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Chobe Safari: You won’t believe the animals in the Land of Giants!

Please only travel when it’s safe to do so.

In the parched African bush, water is life.

And on a Chobe safari, you’ll see the banks of the Chobe River teem with an awe-inspiring abundance of wildlife.

Chobe elephant on a chobe safari
One of the many Chobe elephants giving himself a dust bath

So many Chobe National Park animals

This is the “Land of the Giants.”

It’s so-named because it’s home to the world’s largest herds of elephants (more than 120,000 ellies).

animals in Chobe National Park - puku
The Chobe River floodplains are the only place in Botswana where you can see the puku antelope

The wonder of this place is that it’s not only elephants found here in prolific numbers.

Botswana is known for its wildlife.

The “Land of the Giants” – better known as Chobe National Park – is an unfenced 4,500-square-mile park in northern Botswana.

It’s particularly famous for its huge herds of Cape buffalo, large prides of lions, countless antelope and pretty well every other African animal imaginable.

Indeed, Chobe boasts some of the best game viewing in Africa, with one of the greatest year-round concentrations of wildlife in the whole continent.

Chobe National Park animals - water buck
Water buck are another type of antelope you see in Chobe National Park

A visit to Chobe National Park is high on most people’s Africa bucket list.

You’ll see four of the “Big Five” animals in Chobe National Park – lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo.

The only one of the “Big Five” hard to spot is the rare rhinoceros.

Chobe Safari - Cape buffalo
A herd of Cape buffalo in the Chobe game reserve

Want to see loads of lions? Go on a Big 5 safari in South Africa’s Sabi Sands Game Reserve!

Our exciting Chobe safari game drive

giraffes in chobe game reserve
Another group out on a Chobe game drive is intrigued by the giraffes

We’re on safari in Chobe National Park – on a game drive in an open Land Rover – bouncing along red-sand tracks criss-crossing the scrubby bush by the river.

Large Chacma baboons swinging through the trees quickly catch our attention.

Then a dazzle of zebras. (Don’t you love the name for a group of zebras? Their black and white stripes are certainly dazzling!)

Chobe National Park animals - dazzle of zebras
A dazzle of zebras looking quite dazzling

We pass a bull elephant giving himself a dust bath with his trunk, his ears flapping.

When two male giraffes circle each other in what looks like a curious dance, we stop to watch.

giraffes in Chobe National Park
Two male giraffes circle each other before playfighting

After each circle, they curl their sinewy necks down and bump the other’s body with their heads.

They’re playfighting, so we’re told.

Each giraffe now starts hitting the other’s body with its head

But ouch!

The loud thwacks they make as they hit each other’s bodies don’t sound too playful though.

giraffe neck
Giraffes are the tallest animals on land, with graceful necks up to 7 feet in length

We can’t wait to see lions on our Chobe game drive.

And we do!

Chobe wildlife - lions
Most of the time, lions like to sleep during the day and hunt at night

Driving up to observe four resting in the shade, we’re amazed at how close the animals allow us to get.

(Most safari viewing in Africa occurs on game drives, and the animals are habituated to the sight and sound of people sitting in open vehicles.)

When one lioness yawns, we can clearly see her fearsome teeth.

safari in Chobe National Park - lion
Oh my! What big teeth you have!

And the birds!

African fish eagle, ground hornbills, sacred ibis…

And our favorite – the lilac-breasted roller, one of the most beautiful birds in Africa.

lilac-breasted roller bird
The lilac-breasted roller bird must take the prize for the most beautiful African bird

In flight, the tips of their turquoise wings look like they’ve been dipped in royal blue ink.

So many animals and birds rotate through this kaleidoscope of nature that our necks get sore swiveling from right to left.

Here we managed to photograph a pair of lilac-breasted rollers!

That all these creatures co-exist in harmony is a marvel too.

With their tusked snouts, comical warthogs dig up mud which baboons then root around in with their nimble fingers, picking out juicy bulbs to eat. Antelope even prance around near the lions!

At night, yes, the cats hunt. But now, it’s all one peaceful scene.

Go really wild! Discover what it’s like on a walking safari in Zambia

We love the Chobe elephants

Late in the afternoon, we leave our vehicle and take a riverboat.

We’re particularly excited at the prospect of seeing wild ellies in the water.

We remember from a previous Chobe safari on the elegant Zambezi Queen how incredible it was that they would come almost within touching distance of us.

This time is equally wonderful.

We see the elephants in the shallow water, yanking out grasses with their trunks, waving their magnificent tusks as they shake the clumps clean to pop into their mouths.

Chobe elephants
An adult elephant eats up to 600 pounds of grass, leaves and twigs a day!

Sometimes the elephants are so close we could almost reach out and touch their wrinkly skin. (Of course, we don’t.) We’re even at risk of getting sprayed with droplets of water when they drink!

Globally, their numbers are declining.

But here in the “Land of the Giants,” they are safe for future generations to witness and enjoy.

Chobe safari in Chobe National Park
Guaranteed, for now; you will see elephants on your Chobe safari

Recommended reading: Check out the wildly luxurious Chinzombo safari camp in Zambia

Best time to visit Chobe National Park?

Weather in Chobe National Park

Dry season:

The dry season from May to early November – when the animals congregate around the river to drink – is the ideal time to visit the Chobe game reserve.

Best game viewing months in Chobe:

September and October are prime game-viewing months for a safari in Chobe National Park. But beware: September is also known as the “suicide month” because it’s so hot.

Best time to visit Chobe – bottom line?

If you’re heat-averse, you’re best advised to go between May and July. You can expect sunny and dry weather in Chobe National Park these months, and you’ll still see plenty of game.

We visited in June, and thought it was the perfect compromise of very pleasant weather, not too-dry scenery and more than enough animals to exhaust our camera batteries.

Nights were cool (we needed a sweater or jacket), as were early mornings when heading out on our first game drive of the day. But by mid-morning, it was lovely and warm – short sleeve weather.

Where to stay in Chobe National Park?

We bedded down in the intimate and deluxe Ngoma Safari Lodge, just outside Chobe National Park’s less-visited west gate.

And, oooh, this lovely Chobe safari lodge has private pools!

Flying to Africa

We flew to Africa on Emirates Airlines, breaking up our stay with an overnight at the Dubai Airport transit hotel; it sure helped make the long haul flight more comfortable!

Recommended reading: What you need to know about staying at the Dubai Airport transit hotel

Map of Chobe National Park

You can zoom in or out on this Google map.

Read next! See our ultimate Africa guide and safari planner

Our magazine feature

A version of our Chobe safari story was published in Taste of Life magazine. (Click on the image below to read a PDF.)


Photo credits: © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except first and last image)


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, luxury hotel reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Stefanie Zimmermann

Saturday 9th of June 2018

Dear Janice and George:

Thanks for the nice article! Chobe NP is always worth a visit. And the Ngoma Lodge is a very nice and luxurious place to stay!

But the Puku looks much like a female Kudu to me! And I think that male Giraffe actually do fight for dominance the way you watched them do and not only playfight!

Greetings from (presently Sierra Leone but soon back to the beautiful South of Africa - Namibia this time)

Janice and George

Saturday 9th of June 2018

You could be right about the puku vs kudu :-). For us, it was hard to tell the difference sometimes. Interesting how the giraffes fight for dominance; guess males in most animal species do this! Thanks for chiming in...

Irene S Levine

Wednesday 24th of January 2018

Oh my gosh! Your photos bring back such wonderful memories of our safari. I couldn't decide whether I was more smitten with the elephants, zebras or giraffes. Your photos didn't add to my clarity:-)

Janice and George

Wednesday 24th of January 2018

And don't forget the monkeys! They're always comical to watch too :-).

Becky Padmore

Tuesday 23rd of January 2018

I adore elephants! What a special moment this must have been! :-)

Janice and George

Tuesday 23rd of January 2018

Elephants are like chocolate and Paris to us -- we can never get enough of them :-).

Victoria

Tuesday 16th of January 2018

'Love all the images, especially that of the puku antelope!

I've been on safari in both Africa and Asia, and each safari has been slightly scary ('cos of the closeness), yet fabulously thrilling!

Janice and George

Tuesday 16th of January 2018

That's a spot-on comment :-). A little bit scary but wondrously thrilling! Going on safari makes one feel very much alive - and so conscious of the whole cycle of life and death in the animal world...

debbra

Monday 15th of January 2018

This trip looks amazing, as have all your African travels! I am hoping Stephen and I can manage to go on safari somehow, someway, sometime! Bucket list, for sure!

Janice and George

Tuesday 16th of January 2018

You will love it when you go (and we're positive you WILL go). Visiting Africa really is very special - especially the safari experience(s). Just be prepared for loving it so much that you'll want to go again!