wildlife includes zebra, impala, baboon, kudu, giraffe, warthog and vervet monkey … and elephants of course. Lions and spotted hyena are the dominant predators, but leopard and cheetah can also be seen.
Chobe and the surrounding region have a wide range of accommodation options, from picturesque campsites with good amenities in and around Kasane, right through to mobile bush camps and remote luxury lodges inside the region’s parks and reserves.
Most of Kasane’s accommodation options are found along the banks of the Chobe River and we made our base at one such riverfront property – Chobe Marina Lodge, right at the edge of Kasane and just a short drive from Chobe National Park. Accommodation is provided in 60-plus thatched studios, apartments, chalets and suites. All the rooms offer king or twin beds, mosquito nets and repellent, ensuite bathrooms, air-conditioning, ceiling fans, hairdryer, satellite television channels, tea and coffee making facilities and minibars.
The wrap-around sundowner deck gives a magnificent view of the Chobe River and its wildlife, some of which reside in the gardens surrounding the lodge, offering a sneak peek of what to expect in the park. Right at your doorstep you’ll find warthog, monitor lizard, vervet monkey, squirrel and mongoose.
There is a riverside dining venue called Commissioner’s on the first floor for gourmet nights. For more casual meals breakfast, snacks and light lunches are served at the Mokoros Family Restaurant.
There is a terrific poolside bar with great cocktails and a large swimming pool. At sunset, guests jostle for a front-row spot at the riverside bar to enjoy views across the Chobe River.
Kasane is a typical African small town with an eclectic mix of sights, and it has a good array of services and amenities including some quirky and colourful shops and restaurants. Local handicrafts and clothing are sold on the streets. It also has a hospital and a small international airport.
From here you can also access the world-famous Okavango Delta, although entering from Maun to the south is a better option.
Photos © Judy Barford, except –
- Sunset photo: Pixabay
- Airport photo: CAA Botswana