Chobe National Park, in
northwest Botswana, has one of
the largest game concentration in
Africa continent. By size, this is the
third largest park of the country, after the Central Kalahari
Game Reserve and the Gemsbok National Park, and is the most diverse.
This is also the
country's first national park.
Geography and ecosystems
Panoramic of the Chobe
The park can be divided up to 4 areas, each corresponding to one
- The Serondela area (or Chobe
riverfront), situated in the extreme Northeast of the
park, has as main geographical features lush plains and dense
teak forests. The Chobe River, which flows along the Northeastern border of the
park, is a drinking spot for elephants and
buffalo at dry season. The
famous bee-eater is also spotted here,
along the river. This is probably the most visited park
section, partly because of its proximity to the Victoria Falls. The town of Kasane, situated at
the river, 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 movement. Nowadays the
marsh is fed by the erratic Savuti
Channel, which dries up when rainfall
is abundant and floods up at other times. The channel can also stop
flowing during long periods then curiously flows again, a
consequence of tectonic activity in the area. 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,
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.
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
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.
- Finally, 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
original inhabitants of this area were the San
bushmen (also known as the Basarwa people in
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
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
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
In 1943, heavy tsetse
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
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.
A baby elephant on the banks of the
The park is probably best known for its spectacular elephant
population: 50,000 elephants today, it is actually the highest
elephant concentration of Africa. Moreover, most of them are
probably part of the largest continuous surviving elephant
population on Earth. The elephant population seems to have solidly
built up since 1990, from a few thousand. They have not been
affected by the massive illicit exploitation of the 1970s and
Elephants living here are Kalahari
, the largest in size of all known elephant
populations. Yet 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.
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
Tourists swarming for rare sighting of
a young leopard.
There are three main camping sites within the park, all of which
are equipped with shower-toilets facilities and require booking in
- The new and modern one at Ihaha was
recently 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 there is another excellent new
camping site, which lies at 172 km Southwest of Sedudu Gate. This
camping ground overlooks the Savuti Channel (currently dry).
- The Linyanti has a number of private concessions where Luxury
Camps has been built with the aim of hosting affluent European
& American Tourists.
- A third, smaller camping ground can be found at Linyanti, lying at 39 km Northwest of Savuti. The camping ground here overlooks the
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
- Chobe Game Lodge is the only permanent lodge in the park,
luxury tourist accommodation is also available in Savute.
Wide open seating area for
Each camping ground is designed differently, which makes the visit
of all of them interesting. 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