Chobe National Park, located in northern Botswana, has one of the largest concentrations of wildlife in Africa. As well as being Botswana’s first national park, it is also its most biologically diverse, boasting various ecosystems that support an astonishing range of wildlife.
There are four main areas within the park:
Before Chobe was established as a national park, the area was inhabited by the San Bushmen: nomadic tribesmen who moved around the area to find sufficient food sources. Even today, there are many San paintings that exist inside rocky hills within the park, a reminder of the indigenous people that once lived there.
In 1931, an area of 24000km2 was sectioned off as a no hunting zone in order to protect the wildlife there. This was later extended to 31600 km2 two years later. However, Chobe was not officially declared a national park until 1967. By this time, the park had decreased in size to 11700 km2 and human activity within the area continued to be prolific, particularly within the timber industry. By 1975, Chobe National Park was fully established as a protected area, independent from human intervention. Today, it continues to be a safe haven for animal life and sees thousands of tourists come to admire its vast plains and diverse wildlife every year.
Chobe National Park is home to an incredible elephant population, with over 50,000 of these gentle giants roaming the plains. Chobe is also the perfect place to view the rest of the Big Five too: rhinoceros, lions, buffalo and leopards can all be spotted throughout the park.
Other large mammals such as giraffes, zebra, hyenas, antelopes, wildebeest and hippopotamus also reside in the park, presenting some of the best animal life Africa has to offer. To top it all off, the rivers and marsh areas are filled with crocodiles and also showcase rich birdlife, with over 450 species to find in and among the trees and bushes.
Chobe National Park offers exceptional wildlife viewing all year round. Although there are two main seasons, visiting the park at any time of year will still give you an incredible experience.
Dry season – May to October
Animals are much easier to spot during the dry season because the vegetation is less dense and they tend to congregate around waterholes and rivers. Even though the dry season is peak season, Chobe doesn’t get as crowded as some other national parks. However, the Chobe River can get very busy as it’s one of the best places to spot a multitude of animals. Mornings and evenings can get very cold, so wearing warmer clothes on early morning game drives is advisable, particularly in June, July and August.
Wet season – November to April
The wet season is characterised by increased rains. This causes the vegetation to be a lot greener and denser, which may hinder you in finding some animals but shouldn’t affect your experience too much. Newly born animals and migratory birds can be spotted at this time, providing you with excellent opportunities to take that perfect safari photograph.
January and February are the wettest months of the season, sometimes raining for days on end. This may cause flooding in some areas and could mean that certain camps and lodges will be closed, so it’s important to check this before you travel. October and November are Botswana’s hottest months and may not be ideal for visiting as many game drives require you to sit out in the sun for hours while searching for wildlife.
Chobe National Park offers a range of activities for its many visitors. Heading out on a game drive is the perfect way to see wildlife in their natural habitat. As well as the great species diversity on offer, Chobe’s gorgeous landscapes and varied ecosystems are a truly spectacular sight.
For a more unique animal experience, you can traverse the Chobe River on a sunset cruise. Travelling on the water will give you the best opportunity to see the many birds, hippos and crocodiles that make the river their home. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see a herd of elephants cross the river as they make their way to their evening grazing areas.
For a taste of authentic Botswana culture, visit a traditional tribal village. Once there you can observe how customary practices have been passed down for generations and learn about the cultural heritage of the region.