Having completed five great days on safari in the Okavango Delta, we caught a tiny bush plane (Safari Air) on an almost non-existent sand strip and spent two hours flying to Kasane, a small town in northern Botswana near the entrance to Chobe National Park. The flight took us over the myriad of small pools and channels in the Delta, the Kalahari desert and finally towards the forested northern part of the country where we could, in the distance, see the Chobe River. We were greeted at the airport by our guide, Disho, from ‘And Beyond‘, our safari company. Our gear was sequestered into the Toyota Land-Cruiser and we soon drove into the area with greatest animal concentrations in the country, Chobe National Park.
When we first talked to Disho, he wanted to know what animal experiences we’d had so far so we outlined what we’d seen — a substantial list of sightings. We told him we hoped to fill in some holes in our animal list and to see lots of critters. “Don’t worry”, said Disho. “This is Chobe….In Chobe we trust”.
And we certainly grew to trust in Chobe because it’s just filled with animal life unlike anything I’ve ever experienced since seeing the Million Animal Migration in Tanzania. There are probably few places on the planet where you can see more wildlife in a day than in Chobe. It’s a place I’d recommend everyone who visits Southern Africa see. The park has many well-armed military patrols guarding the elephants and other wildlife, obviously with good results as poaching is almost non-existent.
Chobe is best know as a great place to see elephants and it’s home to around 60,000 of these giants, the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. You’ll get to see hundreds of these wonderful creatures wandering the massive “superhighway” trails they’ve created as they head to the Chobe River for their daily consumption of 100 gallons of water and a cooling bath. The elephant experience at Chobe was truly terrific and we never grew tired of seeing these animals, but they do take a toll on vegetation. We were there at the end of the dry season and there was very little greenery left for any of the animals to eat; the park was severely overgrazed and the animals were starving.
The bulk of our visit was spent around the Chobe Riverfront including 4 animal game drives and an afternoon boat cruise of the Chobe River, an experience I’d recommend as a great way to stay cool and to see hundreds of animals up close both in and out of the water. The plains adjoining the river had lush grass and there were hundreds of animals grazing, including buffalo, elephants and dozens of hippos (these usually are found in the water during the day and Chobe is only place in Africa I’ve ever seen hippos outside of the water during daylight).
But there’s so much more to Chobe than elephants. Chobe has a large and healthy population of lions and leopards, a large number and assortment of antelope (eg. kudu, impala, sable), plentiful varied bird watching and many rarer animals. For example, we came across a family pack of 8 African Wild Dogs. They were mostly resting from the heat of the day under the shade of a tree, but we had the privilege of spending nearly an hour watching the interactions of the pups with their parents. It was a great experience, especially considering there are only 7000 of these animals left in the wild. We also saw monitor lizards, Nile crocodiles, African wild cats, leopard turtles and many fish eagles (often eating fish they’d caught in the Chobe River). One of the treats of the visit to Chobe was tracking (by car) and following a lion pride heading out to hunt.
There is only one permanent tourist facility in the park, namely Chobe Game Lodge. Everyone else visits as part of a day trip or stays in tented camps. Some brave souls bring their own tent, but we stayed at a tented safari run by ‘And Beyond’. It was tenting at a level you’ll rarely find. Under our canvas roof we had a comfortable king-sized bed and blankets (no sleeping bags), electric lights (run off a car battery), warm showers, and a flush toilet. Meals were very tasty and I’m not sure if I can ever go back to car camping in America after how we were pampered by the staff. They not only drove us around and showed us the wildlife but cooked, cleaned and completely spoiled and looked after us; they even sang beautiful Boatswain traditional songs on the night of our departure.
The visit to Chobe was a crowning jewel on this trip’s wildlife experience. “In Chobe we trust”. It’s a good motto. Go see why for yourself.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)