Chobe is most known for it's large number of elephants, but the park has got much more to offer than just that. It's an immense area of dry mopane forest and scrub savanna that harbours vast numbers of animals like zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, kudu, etc. Even antelope species that are more rare! Chobe has the largest herds of sable antelopes we've ever seen. And as always; in their tow are all the cats, hyena and wild dogs.
All these animals disperse during the green season (November to March), but in the dry season (April to October) they tend to congregate towards the areas that have permanent water, like the famous Chobe Waterfront area in the north and the Savuti marshes in the west.
Chobe is very accessible over land, as it is located in between the towns of Maun and Kasane, which are the main hubs for all ecotourists visiting Botswana. As such, you don't need any bush flights, and you can save quite a bit of money by going overland from Maun to Kasane, or the other way around.
The Savuti Marshes
The Savuti Marshes are fed by the Savuti Channel, an ephemeral river which sometimes doesn't flow for years in a row. It really depends on how the tectonic plate, on which the Savuti lies, tilts. When the water is not flowing, the park runs three boreholes, and all game still flocks to these artificial waterholes.
You might argue that top years at Savuti is when it receives a lot of water and the marches spread over a huge area, luring lots of grazers coming to feed on the lush; green grass.
But then there's something to be said about the dry years as well, as in those years the predators are in for a feast, picking off the weaker individuals who end up at the waterholes. The cat action can be rather epic in Savuti. After all, this is the place where a famous documentary was shot, on a lion pride that was hunting elephant by night. Genetically speaking, these lions were the biggest in the whole of Africa.
The Chobe riverfront
There's lots of lodges in and around Kasane, and a few rather large ones in the park as well. As a result, the closer to Kasane you are, the busier the riverfront tends to be.
You might think that this is a good reason to skip this area, but our humble opinion is that that would be a mistake. Because Kasane is the place from which all the boat tours depart. Gliding along the river on a raft-like boat, watching the elephants drink and bathe, is a truly magical experience. The birdlife is abundant too!
Another reason to stay in or near Kasane for a couple of days is that from this spot you can also visit the Victoria Falls. The border formalities are time-consuming, but visiting the falls this way is much cheaper than flying there and booking a lodge for two nights, at the Zimbabwe- or Zambia side of the falls.
So where do you go if you want to explore the Chobe river front but stay away from the Kasane-crowds?
Avoiding the crowds completely is impossible, as there'll still be a number of self drivers coming from Savuti area and driving along the riverbank towards Kasane. But the further you stay away from Kasane, the less you'll see the daytrip-crowds and the game drive vehicles from the lodges in or near Kasane.
So the trick is to stay as far west as possible; the section near where the tar road coming from Kasane crosses the river (a border post with Namibia / the Caprivi strip). To the west of this road, just outside park borders, are a number of small-scale lodges, all neatly tucked away under the large trees on the hillside, and all overlooking the river and the Caprivi strip. Albeit being more expensive than the average lodge in Kasane, most of these lodges in the west are still very reasonably priced for Botswana standards.
Our favourite camps
Chobe Under Canvas
Accommodation; Canvas safari tent, Meru-style.
Room type; Double or twin beds (customers choose), two persons maximum.
Bathroom; Toilet, single wash basin & bucket shower.
Location; Chobe National Park, east section, close to Chobe river.