The Chobe National Park is located in the Northern part of Botswana and comprises an area of approximately 11 000 km². The park lies along the Chobe River, which borders Botswana and Namibia. The Chobe National Park is the second largest park in Botswana and is known for its superb game viewing all year round as it has one of the largest populations of game on the African continent. Chobe is probably most well known for its impressive herds of African Elephants. The Chobe River supports the largest concentration of elephant found anywhere in Africa and it is not uncommon to encounter herds in excess of a hundred.
The Chobe River has its origins in Angola, where it is known as the Kwando River. When it enters Botswana, the Kwando River becomes the Linyanti and then near Ngoma Gate it becomes the Chobe River. The Chobe River meets up with the Zambezi River near Kazangula at the border of Botswana. Guests are able to fish for tigerfish and bream in both the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers, which undoubtedly are the premier tigerfishing waters in Africa.
Chobe National Park offers four distinct different ecosystems:
- Serondela area (or Chobe riverfront) in the north east has lush plains and dense forests which attract huge numbers of elephants and buffalo. The Serondela area is the most visited part of Chobe National Park, as it is situated near Victoria Falls.
- Savuti Marsh is situated in the west of the park. The Savuti Channel bisects the Chobe National Park and empties into the Savuti Marsh. The Savuti Marsh area is well known for its coverage in a number of popular wildlife documentaries, especially the National Geographic films by Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Savuti has rich grasslands, savannah woodland and a large variety of trees and vegetation.
- Linyanti Swamps are situated on the western section of Chobe. The Linyanti River and marshes are complimented by the contrasting dry woodlands. The Linyanti Wildlife Reserve area is renowned for predators and large concentrations of game, particularly Elephant and Buffalo which move down to the Linyanti River at the start of the winter months.
- The Nogatsaa and Tchinga, a hot and dry hinterland – this area is for the adventurous traveller. The hinterland area holds water well into the dry season and attracts a profusion of game between August and October. This area is particularly good for viewing eland.
Habitats found in the Chobe National Park range from floodplains, mopane trees, baobab trees, acacia woodlands, to verdant flood grasslands and thickets bordering the Chobe River.
The most remarkable feature of the Chobe National Park is its huge concentration of elephants. Chobe National Park hosts the largest surviving elephant populations in the world, currently estimated to exceed 120,000. This population is dispersed throughout much of northern Botswana as well as parts of northwestern Zimbabwe. The Chobe elephants are migratory, making seasonal movements of up to 200 kilometers in a circuit from the Chobe and Linyanti rivers, where they concentrate in the dry season, to the pans in the southeast of the park, where they gather during the rainy season.
Chobe National Park is home to huge herds of Elephant, Buffalo, and Burchell’s Zebra. There are high densities of predators such as Lion, Leopard, Spotted Hyena and Cheetah. The park also hosts more unusual antelope species like Roan and Sable, Puku, Tsessebe, Eland, Red Lechwe, Waterbuck, and the rare Chobe Bushbuck. Other more popular species such as Giraffe, Kudu, Warthog, Wildebeest and Impala also abound in the park.
The original inhabitants of the Chobe National Park were the San people (also known as the Basarwa people in Botswana). The Basarwa were hunter gatherers and moved from one area to another in search of water, wild fruits and wild animals.
At the 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 ideas of a national park to protect the varied wildlife found here as well as promote tourism first appeared in 1931. In 1932, an area of 24 000 km² in the Chobe district was declared a non-hunting area and during the following two years, this protected area increased in size to 31 600 km².
Due to heavy tsetse fly infestations in 1943, the idea of a national park was cancelled. It was only in 1953 that this project received governmental attention again and 21 000 km² were suggested to become a game reserve.
As a result, the Chobe Game Reserve was born in 1960 and finally, in 1967, the reserve was declared a national park. The boundaries of the National Park were altered in 1980 and 1987 respectfully, increasing the size of the national park.
Chobe National Park is easily accessed by road and by air. Guests are able to fly into various airports, for example, Kasane Airport in Botswana is situated just outside the Chobe National Park. Kasane is a bustling town situated on the Chobe River and offers trouble free access to the Chobe National Park. In Kasane there is a large range of accommodation options to choose from, ranging from camp sites, to lodges and hotels
There are also flights into Victoria Falls Airport, Zimbabwe or Livingstone Airport in Zambia. Combining a stay in Victoria Falls with a stay in Chobe National Park makes for a wonderful safari experience.