Where: Botswana, south east Africa
Famed For: The biggest concentration of elephants in Africa, big game, water mammals and fish
Top Sight: The Kalahari elephant – the largest living land mammal!
Be Prepared: Bring safari kit, malaria tablets and a good camera
What Wildlife Is Here?
Just over the border of Botswana, Chobe National Park is one of the major sanctuaries for wildlife in Africa and the country’s second largest park. When on safari in the natural wilderness of the floodplain and forest, you can catch sight of a variety of African big game – elephant, buffalo, antelope, zebra and giraffes – hanging out in the acacia trees, as well as hippos and crocodiles wallowing in the lake beds.
There is a huge concentration of elephants in the park, thought to be the largest in Africa and estimated at around 100,000. The Chobe elephants managed to escape the mass slaughter seen in other African parks during the 1970’s and 80’s. The elephants migrate 130 miles to the south east of the park in the rainy season. It’s the home of the Kalahari Elephant, the largest of all living elephants.
The Park hosts an outstanding variety of habitats; from the floodplains, baobab, acacia and mopane tree woodlands to the thickets of grasslands bordering the Chobe river. The Linyanti River to the North and the Savuti Channel in the south also means the park has a huge range of water life and makes it a great place for fishing. There are more than 91 species of fish for the catching. The park is famous for not only its big species and game, but the staggering 450 species of bird from eagles to kingfisher, bee-eaters and marabou storks.
The original human inhabitants of the park were the San people, known in Botswana as the Barawa. They were hunter-gatherers who moved around in search of water, fruits and wild animals. They were later joined by the Sabubiya people and in the 20th century by a group of Btawana, so wildlife aren’t the only things you may see in the park.
The Park’s Region
There are four main regions of the park:
– The Chobe River Front is a rich forest and thought to be Africa’s finest short safari drive as it is home to elephants and buffalo in the dry season and birdland year round.
– The central pans of the Nogatsaa Grass Woodland is little known and is wet even in the dry season, attracting game from August to October. It’s a great place to see eland.
– The Linyanti Wetlands in the north-west of the park is the home of the isolated Linyanti Swamp which extends into Namibia’s Mamili National park.
– The Savuti Region is Botswana’s most famous wildlife area. Covering over 3000 sq miles, the area includes the Savuti March, the Mababe Depression and the Magwikhwe Sand Ridge. The Savuti was once dry for a hundred years before flooding suddenly in the 1950’s, then dried up again in the 1980’s. This strange force of nature was caused by shifting of the earth tectonic plates. During the dry season the depression is like a desert. There is a huge variety of predators and game, and in its pans and waterholes the bull elephants are on the rampage during the dry season. The Savuti region with its annual zebra migration in the Depression region is a prime location for safaris.
Where To Stay
Chobe is a pretty luxury park to visit, there are a number of luxury hotels and lodges in the northern town of Kasane and Kazangula and an international airport is located nearby. The park itself is also only an hour’s drive from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
The roads in the park are relatively recent and somewhat primitive, so you will definitely need a four wheel drive vehicle to explore the park. The roads are better near the Chobe River, when the best time to set off for a Game drive is early morning or late afternoon. Then you may see thousands of elephants come to drink in the river, where you can see the best siting of elephants in the wild you will probably ever experience.
Words by Susi O’Neill
Main image: courtesy of Chobe.com