Top 10 Chobe Safari Experiences

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 – the megafauna, the safari big hitters. Diverse and dramatic on its own, it’s also a destination that combines easily with the Okavango and Victoria Falls. No matter however – and whenever – you fit Chobe into your itinerary, here’s what we consider the 10 best things to see and do in Chobe:

Dry season game viewing

1. The Big Thirst: Chobe Game Drives & Sensational Dry Game Viewing

If you really, really want to see as many wild African elephants as possible, it’s hard to think of a better destination than the Chobe River at the end of Botswana’s enervating dry season. The virtually rainless winter begins in May and by late August the rest of the park has dried out; the resulting concentrations of animals on the riverfront must 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 into the centre of the action and the tell-tale clicking of cameras confirms what you might have thought: there is some seriously good up-close photography to be had.

When to Go:

  • May to July: Bone dry with cold nights, famous dry-season game viewing.
  • August to October: Very hot and dry, magnificent game viewing.

Where to Stay:

River boat cruises

2. Water Delight: Chobe River Cruises

Any visitor to the area would be remiss to leave without experiencing a Chobe boat safari. The river is an ecosystem as productive as its floodplains and forests; great rafts of snoozing hippos are easy to spot and the odd crocodile (there are still some big ones here), as well as water monitors - six feet of temperamental, whip-tailed lizard. The bird watching is excellent so be sure to keep a pair of binoculars on hand, they are also perfect for getting a closer look at herds drinking from the river’s edge. A boat cruise is also the best chance of seeing elephants at play in water and even a river crossing.

Some lodges offer boat cruises, which we’d recommend saving it for the afternoon activity as early mornings are prime game viewing time and best saved for a game drive. Plus, it’s much cooler on the water in the heat of the afternoon. Choose between the exclusivity and flexibility of a private speedboat and guide or the convivial atmosphere of a larger, shared boat.

A further option to consider is try out a ‘silent’ safari. Instead of the standard boat, head out on the Chobe River with an electric boat that creates almost no noise. Not only are electric boats more sustainable and lower impact long-term but often allow for closer game viewing. Find out everything you need to know in our ultimate guide to a Chobe safari.

When to Go:

  • April and May: A ‘green’ safari time of year with less travellers and fuller rivers.
  • June to August: ‘Peak season’ with optimum game viewing conditions as the land dries up and wildlife converge at the riverbanks.

Where to Stay:  

Savuti predator action

3. Predator City: Savuti’s Dramatic Action

Savuti, Savute…however you choose to spell it, will always be ‘Predator City’. Found in the remote, wild heart of the park, the Savuti region is fed by a channel of clear water that attracts great concentrations of animals as the dry season bites. Fortunately, that also means hunters like lions, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs are lured into plain sight.

The San Bushmen knew there was good hunting in Savuti – they left paintings of their prey in the Ghoha Hills nearby – and although they may be gone, Africa’s big predators are certainly still around. Cheetah, wild dog and leopard are often seen in Savuti, but it’s the rivalry between the area’s lions and spotted hyenas that have made Savuti so famous. Fights between the two species 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.

Deadly and dramatic in the dry season and hugely rewarding in the green summer months (a zebra migration arrives in time for Christmas), Savuti is a year-round destination. For the classic experience, stay at Savuti Bush Camp or Savute Safari Lodge.

When to Go:

  • July to October: Dramatic peak-season game viewing.
  • December to March: Excellent bird watching and zebra migration.

Where to Stay:

Authentic tented camps

4. Canvas and Candlelight: An Authentic Chobe Camping Safari

With all this talk of elephant herds and lion prides, you may feel that Chobe is a destination that doesn’t lend itself to being in a small, unprotected tent. Fortunately, that’s not true! Camping in Chobe means huge walk-in tents set under shady trees along with all the details: tinkling ice cubes in tall glasses and fresh bread from an underground oven. It’s Hemingway without all the shooting and shouting.

A mobile Chobe camping safari is undoubtedly the most adventurous way to discover this region. You’ll stay in fully staffed, pre-erected camps with hot-water bucket showers and a silver service mess tent that would make old Ernest rub his hands in glee. Your setting is unrivalled: private, unfenced sites away from all the other visitors but in prime position for game viewing – you’ll be the first out there in the morning and the last back at night. Not to mention the exceptional knowledge of local guides.

When to Go:

  • A year-round destination with cooler, dry nights from May to July after which the weather gets warmer and heads into green season from November.

Where to Stay:

Bird-watching paradise

5. Flocking Together: A Bird-watching Paradise

With over 450 species on record, there is no shortage of chances to see birds in Chobe National Park; in fact, it’s somewhat of a twitcher’s paradise. The resident birds are exciting enough – African fish eagles and vultures, dazzling lilac-breasted rollers, and giant eagle owls – but when the hordes of summer migrants arrive, it’s enough to make anyone reach for a pair of binoculars.

The Chobe River is a great birding destination year-round (combine game drives and boat cruises for maximum diversity) but Savuti is hard to beat in the 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. As for accommodation – stay anywhere. Lodge gardens make for great armchair birding – you could easily knock off 20 species off your list before you’ve had a chance to sit down properly. Just wait for a game drive with a specialist guide, your head will constantly be turning!

When to Go:

  • November to April: Green season, a bird watcher’s paradise.

Where to Stay:

Victoria Falls day trip

6. Sensory Overload: A Day Trip to Victoria Falls

Not only is Victoria Falls UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the ‘Seven Natural Wonders of the World’, it also holds the title as the world’s biggest uninterrupted sheet of falling water. It’s 1.5 times wider and double the height of Niagara Falls! From time to time, this colossal waterfall’s soul-stirring roar can be heard up to 25 miles or 40 kilometres away, ergo its traditional name of ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ or ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. Chobe’s gateway, the town of Kasane is narrowly out of earshot, making it a fantastic location from which to enjoy a Victoria Falls day trip.

When to Go:

  • February to July: Most spectacular views of Victoria Falls.
  • August to January: Best time for white-water rafting and swimming in Devil’s Pool.

Where to Stay:

Sustainable Safaris

7. Sustainable Safaris: Community & Female Empowerment

If you choose to stay at Chobe Game Lodge, there’s also the unique opportunity to experience the Chobe Angel’s, an all-female safari guiding team. Chobe Game Lodge has hired female guides since 2004 when Florence Kagiso became the movement’s trailblazer, claiming the title of the first women to join the team inside Chobe National Park. At the time, there were only 8-10 female guides in the country. Today, that number is 60 strong and counting.

When to Go:

  • A year-round destination.

Where to Stay:

Crossing into Namibia

8. Switching Sides: Crossing the River into Namibia

Just a short boat cruise across the Chobe River lies Namibia’s Caprivi region, a narrow strip of country that is often described as Namibia’s answer to the Okavango Delta. It supports dense concentrations of wildlife like elephant, hippo and buffalo, as well as the rare puku antelope. If you’re looking for a private, secluded and aquatic safari experience after a couple of days game driving around the Chobe National Park, head on over to the northern bank of the Chobe River. Catch-and-release fishing trips for Chobe bream and tiger fish are firm favourite activities here, as well as a cultural village visit to learn more about local Namibian traditions.

When to Go:

  • A year-round destination.

Where to Stay:

Honeymoon celebration

9. Celebrating Love: A Honeymoon in Chobe

Chobe is a great destination for newly-weds. The lodges and tented camps are luxurious and intimate, and a privately guided safari is the pinnacle of a romantic and tailor-made vacation. You can also effortlessly combine some of Africa’s other top holiday destinations to make it the kind of honeymoon that dreams are made of. Expect idyllic sunset boat cruises, thrilling private game drives and soothing spa treatments in pristine African wilderness.

Romantic Trip Ideas:

Chobe family safari

10. Quality Time: A Multi-generational Family Safari

There’s no better way to spend quality time connecting with your family than experiencing the marvels of a safari in Africa. Chobe is a superb destination for a family holiday, especially for families with children older than five. Some lodges are perfectly suited for families and offer ample space; family-orientated suites and rooms; and specific facilities and activities for children like guided walking safaris, treasure hunts, fun games and even special shortened game drives.

But it’s not only the youngsters that will revel in a safari experience in Chobe, it’s also a great destination for mature (over 60 years) travellers. It’s pretty easy to get to – thanks to regular flights to and from Kasane International Airport – and easy to travel around, with game drives that are not too long and a great variety of other activities to enjoy.

Family Trip Ideas:

Ready to Start Planning Your Chobe Safari?

For more inspiration and information on all things Chobe, take a look at our top Chobe accommodation or tours and safaris. Alternatively, you can connect with one of our Africa Safari Experts by clicking on the ‘Help Me Plan’ button below…