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Botswana Chobe self-drive safari - various questions

Hamburg, Germany
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Botswana Chobe self-drive safari - various questions

Hello,

my wife and I are planning a trip to Chobe national park this May. We would love to do a self-drive safari, and would start and end in Kasane, with a duration of 5 days.

After quite a bit of research, there are still questions left which we didn't find satisfactory information on. Some of them might be obvious to you; for us it will be the first time in Africa, and we want to be prepared.

As far as I am aware of, you are not allowed to get out of your car in the national park when you are on a self-drive safari. That is understandable since there might be dangerous animals around. But what do you do when you get stuck with your car, e.g. in deep sand? (Which doesn't seem to be a very unlikely scenario despite of we'll have a 4x4 drive).

My next question goes in a similar direction. Originally we thought we'll stay in the camps, sleep in a roof top tent and cook on gas stove for example. Then I read that most camps in Chobe are unfenced. How do we have to imagine it with the animals there? Do we need to be concerned every minute we're out of the car, for example when we go to the toilet?

Just to clarify: of course we want to go to Chobe to see the spectacular wildlife. We just would like to avoid that animals consider us as their dinner ;) So what are the general means to keep animals in safe distance?

A few more questions:

- There are 3 public campsites (e.g. Ihaha) in Chobe as far as I know. Is there a list of the private operated camps somewhere?

- Where can we find a detailed map of the “roads” in Chobe? Information about picnic spots and ablutions would also be handy.

- We will be in Chobe in the end of May. Is that generally a good time for a self-drive safari (wildlife, road conditions...)

- We would like to do a river safari as well. Is Kasane a good starting point for that? Shall we organise that in advance, or is it sufficient to do that when we are in the area?

Thank you for your help! Any comment will be appreciated!

Also if you have things in mind which we must consider, items we must not forget to bring or locations in Chobe we shouldn't miss out on, let me know.

10 replies to this topic
Santa Cruz...
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1. Re: Botswana Chobe self-drive safari - various questions

I'll message you a map of Chobe, and a list of distances and gps coordinates.

RE the open/unfenced camps: We did a 34 day safari self-drive through Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia in 2016. Most of our camps were unfenced. It is initially thrilling and terrifying to see/hear the animals so close to your tent. After a few days, it turns to mostly thrilling. We had elephants within 20 meters at night. One morning at Chobe Ihaha I woke to the sound of loud chewing. Peered out of the tent to find that there was a hippo 5 meters from our tent, enjoying his breakfast. We sat quietly in the tent for a half hour till he moved on.

Overall though? You are safe during daylight hours. You can go to the bathroom, walk about, etc. Keep an eye open of course, but don't be scared to death. At night, be in your tent and stay there. People being bothered in their car top tents is a very rare thing. We used plastic bottles to urinate in at night so we didn't have to leave the tent.

RE getting stuck in the sand: Chobe is very popular. If you got stuck, you would likely encounter other cars very soon, and very likely they would include professional guides with walkie talkies. Check with the rangers upon arrival to ask what they suggest if you get stuck.

Further out in the field, there were times we didn't have that luxury. We had an experience in the Okovango where deep water blocked our way. We couldn't go back, we had to continue forward (road behind us was just as bad and we were already 5 hours into the bush. We hadn't seen another car in hours. We had to get out to survey the water and see if we could get across. We could. It was likely against the "rules", and it was tense being out of the car when you'd recently seen many animals..but there are times when you may not have a choice.

In Chobe, you won't often be alone.

River Safaris: There are many boat safaris to be booked in Kasani and Chobe. Google will show you many choices. They are popular, and there were many elephant and hippo at the water when we visited.

Have a great trip. Your heart will beat hard at times, but you'll have an unforgettable experience.

Hamburg, Germany
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2. Re: Botswana Chobe self-drive safari - various questions

Hey Jeff,

thank you for your detailed reply! Very nice that you offer to send me that map!

I have read that people set up wood fire at the camps to keep the animals distant, I imagine that is effective, right?

My wife might prefer to sleep inside the car instead of the roof top tent (we won't have much luggage), are there reasons why we shouldn't? I think we might be able to watch straying animals better from inside the car when waking up...

Santa Cruz...
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3. Re: Botswana Chobe self-drive safari - various questions

Yes, I suppose a wood fire would help. And yes, I suppose you could sleep in your car.

My expectation though, is that after being there for a day or two, your concerns will subside and you'll climb into your comfortable tent, as you become comfortable with the environment. The first few nights, I slept very lightly. But for most nights after that, I slept feeling quite safe. The fact of the matter is that most of the bigger animals want nothing to do with you...

Moose Jaw, Canada
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4. Re: Botswana Chobe self-drive safari - various questions

I assume you have got your vehicle reserved?

If you have not reserved your campsites, where you stay may be dictated by what is available. In some cases, places are booked well in advance.

Is the plan to stay within the river front area of Chobe?

Jeff is correct that you most likely will see help arrive sooner rather than later in this part of Chobe, but they or you will still have to get out of the vehicle to dig sand away, or attach a tow rope. Much the same as being in camp during the day, one just has to be aware of their surroundings.

Having been to Chobe in Nov 2017, there was one loop we drove that had we gotten stuck, I feel we would have had to dig ourselves out. Renting a satellite phone may also be of peace and mind for you.

Self driving and camping is amazing, you will have a great time.

Hamburg, Germany
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5. Re: Botswana Chobe self-drive safari - various questions

Thank you for your replies!

I haven't booked anything yet, but want to do that ASAP.

My idea after my research and your input is at the moment:

- For an easy start I would take the tar road from Kasane in direction towards Savuti.

- Stay 1 night along the way, is there maybe a campsite near Kachikau or Kavimba?

- Continue to Savuti, stay there for 2 nights

- Make our way back along the river side, staying at Ihaha for 1-2 nights

- Go back to Kasane

Does that sound like a doable and reasonable plan?

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6. Re: Botswana Chobe self-drive safari - various questions

Hello,

For a first timer the road to Savuti can be hectic just after the rainy season. I also doubt that you can get space at savuti, most people book a year in front.

I will also mention the noice from the generator at Savuti, at this moment 24 hours a day and it s a terrible noise.

Ihaha Campsite is great but I think you are also too late for that one.

Maybe first see what s available and then build around the available dates, good luck with the bookings

Mwandi view and Muchenje campsite are between 10 / 20 km from the west side of Chobe, is a nice stopover if you need one in between.

You can drive from Kasane to Savuti in 1 drive

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7. Re: Botswana Chobe self-drive safari - various questions

Why not sleep in Kasane and do self drives from the east side.

Visit Vic Falls and maybe Hwange also do river cruises and self drives into Chobe.

You and your wife can stay at a good accommodation (or secure campside and) get good / normal nights of sleep

Get some experience with the driving in the park and see if you both like it, then the next time you can book earlier and go for the wild camping experience at the campsites you like / prefer.

Your vehicle will be much cheaper whitout rooftop tent etc.

There will be far more traffic on the east side so if you have problems there will be somebody to help you out

Good luck and enjoy

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8. Re: Botswana Chobe self-drive safari - various questions

In Chobe there is only one campsite with 10 stands.

Last Nov. we had a big fire going on but still we had hyena next to the campfire, a honeybadger circling our car.

A very big ellie next to my chair and i did not noticed it until it was 2 metres next to me.

There was a pride of 13 lions walking 20 m in front of our campsite we did n t noticed them until we turned on our flash light.

I was more scarred for the scorpions... that were present.

Not to make you scared but just to give you an idea what can go happen in a couple of hours.

In 2016 we were there for 2 nights and had almost no animal sightings so you can never be sure.

Kasane is the place to be for a river safari, it s really great. We love it.

You can book if you arrive but you have too deside what you like and what the prices from the different companies are.

Do you like to have a private boat,a photographic safari, half day etc.

There are a lot of reviews about the boat safaris compannies on the internet and there is a big difference between the compannies so do your research in front.

Hamburg, Germany
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9. Re: Botswana Chobe self-drive safari - various questions

Thank you for your further advice and information!

In the meantime I contacted the camps in Chobe, and - surprise, surprise - there are no campsites available in Ihaha, Savuti or Linyanti. So you were right, Karin. I knew I wasn't an early bird, but still a shame none of them has space left.

Muchenje is a good tip though, they have also still space. So far I booked in to Senyati, which also sound like a great camp (despite of its on tyhe other side of Kasane).

So I guess, with that, Muchenje, Chobe Elephant camp and Mwandi there will be some options for us. If you have other camps in mind or would have strong preferences for one or the other, I would be happy to hear about.

We'll be going in May which probably means that wildlife is more distributed in the national park than when they are all trying to find the rare water spots. If you have any tips on what's the best approach to see them, let me know.

Thank you again, you have really helped me a lot!!

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10. Re: Botswana Chobe self-drive safari - various questions

Sorry to hear everything is fully booked.

Ok Mwandi and Muchenje; been to both. Muchenje is closer ( 14 Km ) to the western gate of Chobe so between these 2 i would choose muchenje.

Chobe elephant camp is a complete different price range so you can t compare this 1 to the other 2.

Good luck

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