Chobe National Park, Botswana
Budget safari, a thing of dreams?
Here is the means to make that budget safari, a reality. You don’t have to sacrifice the best parks for this reality; well known Chobe National Park is one of the best, especially for spotting large groups of elephants.
The cool air is welcoming in the early morning safari drive through Chobe National Park, by 10am it will be a hot, sticky environment. This is the time to view lions hunting and not just lounging under a tree. A group of three lionesses are playing with a baby crocodile, throwing it between themselves and taunting it like a normal domestic cat would play with a mouse. Feeding Hyenas scammer away from a rotting elephant on the banks of the river and the vultures are waiting in the distance for their turn at breakfast.
After a relaxing midday siesta, end your day with a sunset boat cruise up the vast Chobe River whilst sipping a cold beer and hearing the hippos grunt all around you. A few meters away are water buffalo and elephants grazing side by side, you are so close you can hear the animals chewing the grass and yet they seem to be unfazed by the tourists surrounding them. As the river tour comes to an end, the sun sets over the large surface of water, turning the river oranges, yellows and greens, you feel truly at one with nature in these few moments before night takes over and the blackness swallows you.
This is the perfect place to experience a grade-A safari with unbeatable game viewing at a low cost price.
The cost of flying from overseas is not cheap, but if you are already planning a trip to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, this park is only a few hours away. Why not see something affordable and rememberable whilst in the area.
It is essential to have a 4 x 4 vehicle to drive in the park, but with a group of four or five people, hiring one can become reasonably cheap, (around $100 per day). The Botswana department of Wildlife and National Parks have fees of only $14 per day per person, which certainly beats that of the Maassi Mara in Kenya at a daily park fee of $80! Alternatively for the slightly less adventurous, it is possible to get a morning game drive organised for around $30 per person.
The boat cruise does not cost a fortune, due to many companies taking boats out for sunset every day, with a group of 4 or more people you can spend a little as $30 for a 4 hour boat cruise. Just remember your haggling skills, even if this is through e-mail before you come. Doing both the game drive and the boat cruise on the same day you also save money because you don’t pay for the park entrance fee twice.
The campsites in the national park are greatly overpriced; choosing to stay outside the park in Kasane is a cheaper option. I stayed in Thebe campsite just outside of Kasane town; it was well organised with fire pits, electric points, hot showers, restaurant and bar and even private covered areas to camp under if you chose. What’s more you are still right on the Chobe river that the expensive campsites try to sell you on. From here it is only 10 minutes drive to the national park entrance and for $9 per person, a steal compared to other camping options.
This park has a reputation for an unordinary large population of elephants, I still cannot get the image out of my head of hundreds of elephants grazing in the distance, at first they could have been rocks, but arriving closer there were babies and mothers, bulls and adolescents. Peacefully wandering, eating and enjoying the cooler evening temperatures. Some were bathing in the river itself, playing, splashing and seemed to be in total bliss.
For further advice on parks and prices in Botswana:
Department of Wildlife and National Parks
For Thebe River Safari for accommodation, camping and tours:
E-mail: email@example.com; Tel/Fax: (267) 6250314; Reservations: (267) 6250995; Operations & Mobiles: (267) 6250575;