The Chobe National Park
A GUIDE FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS
The Chobe National Park (more simply known as The Chobe) is the third largest national park in Botswana after the Central Kalahari NP and the Gemsbok NP which is part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
The park’s northern boundary is the Chobe River and this is where we operate most of our safaris in this fantastic and ecologically diverse part of Africa.
We started Pangolin Photo Safaris in the Chobe as we believe it to be the best “year round” wildlife photography destination in Africa. While other destinations in Africa can also claim seasonal highlights, like the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara, in The Chobe there is always something to photograph throughout the year!
The elephants of The Chobe are always a photographic highlight. They tend to be very relaxed and allow for some very close and personal encounters – while always respecting the animals’ boundaries of course.
A bucket list sighting is witnessing a herd of elephants swim across the river which happens quite frequently.
On a boat safari on the river on one of our custom photo boats we have the ability to shoot from very low angles which is especially advantageous when a large subject, like a hippo, buffalo or elephant is then above amplifying tehur size and stature.
When lions and leopards do come down to the river to drink we can position ourselves to photograph them at eye level from a few meters away which always produces a wonderfully intimate portrait.
Photographing birds on the Chobe is always very rewarding. The Fish Eagles are always abundant and the year is filled with photogenic species like Yellow Billed storks, Pygmy Geese, assorted Bee Eaters and African Jacana.
Photo Safari Activities in The Chobe
Photographing on our custom photo boats on The Chobe is a unique safari experience. For this reason when you are with us you will tend to do more boat activities than game drives on a ratio of around 3:1.
The boats are custom built with 8 fully rotating chairs with articulated camera mounts and gimbals.
Onboard the boat is always skippered by a Botswana registered guide along with one of our photo hosts who is there to help you get your shots.
They work as a team to help you get into position for your shots.
We venture into the Chobe national Park on land in one of our long wheel base Land Cruisers which seats 8 guests in 4 rows ensuring everyone has a window seat.
The vehicles have roofs to protect against the harsh African Sun and intermittent rain showers in the summer months.
As the Chobe is a national park game viewing is from the roads only which can be restrictive for the purposes of maneuvering for a shot.
We do recommend travelling to The Okavango Delta, Kalahari or Madikwe in conjunction with The Chobe as game drives there can off road at special sightings for better positioning.
When you think of The Chobe National Park the animal that most springs to mind is The African Elephant. It is estimated that The Chobe is hope to over 100,000 elephants which is a significant proportion of Africa’s entire population.
Along the river you will find plenty of hippos, crocodiles and larger antelope species such as Water Buck, Red Lechwe, Kudu, Puku and Impala. On occasion we have amazing sightings of big cats from the Chobe River but they tend to seek out water sources inland to avoid the crocodiles. For big cat sightings we take game drives further into the park.
The Chobe floodplains are also happy hunting grounds for packs of Wild Dogs that pass through the region. The birdlife in The Chobe is extraordinary, especially in the summer months between November and April, when the migratory species including Carmine Bee Eaters and African Skimmers are in residence. The chobe riverfront is also home to one of the densest populations of Fish Eagles in Africa.
The banks of the Chobe are also home to several Kingfisher species from the diminutive Malachite Kingfisher up to The Giant. The chobe is a veritable bird watching hot spot!
Like the Okavango Delta, the Chobe River starts its life in the Angolan Highlands. From there the water flows through the Kwando (Cuando) to the Linyanti and then forms the Chobe River in Ngoma. Eventually the river joins with the mighty Zambezi before crashing over the Victoria Falls 65 kilometers further downstream.
The water levels of The Chobe River fluctuate depending on the season and the amount of Rainfall in Angola. The floods tend to be at their highest around April to June.
An interesting fact about the Chobe is that it flows in two different directions depending on the time of year. The waters from the Zambezi when in full flood will, for a month or two each year, push The Chobe back towards its source.
The Chobe is serviced by Kasane International Airport (BBK) which was recently upgraded and is a short 5 min drive to The Pangolin Chobe Hotel. There are daily flight to Johannesburg, which acts as an international hub as well as the departing point for the charter flights into The Okavango Delta.
Alternatively the airports of Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) and Livingstone (Zambia) are a short transfer by road across the border.
For more information on flights to The Chobe you can have a look at this article here.
The town of Kasane which borders the Chobe game reserve is connected via a fairly decent road network from the south. You can pretty much stay on tarmac all the way from South Africa and if you are feeling more adventurous you can collect a 4×4 and head into wilderness areas of Botswana and then eventually pop out on the Northern border – the Chobe River. It is recommended though that some experience in 4×4 driving be attained before attempting this.
As we said at the top of the page The Chobe is a fantastic photo safari destination throughout the year.
For the largest concentrations of elephant you would want to be there in October. For birding it is January to March. For cooler temperatures it’s May to July. The seasons do bring with them different room rates at the safari lodges and so you will need to weigh up your photographic ambitions along with your budgetary restrictions to find the sweet spot.
Our travel planners are masters at making the most of every safari itinerary to make sure you return home with plenty of keeper images!