Chobe National Park Safari in Botswana, Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero Camp
Following Johannesburg and the scenic country of Zambia, we visited the Chobe National Park near Kasane, Botswana. Zambia impressed us greatly with its natural beauty and gave us plenty to explore in the form of guided safari trips, exciting boat rides, and thrilling walking tours. Continuing our African escapade we arrived at Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero in northern Botswana– a popular tourist destination that is famed for its massive herds of elephants. Acclaimed to be the largest elephant concentration in the whole of Africa, Chobe National Park boasts an estimated 120,000 elephants who call it their home! Indeed, exploration of Africa’s legendary fauna would have remained largely unfulfilled had we not made a stop at this stunning wildlife destination that is undoubtedly one of the greatest in the continent!
En Route to Chobe National Park
A befitting tribute to Botswana’s distinction as an unparalleled safari destination in Africa, Chobe National Park unveiled before us a verdant wildlife habitat that is quite unlike any other on mainland Africa. Providing a safe haven to the region’s varied and endangered species, the world’s last great wilderness gifted us with a one of a kind opportunity to get close to the colossal elephants and the big cats who roam freely on its vast stretch – a perfect demonstration of how the mighty can coexist peacefully!
Aptly dubbed as ‘The Land of The Giants’, Chobe National Park accommodates some of the world’s largest herds of king-sized elephants, including the likes of the gargantuan Kalahari elephants. The idea of creating a wildlife reserve first germinated in 1931 and gradually took shape of a game reserve in 1960. In 1967, the reserve was accorded the status of a national park. Today, Chobe National Park is synonymous with beautiful Botswana’s fabled safari industry and enjoys recognition as the country’s first national park and its third largest one by virtue of its sheer size.
Spread across a sprawling area of about 11,000 km2, the expansive park is naturally demarcated into four sections, namely the Serondela area or Chobe Riverfront, the Savuti Marsh area, the Okavango-like Linyanti Marsh area and the hot & dry hinterland between the Linyanti and Savuti Marshes. Chobe Riverfront lies in the extreme northeast corner of the park while the Savuti Marsh area graces its west and the Linyanti Marsh area occupies the park’s northwest corner. Each of these regions harbors a distinct ecosystem, including the Nogatsaa grass woodland of the dry hinterland that serves as an excellent spot to detect Africa’s largest antelope or the Eland.
Habitat of rare animal species like the Puku Antelope that cannot be spotted in any other corner of Botswana except for the floodplains of the Serondela area, Chobe Riverfront is much sought after by the tourists for its easy accessibility and for its close proximity to the Victoria Falls. It is also close to the gateway town of Kasane that acts as the park’s northern entrance. Dotted with lush floodplains and dense woodland, Chobe Riverfront flaunts generous wildlife and birdlife concentrations with spoonbills, ibis, stork, duck, and other waterfowl making a beeline for this tract when it is flooded.
A visit to Chobe Riverfront is worth the wait for any avid birder who will fall head over heels in love with the colorful Carmine Bee-eaters that are seen in large numbers in season. Unquestionably, they are a visual treat with their charming carmine and blue colored bodies! Animal lovers also have enough to feast their eyes upon as one can witness large herds of elephants, giraffes, sables, and cape buffaloes that throng the Serondela area during the sultry summers to quench their thirst with the waters of the Chobe River. All in all, Chobe Riverfront will satiate the weariest of eyes that seek the solace of the wilderness to escape from the hum-drum of life!
An Experience that’s Second to None
From Victoria Falls Hotel, it took us about 2 hours to drive down to Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero that is renowned for its extraordinary safari experience. We kick-started our expedition on a hot March afternoon with an exhilarating game drive that brought us up close and personal to the antelopes, baboons, giraffes, and the thriving elephant population that abound at the park. Our engaging safari also included the possibility of encountering the graceful impalas, buffaloes, and lions though we were not fortunate enough to see all of those!
Once we were done with the Chobe National Park safari, we made a retreat to the luxurious settings of our camp. A mouth-watering and freshly prepared hot meal was ready to be served. Having relished our meal heartily, we bid adieu to a thoroughly enjoyable day with a goodnight’s sleep under a blanket of stars, simultaneously serenaded by the sounds of soulful Africa. Without the slightest doubt, we knew that Africa had cast a spell upon us instantly – the moment we set foot on its captivating land!
A spectacular sunrise greeted us the following morning as we set out on a Chobe National Park safari game drive. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of the wild animals in their most uninhibited and active form, particularly when it was the start of their day and time for them to go hunting. Though it is quite likely to spot leopards at this time, we did not see any. Not that we were disappointed though as we more than made up for their absence with our Chobe River cruise in the afternoon that gave us a novel opportunity to observe the park’s surreal wildlife and birdlife from close quarters.
Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero
Our 2-nights halt at Chobe National Park was made even more memorable with a pleasurable stay at the riverside retreat of the Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero, near Kasane, Botswana. True to its namesake of ‘Chilwero’ that means “place of high view” in the local Setswana language, the chic safari lodge is situated atop a hill that is positioned high above the Chobe River. Located at just a stone’s throw from the Chobe National Park, it acts as a gateway to the large elephant herds of Africa’s famous wildlife park.
Nestled in the picturesque Kasane Forest Reserve that can be traced to the banks of the River Chobe, Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero is a hidden gem that offers the best of both worlds to the travel-worn tourists. A first glimpse of the thatched cottages might give you the impression of an old world charm. However, dig deeper into the spacious sanctuary and you will be dumbstruck at the presence of all possible modern amenities. The added advantage of an offbeat location ensured that we had plenty of ‘me-time’ to relax and unwind as we soaked in the awe-inspiring panoramic views. The beautiful landscape transcended through the islands and floodplains to stretch as far as the picturesque locales of the southwestern African country of Namibia.
It goes without saying that the wonderful moments, spent at the Chobe National Park, lingered on in our mind, long after we were back from our trip. A sheer delight for wildlife enthusiasts like me, the park is a must-visit for adventure seekers who do not shy away from face-to-face meetings with predators such as lions and cheetahs and are equally thrilled with the prospect of indulging in intimate encounters with elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotamus and other thick-skinned pachyderms. Chobe park’s breathtaking wetlands attract many native and migratory birds that made an arresting sight as they moved around in their typical carefree and nonchalant manner. Abode of approximately 460 species of birds, the park also houses many endangered & rare wild animals and is the shelter of a mind-boggling range of antelope species like Roan Antelope, Sable Antelope, Kudu, Impala, Wildebeest, Red Lechwe, Sitatunga and Eland – all of which can be observed under one roof!
Apart from the fact that we had plenty to look forward to in the form of thrilling game viewing opportunities, our stay here was unbelievably relaxing and enjoyable. The Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero camp offered us our own personal balcony or ‘sala’ and a private garden replete with a hammock. We cherished those brief leisurely moments when we simply whiled away the time gazing at the abundance of raw nature all around us.
Following the Chone National Park safari, we headed for the next stop at the exclusive Sanctuary Baines camp in the Okavango Delta, a short plane ride from Kasane, Botswana.
Have you been to Botswana and the Chobe National Park? How was your experience? Any recommendations? Comment below!