Chobe River - A view from our expert author

Hippo in the Chobe River, Botswana by PlusONE, ShutterstockThe Chobe riverfront offers the best chance to see hippos, crocodiles and the odd sunbathing leguvaan (water monitor) © PlusONE, Shutterstock

The river running along the northern border of the Chobe National Park is certainly one of the biggest attractions of the area.

Perhaps the park’s greatest attraction is its northern boundary, the Chobe River. In the dry season animals converge on this stretch of water from the whole of northern Botswana. Elephant and buffalo, especially, form into huge herds for which the park is famous.

In November 1853 David Livingstone passed through the area and described the river: ‘Though the river is from thirteen to fifteen feet in depth at its lowest ebb, and broad enough to allow a steamer to ply upon it, the suddenness of the bending would prevent navigation; but should the country ever become civilised, the Chobe would be a convenient natural canal’.

Fortunately that kind of civilisation hasn’t reached the Chobe yet – there are no canal boats to be seen – and today’s traveller must make do with 4x4s or the small motorboats that weave along the river, amongst channels still ruled by hippos.


One of the main attractions of the boat trips on the Chobe is that large family groups of elephants will troop down to the river to drink and bathe, affording spectacular viewing and photography. You’ll find these here at any time of day, but they’re especially common in the late afternoon, just before sunset.

The riverfront itself offers the best chance in Chobe to see hippos, crocodiles and the odd sunbathing leguvaan (water monitor). Whilst there, also look out for the delightful Cape clawless and spotted-necked otters, which make their homes in the riverbank.

Perhaps the riverfront’s most talked-about antelope is the Chobe bushbuck. This is a localised race, or perhaps a subspecies, of the bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus or, if a subspecies, then ornata) which has wide distribution within sub-Saharan Africa, from the edge of rainforests to the edges of the Kalahari and throughout the eastern side of southern Africa. Their colouration exhibits a lot of regional variation, and there is certainly a distinctive race which occurs only in this Chobe riverfront area – with brighter coloration and clearer markings than are found in the rest of southern Africa.

Waterbuck and reedbuck are also usually found in wetter areas, and so are seen around Chobe riverfront and Linyanti but not elsewhere in Chobe. Roan are also found here, but are fairly scarce, as befits an antelope that is sought after by private game areas and is expensive to buy. Finally, the beautiful sable antelope are common nowhere, but I’ve seen large and relaxed herds here on several occasions. Being specialist grazers, they are more commonly found in the wooded south of the riverfront, though as sable and roan usually drink during the middle of the day, you will quite often see a small herd near the riverfront road, between Ngoma and Kasane.

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