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Chobe Botswana

Chobe — safari country

Chobe is renowned for its teeming game. The Chobe Reserve and the riverbanks have some of the densest concentrations of elephants, zebra and lions anywhere in Africa and the animal migrations provide a fascinating spectacle. Over 450 species of birds have been identified in the region. The reserve has a wide range of habitats including the mysterious Savuti River that flows and dries out over the ages leaving the geologists scratching their heads!

The Chobe National Park covers 11,700 sq km in the extreme north east corner of Botswana. It stretches from Kasane, near Kazungula where the riverine boundaries of four African countries meet, to the Moremi Game Reserve at its southwest extremity.

The vegetation varies from the tropical Linyanti swamp to the severe desert like landscape of the Savuti, from lush flood plain grasslands to deep sands and woodlands.

It was a safari area from earliest times as the hunters were attracted by huge herds of elephants and migrating buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. Still today it has some of the densest concentrations in Africa of big game and their ever-present predators. The animal migrations are dramatic. The game moves south and east after the rains bring a new flush of green growth to the interior bush and then gradually, in the drier months as the grasses shrivel, the animals move back to the rivers of the north and west.

The Chobe riverfront in the north west corner of the park is renowned for its game throughout the year. The herds of elephant are among the largest in the world. Huge prides of lions trail the game. Over 450 species of birds have been identified in the region. The skies are alive with birds of prey and the waters full of herons and waders. The rare African skimmer shoots across the waters displaying its acrobatic fishing skills. Hippos and crocodiles lurk on the river edges.

Chobe was virtually a crossroads for early explorers, hunters and traders. David Livingstone came through Savuti in 1851 and referred to the marsh there as a 'dismal swamp'. The Savuti channel, a mysterious waterway that flowed south east from the Linyanti, formed the marsh. The Savuti Channel has a fascinating history of flooding and drying up independently of good and rainy seasons and flood levels elsewhere. Thirty years after Livingstone, around 1880, the channel had dried up and the marsh started to dry out into rich grassland. It remained dry until the late 1950s when the waters started to flow again only to dry out a few decades later. This disappearing and reappearing river, with the water backing upstream as it dried out, gave birth to the stories that the Savuti could flow both ways. Tectonic movements of the earthís crust could indeed have changed the course of the river over the years.

The idea of protecting the game and making it into a reserve came as early as the 1930s when Colonel Charles Rey was the resident commissioner in Botswana. His dream was not realised until the 1960s when the colonial government, in one of its last acts, declared the Chobe Game Reserve.

Nowadays the Savuti marsh is grassland. Once it was fed by the Savuti Channel, which flowed from the Linyanti waterways. The grass grows on the silt of the old river and is punctuated by the skeletons of dead trees, drowned in the waters at least 40 years ago. There is also a sand ridge, the remains of the original Makgadikgadi super-lake that covered the region in geological times. Zebra and wildebeest migrate in huge herds eating the Savuti grasses on their way and the other big game animals and the ubiquitous lions gradually follow them as the wet season finishes. Then the plains heat up in the scorching sun and the animals retreat north under the dramatic sunsets as night approaches.

In the narrow northern neck of the Chobe National Park are the Nogatsaa and Tchinga campsites. When the pans are full of water there are few places in Botswana where the game viewing is better. Visitors can spend an entire day at a waterhole watching the animals as they take their turn to drink. The lions are so bold that they often growl around the campfires or pad through the camps at night! The pans are particularly full in August and October during the elephant-breeding season.

The Chobe region caters for the luxury tourist as well as the ordinary camper in a number of exclusive lodges to the north and campsites throughout the reserve. Everywhere safaris are organised starting before dawn and ending with a hearty breakfast before the heat of the day. Fishing trips are arranged on the Chobe River, which is also famous for its sundowner cruises to watch game or admire the dramatic African sunsets
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