The Chobe National Park, in the northeast of Botswana, near the borders to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia, is famous for its vast variety of wildlife. It is named after the Chobe River which forms the northern boundary of the park.
It is the third largest national park in Botswana, covering an area of 10,566 km2 (4,080 sq mi).
Located in northern Botswana, Chobe National Park attracts thousands of visitors every year due to its fame as one of the largest game concentrations in the country. This wildlife sanctuary also boasts the largest elephant population in Africa. Chobe National Park is the most diverse and third largest park in Botswana, and was the first national park in the country created in 1968. The northern regions of the park are characterized by the Chobe River riverfront and its floodplains. Marshlands including the Savuti and Linyanti are other distinct regions within the park. The Savuti Marsh is fed by the Savuti Channel which irrigates the area unpredictably in an otherwise dry landscape.
Flora and fauna
Chobe has one the greatest concentration of elephants of any national park in Africa. They are most visible during the dry season when they congregate around the water sources, especially the Chobe river.
You can see 4 of the Big 5 in Chobe: elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo - but not rhino, since they were moved from the park in the 70s to save them from poaching. There have been rumours about reintroducing them to the park, but as of 2022 no announcements have been made if it will happen. Since the pandemic the lion population of the park has increased a lot and according to staff in the park, it has been increasingly common to be able to see them, although no guarantee of course. Chobe has a multitude of antelopes, including the rare sable, as well as other commonly seen safari animals from large to small such as giraffes to warthogs.
Chobe is additionally known for its abundance of birds due to its varied watery landscape. There are over 400 species of birds recorded within the park. Over the summer wet season, Chobe is home to various migrating species like bee eaters. Along the riverbanks, there are many aquatic birds such as the African fish eagle, herons, storks, and many more.
The park has a distinct wet and dry season, the wet being from December until May. As with much of Africa the animals may migrate further from the permanent water sources during the wet, and therefore are easier to view during the dry.
There are a multitude of tours operating from Kasane and from both sides of the falls at Victoria Falls and Livingstone. The Sedudu Gate to the south of Kasane is the most common access point into the park. From September-April, gate times are from 06:00 to 18:30. During the summer season from October-March, gate times are from 05:30 to 19:00.
The closest airport is Kasane Airport which is minutes away from the Sedudu Gate. Kasane Airport has regularly scheduled Airlink and Air Botswana flights to Johannesburg and Gabarone. The larger Victoria Falls airport about 1.5 hours away will have more frequent direct connections to other regional cities.
Tours and transfers operating from Victoria Falls will take you to the common river border between Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. A short boat crossing puts you in Botswana, only five minutes drive from Kasane and the Safari lodges. Alternatively, tours will bring you over the land border at Kazungula.
Fees and permits
Park entrance fees apply. Additional fees for driving in your own vehicle and for campsites. Children under 8 have free entry. The following entry fees as of March 2023:
Entry and vehicle fees are often included with the tour price if you are on a guided tour.
Main methods of getting around are by safari vehicle or boat. The roads are not paved and carved through the landscape by bulldozers. Roads are extremely sandy when dry and muddy when wet. A 4-wheel-drive properly equipped vehicle is essential if you want to drive yourself. There is a one-way system for getting around the park near Kasane. Read the signs at the entrance. No driving off road is allowed.
The day-tours are often half a day on land and half a day by boat. Boats go along the Chobe River between the park and Namibia. The boat trip will allow you to see some crocodiles and elephants at close quarters. The boat operators tend to keep their distance a little more from the hippos. You can expect to see a far greater variety of wildlife on land. There is an abundance of safari-vehicles that will drive you around from Kasane or the safari lodges.
Other remote parts of the park in the south may require access by bush plane to small airfields.
Chobe is home to vast herds of elephants - estimated to be around 50,000 in the region. These are the Kalahari elephants and are the biggest in Africa but often have broken tusks, this is due to the lack of calcium in their diet which renders them brittle. Quite commonly you will see these elephant herds drinking and playing by the Chobe riverfront and the surrounding floodplains. Other animals also frequent the river as a consistent source of water. The park is known for its many bird species with the variety of riverine and marshy landscapes. Look for the iconic fish eagles by the trees lining the riverside as well as many other water birds such as storks, plovers, and kingfishers.
All the other large animals are present except rhino which have been removed to sanctuaries due to poaching.
Guided tours are the best way to view wildlife, as tour guides are highly trained professionals, capable of spotting wildlife most people would never notice. A boat tour along the Chobe River is perfect viewing for both birds and animals looking for a drink. Sunrise and sunset boat tours are especially picturesque.
Kasane is the most accessible nearby town to buy anything for your time within the park or for souvenirs.
There are basic picnic areas in the park to bring in your own food and drink, but otherwise there are no facilities within the park that sell food and drink.
Most visitors stay either nearby in the town of Kasane or come to Chobe on a day trip from Victoria Falls. There is only one permanent lodge within the park with other accommodation options either being camping sites or via seasonal and mobile tented safari through the park.
- Chobe Game Lodge, ☏ , email@example.com. Overlooking the Chobe River and the Caprivi floodplains, this is the only permanent safari lodge within Chobe National Park. All inclusive lodge with both land and river based safari activities. Ecotourism certified with electric safari vehicles as well as solar-powered boats. From USD800+ per person/night.
- Camp Savuti (Requires bush plane into Savuti airfield from Kasane or Maun), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Remote fully inclusive tented camp accommodations in the Savuti region of park. Only 5 tents for a more private experience compared to the more frequented northern regions of the park. From USD630+ per person/night.
- Chobe Chilwero Lodge. This 15 suite lodge borders the Chobe National Park and is situated above Chobe River, offering some good views. It is luxury accommodation and therefore not really cheap, but this is the case with most establishments in Botswana. From USD750+/night.
There are some designated camping areas in the park, though it is highly recommended to not do so without a guide. Even then take some vigilance to assure safety.
The animals in the park should be respected at all times. Never try to interact with the wildlife.
Chobe National Park is situated in the malaria zone. Consult with a doctor about appropriate prophylaxis.
- Drive to the Victoria Falls at the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Distance is about 60 km.
- Go south into the Okavango Delta.