Chobe National Park

Buffalo in Chobe National Park, Botswana
Buffalo in Chobe National Park, Botswana

The Riverfront section of Chobe National Park sees huge concentrations of game in the dry season and many animals all year round. Read our guide to discover more.

This guide covers the Chobe Riverfront section of the park. For elsewhere in Chobe National Park see our Savuti Guide.

Location

Chobe Riverfront is the most popular section of Chobe National Park. It lies just to the west of Kasane in northeastern Botswana. Chobe National Park is often divided into three sections – Chobe Riverfront (or Chobe Waterfront, and also known simple as Chobe), Savuti to the southwest and Linyati, a remote area further west. At times this can be slighlty confusing, but when people talk about ‘Chobe’, they often mean the Riverfront section described in this guide.

Tips for Chobe National Park

  • Ihaha is the only campsite in Chobe Riverfront and it can fill up – book well in advance.
  • The Tracks4Africa Botswana Map* is very useful.
  • Fuel up and get groceries in Kasane if you stay in the park.
  • You can rent an equipped 4×4* from nearby Kasane.
  • Prepare for hot days in summer, and chilly nights in winter.
  • Check out our guide to Savuti, the southwest part of Chobe National Park.
  • Find the best books to read while in Botswana.
  • We stopped at Chobe towards the end of our two-month Botswanan road trip which you can read more about in my book*.
Hippo in the Chobe River in Chobe

Chobe National Park is one of the most visited game reserves in Botswana. Its proximity to the town of Kasane means there are lots of accommodation options nearby, and many lodges and tour companies leading guided safaris into the park. It can become crowded, especially on weekends, though the western area of the park sees far fewer visitors.

The concentration of game is very high, especially in the dry season, though it feels less wild than many other parts of Botswana due to the high density of tourists and game drives. You can read more about our time in this park in the travel adventure book I wrote, No Footprints in the Night: On Safari in Botswana*.

Information and Itinerary

There’s no fuel or facilities within the national park, so stock up on everything in Kasane (or Maun) before entering. If you haven’t paid for your camping or park fees already, make sure to bring cash.

Gate Opening Hours

There are two entrance gates to Chobe Riverfront – Sedudu Gate near Kasane in the east, and Ngoma Gate in the west of the park. You can drive along the tarred A33 highway through the park without paying entrance fees and you can spot animals here (we saw a large herd of buffalo blocking the road). However, it’s illegal to drive off this route onto the tracks through the park without first visiting one of the gates to check you have paid your fees.

Gate opening hours in Chobe are from 6 am to 6:30 pm Apr-Sep (winter) and 5:30 am to 7 pm Oct-Mar (summer). You should be back in your campsite or out of the park outside these hours. Occasionally, staff don’t arrive at the gates on time first thing in the morning. If you’re not staying within the park, you may be subject to the Chobe Decongestion Strategy – see below.

Itinerary

We camped for one night at Ihaha Campsite in Chobe National Park. On the first day we drove from Mwandi View (20 km south) and arrived at Ngoma Gate in the west of the park at 6 am. Once there we had to wait for 10 minutes for someone to turn up. We then took a game drive through the park and ended at our campsite around lunchtime. In the late afternoon we drove east along the river and on some of the tracks further inland.

On our second day, we went on a game drive in the morning and left the park around lunchtime to head to our lodge in Kasane. We saw many elephants, buffalos, antelopes (including sables, pukus and red lechwe), two honey badgers (just before dark) and a pride of lions on the riverbanks staring at the buffalo in the water.

I think one night in Chobe Riverfront was enough, as we had two days of safari within the park. Though as always, we could have easily spent another night there. If you’re travelling from far away on the first day, then spending two nights in the park would be recommended.

Buffalo seen from the A33 highway through Chobe
Watch out for crocodiles by the river in Chobe National Park

Best time of year to visit Chobe National Park

The best time to visit Chobe is the dry season from May-Oct. The surrounding bush dries out and high concentrations of game visit Chobe River to drink. In Sep-Oct it can be very hot, before the onset of rain in November, but the wildlife viewing is still excellent. In January and February, the rain can be very heavy, and the tracks near the river are flooded.

In March and April the tracks and wildlife viewing can be variable, depending on how much rain has fallen. In wet years a lot of game remains deeper in the bush, while if it’s been dry the game already starts visiting the river in high concentrations. However, safaris are possible all year round and there is always a lot of wildlife and birds to see.

How to get to Chobe Riverfront

Lions in Chobe Riverfront National Park
Lions in Chobe Riverfront
Lions in Chobe Riverfront National Park

How to get to Chobe Riverfront from Maun and the South

From Maun to Chobe Riverfront, you can either drive the long and sandy route through Savuti (at least 355 km), or the longer tarred route via Nata (610 km).

  1. Direct Route: Maun to Chobe Riverfront via Savuti

The shortest route between Maun and Chobe Riverfront passes through Savuti, the southwestern part of Chobe National Park, and you must pay park fees to drive through Savuti. It’s at least 300 km if you don’t take any detours and it’s sandy most of the way. Many self-divers head first through Moremi, and perhaps spend time in Khwai, before exploring Savuti and then journeying onwards to Chobe Riverfront. This route, often over multiple days, can be 600 km or more. There are no fuel stations on this route, you must be fully self-sufficient in both fuel and drinking water.

  1. Longer Tarred Route: Maun to Chobe Riverfront via Nata

The tarred route between Maun and Chobe Riverfront is 610 km. Most of the tar is nice except for the portion between Gweta and Nata where there are many potholes and the tarmac is almost all gone. Fuel is available in Maun, Nata and Kasane. The fuel station at Gweta is not to be relied on.

How to get to Chobe Riverfront from Kasane

The Chobe Riverfront section of Chobe National Park is adjacent to Kasane town. You should enter through Sedudu Gate, 5 km down the tarred A33 from central Kasane.

Road Conditions in Chobe National Park

We drove 125 km through Chobe Riverfront, from Ngoma Gate in the west to Kasane in the east, including game drives within the park. This was the last stage of our trip from Maun – on the way we visited Moremi, Khwai and Savuti.

The tracks are not that sandy but can be muddy, and those next to the river can be flooded. There are tracks higher up on the banks so you can be near the river in any season. Getting down to the river can sometimes be tricky, with steep and narrow rocky tracks, but there are often easier alternatives if you drive further along.

When we were there (May 2021) the route by the river close to Ngoma Gate was not passable due to deep, narrow gullies crossing the road. Ngoma Gate told us to drive along the tarred A33 for 8 km, and then head north to the river from there.

Driving along a track in Botswana
Sometimes the tracks by the river are flooded

Botswana Overlanding Book

I captured our many adventures in a travel book, check it out on Amazon*.

South Africa was kicking us out so we had to make a plan. ‘What about Botswana?’ A few days before we overstayed our visas, we hit the road in our trusty Defender and sped north from Cape Town.

Self-Drive Safaris in Chobe National Park

There is a rule that self-drivers who are not staying within the park (i.e. at Ihaha Campsite) can only enter Chobe Riverfront between 9 am and 2:30 pm. Once inside the park you can stay as long as you want, i.e. until gate closing times. This is the official Chobe Riverfront decongestion strategy, put in place because it can get very busy. Game drives organised by the lodges get the best times, with entry before 9 am and after 2:30 pm. If you do want to enter in prime time, ask at the gate because when the park isn’t busy (or sometimes randomly) the rule is not enforced. You could also enquire at your lodge about the situation.

If you stay at Ihaha Campsite you avoid the decongestion strategy, plus you can watch wildlife from your campsite. There are not that many route choices – east or west along the river from the camp are the main options. However, we did drive some of the routes away from the riverfront and were rewarded with a herd of beautiful sable antelopes. These tracks are also not at all crowded.

In general, the routes nearest Kasane in the east of the park are more crowded, while those to the west see much fewer visitors. Additionally, the lodge vehicles mainly drive in the early morning and later afternoon, so in the middle of the day hardly anyone else is within the park.

Chobe National Park as a Day or Multiday Organized Tour from Kasane

If you don’t have your own 4×4, you can rent a 4×4 from Kasane*, or it’s possible to book a tour to Chobe. You can get an idea of prices and itineraries online*, but it’s very easy to book with your accommodation once you arrive in Kasane. It’s also possible to book multiday tours from Kasane*, for example visiting Chobe Riverfront and also Victoria Falls. If you really want to push the boat out, a luxury Chobe safari* would be the trip of a lifetime, with everything organised for you.

An advantage of booking a tour is that you avoid the decongestion strategy and the lodge vehicles also all communicate with each other, so if one group spots lions your vehicle will be told and you’ll rush over there to see them. That being said, it’s also a disadvantage because as soon as one lodge vehicle spots anything, most of the other vehicles within the park converge on the same animal(s) and it gets very crowded.

Chobe River Safaris

All lodges in the area can organise a boat cruise on the Chobe River. Some lodges, such as Chobe Safari Lodge, have a large activity centre that can organise river safaris (and more) for non-guests. Sunset cruises are the most popular option, starting a few hours before the sunset itself.

Most river safaris start in Kasane then spend an hour or two cruising west along the Chobe River through the National Park. Note, you have to pay the park entrance fees for these cruises. If camping within the park, you can save some money by going on a cruise on the afternoon you leave the park, since you’ve already paid that day’s fee.

Male kudu drinking from the Chobe River in Botswana in  Chobe National Park
Young puku antelope drinking from the Chobe River in Botswana in  Chobe National Park

You’re very unlikely to see leopards, and there’s only a small chance you’ll see lions from the boat – game drives are better for the predators. However, you will almost certainly see elephants walking, playing and swimming in the river, and buffalo cooling off. Crocodiles and hippos are very common, as is an abundance of birdlife. On the shoreline expect to see antelope coming down to drink, taking care to avoid the crocodiles.

Sunset from the boat is beautiful. Our boat actually got stuck in the shallows so we watched the sunset for a long time and ended up heading back when it was almost dark.

Sunset over the Chobe River from a boat cruise in Botswana in Chobe National Park

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Chobe Entrance Fee and Camping Rates

We ended up booking all our campsites in Botswana via Botswana Footprints. There were very professional and their booking fee was surprisingly low.

Contact Details for Ihaha Campsite and Chobe National Park

Park fees: Significantly increased in 2022. Now P30/205/270 for citizens/residents & SADC/ international per person per day + vehicle fees per day of P30/115 and trailer fees of P15/60 for local/international. Children 8-15 half price and under 8 free. Prices are per day, not night, so one night in the park means two days of fees.

Contact Details: Contact Kwalate Safaris to book Ihaha Campsite, the only campground in Chobe. Contact the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) to pay conservation fees in advance and receive a voucher, or pay in cash at the park gates.

Department of Wildlife and National Parks: Botswana Parks and Reserves Reservation Office, +267 397 1405 or +267 318 0774, [email protected] Office hours 07:30-16:3, closed weekends.

Ihaha Campground is the only one in the park and often gets apparently fully booked months in advance. However, sometimes it’s only fully booked through bad organisation and a poor booking system. There are often cancellations and you can try your luck by turning up and asking at the gate on the day.

Kwalate Safaris: +267 686 5551, +267 686 1448, +267 71 308 283, +267 71 307 435, [email protected] Their location in Maun: Above FNB, New Mall, Maun. Their office hours are 8:00am- 4:30pm Mon-Fri and 8:00am – 2:00pm Sat. Visit their rather basic website.

Camping Rates for Ihaha Campsite

CitizenResidentSADCInternational
P100P125P175$40
Prices are per person per night.

Accommodation in Chobe Riverfront

Ihaha Campsite

Ihaha is the only campsite within the Chobe Riverfront section of the National Park (map↑). It’s managed by Kwalate Safaris and is quite expensive (especially for international visitors) but there’s no other option.

Ihaha Campsite has a great location, right on the banks of the Chobe River. In the wet season, the river runs very close to the campsite, while in dry season a hippo pool remains nearby but the river is further away. At any time of year, do watch out for crocodiles and hippos, and never get between a hippo and the water. Monkeys are another animal to watch out for, they’re fairly common in the campsite so don’t leave any food items unattended. You can sometimes see lights and hear music from the Namibia side, across the river, in the evenings, which slightly detracts from the wilderness experience.

In the past there have been reports of crime (esp. around 2018) at this campsite, with locals coming via the river and breaking into vehicles at night. Because of this, the campsite initiated patrols throughout the night and crime is now less of an issue. However, do make sure you lock up your vehicle at night, keep your valuables in a secure location and don’t leave anything stealable behind in the daytime.

Sites and Ablutions

The ablutions are fine, with flush toilets and hot showers (often low pressure), though they are sometimes not that clean. Since 2022 the ablutions have been repainted and for now, are well-maintained. When we were there (2021) I found a dead bat in one of the toilet bowls and then the inner handle fell off the outside door so I was trapped there for a while before my partner heard me shouting and rescued me. There are also alive bats living under the roof.

There are 10 campsites at Ihaha, all with a braai and firepit. They’re all along the river, so no bad sites. Some are on sloping ground and might not be good for multiple vehicles. At some sites there isn’t much, or any shade. It’s best not to camp directly under a tree as the monkeys sometimes throw stuff down onto your tent/vehicle.

Site 3 at Ihaha Campsite in Chobe National Park, Botswana
Site 3 at Ihaha Campsite in Chobe National Park, Botswana
Baboons at Ihaha Campsite in Chobe Riverfront National Park

Luxury Safari Lodges in Chobe Riverfront

There is only one permanent, and one semi-mobile lodge within Chobe National Park Riverfront section. There are a few lodges on the Nambian side (cheaper but no great game drives from the doorstep). Many lodges are in Kasane, and these can organise day game drives to Chobe along with boat cruises on the river.

Chobe Game Lodge (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): The only permanent lodge within Chobe National Park, right on the banks of the Chobe River. However, given its location not far from Kasane, this section of the park can get crowded with day-trippers.

Chobe under Canvas (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): A fully tented rustic camp (no electricity and bucket showers) in the national park (not overlooking the river). Guests are collected in Kasane for the transfer.

Kasane

The town of Kasane is adjacent to the park, at the border of four countries, where Botswana meets Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. There are road crossings from Kasane into Zambia and Zimbabwe, but to drive to Namibia you’ll need to head 60 km west to the Ngoma crossing.

Kasane is mainly a base for tourists visiting the park next door. It’s also a convenient stop over for those travelling further, or for day trips to Victoria Falls (80 km away plus a border crossing). It’s one of the best places in Botswana for grocery shopping, and there are also several car mechanics in the nearby village of Kazungula (10 minutes east).

A waterbuck family in Chobe National Park

Shops and Car Mechanics in Kasane

Superspar Centre

The Superspar Centre has a large Spar for all your groceries and a Clicks for hygiene and pharmacy needs (similar to Walgreens or Boots). Also on the premise are both Orange and BTC mobile stores and an ATM.

Waterfront Mall

This mall contains Choppies Supermarket and Fire & Ice butcher (the new name for Ron’s Fresh Produce) – you can call in advance to order (+267 625 0620) or just pop in. There’s also an ATM here.

Borogo Junction Mall

In Kazungula (10 minutes east of Kasane), contains a Choppies Supermarket, an ATM, Motovac Car Parts store and more.

Beef Boys Meat Market is a butcher in the Industrial / Car Mechanic section of Kazungula.

Fuel Stations in Kasane

There’s a Shell in the centre of town and Puma on the eastern outskirts. In Kazungula there’s an Engen in the centre and a smaller Shell down a sidestreet.

Car Repair / Mechanic in Kasane / Kazungula

  • Mario’s Garage (Website): Car mechanic fixing many problems, including for Toyotas and Landrovers.
  • Ken Webster Car Mechanic: Good mechanic, for most vehicles including Toyotas and Land Rovers.
  • Halfway Toyota Chobe (Website): Official Toyota dealer and mechanic.
  • Motovac Car Parts: Shop selling many car parts and accessories. There’s a store opposite Kasane Superspar and another in the Borogo Junction Mall in Kazungula. It also sells the items you need for driving in Zambia and Zimbabwe such as a fire extinguisher, warning triangles etc.
  • Kazungula Tyres & Spares: Local shop selling tyres and spare parts.

4×4 Car Rental in Kasane

  • Britz* is a big international car rental company renting many unequipped or fully equipped 4x4s in Kasane and Maun.
  • Bushlore Africa rent both unequipped and fully equipped 4×4 Toyotas in southern Africa, including Kasane and Maun.
  • Chobe4x4 are based in Kasane and rent fully equipped Toyota Landcruisers.
  • 4×4 Hire (part of DiscoverAfrica) rent different types of vehicles throughout Africa, including pick up and drop off in Kasane and Maun.
  • Temba 4×4 Hire rent fully equipped 4×4 Toyotas in Kasane and Maun.
  • Tawana Self-Drive are based in Kasane and rent fully equipped 4×4 Toyotas in Kasane, Maun, Gaborone, Namibia or SA.

Accommodation outside of Chobe National Park

Lodges and Accommodation in Kasane

A bushbuck in the campsite at Chobe Safari Lodge
A visitor to our campsite in Chobe Safari Lodge
A warthog in the campsite at Chobe Safari Lodge
Another visitor

There are many safari lodges in Kasane Town. Most of them overlook the river. A few lodges in Kasane also have camping: Chobe Safari Lodge, Thebe River Safaris, Kubu Lodge, Kwalape Safari Lodge (not on the river) and Senyati Safari Camp (further from town). We camped at Chobe Safari Lodge, which was great. We didn’t have views from our (small) campsite but the views from the lodge bar were great – there’s another cool little riverside bar near the campsite too. We also booked a Chobe river safari with the lodge.

Lodges with Camping in Kasane

Chobe Safari Lodge (Website, Booking Reviews*): A well-known lodge in Kasane with a campsite. Has a great restaurant, and bar overlooking the river. Can organise game drives, boat cruises, trips to Victoria Falls and more. Most campsites don’t have views but are shady, some are small. Warthogs and bushbucks sometimes wander through the campsite. Their sister lodge, Chobe Bush Lodge, is opposite.

Kubu Lodge (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): A lodge with thatched wooden chalets by the Chobe River. Bed and breakfast only, with dinner, or all-inclusive packages including activities are offered. They also have a campsite with braai facilities, electricity and WiFi, P120 per person.

Kwalape Safari Lodge (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): An affordable lodge with safari tents and camping. Not on the river.

Thebe River Safaris (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): A lodge with camping on the banks of the river. Can organise many activities. Camping is first-come, first-served – you can’t reserve in advance, only turn up and ask at reception.

Senyati Safari Camp (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): Slightly out of Kasane, but with nice camping and many elephants visit the waterhole. Each campsite has its own ablutions, P210 per person per night.

Self-Catering in Kasane

Chobe River Cottages (Website, Booking Reviews*): Six self-catering cottages in a lovely garden by the river.

Elephant Trail Guesthouse and Backpackers (Website, Booking Reviews*): A hostel in a village away from the river with activities on offer. Cheap accommodation but a nice place.

Kasane Self-Catering (Website, Booking Reviews*): Three cute cottages on the edge of the river near the centre of town.

Sedudu Sunset Bar in Chobe Safari Lodge

Lodges in Kasane

Chobe Marina Lodge (Website, Booking Reviews*): A lodge with rooms overlooking the river. Many activities on offer.

Chobe Bakwena Lodge (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): An eco-lodge on the river near the meeting point of the four countries, with the routes to Zambia and Zimbabwe nearby.

Cresta Mowana Safari Resort (Website, Booking Reviews*): A nice lodge on the banks of the river. Has many facilities and can organise many activities.

Jackalberry Chobe (Website, Booking Reviews*): A luxury, all-inclusive tented camp on the river with a lovely pool and many activities on offer.

The Old House (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): A guesthouse overlooking the Chobe River. Offers many activities and has a great restaurant – also open for non-guests.

Pangolin Chobe Hotel (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): A great lodge on a plateau overlooking Chobe River. The focus here is on wildlife photography, with fancy camera equipment included in the room rates, and special photography tours on the river. They also have a houseboat.

River View Lodge (Website, Booking Reviews*): A lovely lodge by the river offering many activities and all-inclusive packages.

Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): A luxury lodge adjacent to the park.

The main Bar in Chobe Safari Lodge
Drinks at the bar in Chobe Safari Lodge

Accommodation Southwest of the Park

Chobe Elephant Camp (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): A luxury lodge overlooking the Chobe River. Can organise game drives, canoeing, boat cruises and more.

Ngoma Safari Lodge (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): A lodge on a hill overlooking the Chobe River, 5km from the park gates. Offers game drives, night drives, bush walk, boat cruises and more.

Muchenje Safari Lodge (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): A luxury lodge overlooking the Chobe River. Offers bush walks, game drives, boat cruises and more.

Muchenje Campsite & Cottages (Website, Booking Reviews*): The property has 3 self-catering cottages, 3 self-catering tents and a pool. The campsite (P210 per person per night) has 10 large, shady sites with braai, electricity and drinking water. There’s a small shop on site selling basic supplies (ice, wood, vegetables, meat). Offers game drives and river cruises.

Mwandi View (Website, Booking Reviews*): A lodge overlooking the river, with a pool and waterhole in front of the deck. Self-catering tents and a campsite (P190 per person per night) on a grassy field. Offers game drives and more.

Accommodation in Namibia overlooking the Chobe River

Chobe River Camp (Website, Booking Reviews*): A cheap but nice lodge just opposite Chobe National Park. In summer (dry season) the surroundings are dry and cattle graze nearby, in the wet season the lodge is on the edge of the water. Can organize many activities including river cruises and game drives.

Chobe River Campsite (Website, Booking Reviews*): Associated with the nearby lodge above. Campers can use the pool, bar and WiFi at the lodge.

Chobe Savanna Lodge (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): A lodge on the banks of the Chobe River, overlooking the national park. Can organise many activities.

Chobe Water Villas (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): A boutique lodge opposite Kasane Town in a Namibian conservancy with lovely river views from the villas. Many activities on offer.

Serondela Lodge (Website, Booking Reviews*): A nice lodge on the banks of the Chobe River, only reachable via a boat cruise from Kasane.

Zambezi Queen Collection (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*): The collection includes Ichingo Chobe River Lodge (in Namibia) and houseboats – the Chobe Princess and the luxury Zambezi Queen.

Zovu Elephant Lodge (Website, Booking Reviews*): A lodge opposite Kasane in Nambia with a nicely located restaurant. Can organise many activities.

I hope you enjoyed our guide to Chobe National Park in Botswana. If so, check out the Savuti section of the park or our overall Guide to Botswana.


Chobe was a stop in Botswana near the end of our two-month road trip. Find out more by reading the travel book I wrote, No Footprints in the Night: On Safari in Botswana*.

FAQS

What is the speed limit in Chobe?

The speed limit in Chobe is 40 km/h.

What are the gate hours for Chobe?

Gate opening hours in Chobe are from 6 am to 6:30 pm Apr-Sep (winter) and 5:30 am to 7 pm Oct-Mar (summer).

Where is Chobe National Park?

Chobe National Park is in northeastern Botswana between Maun and Kasane. The popular Riverfront section of the park borders Kasane.

When is the best time to visit Chobe National Park?

The best time to visit Chobe is the dry season from May-Oct. The surrounding bush dries out and high concentrations of game visit Chobe River to drink. In Sep-Oct it can be very hot, before the onset of rain in November.

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