Chobe National Park
When David and I were both seniors in college at different universities in Chicago, we decided to venture to Zambia for our month long Christmas break! We had been dating about 2.5 years and although we had met some of each other's family through visits in the USA, I had never been to his home. We last minute pulled the trip together and planned extra time to explore the country!
This was my first ever trip to Africa so of course we wanted to include a safari experience and see the world's largest waterfall. The best game parks in Zambia aren’t close to Victoria Falls, so we instead chose a safari that would be easily accessible from Livingstone to combine all into one trip. We also travelled without our own vehicle so this worked out best for many reasons.
Travel from Ndola
We spent just under a week travelling to Livingstone and Lusaka and back to Ndola.
We left at 5am on a bus Ndola-Lusaka, had a quick lunch in Lusaka, and then hopped on the next bus from Lusaka-Livingstone. It was a full and exhausting day of travel but we made it in before dusk. We packed plenty of snacks, drinks and good music (to drown out the loud south african anthems). I have a blog post all about traveling by bus around Zambia here!
Chobe National Park
Kasane is the closest town to Chobe National Park right along the border of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. It is about 100km or 1hr - 1hr 30min from Livingstone.
Type of Safari
We chose the land and water one day safari experience. This was best for us as we were looking for only a one day safari, that would provide the most robust experience and animal diversity, in that short amount of time, at an affordable rate and without our own vehicle. It may sound like a lot to ask for, but this experience really has it all from hotel pick up in Livingstone, border crossing, transportation, light breakfast, lunch, drinks, boat ride along the river and land cruiser ride into the land areas.
There are so many other safari options at Chobe, check them out here.
Recommended time to go
May - October, dry season.
However, we went at the end of December and really enjoyed the lush greenery and thankfully had no problem with rain.
We stayed at Zig Zag in Livingstone, Zambia and organized everything through Zig Zag Lodge. Everything was included down to the taxi pick up from our lodge. After going to livingstone more often, I would recommend Jolly Boys Backpackers (they have nice private rooms as well) or booking an apartment/house style accommodation. We loved our stay at Asante Apartments on one trip as a group of 6! Even if you book an airbnb, the lodges can still connect you with the Chobe safari experience or multiple other excursions. We normally go through Jolly Boys even when not staying there.
The Safari Experience
The morning pick up and crossing into Botswana all went smoothly. I just had to pay a $20 one day transfer visa for leaving and reentering Zambia as an American passport holder on a Zambian single- entry visitor's visa (no need if you opt for the multi-entry visitor's visa or have a Zambian passport). I believe there was no other expense for entering Botswana, if so, it was included in the whole cost. Our taxi driver helped us with everything.
Once joining up with others, we started off on the river for the water portion. They served us coffee/tea and light breakfast with cold non alcoholic beverages, as well. There were only about 6 of us on the boat and we were close up with hippos, elephants, crocodiles and more! This was a blissful way to begin my first African wildlife experience.
After a few hours out on the boat, they brought us back to the lodge where a buffet lunch was ready. The lunch was terrific! And the lodge was beautiful.
After lunch, they led us to the land safari vehicle. We saw so many more elephants along with lots of other game. But unfortunately, our truck broke down. By the time they rescued us with another vehicle, we completely missed a pride of lions as well as plenty more animals. It was disappointing talking to the others coming back in their trucks as they saw them close up nearing sunset. When we went to pay (they take credit card) I asked if there would be any refund for missing a large portion of the safari but they just laughed. To this day, I have still not seen lions in the wild on a safari!
The most majestic part of all, was definitely the elephants. Chobe is home to the largest surviving elephant population in the world! They have over 120,000 elephants and I cannot begin to count the number of elephants we saw just that day. It was breath taking!
I also loved seeing herds of zebra and countless impala.
I’ll never forget the first site of a warthog and wondering why I thought they would be larger…the lion king maybe?
You know it! (But there's an even better option for budget travel next.)
In 2013, everything inclusive cost $120 per person. The same one day safari experience is still $120 (7 years later, 2 people minimum) but does not include transfer costs and hotel pick up. However, check with your lodge! They may have an agreement for the transportation and normally give best and standard rates.
Mosi oa tunya National Park
If you want to remain on the Zambia side and have a more local safari experience, I absolutely recommend Mosi oa tunya game park.
We thought it would be anticlimactic but actually ended up having a splendid time! (Our expectations were very low.) We went in our own vehicle so the total cost was about k150 for 4 of us, including a park ranger. (I'm sure prices have gone up since 2017.) We ended up seeing all the animals within an hour - hippos, elephants, zebras, giraffes, crocodile, buffalo, waterbuck, warthog, and lots of baboons and vervet monkeys. They have a white rhino population (not native) that they track as they are trying to help with repopulation. It was a really cool experience to see them all while on foot! We packed our own lunch and had a lovely picnic, apart from the talkative monkeys.
If you’re looking for super budget with local rates, not many tourists, no border crossing and a Zambian side safari, all right close to victoria falls — Mosi oa tunya is the one!
If you don't know when you'll be back to Africa and want a little more involving safari experience with more animals and park to see — go for Chobe!
But if you have more time to explore Zambia, I would much more recommend South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi or Kafue national parks for safari experiences.
Have you been to Chobe? What else would you add...tell me below!