Chobe National Park: Botswana’s Elephant Paradise
Chobe Safari: Africa’s Elephant Paradise
Are you eager to experience an authentic African safari adventure that will quite literally stampede its way into your heart and leave echoes of trumpeting giants lingering in your wildlife-loving soul? Then look no further than Botswana’s breathtaking Chobe National Park, where elephants reign supreme, and the powerful pulse of the great Chobe River breathes life into the endless stretch of unspoiled wilderness that makes up one of Botswana’s most glorious wildlife and safari gems.
Nicknamed ‘The Land of the Gentle Giants’, Chobe National Park’s elephants truly are celebrities in their own right with avid travelers, wildlife enthusiasts, and tourists flocking from all across the globe for the opportunity to see these mighty and magnificent mammals and largest member of the African Big 5 in action and to experience breathless face-to-face encounters with these never-ending herds of the largest living land animal on earth.
So, how many elephants do in fact reside in Africa’s elephant paradise? Chobe National Park boasts an impressive and exceptional population of African elephants, which is said to exceed 120,000 – Undoubtedly making it one of the top places, if not THE top place, on the planet to witness these remarkable gentle giants of the African bushveld in their natural environment. During Botswana’s dry season, from about May to October, an inconceivable number of these gentle giants can be seen crowding the banks of the Chobe River – A truly breathtaking sight!
Occupying a great woodland wilderness between the eponymous Chobe River and the fringes of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Chobe National Park is one of Africa’s heavyweight reserves and a sanctuary for some of the continent’s healthiest populations of elephant, buffalo, lion, giraffe, zebra, leopard, jackals, and the widely beloved and endangered African wild dog, to mention merely a few. Chobe is also one of the best places in Africa to witness the most dramatic predator action – its Savuti region is where lions regularly clash with hyenas and powerful prides famously take down Africa’s biggest game like buffalo, giraffe and even elephants.
Best Time To Go On a Safari in Chobe National Park
The Big Thirst: Sensational Dry Season Game Viewing
Best time to go to Chobe National Park: Dry Season
- May to July: Bone dry with cold nights, famous dry-season game viewing
- August to October: Very hot and dry, magnificent game viewing
In order to ensure an unforgettable African safari experience in the great Chobe National Park as well as guarantee the most extraordinary sightings of its glorious and gigantic herds of African elephants, along with its vast diversity of other remarkable wildlife species, it is important to know when the best time is to travel to / visit Chobe National Park.
For the most magnificent sightings, thrilling encounters, and unbelievable wildlife action, the best time to visit the Chobe National Park is during its dry season from May to October.
If you really, REALLY want to see as many wild African elephants as you possibly can on your Chobe safari trip, it’s hard to think of a better destination than the iconic Chobe River at the end of Botswana’s enervating dry season. Botswana’s virtually rainless winter begins in May and by late August the rest of the park has practically dried out completely; The bone-dry surroundings, due to the extreme lack of rain, means that ponds, streams, puddles, and smaller water sources around the park dry up. This forces animals to essentially congregate around the remaining large water source / sources – AKA the Chobe River – resulting in enormous concentrations of wildlife, including Chobe’s huge herds of elephants, on the riverfront – It truly is a sensational sight that has to be seen to be believed.
In the heat of September and October, thousands of elephants arrive cheek-by-jowl with enormous buffalo herds, trailed by prides of sleek lions. Game drives and boat cruises take you right into the centre of the action, providing you with seriously spectacular up-close sightings and encounters that are bound to leave you gob-smacked and utterly amazed.
However, hold on just a second…
If you’re an avid bird lover or looking to escape the large crowds, there’s something for you too! If wildlife viewing is not at the top of your African safari bucket-list and you’re eager to escape, discover, and see a different side of Botswana’s Chobe National Park and what it has to offer, you’ll absolutely love the green season / wet summer season which takes place between November and April.
During this period, the summer rains transform the savannah into a luscious green paradise, making it the perfect time for birding, game sightings, and peaceful safari escapes.
Other wet summer season highlights in Botswana to look forward to include:
- Lush greenery & surrounding scenery due to high rainfall.
- Botswana & its surrounding parks are filled with newborn wildlife.
- Excellent photography opportunities due to the stunning scenic surroundings, dramatic light & excellent subject matter.
- Great time for bird watching as migrant birds are present & in breeding. If you’re an avid bird enthusiast, be sure to plan your trip to Chobe National Park around December to March.
- Annual Zebra Migration takes place, making it the prime time for predator encounters.
- The wet summer season coincides with Botswana’s low season which means the parks are far less crowded & lower rates apply.
- Excellent game in the Kalahari & all wildlife are in good condition.
- Due to the permanent water source a lot of wildlife remains in the heart of the delta.
Wildlife in Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park Wildlife Highlights:
- Close-up encounters with huge herds of elephant and buffalo.
- See predators like lion, wild dog, jackal, hyena and leopard in action and on the hunt.
- Chobe National Park is Botswana’s most biologically diverse park.
When it comes to wildlife in the Chobe National Park, we just can’t help but mention its incredible and vastly profound population of elephants – Chobe is ‘The Land of the Gentle Giants’ after all! So, yes, you guessed it, if you’re planning on embarking on a bucket-list worthy African safari in Botswana’s world-renowned Chobe National Park you better prepare yourself for some serious pachyderm action, because Chobe is THE place to be for the most memorable, thrilling, and once-in-a-lifetime elephant sightings and encounters ever – we’re talking about the largest concentration of African elephants on the entire continent of Africa. Not to mention one of the top places, if not THE top place, on the planet to witness these remarkable gentle giants of the African bushveld in their natural habitat.
But that’s certainly not all you can look forward to when visiting and exploring this must-visit National Park, oh no! Regarded as one of Africa’s ultimate wildlife hotspots, Chobe boasts some of the most prolific wildlife on the African continent. Botswana’s Chobe National Park is home to some of the continent’s healthiest populations of buffalo, lion, giraffe, zebra, leopard, jackals, endangered African Wild Dogs, civet, massive herds of roaming plains game and ample predators lurking around every corner (to mention merely a few). The Chobe River teems with crocodile and hippo, making a boat safari ever-so-exciting!
Exploring this flourishing ecosystem, you’re likely to encounter lions, spotted hyenas, or even an ever-elusive leopard or two. And, if that’s not enough to get your heart racing, you’ll be pleased to know that rare and endangered species like the African wild dog and puku (Kobus vardonii) are thriving in the lush grasslands along the Chobe riverfront.
Wildlife in Savuti: Predator City
It definitely doesn’t end there! While Chobe’s Savuti Marsh in particular boasts some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the continent, it is also deemed as one of the best places in Africa to witness the most dramatic predator action. The Savuti region of the Chobe National Park is notorious for its brutal clashes between lions and hyenas – in fact the intense and extreme rivalry between the area’s lions and spotted hyenas have made Savuti one of Botswana’s and Chobe’s most famous wildlife and safari attractions. Fights between the two species most often erupt over territory and kills – Some visitors to Savuti have been kept awake at night by the thrilling rumble of a far-off battlefield – so don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly woken up in the middle of the night by the sounds of a fierce fight-to-the-death show down. In addition, Savuti is also widely known as the site where powerful prides famously take down Africa’s biggest game like buffalo, giraffe, and even elephants.
Famously coined Chobe National Park’s ‘Predator City’, the Savuti region of Chobe, set at the remote heart of the park, is fed by a channel of clear water that attracts large herds and vast concentrations of wildlife – which in turn attracts a large concentration of Africa’s top predators and hunters like lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas.
This ‘situation’ becomes particularly more daunting during Botswana’s dry season, and in turn more interesting and thrilling for the park’s lurking predators, as its bone-dry conditions and severe lack of rain forces Chobe’s enormous population of wildlife, including its huge herds of elephants, to congregate around the water source for hydration, ultimately signaling ‘open-season’ for predators on all wildlife species – So get ready to see some brutal clashes and witness Africa’s predators in action as they target, stalk, and take down their intended prey.
Deadly and dramatic in the dry season, hugely rewarding in the green summer months (a zebra migration arrives in time for Christmas), Savuti is undoubtedly a year-round not-to-be-missed African safari destination.
Best time to go to Savuti:
- July to October: Dramatic peak-season game viewing
- December to March: Excellent bird watching and zebra migration
Why are there so many elephants in Chobe National Park?
Let’s address the elephant in the room…
What exactly makes Chobe National Park so special that it lures the largest population of African elephants, not to mention on of our favourite members of the Big 5, in the entire continent? Did you know that except for humans, elephants don’t have any real predators in the wild?
While the famous Chobe River once formed part of the migration route followed by these large herds, wars waging on the borders of neighboring countries resulted in mass poaching. This ultimately deterred the elephant herds from taking this route, seeking refuge in the safe haven that is the Chobe National Park.
Although Botswana has experienced several poaching incidents and endured various mass poaching actions over the years, the military’s no-tolerance approach to poachers has had a massive impact on largely preserving Chobe’s elephant population.
Today there are approximately 120,000 elephants shuffling through the plains of Chobe National Park. In addition, they have also started to cross the Chobe River again during their seasonal migratory route. Using their trunks as ‘snorkels’, it’s quite an amazing sight to behold!
Birding in Chobe National Park
Feast your eyes on some of Africa’s most beautiful, captivating, and sought-after feathered friends in Chobe National Park.
With over 500 species of birds recorded, Botswana’s Chobe National Park is an avid birder’s paradise as well as any and all bird lover’s dream come true. Boasting a vast diversity of beautiful and captivating bird species, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for an enchanting array of avian marvels, from giant kingfishers and African fish eagles to the sleek African skimmer, melodious collared palm, dazzling lilac-breasted rollers, and giant eagle owls. And let’s not forget the granddaddy of them all, the southern ground hornbill. Be sure to catch a glimpse of these winged wonders in their natural habitat. Other birds to look out for are some of the world’s largest flying birds, the kori bustard (weighing up to 18kg!) and the secretary bird.
Chobe’s diversity of resident birds are exciting enough to captivate any birding enthusiast’s eye, HOWEVER, when the hordes of summer migrants arrive, it’s enough to make anyone, avid birder or not, reach for a pair of binoculars.
When it comes to the quality of bird watching, as well as the sheer diversity of bird species, Chobe National Park’s Savuti is hard to beat, especially during its green summer months between November and April. Flocks of vivid crimson bee-eaters patrol the grasslands, great numbers of raptors follow insect outbreaks, and once-dry waterholes now brim with wildfowl and waders. In addition to Savuti, the Chobe River is a great year-round birding destination, attracting a stunning variety of birds – Combine it with an action-packed game drive and / or thrilling boat cruise for maximum diversity and a beyond incredible safari experience.