The wildlife along the northern stretch of the Chobe River is so unbelievably concentrated and varied that during a game drive here you may feel as though you have wandered onto the set for an iconic safari movie.
Located conveniently close to Victoria Falls, the Serondela and Chobe Riverfront area is the most accessible and frequently visited part of Botswana’s big game country. One of Africa’s most beautiful rivers, the Chobe supports a huge diversity and concentration of wildlife. As the dirt road descends from the Sedudu Gate near Kasane in the north, it winds along the Chobe Riverfront for close to 60 kilometres. Vast herds of Cape buffalo fill the air with their bovine scent and sounds as they browse the grasses. Look again, and you’ll see Kalahari elephant in their hundreds – just some of the 120 000 elephant that live in Botswana’s oldest and second-largest park. Keep a sharp eye out for hippo that even in the daytime may stroll right across the road in front of you. Nile crocodile slumber lazily on the banks or float loglike in the waters. During the dry winter months wild animals converge upon the river to drink, making game viewing particularly rewarding. Treat yourself to wildlife viewing by motorboat, which is very popular for good reason.
The rich variety of ecosystems in Chobe National Park supports a striking range of wildlife. In the riverine environment you can see semi-aquatic antelope such as puku, red lechwe and sitatunga. Up to 19 species of antelope can be found throughout the park, as well as large numbers of Burchell’s zebra and giraffe. Of course, these species in turn support predators, and the park has a considerable lion population as well as spotted and brown hyena and leopard (in the forested riverine areas), cheetah and the endangered African wild dog, particularly in the open grassland areas around Savute. Smaller mammals abound, including baboon, warthog, vervet monkey, honey badger, jackal and more. The lucky few may catch sight of the rare endangered pangolin.
Birders can tick off over 460 species of bird in this twitchers’ paradise, making it one of Africa’s premier venues for birding safaris. Notable species include the giant kingfisher, green-backed heron, pied kingfisher, white-fronted bee-eater, carmine bee-eater, African fish eagle, marabou stork, malachite kingfisher and the African skimmer.
To the west, in the park’s interior, is the Savute region, characterized by open grasslands and savannah woodland and best known for its predators, particularly lion, cheetah and hyena, of which there are large resident populations. The erratic Savuti Channel flows from the Linyanti River for about 100 kilometres, carrying water away from the river and releasing it into a vast swampland called the Savuti Marsh and further south onto the Mababe Depression. The Mababe is immense, flat and fringed with thickets of trees; when filled with water, it becomes the venue of choice for thousands of migratory birds and animals, particularly large herds of zebra. The Savuti Channel is famous for its long history of periodically drying up then recommencing its flow, owing to tectonic plate movements. After being dry for 30 years, in 2008 the channel once more became a deep, clear waterway harbouring hippo and aquatic life, with myriad varieties of waterbirds. (Interestingly, the variant spellings of Savute/Savuti are said to derive from the water’s unpredictable flow, with Savute now referring to the land and Savuti to the wetlands.)
In the northwest corner of Chobe you will find the beautiful Linyanti swamp and wetlands. This lush area’s lagoons and floodplains are worth exploring in their own right. The hot, dry Nogatsaa grass woodland lies between the Savuti Marsh and Linyanti. This hinterland is the wildest and least explored part of the park, and is home to large herds of eland.
Chobe National Park