chobe-national-park-elephant

C
hobe National Park, put simply, is a photographer’s paradise. The park itself covers a staggering 11,700 square kilometers but the greatest concentration of game is to be found along its northern borders on The Chobe River.

Often referred to as the Chobe Riverfront, this section of the park forms part of the land border between Northern Botswana and Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. The main town in the area is called Kasane- which is a traditional route for tourists travelling through from Victoria Falls to the Okavango Delta and vice versa.

Chobe National Park offers four distinctive ecosystems:

  • The Serondele area (also known as the Chobe riverfront) in the north east consists of lush plains and dense forests. This attracts large mammals that come here to graze. The Serondela area is close to Victoria Falls and is the most visited part of the Chobe National Park.
  • The Linyanti swamps are situated in the western section of Chobe. This area is known for its predators and large concentration of game particularly elephant and rhino. These large mammals make their way down the river during the winter months. The river is complimented by the contrasting dry woodlands.
  • The Savuti Channel bisects the park and then empties into the Savuti Marsh situated in the west of the park. The area consists of rich grasslands, savannah woodland and a huge variety of vegetation and trees. This is an area which has been well covered in a number of wildlife documentaries in including National Geographic documentaries
  • The Tchinga and the Nogatsaa are perfect for the adventurous traveller. It is a hot and dry heartland which holds a large amount of water. The dry season attracts a lot of game between August and October.

Chobe National Park is home to a variety of habitats including floodplains, baobab trees, mopane trees, acacia woodlands and verdant flood grasslands next to the Chobe River.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the majority of the park’s area was classified as crown land. In 1931 the start of the development to turn the area into a national park to promote tourism and preserve wildlife had begun. By 1932 and area of 24 000 km² was declared non- hunting land and increasing in sizxe over the next 2 years to 31 600 km². Fly infestations sank the idea of a national park in 1943 and in 1953 the government considered the idea of a game reserve once more. In 1960 the Chobe game reserve was born and finally became a national park in 1967. The original inhabitants of the park were the San people, also known in Botswana as the Basarwa people.

There are three large lodges in Kasane (Mowana Lodge, Safari Lodge and Marina Lodge) as well as several guesthouses and smaller lodges. There is accommodation of all styles and levels from the smallest of self-catering units to the luxurious Sanctuary Chilwero lodge on top of the Kasane Plateau.

Pangolin Photo Safaris chose The Chobe as its base for the simple reason that there are very few places in Africa where you will get as many fantastic photographic opportunities in your time spent there. The abundance of subject matter, the great weather, as well as the advantage of being able to approach either on land or by boat makes the Chobe arguably the most photo-friendly park around.

The Chobe climate

March – August = Cool and Dry
August – November = Hot and dry
December – January = warm and slightly rainy
February = Wet but spectacular birding!!!

Most visitors to Chobe choose to go during its famous dry- season game viewing. May to the end of October/ early November is when a large concentration of animals gather around the Chobe River and the park’s central Savuti region. The rainy season is between November and March. Rains usually begin mid- December making travelling through the area difficult at times but most of the Chobe River area is still accessible. This is also the warmest time of the year with high humidity and abundance of mosquitoes. Most animals give birth during this time and bird life is abundant. During May, June and July, the park becomes bone- dry and nights are freezing cold. Temperatures start to rise as rainy season approaches and August, September and October offer excellent game viewing but temperatures can soar during this period.

Some of what you will see

Land Mammals

Chobe is perhaps best known for its large herds of elephants. The huge concentration is currently estimated to be more than 120 000. These are the largest surviving elephant population in the world. The Chobe elephants are migratory animals making seasonal movements of up to 200 kilometres. It is not uncommon to see large herds of elephant (more than 100) coming down to the water’s edge.  One will also find large herds of buffalo and Burchell’s zebra as well as high densities of predators such as a lions, leopards, cheetah, and spotted hyena.

Due to the concentration of prey species (impala, kudu, warthog etc) competing for space along the river you are sure to have some amazing predator sightings while in the Chobe. We have an abundance of lion, leopard, wild dog, hyena and sometimes cheetah in the area and its not uncommon to come across multiple sightings of these species on a game drive in the Unimog through the park a little way inland from the river.

Water Mammals

There are large populations of hippo along the Riverfront crowded together in to rafts or pods as the groups are often called. Hippos often make for great subjects as they “yawn” to warn rivals (and sometimes us) away from their territory. During the drier seasons the hippos are often found grazing on Sedudu Island in the middle of the Chobe River during the day, which is another great photo opportunity as normally a hippo only leaves the safety of the water in other rivers at night.

Chobe is also home to the red lechwe, which is a beautiful antelope that spends most of its time in and around the soft vegetation of the river banks. These beautiful buck with their sloping backs often run as a herd through the wetlands making for excellent action group shots.

Birds

There have been over 460 recorded species of bird in The Chobe and none are more photogenic than the beautiful Fish Eagle. It is said that on the waterways between Katima and Kasane there is a fish eagle every kilometer. The reason for their numbers are because of the abundance of barbel and other fish in the waters meaning that the eagles have to spend less time hunting and can dedicate more time to protecting their offspring (usually pairs) and thus the population grows exponentially.

Reptiles

There are some massive crocodiles in The Chobe river and they are often found basking along the banks of the river especially in the early morning. The crocs are very relaxed generally (especially the big ones) which allow for us to position the boat for a wonderful close up.

Chobe-River

Chobe River

This magnificent river runs along the northern border of the Chobe National Park in Botswana. In the northern highlands of Angola it rises on the slopes of Mount Tembo where it is called the Kwando. From here it travels an enormous distance before reaching the Kalahari sands and then onto Botswana where it becomes Linyanti. From here it reaches Ngoma where it becomes the Chobe River. The Chobe’s course like the Okavango and the Zambezi River, is affected by fault lines which are extensions of the Great Rift Valley.  Four distinctive geographical locations namely the Chobe Riverfront, the Ngwezumba pans, Savuté and Linyanti make up the Chobe National Park. The riverfront is famous for its large herds of mammals which come down to the river to drink during the dry winter months.

The Chobe supports a diversity of concentrated wildlife which is unlike anywhere else in the country. It is not uncommon to see hundreds of elephants during this time making their way down to the river to drink, bathe and play. On a game drive exploring the water’s edge you may encounter a number of animals at any one time including puka, lechwe and waterbuck, which can only be found in this part of Botswana. The river offers a fantastic avenue for game viewing, but it is not the only way to explore and see animals in the park. A river cruise allows a different vantage point as onlookers get the chance to see crocodile, hippo and other aquatic animals up close. There is also a large array of aquatic birds to be found.