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CHOBE NATIONAL PARK

BOTSWANA
LOCALE

Area (ha):21,000
# Species:455
# Excl Vagrants:455
# Endemics:0
# Near Endemics:0
Species/100 ha:2.2
Habitat: Riverine forest, broadleaf forest, wetlands, lagoons, swamps, river, grass woodland

ABOUT THE BIRDING

Chobe National Park is the second-largest national park in Botswana. Rainy season is November-March, with the rainiest months in January and February. Mosquitos at this time of year are abundant and temperatures are at their highest. This is also the time of year when most birds are in breeding plumage. Most tourists visit the park during dry season from May-October, and game viewing is probably at its best in October when game animals are concentrated around permanent water. The park is best known for its large Elephant population.

Chobe can be divided into 4 major areas, each a distinct ecosystem. The Chobe Riverfront in the extreme northeast of lush floodplains and dense woodland, the latter mostly degraded by heavy Elephant pressure. Large herds of Elephant, Sable, Giraffe, and Cape Buffalo congregate in this area during dry season. Birding is also excellent, especially wetland birds.

The Savuti Marsh Area encompasses the western section of the park some 50km north of the Mababe Gate. The main river channel dries up frequently but periodically flows erratically through the area. The region is covered by extensive savanna and attracts game animals such as Kudu, Impala, Wildebeest, and Elephant during dry season. Various predators are also present when the game animals are there. Birding in this section is superb and is best done by boat.

The Linyanti Marsh is located north of Savuti in the northwest section of the park, adjacent to the Linyanti River. The habitat is riverine woodland, open woodland, lagoons, and floodplain. Large concentrations of Sable and Roan Antelope, Hippopotamus, Lion, Leopard, and African Wild Dog are present along with enormous herds of Elephant. Large numbers of birds are present in this area, though it's difficult to access by vehicle during rainy season.

Between Savuti and the Linyanti Marsh is a dry hinterland mainly covered by grass woodland. Eland are especially common in this area.

Birding must be done from vehicles or by boat within the national park. Just outside the park around Kasane, birding can be done on foot. Birding can be done on foot in the neighboring forest reserves around Kasane and between Ngoma and Kazangula in the northwest. Patches of Acacia within the extensive tracts of broad-leafed forest attract birds such as Crimson-breasted Gonolek, Southern Penduline-Tit, Mariqua Flycatcher, and Violet-eared Waxbill. Riverine woodland is good for specialties such as Banded Snake-Eagle, Pel's Fishing-Owl, Trumpeter Hornbill, Gabon Boubou, Red-faced Cisticola, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Collared Palm-Thrush, Purple-banded Sunbird, and Brown Firefinch. Seasonally inundated floodplains in the south and reedbeds in the north are good for Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, Allen's Gallinule, Greater Swamp Warbler, Rosy-throated Longclaw, and Red-headed Quelea. A boat trip on the Chobi River and the Kasani Channel, the latter entailing passage through customs into Namibia, offer African Finfoot, White-headed Lapwing, Lesser Jacana, Rock Pratincole, African Skimmer, Half-collared Kingfisher, and Chirping Cisticola. In total, some 450 species have been recorded in and around the park.

LOCATION OF SITE

Chobe National Park is located in northwestern Botswana. It can be reached by chartered plane, by road from Zambia through the northern Ngoma Gateor from Namibia or southern Botswana through the southern Mababe Gate north of Moremi. There is also a gate near Kansane, which is located roughly mid-way between the two. Driving requires 4-wheel-drive vehicles and complete self-sufficiency as there are few if any services in the area.