Chobe National Park in Zimbabwe
Want to have the best possible safari, in the shortest amount of time? Chobe National Park in the northern part of Zimbabwe offers travelers the best of land and water-based game viewing activities. In less than two days you can expect to see most of the Big Five (Lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, and buffalo), and, a few lifer birds if you keep your eyes peeled.
In travel writing, the word ‘breathtaking’ is bandied about quite recklessly. Judging by the amount of ‘breathtaking views’ I’m confronted with on a regular basis, it seems like we travel writers walk around from view point to view point, waiting for the next attraction that is going to rob us from our breath and have us scrambling for our inhalers.
There are exceptions, though. If there is a game lodge that deserves this overused moniker, it’s Ngoma Safari Lodge, located in the Chobe conservation area in northern Botswana. As you enter the lodge, you are confronted with a view that forces you stop for a few seconds just to take everything in. Perched on top of a hill, it overlooks the floodplains of Chobe, giant baobab trees and the shimmering quicksilver of the Chobe floodplains. With our arrival, a dazzle of zebras were drinking at the waterhole. It was the beginning of the dry season, which means more animals congregate towards the river.
The spacious suites are the cherry on the top. They are large chalets decorated in muted, earthy colors, each complete with its own private plunge pool overlooking the Chobe River. You also have your own outdoor shower, should you prefer to go au natural in the African bush and shower under the stars Honeymooners love it.
As far as game viewing goes, Chobe is one of the best regions in Southern Africa. And let’s face it, if you are forking out the big bucks on an African Safari, you want to see the Big Guys: lions skulking, close ups of elephants and Cape Buffalo staring back at you, like you owe them money.
The Serengeti may have the wildebeest migration, but Chobe is home to one of the largest concentration of African elephants in the world; currently it is roughly estimated that Chobe’s elephant population stands at 120 000. Ecologically, these bush bulldozers are a bit of a disaster, but if you’re paying top dollar for an African safari, you can be sure you’ll be getting a lot of Ellie action here. During the safari we encountered several breeding herds, with a few rowdy teenagers showing off and mock-charging a vehicle. “It’s all for show,” our guide reassures us, but still, a one ton teenager coming at you, with ears flapping and trumpeting, still remains a pretty intimidating sight.
Ngoma Safari Lodge offers you the option of taking a full day safari, where you start the day of on a boat, followed by a game drive.
Taking a boat cruise gives visitors another perspective to game viewing than taking a game drive. The bird life here is prolific and birders come from all over the world to tick the African skimmer, a so-called ‘lifer’ in the birding word of their bird list. It looks similar to a tern and on land it seems a bit lopsided, its beak to big for its body. However, when it takes to the water, it’s poetry in motion. It resembles a stealth fighter plane, with it’s lower mandible cutting through the river. With approximately 1000 breeding pairs left in Southern Africa, it’s a big treat seeing this rare bird.
If you visit the park in the dry season (June to October) you’ll be treated by the sight of herds of elephants crossing the river, to graze on the various islands in the river. Imagine a sumo wrestler trying to do a butterfly stroke, and you’ll get the idea of what an elephant looks like when it’s swimming. In the deeper parts of the river they completely submerge themselves and sometimes all that you can see is a tiny bit of trunk sticking out, snorkel style.
Few things are as exciting as a game drive in a wilderness area. Except for rowdy teenage elephants your chances of seeing lion and buffalo in Chobe are excellent. Leopard remains a big treat, even in a game dense area such as Chobe, but unfortunately most of the rhino here has been relocated to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a special reserve where these heavily poached creatures are safeguarded by Botswana’s national army.
Ian Khama, the country’s president is a major conservationist and trophy hunting has been banned in Botswana.
DETAILS ON VISITING CHOBE
- Best time to go: Chobe is one of Southern Africa’s most accessible parks. It gets very busy during the South African school holidays (June and July, December to mid-January). High season is between June and September, during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer holidays. Accommodation prices can soar during this period. If your schedule allows it, try to visit it outside of these times.
- Getting there: The best would be to fly to Johannesburg or Victoria Falls. There are daily flights from Johannesburg to Kasane (the nearest town to Chobe) or you can do a road transfer from Victoria Falls to Kasane (3-5 hours). Best of all, American citizens do not need a visa when visiting Botswana
- Safety Botswana is one of the most stable and safest countries in Africa. Ngoma Safari lodge is located in a wilderness area and wild animals wander in and out of camp; during our stay a pack of painted African dogs chased a kudu into camp.Always follow your game ranger or guide’s instructions and NEVER run when encountering a wild animal. Chobe is located in a malarial area and prophylactics are recommended.
- Book here Ngoma Safari Lodge is an Africa Albida property. For more information or to make a booking, visit their website (www.africaalbidatourism.com) or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any questions about visiting Chobe National Park, or you’ve been before, please leave a comment below and share your experience.