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Snapshot of Chobe National Park and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

From Chobe National Park with the highest concentration of wild elephants in the world, to the Central Kalahari and its seemingly endless desert, Botswana is a safari-lover’s dream. These two destinations will expose you to diverse Botswana environments, with Chobe in the northeast alongside the iconic Okavango Delta and the Central Kalahari deep in the country’s central desert landscape.

3 min read

About Central Kalahari Game Reserve

A mother and calf Cape Buffalo nuzzle each other. They’re surrounded by their herd, and the air around them is dusty with an orange haze.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) is massive. It’s hard to overstate its size; this national park covers nearly 53,000 square kilometres (20,400 square miles) and is 10% of Botswana’s total land area. It’s also remote and relatively difficult to get to, which means visitation is lower than other wildlife reserves in southern Africa. 

The CKGR is largely desert, but it also comprises grasslands, scrublands and savannah biomes. Animals found here include lion, cheetah, wild dog, oryx, hyena, elephant, springbok and more. You know those pictures of wide-open spaces filled with thousands of grazing herbivores? That’s what you can hope to see in the CKGR. If you’re looking for a remote and secluded safari experience, the Central Kalahari is an excellent bet.

Weather in Central Kalahari Game Reserve

A full-maned male lion resting in tall grass, staring towards the camera. 

As the Central Kalahari is a desert environment, it experiences two main seasons: dry and wet. The dry season runs from April to October, with the coolest months being in June and July (the southern hemisphere’s winter). Winter nights can be quite chilly, even dropping below freezing. By the end of the dry season, however, the heat is really cranking and temperatures can be as high as 40°C/100°F or more.

The wet season runs from November to March, bringing much needed rainfall to a dry and brittle landscape. The common weather in the wet season is afternoon thunderstorms with short rain showers. It remains hot throughout this season until the rains stop in April, averaging 32°C/90°F in the late afternoon. 

When should I visit the Central Kalahari?

An elephant calf crossing a dirt road. The landscape around it looks dry and warm, with brown grass alongside the road.

If you want to see wildlife, January to April is the best time of the year to visit the CKGR. This is when the rainy season brings green growth to central Botswana. The valleys become lush and attract hundreds of herbivores like oryx, springbok, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe. It’s also the time of year when babies are born, which means an increase in predator activity around these herds. 

We do recommend driving in a convoy of at least two or three vehicles, because the mud in the CKGR is notorious. It’s a good idea to take a 4×4 course or at least be well-versed in how to tow a vehicle out of mud!

About Chobe National Park

A Ford Ranger, decked out in overlanding gear, parked alongside the Chobe River in Chobe National Park. The sun is setting behind it with a wide view of the river.

Chobe National Park stretches from just past the Okavango Delta up to Botswana’s borders with Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. It consists of four major areas: 

  1. Ngwenzumba Pans

  2. Linyanti Region

  3. Savuti Region

  4. Chobe Riverfront

The northern boundary of Chobe is the Chobe River, which attracts its huge elephant population. Botswana is actually home to a third of the world’s wild elephants – approximately 120,000 individuals live here – most of whom travel through Chobe. It’s not uncommon to see herds of hundreds of elephants in this part of the world.

A wide angle image of a sunset over a river, with orange and yellow colours painting the sky and reflecting off the river’s surface.

Birding and wildlife viewing in Chobe are second to none. The river attracts migrant species and huge collections of herbivores, which are closely followed by predators like lions, wild dogs and leopards. There are a number of campsites within the park run by the parks board or community trusts, as well as 5-star lodges. Chobe is most commonly accessed from Kasane or Maun, both of which have airports.

When should I visit Chobe?

A herd of elephants quickly make their way down a riverbank towards the water, kicking up dust in their path.

Chobe has a similar wet and dry season to Central Kalahari, with the wettest months being December to March. This is a great time of year to visit and take advantage of quieter roads and reduced rates on accommodation. It’s also a birder’s paradise with many migratory species visiting. It will be wet so be sure you’re prepared with the right kind of vehicle (or go with a guide). 

The best time of year for game viewing is May to November, which coincides with the dry season. At this time of year, animals make their way to the Chobe River or Savuti region to quench their thirst. Here you can see large herds of elephants and buffalo. If you want to avoid rains entirely and don’t mind colder evenings, May to July is a great time to visit – but it’s also quite busy! No matter what time of year you choose, there’s always something incredible to see in Chobe. 

Do you love wildlife and visiting national parks? What if you could work in a place like Central Kalahari Game Reserve or Chobe National Park? Make your dream a reality by joining a Bushwise course. You can become a field guide in just 60 days!

Words and photos by Annie DuPre




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