Julie Botswana 26 Comments

Chobe National Park in Botswana is the place to go to see African elephants. We spent the most amazing three days here on safari. During the day we took boat trips on the Chobe River and went on game drives in the park, searching for elephants, lions, giraffe, and numerous other African animals. At night we slept in tents around a campfire, with the sounds of elephants and lions in the distance. It was an unforgettable experience and one of the best experiences of our trip around the world.

On Safari in Chobe National Park

On the Chobe River

Our adventure started on a Tuesday morning with a boat trip up the Chobe River.  The six of us (the four Earth Trekkers and Kathy and Valerie) got our first close up views of elephants, hippos, and water buffalo.

We watched as elephants ate their breakfast, crocodiles basked in the sun, and hungry hippos munched on grass.

Water buck

Water Buck

Water Buffalo Chobe

Water Buffalo


African Fish Eagle

African Fish Eagle

We watched as herds of elephants walked to the river, swam across, and spent the morning munching on grass on Sedudu Island. The younger elephants loved to play in the water, just like kids. By the way, Tyler and Kara loved this. I am sure if you ask them, this experience beats any museum or zoo we will ever see.

Elephants Chobe River

Game Drives in Chobe National Park

The boat trip on the Chobe River was awesome, and our day would get even better with the afternoon game drive. The six of us plus a young couple from Europe shared a safari Jeep, driven by our guide for three days, Lance. We bounced along dusty roads in Chobe National Park, on the search for more wildlife.

Finding animals in Chobe is a very easy thing to do. It was amazing the number of impala, elephants, giraffe, zebra, and buffalo we saw.

Elephant Close Up

Seeing the elephants was the highlight of our visit to Chobe. Chobe National Park is famous for its large numbers of elephants. We visited Chobe in the dry season, prime viewing season as animals flock to the last watering holes. The Chobe River supports a large amount of elephants and other animals and we were here at prime time.

Elephant Family

The giraffe are beautiful, but they are somewhat awkward when they run.

Later in the afternoon Lance got a call that there was a leopard sighting. We sped off in our Jeep, joining about seven other safari vehicles, all trying to get the best view of this leopard lounging by the river.

Leopard Chobe

And not too long after the leopard spotting a pride of lions was found wandering down to the river. A very excited Kara exclaimed, “How are we getting so lucky with all of this!”

Lions Chobe

Lions Chobe Safari

The way we were facing in our Jeep, if I looked to my left, there was a pride of lions. Just to our right, along the Chobe River, were herds of elephants. It was unbelievable!!  The elephants were rumbling and growling at the lions, the lions were looking on rather indifferently, and multiple safari Jeeps were caught in the middle. I was more curious than apprehensive and just thrilled to be witnessing all of this.

Elephants Chobe Safari

Our night ended with dinner around a campfire and our first night sleeping in tents. During the night we heard elephants, baboons, lions, jackals, and other animals I couldn’t identify. We loved every minute of this experience!

Day 2 in Chobe

Our second day was spent with a morning and an afternoon game drive, with lunch and siesta at the campsite in the middle of the day. Animal spottings were still amazing.

Herd of Zebra

Lilac Breasted Roller

Elephants in Botswana


We had another leopard spotting. They really are difficult to find in the tall, dried grass, and it is amazing how quickly the guides can spot them.

Can You Find the Leopard?

Safari Jeeps

Our Campsite

During our midday siesta time we took some time to do some school work.  Kara took her math test in the back of the safari Jeep, probably the coolest place ever to take a test!

And here is Kara and a view of our campsite:

Safari Camp

And here is our future photographer (standing next to the campsite bathroom):

Future Photographer

After more animal spottings during our afternoon safari, our day ended with a Botswana sunset.

Botswana Sunset

Final Day in Chobe

Our final morning started out a little slow, as Lance discovered we had a flat tire.  Tim helped change the tire and we were on our way again.

Fixing flat tire

We had another leopard sighting, which was amazing. Three days in a row! Maybe it’s the same one we keep seeing. This time we watched as the leopard lay in the grass as grazing impala slowly wandered closer towards him. We were hopeful for a chase but the impala eventually spotted him. Bummer!

The Hunt

Finally, we saw tons of warthogs and baboons all over the place, and vervet monkeys were always found near humans, as they love to come steal our food.

Our day ended with another boat trip on the Chobe River, which Tim and I did not take, as we were in the midst of our first trip related stomach troubles. Tyler, Kara, Mom, and Valerie all enjoyed their last views of herds of elephants on the Chobe River.

The camping safari was amazing. It was so much better than I ever expected. At times we were within ten feet of elephants, twenty feet from lions. We saw so many animals it was unbelievable. I am looking forward to our next safari adventures at Kruger, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and Addo Elephant Park, and am wondering if they will beat our Chobe experience.

How We Did This

In order to go on an African safari and stay within budget, we booked a three-day two-night camping safari with Kalahari Tours. Our guide, Lance was wonderful, and the game drives and the two boat trips on the Chobe River were fantastic experiences. Overall, with the number of animals we saw and Lance’s wisdom and wicked ability to spot leopards, it was a great experience.

Meals and living conditions were not as great. During the first night of our safari we had to sleep outside of Chobe National Park, since Kalahari Tours did not reserve a campsite in the park for our group. It was a disappointment not getting the “true” safari experience both nights. Also, the food was mediocre, and there were a number of people in our group, including me, Tim, Valerie, and Tyler, who all got a mild case of food poisoning.

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Chobe National Park Safari


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Comments 26

  1. Avatar for Jen

    Our family took a year off to travel and we have been consistently referencing your website for tips and advice. Such detailed and reliable information!!

    We are driving through southern Africa now and was wondering how you handled antimalarial medication. Our children are quite young and we are currently in the end of the dry season so we are accessing the risk of malaria vs anti malarial medication. Our youngest is only 5. I know doctor recommendation is best but just wondering how other families handled it.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Our visit to South Africa and Botswana was in August, just around the same time. We started off taking the anti-malarial meds (Malarone) and didn’t have any side effects. However, once there, we rarely encountered mosquitoes and made the decision to stop taking the Malarone a few weeks before we left South Africa. We thought the risk of taking a medication and its side effects was worse than the small likelihood of contracting malaria. And none of us came down with malaria on our visit. However, we did go back on Malarone later in the trip when we were in India (in India I got Dengue Fever from a mosquito). So, since you are there at the same time, you have to weigh the risk of taking Malarone with the chance of malaria, which is small this time of year. I don’t know what the recommendation is for a 5 year old. Kara, our youngest, was 9 at the time, and I think she could take a small dose of Malarone (but it’s been 9 years now so it’s hard to recall exactly what we did…hard to believe it’s been almost a decade!). I hope this helps! Have a great time in South Africa! Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Jen
  2. Avatar for San

    Hi Julie, I am going first time to Africa with my boys for 2 weeks around mid to end May ( I have gone alone to Europe and of course traveled widely in US), and I am hoping it will be an epic experience but I am concerned a bit about safety (esp. safety for women) and also left side driving. We are on a budget. Will like to know where you would suggest – Kruger NP or Chobe. We plan to fly to Johannesburg as cheaper flight options.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      If you are on a budget, and worried about driving on the left, Kruger is the better option. We were on a budget too, which is why we camped in Botswana, rather than doing a more “elaborate” tour. Even so, it was an incredible experience. But to get here, it is a long drive from Johannesburg, on somewhat remote roads, on the left. You can fly to Chobe but that is very expensive. From Johannesburg, it is a much shorter drive to Kruger and Kruger is easy to do on a budget, since you can self drive through the park. However, taking an evening ranger tour to see lions and wildlife is worth the expense. On this trip, you will get accustomed to driving on the left, and who knows, maybe next year you can plan a return visit to the area to visit Botswana and/or Namibia. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Heidi

    We are going to be in South Africa for around 2 1/2 weeks in July. We are enjoying most of the sites you suggested along the route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.

    On the last 5 nights / 6 days of our stay we are contemplating a flight into Chobe from Port Elizabeth, or a flight to Kruger. Chobe would be out of the route a bit, but if you think this is the better option, we would certainly choose this option. I’ve read that the Okavango Delta is particularly exceptional in July.

    With our time constraints, and with these options, which might you suggest? We leave South Africa from the city of Johannesburg due to the more inexpensive flight options.

    Thanks for any insight you can provide!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      If you are trying to choose between Chobe and Kruger, Chobe wins in my opinion. It feels more rugged, more wild, and more remote, just what you would expect with a safari experience. If there is a way you can add on the Okavango Delta, that would be epic. It will be more planning and most likely more expensive than Kruger, but we LOVED Chobe. Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Jyoti

    Loved reading your blog and seeing the awesome pictures. We did a day trip to Chobe national park a few weeks ago and had an amazing time. We spent over an hour just observing leopards on trees and as they walked around and changed trees.
    You got incredibly lucky with leopard sighting every day and the lion pride!
    Sorry about the food poisoning. Hopefully the rest of your trip was great.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Jyoti. Chobe is awesome…it left such an impression on our kids. We were thrilled to see the leopard and the lions back to back…like a dream come true. I’m glad you had a nice time in Chobe and thanks for writing in! Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Nancy

    We went to Chobe this summer and had a fabulous experience. We stayed at Muchenje which was billed as a mid level lodge – it was fantastic! We loved the food and accommodations and had a spectacular time.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  6. Avatar for Andrew Cheek
    Andrew Cheek

    Hi there. I have just come across your excellent page & note that you used Kalahari Tours for your safari in Chobe NP. Can I ask if you would recommend them? Thanking you in advance.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello. For the price their safari is hard to beat. However, we did not have a perfect experience. We spent 2 nights and 3 days in Chobe, both on the river and on game drives. Here is what we did not like: (1) three of us got a very mild case of food poisoning (nausea and diarrhea) while on the safari and (2) they messed up our first night camping in Chobe. For some reason, they failed to arrange for us to sleep in Chobe. Instead, we were driven to Senyati Safari Camp and slept in tents there are first night. It was not ideal but it was still a good experience. We would have preferred sleeping in Chobe both nights, of course, because this is when you hear the lions off in the distance (or nearby…). But, we saw everything. Lions, elephants, impala, leopards…it was amazing. We loved our guide Lance, we loved the game drives, and in summary it was an awesome experience. We were traveling on a budget, so these minor inconveniences were worth it to us just to be able to have this experience. If money is not a huge factor for you, then you might want to pay for a higher end tour. If you are looking for a budget safari, then consider Kalahari Tours. I felt like the 3 days/2 nights was perfect for our family. I highly recommend going to Chobe…it was our best safari experience during our 6 weeks in southern Africa. – Julie

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