Park, in north-western Botswana, has one of the largest concentrations of game in
whole of Africa. By size, it is the third largest park of the country, after the
Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the Gemsbok National Park, and is the most
diverse. It is also the Botswana's first national park.
Geography and ecosystems
The park can be divided up to 4 areas, each corresponding to one distinct ecosystem:
area (or Chobe riverfront), situated in the extreme Northeast of the park, has
as its main geographical features lush floodplains and dense woodland of
mahogany, teak and other hardwoods now largely reduced by heavy elephant
pressure. The Chobe, which flows along the Northeast border of the park, is a
major watering spot, especially in the dry season (May through October) for
large breeding herds of elephants, as well as families of giraffe, sable and
cape buffalo. The flood plains are the only place in Botswana where the puku
antelope can be seen. Birding is also excellent here. Large numbers of carmine
bee eaters are spotted in season. When in flood spoonbills, ibis, various
species of stork, duck and other waterfowl flock to the area. This is probably
the most visited park section, partly because of its proximity to the Victoria
Falls. The town of Kasane, situated just downstream, is the most important
town of the region and serves as northern entrance to the park.
The Savuti Marsh area, 10 878 km² large, constitutes the western stretch of the park (50 km north of Mababe Gate). The Savuti Marsh is the relic of a large inland lake whose water supply was cut a long time ago by tectonic movements. Nowadays the marsh is fed by the erratic Savuti Channel, which dries up for long periods then curiously flows again, a consequence of tectonic activity in the area. It is currently flowing again and in January 2010 reached Savuti Marsh for the first time since 1982. As a result of this variable flow, there are hundred of dead trees along the channel's bank. The region is also covered with extensive savannahs and rolling grasslands, which makes wildlife particularly dynamic in this section of the park. At dry seasons, tourists going on safari often view warthogs, kudus, impalas, zebras, wildebeests and above all elephants bullying each other. At rain seasons, the rich birdlife of the park (450 species in the whole park) is well represented. Packs of lions, hyenas, zebras or more rarely cheetahs are visible as well. This region is indeed reputed for its annual migration of zebras and predators.
The Linyanti Marsh, located at the Northwest corner of the park and to the North of Savuti, is adjacent to Linyanti River. To the west of this area lies Selinda Reserve and on the Northern bank of Kwando River is Namibia's Mamili National Park. Around these 2 rivers are riverine woodlands, open woodlands as well as lagoons, and the rest of the region mainly consists of flood plains. There are here large concentrations of lions, leopards, wild dogs, Roan antelopes, Sable antelopes, hippopotamuses and above all enormous herds of elephants. The rarer red lechwe, sitatunga or crocodile also occur in the area. Birdlife is very rich here.
Between Linyanti and Savuti Marshes lies a hot and dry hinterland, mainly occupied by the Nogatsaa grass woodland. This section is little known and is a great place for spotting elands.
The original inhabitants of this area were the San bushmen (also known as the Basarwa people in Botswana). They were nomadic hunter-gatherers who were constantly moving from place to place to find food sources, namely fruits, water and wild animals. Nowadays one can find San paintings inside rocky hills of the park.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the region that would become Botswana was divided up to different land tenure systems. At that time, a major part of the park's area was classified as crown land. The idea of a national park to protect the varied wildlife found here as well as promote tourism first appeared in 1931. The following year, 24'000 km² around Chobe district were officially declared non-hunting area; this area was expanded to 31'600 km² two years later.
In 1943, heavy tsetse infestations occur throughout the region, making the idea of creating a national park momentarily left aside. It was only in 1953 that this project received governmental attention again: 21'000 km² were suggested to become a game reserve. As a result, the Chobe Game Reserve was born in 1960 with an area smaller than originally wanted. Finally, in 1967, the reserve was declared a national park.
At that time there were several industrial settlements in the region, especially at Serondela, where the timber industry proliferated. These settlements were gradually moved out of the park, and it was not until 1975 that the whole protected area was exempt from human activity.
Nowadays traces of the old timber industry are still visible at Serondela. Minor expansions of the park took place in 1980 and 1987.
The park is
probably best known for its spectacular elephant population: It contains an
estimated 50,000 elephants, perhaps the highest elephant concentration of
Africa, and part of the largest continuous surviving elephant population. The
elephant population seems to have solidly built up since 1990, from a few
Elephants living here are Kalahari elephants, the largest in size of all known elephant populations. They are characterized by rather brittle ivory and short tusks, perhaps due to calcium deficiency in the soils.
Damage caused by the high numbers of elephants is rife in some areas. In fact, concentration is so high throughout Chobe that culls have been considered, but are too controversial and have thus far been rejected.
At dry season, these elephants sojourn in Chobe River and the Linyanti River areas. At rain season, they make a 200-km migration to the southeast stretch of the park. Their distribution zone however outreaches the park and spreads to northwestern Zimbabwe.
are three main camping sites within the park, all of which are equipped with
shower-toilets facilities and require booking in advance:
The newest one at Ihaha was built in order to replace the closed one at Serondela. This camping site is also more remote in nature comparatively to the former one at Serondela.
At Savuti, 172 km southwest of Sedudu Gate. This camping ground overlooks the Savuti Channel.
The Linyanti has a number of private concessions where Luxury Camps has been built.
A smaller camping ground can be found at Linyanti, lying at 39 km Northwest of Savuti. The camping ground here overlooks the Linyanti River so there are many chances of seeing and hearing hippos in the river. Off the beaten tracks, the Linyanti camp is much quieter than the previously described ones. There is an ablution block with toilets and showers, and a boiler to heat water.
Chobe Game Lodge is the only permanent lodge in the park. Luxury tourist accommodation is also available in Savute.
4-wheel vehicles are usually used for transfer between camps, as the road network here is recent and relatively primitive. The road is best near the Chobe River. However it exists no facility between Maun and Kasane. Therefore it is always safe for tourists to carry with them basic items such as food, water or tools.
This park is considered for inclusion in the 5 Nation Kavango - Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.
The Chobe National Park, which is the second largest
national park in Botswana and covers 10,566 square kilometres, has one of the
greatest concentrations of game found on the African continent. Its uniqueness
in the abundance of wildlife and the true African nature of the region, offers
a safari experience of a lifetime.
The park is divided into four distinctly different eco systems: Serondela with its lush plains and dense forests in the Chobe River area in the extreme north-east; the Savuti Marsh in the west about fifty kilometres north of Mababe gate; the Linyanti Swamps in the north-west and the hot dry hinterland in between.
From Kasane, follow the new tar road past the airport to Sedudu Gate. Here all persons are required to check in and pay the park fees, unless proceeding on the tar road to Ngoma. Four-wheel drive vehicles are essential, especially if the intention is to travel extensively into the park - deep sand in some areas tests the skill of the driver and the capabilities of the vehicle. However, most rewarding game viewing awaits.
The original inhabitants of what is now the park were the San people, otherwise known in Botswana as the Basarwa. They were hunter-gatherers who lived by moving from one area to another in search of water, wild fruits and wild animals. The San were later joined by groups of the Basubiya people and later still, around 1911, by a group of Batawana led by Sekgoma. When the country was divided into various land tenure systems, late last century and early this century, the larger part of the area that is now the national park was classified as crown land. In 1931 the idea of creating a national park in the area was first mooted, in order to protect the wildlife from extinction and to attract visitors.
In 1932, an area of some 24,000 square kilometres in the Chobe district was declared a non-hunting area and the following year, the protected area was increased to 31,600 square kilometres. However, heavy tsetse fly infestations resulted in the whole idea lapsing in 1943. In 1957, the idea of a national park was raised again when an area of about 21,000 square kilometres was proposed as a game reserve and eventually a reduced area was gazetted in 1960 as Chobe Game Reserve. Later, in 1967, the reserve was declared a national park - the first national park in Botswana.
There was a large settlement, based on the timber industry, at Serondela, some remains of which can still be seen today. This settlement was gradually moved out and the Chobe National Park was finally empty of human occupation in 1975. In 1980 and again in 1987, the boundaries were altered, increasing the park to its present size.
A major feature of Chobe National Park is its elephant population. First of all, the Chobe elephant comprise part of what is probably the largest surviving continuous elephant population. This population covers most of northern Botswana plus northwestern Zimbabwe. The Botswana's elephant population is currently estimated at around 120,000. This elephant population has built up steadily from a few thousand since the early 1900s and has escaped the massive illegal offtake that has decimated other populations in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Chobe elephant are migratory, making seasonal movements of up to 200 kilometres from the Chobe and Linyanti rivers, where they concentrate in the dry season, to the pans in the southeast of the park, to which they disperse in the rains. The elephants, in this area have the distinction of being the largest in body size of all living elephants though the ivory is brittle and you will not see many huge tuskers among these rangy monsters.
Public camping grounds are situated within Chobe at Ihaha, Savuti and Linyanti with toilet and shower facilities available. Each of these camping grounds has its own unique character and a visit to each is recommended - however, it is once again stressed that a four-wheel drive vehicle is essential. Visitors travelling through the park should remember that this is essentially a wilderness area and, as such, no services are available between Kasane and Maun. Because of this, it is wise to carry basic safety items such as water, food, fuel, torches, extra wheels, tools, jacks and pumps. In all public camping grounds booking for campsites is essential.
Serondela has been closed down and a new camping ground has been opened at Ihaha. Ihaha has modern facilities, an attractive reception office and is more remote in nature.
Often described as one of, if not the best, wildlife-viewing area in Africa today. Savuti boasts one of the highest concentrations of wildlife left on the African continent. Animals are present during all seasons, and at certain times of the year their numbers can be staggering. If you allow yourself adequate time here (a minimum of three to four days is recommended) you will probably see nearly all the major species: giraffe, elephant, zebra, impala, tsessebe, roan, sable, wildebeest, kudu, buffalo, waterbuck, warthog, eland and accompanying predators including lion, hyena, jackal, bat-eared fox and possibly even cheetah and wild dog.
Savuti is famous for its predators, particularly its resident lions and spotted hyena populations. Sometimes you will have them uncomfortably close, as both they and marauding hyenas do wander through the campsite. Do NOT feed them. Almost certainly you will hear lion at night.
Savuti has an excellent new campsite. Lying 172 kilometres southwest of Sedudu gate, Savuti camping ground overlooks the Savuti River channel, which is currently dry. Geographically, Savuti is an area of many unknowns. One of the greatest mysteries is the Savuti Channel itself, which has over the past 100 years inexplicably dried up and recommenced its flow several times. The present dry period started in 1982.
In the furthest corner of Chobe National Park lies the forgotten paradise of Linyanti. Secluded and uncrowded, this short strip of swampy river frontage is reminiscent of the Okavango's permanent waterways with papyrus-lined lagoons, reed-beds and a towering canopy of trees.
The Linyanti Swamp covers an area of almost 900km2, to which follows the river and fills the area between the converging courses of the Kwando and Linyanti rivers. The national park only touches the river for a short section on the far eastern edge of the swamp.
The wildlife is plentiful, especially in the dry winter months when great concentrations of elephant, buffalo and zebra congregate along the river, with giraffe, impala and roan antelope being seen in the forests. The birdlife is diverse, if not overwhelming in its numbers. Waterbirds, including pelican, are common.
Linyanti has a small camping ground, 39 kilometres northwest of Savuti, among tall riverine trees overlooking the perennial Linyanti River. This is generally a quieter camp as it is off the main tourist circuit, but for those seeking a remote and peaceful environment, with spectacular dry season concentrations of elephant, Linyanti is the place to go. Access is rough and sandy and only reliable 4x4 vehicles should attempt this journey.
The Sedudu gate near Kasane also gives access to a public road that passes for 54 kilometres through the park to Ngoma gate. Ngoma is the entrance used by visitors from Namibia, with the border crossing nearby. The southern entrance to the park is at Mababe gate, along a route that connects with the Moremi Game Reserve. Mababe gate is some 56 kilometres south of Savuti and many visitors enter from Kasane, camp at Ihaha and then at Savuti, exit through Mababe and on through to Moremi - or the other way around. Apart from this circuit and the charming camp ground at Linyanti, another route within the park, which intrepid visitors take, is south from Sedudu for 68 kilometres to Noghatsaa and then across to Savuti, which is a further 140 kilometres. Roads through this area are not clearly signed at this time, so visitors should carefully plan their route before setting out and it is advisable to inform park staff of intentions to visit the Noghatsaa area.
Game viewing is at its best during the dry season, when the majority of natural pans have dried up, and it is wise to avoid the Chobe River front during the heavy rains from January to March. It is also wise to note that no fuel supplies are available within the park and visitors travelling between Kasane and Maun should ensure that they are self-contained for the entire journey. All drinking water should be boiled or chemically treated. Mosquitoes are prevalent throughout the park and visitors are strongly advised to take an anti-malarial prophylactic before, during and for four weeks from visiting the park, especially during the rainy season.
Nearest city: Kasane
Coordinates: 18°40'S 24°30'E
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