Feature Coming Away from the River and Mud Wallow

Chobe National Park, Camping Safari

In Travel, Botswana, Africa, Zimbabwe by tony6 Comments

Featured Image: Coming Away from the River and the Mud Wallow, Chobe National Park, Botswana.

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  17 June 2024

This is the sixth article in a series on Southern Africa inspired by a birding trip to Namibia, Botswana and Victoria Falls with Rockjumper and two safaris to Chobe National Park in Botswana with Kalahari Tours and Kruger National Park in South Africa with Lion Roar Safaris.

The articles in order so far are: 1 A Lark in Africa2 Welwitschia3 Safari to Namibia Part 1, 4 Safari to Namibia, Botswana and Victoria Falls Part 2, 5 Large Raptors and 6 Chobe National Park Camping.

Chobe National Park, Botswana Camping Safari, October 2023

Main Points

  • Introduction
  • Kasane and Boat Cruise
  • Pattern of the Safari
  • Our Guide, Shamukuni Tawana
  • The Camp
  • Lions and a Leopard
  • Elephants
  • Other Animals
  • Comment
Waking-Up, Western Pride

Waking-Up, Western Pride


1 Introduction to Chobe National Park

1.1 Chobe National Park Botwswana

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were married for the third and last time at the Chobe Lodge in 1974, which we saw from a distance in 2023.

Our guide told us proudly that the anti-poaching squads in Botswana had a mandate of shoot to kill — the only African country to do so. A good thing in one respect, but unfortunate for the poor Namibians across the river, particularly the fishermen who are sorely tempted by endless herds of Impala.

Magnificent Impala

Magnificent Impala

Although, we saw plenty of Red Lechwe across the river in Namibia, perhaps the poor Namibians aren’t game to poach in this area in Namibia either.

When I first went to Chobe National Park in 1975 with Ansie Cilliers, only a year after Liz and Richard — we free-camped for two nights not far from the river on grassland in an area with toilets, marked by a few ancient wooden fence posts.

Detail of Southern Ground Hornbill showing Eyelash protection

Detail of Southern Ground Hornbill showing Eyelash protection

We were careful in our pup tents and didn’t get up in the middle of the night, but we had no idea. Although, the Australian hitch-hiker we took with us had his very solid plastic water container turned into pulp by a passing hyena at Wankie National Park in Zimbabwe (now Hwange National Park) the night that we met him.

Elephants Wallowing, Chobe National Park

Elephants Wallowing, Chobe National Park

I remember Ansie went to the toilet block when we first arrived in the afternoon and I wondered why she was taking so long. She’d been trapped in there by a herd of passing elephants. One immediately notices the large population of elephants in Chobe.

Chobe is unusual also for having a population of lions that prey on elephants mostly calves or juveniles but also sub-adults (Wikipedia). But, this probably doesn’t occur at Riverfront along the Chobe River.

Hippopotamus in Chobe River

Hippopotamus in Chobe River


1.2 Chobe National Park Description

Chobe National Park is the first National Park of Botswana founded in 1967 it is 11,700 sq km (4500 sq mi) in area and is contiguous with Moremi Game Reserve, containing the famous Okavango Delta and not far from two other large national parks in Northern Botswana, Nxai Pan National Park and Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.

Female African Savannah Buffalo, Chobe River

Female African Savannah Buffalo, Chobe River

Other National Parks not far away are Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, Bwabwata National Park in Namibia (see Part 2 below) and Sioma Ngwezi National Park in Zambia.

Most tourists including ourselves only see the top Riverfront area of Chobe National Park, but our guide told us that one can take much longer expeditions through the main part of the park and on to the Okavango Delta, at the right times of years and in good seasons.

Botswana differed from the surrounding countries in that the Tswana are very proud of their country, their heritage, their government and their National Parks.

Sable Antelope Herd Galloping away from the Chobe River Flats

Sable Antelope Herd Galloping away from the Chobe River Flats


1.3 Background to Our Visit

We had a rest day at the end of our Rockjumper birding tour covered in Safari to Namibia, Botswana and Victoria Falls Part 1 and Part 2.

Then we were off to Chobe National Park in Botswana. We booked the tour through a South African adventure tourism company based near Cape Town (see Further Information). Kalahari Tours was the operator in Chobe.

Lilac Roller

Lilac Roller


1.4 Victoria Falls

We were staying at the Furusa Guest House owned by Blessing and Simba, excellent hosts and a nice place to stay.

Victoria Falls was pleasant and relaxing. The locals were friendly. Victoria Falls relies on tourism and everyone knows this.


1.5 A Taste of Chobe National Park

We’d already driven through Chobe National Park on 14 October on our journey from Katima Mulilo on the Caprivi Strip in Namibia to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe with the Rockjumper Birding Tour.

Hungry Lionness, Vulnerable Pride, Chobe National Park

Hungry Lionness, Vulnerable Pride, Chobe National Park

We’d crossed over into Botswana at Ngoma border post and driven through the park to Kasane. After the Ngoma Bridge this was well south of the Chobe River on the A33, but still at the very northern end of Chobe National Park. On the drive we saw some magnificent Kudu male antelopes, zebra, elephant, two White-backed Vultures on nest and our first magnificent Southern Ground Hornbills (see Large Raptors).

General Map of the Chobe River Region

General Map of the Chobe River Region

The Map shows the general area where Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Zambia and the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe meet. You can see where we’d been on the Okavango Panhandle at Shakawe and the Bwabwata National Park in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia, outlined in our birding trip with Rockjumper above (The cyan rectangle marks out someone’s study area that is not relevant here). Nevertheless, the map shows a magnificent part of the world.

Hippo with Red-billed Oxpeckers, Grazing on Island, Chobe River

Hippo with Red-billed Oxpeckers, Grazing on Island, Chobe River

Like everywhere we’d been, Chobe away from the river was very dry. Simba our host in Victoria Falls said he expected the rains to come in about two weeks and that we’d be amazed at how quickly the country changed.


Chobe National Park Camping Safari, 17-19 October 2023

2 Transfer to Kasane and Boat Cruise

We were picked up from Furusa Guest House at 7 am for a transfer to the border. The border post at Kazangula is about an hour’s drive from Victoria Falls. The cost was 55 USD per person one way. But, the border crossing was quick and seamless, often not the experience of independent travellers.

The Chobe River from the Cruise Boat

The Chobe River from the Cruise Boat

Sam our guide (Shamukuni Tawana) who turned out to be Kalahari Tours head guide picked us up at 8.30 am and guided us through Botswana immigration. We were driven into Kasane town and to the Kalahari Tours headquarters and café. After an excellent breakfast we embarked on the 3-h boat cruise in a large cruise boat, not crowded.

The boats do not disturb the animals and one can get very close to them. The cruise is an excellent introduction to the park. We saw elephants, hippo, zebra, African Savannah Buffalo and several species of antelope, baboons and many water birds.

Yellow-billed Stork

Yellow-billed Stork


3 The Pattern of the Safari in Chobe National Park

After the boat cruise and an excellent lunch, we entered the main gates of Chobe National Park around 2 pm.

The Safari vehicle was a large open utility vehicle with three rows of bench seats behind the driver — open under a canopy. The vehicle was newish and relatively comfortable. Everyone had excellent view. Over three days there was also a rotation policy. There were seven of us initially: Denise Robyn and I and two young couples, Belgian and Norwegian — pleasant companions. We joined other tourists when we arrived at camp but the group was small.

Male Kudu with Oxpecker, Chobe National Park

Male Kudu with Oxpecker, Chobe National Park

The Belgians had booked two nights and two days and were transferred away at an early stop on our third morning.

Kalahari Tours seemed to have the tourist game sewn up in Chobe. They were by far the most common vehicles seen and seemed to be the top of the hierarchy when driving around. Certainly, all other drivers deferred to Sam who seemed to know everyone. The other safari vehicles we saw belonged to individual lodge accommodation outside the park, which makes sense.

Water Buck with Goliath Heron

Water Buck with Goliath Heron

The pattern over the three days was a morning drive, lunch, an afternoon drive and a late afternoon/twilight drive. The rule of the park was that one had to be back in camp by 6.30 pm. There were no night drives because of the anti-poachers.

We descended from the vehicle within the park for morning and afternoon tea and on other irregular occasions. Although we were on foot outside the vehicle, the guides instructed caution and security was strict, particularly when necessary.

We were camped in the Western part of the riverfront area of the park in the bush away from the public camping areas. We only drove through the eastern part of the park on the way in and out.

Dry country overlooking the river flats, typifies the terrain, note the herds of elephants, Chobe National Park

Dry country overlooking the river flats, typifies the terrain, note the herds of elephants, Chobe National Park

Because of the relatively restricted area for our drives, we became very familiar with the tracks along the river and in the drier hinterland over three days. This was occasionally tedious but became exciting whenever we came across anything interesting.

We searched for animals assiduously and what we came across was partly chance and partly Sam’s knowledge of the area. There was also a lot of radio communication between Kalahari Tour vehicles and with those of other companies. These conversations were in Tswana so we didn’t know what was going on, but some of the messages were about the game seen, especially predators and important for showing clients animals.

Lioness Cub, Eastern Pride

Lioness Cub, Eastern Pride

When we first entered the park we were excited and it didn’t matter that it was very hot. The mid-afternoon tour was always hot and we realised by the second day that it was the least productive as well.

The only slight downside of the tour was that after lunch on our second day we didn’t go out and rested instead. This was difficult, as the tents were too hot to enter. We mostly sat in the shade of the lunch tent. The Norwegians tried to sleep in our safari vehicle, which was partly successful. Sam and the two cooks slept under the vehicles, but we didn’t begrudge them this.

Roan Antelope

Roan Antelope

Late afternoon until dark we went on our final tour of the day where we saw lions and the male leopard.

Consequently, on the third day when offered more driving or a boat ride after our morning drive we opted for the boat. The drive out through the eastern side of the park was very interesting and we saw new things on the way out. The boat ride was also very interesting in a small boat driven by Sam.

Nile Crocodile and Egyptian Geese, Chobe River

Nile Crocodile and Egyptian Geese, Chobe River


Observations on our Chobe National Park visit

4 Our Guide Shamukuni Tawana

Shamukuni Tawana or Sam was passionate and knowledgeable about Chobe and wanted to show us as much as was possible of the wildlife. He did this every day during the tourist season, but was always enthusiastic. He had an excellent sense of humour and a genuine interest in people and he cared about their needs. Our group was very enthusiastic and wanted to see everything he could show us.

Sam came from further south in Botswana several hundred kilometres away but still in northern Botswana. He now lived in Kasane with his wife and two sons.

Giraffe with Oxpeckers, Chobe National Park

Giraffe with Oxpeckers, Chobe National Park

To some extent our understanding of the extent of what Sam was doing for us came to us slowly. He knew the local lions and what their home ranges were. Similarly, he knew about the habits of the two local leopards. But, to see them and other game and birds we had to criss-cross the area visiting all the likely places.

Some things Sam kept to himself, but in the early morning and the evenings, he leaned out of the vehicle to view tracks and by this means managed to find us the leopard we were after beyond dusk on the second day. The 6.30 pm restriction meant that we had to get back quickly to camp shortly after dark, which was a problem.

Two Kudu Males in the dry scrub away from the river

Two Kudu Males in the dry scrub away from the river

Sam was very knowledgeable about the birds and the behaviour patterns of all the animals we saw.


5 The Camp in Chobe National Park

Most public and private camping at Chobe Riverfront is scattered around the Ihaha Gate. The film crew mentioned below, the public, other lodge safaris and the anti-poaching squad’s permanent camp, were all along a kilometre or so strip not far from the river. Probably, where Ansie and I camped in 1975.

The Circle of Tents at the Boga Campsite, Chobe National Park, iPhone photo

The Circle of Tents at the Boga Campsite, Chobe National Park, iPhone photo

Boga Campsite, one of two run by Kalahari Tours, was back in the bush away from the river a few kilometres away on its own. To my mind it was a better location.

We arrived at Boga camp after a long day as daylight was fading.

There was a circle of small tents you could stand up in as in the publicity shots. The tents were comfortably set-up for two people with cosy beds and room for one’s possessions.

Outside the tents was a circle of hurricane lamps, which were the border of camp. There were also a couple of toilet tents and we discovered later a shower tent. There was also an open tent for eating under but in the evenings we sat in a circle in under the stars around an open fire.

Banded Mongoose

Banded Mongoose

One of the first things we discussed when we arrived was security. We’d experienced this elsewhere, of course. In Africa they have to emphasis the danger of wildlife. At Xaro Lodge in the Okavango Panhandle we had to be escorted back to our rooms after dark and there was a defined perimeter around the resort, which we were not allowed to stray beyond (see Part 2).

The hurricane lanterns were the boundary of Boga camp. Never go beyond them! If you have to go to the toilet in the middle of the night, take your companion and do it behind the tent — don’t go to the toilet tent. The theory of the companion was supposedly that the predator was not supposed to attack if there were two of you. (We didn’t ever find out what you were supposed to do in case of a bowel movement.)

This was deliciously frightening. At night we heard all sorts of noises mainly elephants and hyenas, but also lions occasionally.

Female Chacma Baboon with Baby

Female Chacma Baboon with Baby

There were about 15 of us in camp on that first night, but less on the second night, as the one-nighters didn’t return. We’d bought a few beers on the way into Chobe and had a lively discussion around the campfire.

Denise and I didn’t go to the toilet our first night, but on the second we arose around four am and with trepidation took turns in peeing.

One was woken at dawn with warm water poured into a canvas basin for washing. We also had a camp shower after lunch on day 2.

The food in camp was magnificent. Three-meals-a-day. Breakfast was good, but lunch and dinner were magnificent. I don’t know how they did it but the cook and his helper had to cook on open fires, which they did using cast iron casseroles and frypans (as in Australian outback tours). The food was innovative, varied and delicious.

Sam at the Boga Camp, iPhone photo

Sam at the Boga Camp, iPhone photo

Our Norwegian companions saw a ratel (Honey Badger) at close range on both nights, which was attempting to raid the camp garbage pail. They alerted us on both occasions, but we were exhausted and by the time we got up, all we saw was a shadow disappearing into the darkness. Nevertheless, we did see a Scops Owl at camp one afternoon.


6 Lions and a Leopard in Chobe National Park

6.1 Basics

Our Rockjumper guide Greg occasionally muttered about sleeping lions, which was all we had seen previously in Etosha National Park in Namibia and later in Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Subordinate Brother Sleeping, Chobe National Park

Subordinate Brother Sleeping, Chobe National Park

Male lions spend 18-20 hours per day sleeping or resting and females 15-18 hours, which is why on safari during the day one usually comes upon lions sleeping. We were lucky in Chobe that we had a small window of opportunity to see lion activity after dawn and at dusk as they were waking up. As well as, the more lethargic activity during the day. We also had the chance to see nearly all the lions resident along the Riverfront area we were in.

Lions are crepuscular, active at twilight and around dawn. They also hunt at night having vision adapted to poor light. Females do 85-90% of the hunting. Males patrol a territory and keep other lions away.

A full-grown male has a length of around two metres, excluding the tail and a female about 1.5 metres. An adult male weighs from 170-230 kg and a female 120-180 kg. A male lion requires about 7 kg of meat per day, a female about 5 kg.

Lioness, Eastern Pride

Lioness, Eastern Pride

Lions can eat up to 40 kg at a meal, but then they need to rest to digest. Lions need to eat every three to four days.

A study in the Okavango panhandle from 2014-2016 of lions in multiuse areas (reserve, human habitation, cattle grazing) published in 2023 found that collared male lions had home ranges of 584 sq km and females 319 sq km on average. This would have varied with season. One suspects that the home ranges of prides in the Riverfront area of Chobe in the dry season would tend to be smaller than this.


6.2 The Film Crew

The Film Crew, Chobe National Park

The Film Crew, Chobe National Park

In all we saw 23 lions during our visit. We were lucky that on our second day we came across a four-wheel drive with a sign in the window: ‘Film Vehicle Do Not Follow’ looking at a pair of male lions. They were two South Africans filming a documentary about lions and were pleased to interact with Sam for his knowledge. Through the conversations between them we learned a lot about the lions along the Riverfront. We ran into the film vehicle a few more times that day and the following morning.

Filming Vehicle Do not Follow

Filming Vehicle Do not Follow

By discussion between Sam and them and driving around nearby in a small area searching, we discovered the leopard kill that they had been looking for and that Sam was determined to find. They had permission to go off-track and that helped, but Sam with his broader knowledge finally discovered the kill beside a small track through the scrub. Once we had discovered the kill, two front legs of impala wedged in a tree, it was hard to ignore, as the stench was strong. From lion behaviour later, I’m not sure that the kill was that safe, because it probably wasn’t high enough up.

Leopard kills on the ground are very vulnerable to pilfering by lions and hyenas, also vultures, if not well-hidden.


6.3 The Leopard

Male Leopard in the headlights, Chobe National Park

Male Leopard in the headlights, Chobe National Park

We finally saw the leopard himself just after dark, because Sam had been tracking him during the daylight and suspected where we might find him. We managed to catch sight of him in the headlights on and just off the track for a minute or two, before he moved off. This was Sam’s dedication to show us everything he could, but we were lucky as well. We then had to hustle to camp — not far— to abide by the curfew.

Stinky Impala Legs Wedged in Tree

Stinky Impala Legs Wedged in Tree


6.4 Lion Prides and Behaviour

Within the limitations discussed, we did see enough lions to see and infer behaviour, which was not possible in our visits to other parks.

Contact Ritual on Waking-Up at Dusk, Western Pride

Contact Ritual on Waking-Up at Dusk, Western Pride

We first saw the two adult bachelor male lions, where we met the film crew. The dominant male was fast asleep in the shade beside a small tree. His subordinate brother was mostly asleep, but occasionally opened his eyes to check for danger or incautious game.

Later after a late afternoon tea, we came across a lone lioness stalking through low scrub in the fading light, beginning to hunt. She looked both scary and dangerous.

Next day, we came across the Western Pride at sunset (see below) just beginning to wake up. The males were reluctant to move, but one dragged himself out into the open as the sun was setting. The females were more active. They were looking around and waking up fully. One lioness walked over to the near male and nuzzled him. Another quite suddenly bounded over to a large tree and ran up the slightly angled trunk and disappeared coming to rest on a large limb higher up surrounded by leaves. She could have reached a leopard kill easily.

Part of Western Pride Waking-Up

Part of Western Pride Waking-Up — lying where we’d turned around minutes before

The following morning our last, Sam took us out onto a peninsula jutting into the river towards Namibia across the river we could see cattle and wild red lechwe. Here we found three lionesses on a hillock with a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. Sam said that these lionesses were hungry but that the lion about fifty metres away had fed. He was unfortunate he said because the other male lion his brother had been shot across the river in Namibia and that his position was precarious. We remembered the two large solitary brothers we’d seen previously were a mere 2-3 kilometres away.

Hungry Young Lionesses, Vulnerable Pride, Chobe National Park

Hungry Young Lionesses, Vulnerable Pride, Chobe National Park

The male lion was about 50 m away under thorn bushes that had recently come into sunlight. He was panting heavily, a means of thermoregulation and we were surprised that he didn’t move into the shade while we were there.

Lion Panting in the Sun, Vulnerable Pride (The Misfits)

Lion Panting in the Sun, Vulnerable Pride (The Misfits)

On the way out of the park Sam showed us the Eastern Pride who were resting up in the shade of a grove of trees. We counted ten lions but I think there were more.

By my count we saw 23+ lions: Western Pride 6 (possibly part of the Ngoma Pride); Eastern Pride 10+ (called the Waterfront Pride, previously the Chobe Game Lodge Pride consists of at least 17 lions), small pride near Namibia 4 (the Misfits), one adult male and 3 lionesses; 2 adult male brothers without females; and one lone female.

Part of the Eastern Pride, Chobe National Park

Part of the Eastern Pride, Chobe National Park

A better but more complicated portrait is given by Rex Kelly (personal communication in Further Information). I’ve called the prides by the names I overheard in the discussion between Sam and the film crew. The situation is more complex. The Western Pride is probably part of the Ihaha Pride complicated by amalgamations going on with the Ngoma Pride.

However, we were only there for three days. I’m glad that no attempt was made to explain the lion prides to us in detail. I’m also relieved that none of the male lions were given the names that researchers have given them, nor was any attempt made to identify the lionesses by description. I think such identification would have detracted from the experience.


7 Elephants in Chobe National Park

Elephant Line from the River

Elephant Line from the River

The Riverfront end of Chobe at the end of the dry was teeming with elephants, exceeded only by the herds of impala. We saw elephants close up by boat or vehicle endlessly. They were beside the river, in mud wallows on the river flats, walking to and from the river and in the dry scrub beyond the river. And, every encounter was fantastic. Chobe Riverfront is the place to see elephants in the dry season.

Nose Dive Makes You Feel Good

Nose Dive Makes You Feel Good

I’m not sure whether there are too many elephants in Chobe. Culling has been thought of but like many national parks is thought too controversial to implement.

Unlike on our Rockjumper birding trip we did not see the habitat destruction wrought by elephants in Chobe, which were a feature of Bwbwata National Park in Namibia and in parts of the Caprivi Strip we traversed. However, our excursion through Chobe was limited. We also didn’t see much obvious destruction in Kruger. Although we know that Kruger’s current elephant population is not sustainable.

What's Wrong with a White Elephant, Chobe National Park

What’s Wrong with a White Elephant, Chobe National Park


8 Other Animals in Chobe National Park

We saw countless other herbivores: giraffe (male 1200 kg, female 830 kg), zebra (200-400 kg), Impala (male 55 kg, female 40 kg), Red Lechwe (50-120 kg), Greater Kudu (male 250 kg, female 180 kg), African Savannah Buffalo (male 750 kg, female 550 kg), waterbuck (165-270 kg), sable (230 kg) and roan antelope (270 kg). We also saw many species of waterbirds and terrestrial birds about which Sam was very knowledgeable.

Zebra With Jackals

Zebra With Jackals


9 Comment

The trip to Chobe National Park was a delightful experience, the booking, the transfer to and from Victoria Falls, the guide, the cruise, the safari, the camp, the food and the animals we saw were terrific.

Southern Ground Hornbill Crossing Track

Southern Ground Hornbill Crossing Track

We saw these amazing birds for the first time on our quick drive through Chobe National Park with Rockjumper (see Large Raptors). But, on our last day we came across a group of five  Southern Ground Hornbills on a back track in the dry scrub. We had the luxury to watch them hunting and interacting for about 15 minutes. I am still struck by the statement in Large Raptors regarding food: any animal that it can overpower.


Key Words: Africa, Southern Africa, South Africa, game, safari, camping, boat cruise, big 5, Chobe National Park, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Chobe Lodge, anti-poaching squad, impala, Southern Ground Hornbill, Hwange National Park, elephant, lion, hippopotamus, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, Nxai Pan National Park, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Bwabwata National Park, Sioma Ngwezi National Park, Tswana, African Savannah Buffalo, Sable Antelope, Kalahari Tours, Lilac Roller, Victoria Falls, Katima Mulilo, Caprivi Strip, Rockjumper, birding, Ngoma, Kasane, Greater Kudu, kudu, zebra, White-backed Vulture, Angola, Okavango Panhandle, hippo, Red-billed Oxpecker, Yellow-billed Stork, Shamukuni Tawana, Chacma Baboon, Water Buck, Goliath Heron, Roan Antelope, Nile Crocodile, Egyptian Geese, giraffe, impala, leopard, Ihaha Gate, film crew, Boga campsite, Banded Mongoose, crepuscular, Red Lechwe, Rex Kelly, jackal


Male African Savannah Buffalo Grazing, Chobe National Park

Male African Savannah Buffalo Grazing, Chobe National Park


Further Information

Chobe Camping Safari

I booked my Chobe Camping Safari through Zahn du Toit in Cape Town she is a specialist in Botswana and Chobe. I found her very helpful and easy to deal with. Her current Chobe Website and email are zahn@chobenationalpark.co.za. I would recommend her highly. Her website has a range of offers, lodges and options for Chobe and Botswana.

Alternatively, one can deal direct with Kalahari Tours for Camping Safaris, river cruises and other options.

Aarvark Diggings in Termite Nest

Aarvark Diggings in Termite Nest

As mentioned above Shamukuni Tawana or Sam was incredible and is mainly responsible for making our tour memorable. But, Kalahari Tours is a very professional operation and our tour operated smoothly and seamlessly throughout. The food at their cafe and the two boat cruises were excellent. The camp life and in particular the food provided by the cook and his assistant were unbelievable. They are the go to tour operators for Chobe at Kasane.

Hartlaub's Spurfowl

Hartlaub’s Spurfowl

Rex Kelly the Managing Director of Kalahari Tours kindly answered my questions about his company, which I’ve summarised and about the lion prides (further below).

Established in 1992, Kalahari Tours is one of the pioneers of Botswana’s Safari industry. One of the leading operators in the Chobe region, it remains owner-run and managed. 

We take pride in our well-maintained, modern fleet of specially adapted game-viewers and boats.

Our professional guides are some of the best in the region and, in conjunction with our dynamic reservations team, Kalahari Tours provides a trouble-free, memory-filled experiences for our clients and guests.


Detailed Information about Chobe

Wikipedia has a good summary of the history and geography of Chobe National Park. They also mention the elephant hunting lions.

Helen Davies has a good blog summary on visiting the whole of Chobe National Park in her Ultimate Guide to Chobe 2024, which is well worth reading.

Sable Antelope Galloping, Chobe River Flats

Sable Antelope Galloping, Chobe River Flats

Some more detailed academic studies are that are easily accessible on the web are:

1 Johannes van Jaarsveld, biologist and Chobe resident, Chobe River lions face an uncertain future, Africa Geographic 2021.

From 2017 to 2021 van Jaarsveld shows a growing problem with lion numbers at Riverfront, naming the same lions as mentioned by Rex below. Fortunately, this dire situation has improved markedly since.

2 Eric G LeFlore, Todd K Fuller, Andrew B Stein Lion (Panthera leo) movements in a multiuse area of the eastern Panhandle of the Okavango Delta, Botswana J Mammal. 104: 1317-1328, 2023.

The paper shows among other things the home range of male and female lions in the study area, as outlined above.

3 R John Power and R X Shem Compion Lion predation on elephants in the Savuti, Chobe National Park, Botswana African Zoology 44: 36-44, 2009.

This paper is probably the source for Wikipedia’s comment on the predation of elephants by lions in Chobe National Park. It is also in the Savuti area and not at Riverfront.

Juvenile male impala engaged in pre-rutting posturing and  vocal displays

Juvenile male impala engaged in pre-rutting posturing and vocal displays


The Lions of Chobe

In addition to van Jaarsveld above, Rex Kelly has provided the following additional information:

My not very scientific and already outdated breakdown of the prides would be as follows:
 
The Waterfront Pride (aka the Chobe Game Lodge pride) consists of at least 17 lions (excluding cubs) led by the two big males Tom-Tom and Caller. There are at least 6 young males in the pride (3 are partially maned), and one big sub-adult male called Einstein (our name for him, possibly also known as Savage). The pride has at least 9 lionesses and 6 cubs. The Waterfront Pride’s territory extends from Sedudu Gate to West of Serondela Picnic Site.
 
The Misfits consist of 1 male the same age as Einstein (most likely his brother) who left the Waterfront Pride and have teamed up with 3 young lionesses. There were 2 males but I believe it was one of the Misfit males that was killed in Namibia a few months ago. They are still moving around in the vicinity of the pride, usually between Serondela and Ihaha. It is possible that the Misfit females have now joined the Ihaha pride.
Warthog Rooting

Warthog Rooting

 
The Ihaha Pride consists of 4 females, one with a limp due to an injured front right paw, and two cubs approximately 1 year old. We call the female with the limp Broken Paw. She has managed to stay alive for about 2 years since her serious injury. She is allowed to feed with the rest of the pride and has been seen babysitting small cubs while the pride hunts. She now has 2 small cubs of her own. The female Broken Tail is also part of this pride. She is a powerful lioness known for taking down adult giraffes. It is possible that Broken Tail died in May. The mother of the 2 yearlings, and probably the daughter of Broken Tail, recently lost the tip of her tail so we now call her Stumpy. I think Stumpy will take over the leadership of the pride if Broken Tail is dead. The Ihaha Pride’s territory extends from West of Serondela Picnic Site to past Simwanza valley.
 
In the past Tom-Tom and Caller also ruled this pride, but it seems that the Ngoma males have expanded their territory to include the Ihaha Pride. The Ngomas are a pride whose territory extends from Ngoma Gate to somewhere between Ihaha and Serondela. The Ngoma Pride has roughly 10 individuals and possibly two small cubs. It is ruled by a coalition of 2 big black-maned lions. These 2 males look younger than Tom-Tom and Caller and we have named them Mad-Eye Moody and Pretty Boy. The Ngoma males have been seen mating with the Ihaha lionesses, and they are not aggressive towards the Ihaha cubs. The rest of the Ngoma Pride usually remain close to Ngoma Gate.
 
The Misfit male was killed only a few days before we saw the pride.
Marabou Stork

Marabou Stork

 

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    1. Author

      You always surprise me Peggy. I had no idea that you’d ever been to Chobe!

  1. This must have been an incredible trip! Thanks for sharing. Fantastic photos!

  2. Thank you for sharing this amazing trip with its incredible photos.
    Best from Europe (TheNetherlands, in four weeks back in Germany).

  3. Ta Tony – your blog on visiting Chobe National Park was entertaining, and interesting from many perspectives. It fascinates me that the wide range of African wildlife you observed differ such much from Australian fauna, when both continents were joined together in Gondwana. As a zoologist you would have an understanding of the reasons for this great diversity. Perhaps a blog on the subject would enlighten lay folk like myself.
    Thanks again, Chris

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