When I was planning my trip to South Africa, and I was scrolling through the travel forums, one question popped out rather frequently: Chobe or Kruger? Some raised concerns about the overall game viewing experience, quality of facilities and tours, accessibility, etc. This time, I am going to share my experience on Chobe and Kruger and there are some differences between the two national parks.
Something about… Chobe
Chobe National Park is Botswana’s first national park, and the third-largest. Before the establishment of the national park in the 1960s, the land was once inhabited by the San Bushmen, or the Basarwa, who are nomadic hunter-gatherers. Today, their ancient rock paintings could still be found at some places in the park. The game reserve covers an area of cover 11,700 square kilometers, and the Chobe riverfront in the north is an iconic area known as the Chobe Flood Plans. This region is probably easier to get to from Victoria Falls in the neighboring countries Zambia, or Zimbabwe. In fact, Chobe National Park is one of the top wilderness reserves in the world. The park is also noted for having a population of lions which prey on African elephants.
How to get there?
To some, Chobe offers a more secluded and pristine safari experience, many rustic and luxurious camps are scattered in the park and they could be accessed from the major towns in the region like Maun or Kasane. For Safari tours operated in Maun, visitors could explore the Okavango Delta, which has a diverse game viewing include lions and other big cats.
Kasane is a small town close to Africa’s “Four Corners”, where four African countries meet: Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Kasane is merely an hour away to the Victoria Falls, making it the most visited section of Chobe due to its proximity to the Falls. Tour operators usually include connecting transportation from Livingstone, Zambia or Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
Safari tours that kick off from Kasane usually cover the area of Chobe Flood Plains. There are some lodges in the area, but Chobe Game Lodge is the only permanent accommodation located with the park itself. Another unique way to game viewing in Chobe is staying aboard one of the houseboats that ply the Zambezi and Chobe rivers, and witness the wildlife action along the riverbanks at different times of the day. Although we didn’t go deep into the center of the national park, we had quite an amazing experience and saw a diverse range of wildlife on the edge of the Chobe River.
Many visitors may need a UniVisa (or Kaza Visa) to enter Zambia and Zimbabwe, the visa should cover a day trip to Botswana for exiting and re-entering the country the same day.
When to go?
May to October (the dry season) is the best time to visit Chobe National Park. This period has sunny, dry and warm days which is more pleasant for game viewing. Besides, the roads are easily navigable for safari vehicles and mosquitoes are at a minimum.
Most importantly, the lack of water during the dry season encourages animals to stay around the river, making it much easier to view a huge group and a variety of wildlife.
My Chobe Safari
I have yet to visit the Okavango Delta, but I heard some amazing comments about the area. I visited the Chobe Flood Plains in the north of the park and it was not any less exciting.
The day tour is divided into two sections: a boat cruise through the Zambezi and Chobe rivers in the morning, followed by an open jeep safari drive in the afternoon after lunch. Sometimes the order may switch depends on the different arrangements.
The entire Chobe National Park has one of the greatest concentrations of game in all of Africa. As mentioned, it has the most spectacular elephant herds – an estimated population of around 120,000 elephants living within the park boundaries. Not only we saw them in the park… but we saw them bathing, eating, feeding, frolicking and socializing in different locations throughout our tour. The most impressive sighting was on our boat cruise, while the elephants were gradually approaching our boat as they gathered the grass from the water and turn it into sheaves with their trunks. Fascinating!
Although I saw (or precisely, heard, because we saw them floating by the river outside the lodge at night) Hippopotamus from our Kruger lodge, the best Hippopotamus sighting was in Chobe. Again, on our boat, we saw the Hippo swimming in the river. Given their reputation of having a very bad temper, we didn’t get very close, still, we had a clear shot of a big group.
The park also has an impressive population of Buffalo. We saw many of them in the plain by the river. More, I was told the area has a healthy population of lions, but big cats (cheetah, or lions) are less likely to be seen here, as compared to Kruger. It’s possible to spot a lion and leopard occasionally, but rhinoceros are quite difficult to find.
So… Chobe or Kruger?
All in all, both parks (Chobe and Kruger) have no shortage of wildlife viewing. I have seen lots of giraffes, Impalas, waterbucks, kudus, buffalos, boars, crocodiles, and elephants in both places – while Chobe has a larger population of elephants, and Kruger offers a better chance to see the rhinoceros and big cats.
Only have I seen leopard and wild dogs in Kruger, but it’s possible to spot them in Chobe as well.
Having said that, I prefer the environment in Chobe. The open space along the Chobe river offers wider and unobstructed views of wildlife, a.k.a. we don’t have to seek for the game through the bushes. I enjoyed my boat cruise a lot because the boat is steadier and more comfortable, and I could move around, or even reach the upper deck for better game viewing.
For first-time safari experience, or family, Kruger is probably a better choice as it is more accessible and there are numerous accommodations within and outside the park (at different price levels, too). Visitors may have a better chance to see a wider range of wildlife.
Any thoughts, tips or questions?