I went with a friend on a camping safari in Botswana’s Chobe National Park in 2014 and it was the best safari I’ve ever taken. We used Kalahari Tours, which I wholeheartedly recommend. They arranged a van transfer from our hotel in Livingstone, Zambia, as well as a boat transfer across the river border into Botswana.
Upon arrival in Botswana, we visited the Kalahari Offices to grab a coffee and sign paperwork before embarking on a half-day boat safari in along the Chobe Flood Plains, which border the northeastern finger of Namibia. The boat safari was exceptional. Not only were we the only ones out on the water, but we saw several brightly colored birds and larger birds such as the Kingfisher. We also saw crocodile, water buffalo, hippo, and plenty of elephants splashing around through the wetlands.
After the boat tour, we stopped in the town of Kasane and stocked up on snacks and provisions before heading into Chobe National Park. We took a two-day camping safari, although the tours can be shorter or longer, to preference. As opposed to other safaris I’ve been on, our group was small (appx 10 people) and when we found animals, we’d usually be the only ones there, which let us get up close and take great photos! Likewise, we camped in a rustic location with nobody else around for miles — it makes you feel like you’re alone deep in the brush — not at a group camp with multiple other groups.
While driving around on safari, we got up close with many more animals — lion, warthog, birds, kudu, gazelle, giraffe, and so many elephants! We stopped by a pit where elephants were covering themselves in mud (to keep cool) and an aggressive one started giving us the stare-down. He started coming after us and picked up a bit of speed as we drove away — it was pretty exhilarating until he veered off to go eat some plants.
The landscape changed from woods, to brush, then wetlands, then a desert-like landscape with husks of dried-out tree trunks. The animals changed with the landscape, keeping it varied!
At nightfall things became interesting! We set up camp, had a great dinner and watched the sunset. As we were sitting around the campfire, our guide gave us a very understated safety briefing: “If you really need use the bathroom at night– and can’t wait until morning– then have someone go with you and stay near the tent. Look around carefully with your flashlight first. If you see two eyes looking at you, if they’re low and close together, it’s okay — if the eyes are higher and wider apart, then you should wait until later.”
A little while later, I was sitting around the campfire chatting with a few folks who hadn’t gone to sleep yet. Suddenly our guide stopped (I don’t know how he saw this) and shined his flashlight onto into a spot just outside our camp — a cheetah that was creeping its way towards us! Once spotted in the light, he stopped and ran off. A little while later, our guide flashed the light behind us, and the cheetah was there again, a bit closer. This pattern continued over the next hour, with the cheetah appearing at various spots, getting closer each time. Finally our guide suggested we go to bed. A few minutes later, the cheetah just started walking straight into our camp — lights out! Inside our tent, we could hear it thrashing around looking for food, crumpling plastic bottles and so forth. Eventually it went away, but after that experience I was wide awake!
Also– the park became alive at night! All night long I heard large animals crashing through trees and sticks, monkeys and other animals (who knows what) howling and yelling for hours– it sounded like a party!
The next morning we got up to a magnificent sunrise and drove around watching lions and cheetah stalk gazelle — it was like the Discovery Channel (but for real)!
We drove around, exploring the park further and seeing more animals until late afternoon when we caught our transfer back to Zambia. It was a short but amazing safari! While anyone going to Africa will undoubtedly want to go to one of the big-name safari parks — I can’t recommend Chobe enough to anyone looking for a more intimate experience!