Chobe National Park, Botswana

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Elephant sighting in Chobe National Park
The famous African Elephant in Chobe National Park.

Hendrik and I recently had the chance to visit the Chobe National Park area of Botswana, as a part of our Victoria Falls Trip. We stayed three nights in Botswana to take in the various activities on offer and check out the accommodation options.

What is special about this area is the unique vantage point of game viewing from the Chobe River. We did three river activities while we were there: a sunset river cruise; a tiger fishing trip; and a photographic boat safari.

MASSIVE Chobe crocodile

Up first was a sunset boat cruise, lasting about 3 hours, until the sun sets at 6:00.  It was a thrill to see SO MUCH wildlife from the river: elephants drinking from and even swimming across the river; HUGE crocodiles, plenty of hippo, a herd of buffalo.

One downside of the Chobe experience is that there are several lodges in a fairly small area, and all of the send their boats and game viewers out at the same time (sunrise and sunset).  This means that there are plenty of human animals around too.  Sometimes that’s okay, but I personally enjoy a bit of quiet when I’m in nature.

Tiger Fish

One way around this is to go fishing!  Hendrik and I both love to fish, so this for us was a magical river experience.  I caught nothing but river reeds, but Hendrik caught (and released) two Tiger fish! If you are at all into fishing, I recommend this experience.  As they say, even a bad day of fishing is better than a good day in the office!

Our newly minted photographer

Our third river experience was to go on a photographic safari with Pangolin. They have custom-made boats, with one row of just eight seats, ensuring a great view of both sides of the river.  Set up with pro camera equipment and custom camera mounts, we saw more than ever on the river, and up close – the splash of the elephant spaying water; the water monitor lizard hunting for eggs; hippo peeking out of the river.  This is one of those life experiences you will always treasure.

Pangolin Safaris custom photo boat
water monitor lizard
Now that’s a game viewer!

Finally, the Chobe National Park game drive experience.  Again, we did this two different ways, with two different companies.  First was with Chobe Marina.  As mentioned above, there are about 15 game viewers from the different lodges, and they all go along the same river route.  The etiquette was a bit different than what we are used to in South Africa – these guys don’t hesitate to speed, cut each other off, or squeeze in front of one another at good game sightings.  I can complement Pangolin Photo Safaris on the way their team handles this.  Pangolin’s driver hangs back, or takes side roads, in order to avoid the congestion.  Their driver acted professionally and courteously, compared to the rest of the “cowboys”.

lilac-breasted roller

That said, the game viewing in Chobe National Park was great. Some of my favourite photos were of the fish eagle, the lilac breasted roller, and the lions.  There are no fences surrounding Chobe, so it’s not even uncommon to see some animals (such as warthogs) in town!

Another interesting fact about this area is that four countries meet here: Botswana, Namibia (the Caprivi Strip), Zambia, and Zimbabwe. We took a morning trip just across the river to Impalila Island, Namibia, to visit a local village. (Pro tip: make sure you have plenty of blank pages in your passport.  I filled up four pages in this seven day trip!)

We visited Kafubu Village in Namibia, inhabited by the Masubia tribe (I hope I got those names right).  Our guide worked for the Impalila Conservancy, and grew up on the island.  The village is centred on a huge baobab tree. Each family has a little compound of their own, with reed surrounding it to keep goats and other animals out. I always enjoy the cultural experiences the most, seeing how people in other places live a very different lifestyle than I am used to.

Where we stayed:

Aha Chobe Marina. From $375 per person sharing per night, including 2 activities and all meals.

Pangolin Chobe Hotel.  From $395 per person sharing per night, all inclusive (airport transfers, photo safaris, use of camera equipment, park fees, meals, & drinks). For a person who enjoys photography, or even just enjoys game viewing, this is a great option.  EXCELLENT guides and staff; pro camera gear which you get to use; stylish accommodation; and real, quality food. Hendrik was not a photographer before coming here, and came away with more than a thousand photos…

More accommodation options for Chobe National Park are available – please chat to us.

How to get there:

And a side note: we always make a point of trying the local beer wherever we travel. In Botswana, this local lager is called St. Louis, which is the city where I was born and raised in the United States!

Air: Fly into Kasane International Airport.  Kasane is a fairly small town – a transfer from the airport to the Botswana lodges just takes 5-10 minutes.

Chobe is reachable from the Victoria Falls area as a day trip.  From the Zambia side, it takes about 2 hours to transfer, and currently involves a ferry crossing at the border.  (Interestingly, a South Korean company is building a bridge over the Zambezi River, set for completion…. who knows when?) From the Zimbabwe side, the trip takes just over an hour one way, depending on the border conditions.

How to book:

Contact Hendrik or Chrissy for help with booking your Chobe Adventure. 🙂

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