Chobe Under Canvas
Best for aged 16+
February to mid-December
Chobe Under Canvas aims to combine the advantages of a mobile camping safari with the luxuries of a semi-permanent tented camp. Always based in the Chobe Riverfront area of the Chobe National Park, the camp is packed up every fifth day (in keeping with the national park’s mobile-camping rules) and moved to a new private camping site in the same area.
The Chobe Under Canvas camp has five spacious, walk-in tentstaking a maximum of ten guests. These are fairly traditionally made Meru-style tents of green canvas with mesh windows and are furnished with very comfortable twin or double beds, a hanging rail, canvas wardrobe and luggage chest. Sisal matting covers the floor and bedside tables hold rechargeable lanterns. A rolled-up canvas doorway leads through to the en-suite bathroom, complete with flush toilet, shaving mirror, tin basin, water jug and complimentary soaps. A bucket shower hangs above a slatted wooden mat and is filled with warm water for a shower when you return from the day’s safari activities.
An open-sided marquee-style tent forms the main area of Chobe Under Canvas. Delicious meals are enjoyed here as a group, sat around a long, lantern-lit table. There is also a small ‘bar’ table holding a selection of drinks, a small reference library and a selection of board games.
Activities include game drives and boat trips along the Chobe River, led by professional and very knowledgeable guides. Typically, guests will enjoy a game drive on their first afternoon and the following morning, with a boat trip often arranged for the second afternoon. The wildlife in this area is plentiful and very relaxed, making for some fantastic viewing opportunities throughout the year. But as the natural pools of water formed in the park during the summer months dry up, and the wildlife becomes more dependent on the permanent waters of the Chobe River during the dry season (between about June and October), the game densities along the riverfront noticeably increase – making both game drives and boat trips on the river particularly rewarding. No matter the time of year, however, birders will enjoy the boat cruises as there is a great variety of species to be seen, from fish eagles to goliath herons and white-fronted bee-eaters to giant kingfishers.
Unfortunately, this part of Chobe National Park has become more and more popular over the years and is now much busier than any of Botswana’s other parks. Although the ‘Under Canvas’ safari guides are adept at keeping away from the crowds, you’ll still see many other vehicles. This is especially noticeable at tea and coffee breaks, and at sundowners, as in the national park these have to be taken at designated spots where you’re likely to encounter other vehicles.
As with previous visits to Chobe Under Canvas, on our last visit in September 2012 we experienced Chobe’s pros and cons first hand. While driving from Kasane Airport to camp we spotted a pride of lion right next to the road; numerous elephant; buffalo and also a large herd of sable – exceptional viewing on what was effectively an hour-long transfer. On our game drive the following morning, we came across an unfortunate leopard that had been forced to climb a tree by the lions milling about beneath it. We shared this spectacular sighting with several other visitors, although the lions appeared to ignore our presence and the leopard seemed far more preoccupied with the attendant lions!
Although Chobe Under Canvas retains a mobile-camping atmosphere, the tents, service and food are more in keeping with Botswana’s excellent safari lodges. It offers wonderful wildlife viewing and a more economical, and in some ways slightly more adventurous, alternative to many of the country’s other lodges and camps. However, travellers need to accept that game-viewing here, in the national park, won’t usually be as exclusive as is the norm in Botswana’s private safari reserves.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a stay of two nights at Chobe Under Canvas, although you might consider three nights during the dry season when game densities in this area are particularly high. The camp combines particularly well with its sister camp, Savute Under Canvas, and also often forms part of a trip with Sandibe Safari Lodge, Nxabega, Xaranna Okavango Lodge and Xudum Delta Lodge – which are all owned by the same company, &Beyond. If you’re visiting Chobe National Park in combination with private areas elsewhere in Botswana, especially around the Okavango Delta, then we recommend quite strongly that you start with Chobe if possible, and then move on to the more remote wildlife areas where you will encounter fewer visitors.
Directions: Chobe Under Canvas is approximately an hour to an hour-and-a-half transfer from Kasane, depending on the location of the camp. However, this may be longer if you see any exciting wildlife sightings on the way.
Accessible by: Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: & Beyond
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Considering Chobe Under Canvas is a semi-permanent mobile camp with only simple kitchen facilities, we were very impressed with the standard of meals on our visit here in June 2011.
Breakfast is usually a selection of cereals, fresh fruit, yoghurt and toast.
Lunch is often a choice of salads, cold meats and cheeses with freshly baked bread. A variety of snacks are served whilst on safari activities at morning and afternoon tea time.
Dinner is a more substantial and usually delicious meal enjoyed after pre-dinner drinks around the campfire. We enjoyed creamy sweet corn soup, followed by herbed basmati rice, marinated chicken, mixed vegetables and a fresh green salad. Dessert was grilled apple rings served with cinnamon cream.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: There is a good selection of soft drinks, beer, wine and spirits on offer, and plenty of drinking water is always available. All drinks are included with the exception of any premium or imported wines, liqueurs and spirits; which should be requested in advance.
Further dining info: Not Available
Solo Travel: Chobe Under Canvas is a luxurious, adventurous mobile camp within one of Botswana’s prime game areas. It’s a single-friendly social camp with travellers eating at a communal table. There are no single supplements for solo safari travellers. Holidays here won’t be lonely!
Birdwatching: The Chobe Riverfront is not just about the ‘big stuff’: it’s also a superb destination for birdwatching in Botswana. Over 450 species of birds have been seen in Chobe, including African skimmers, found between about October and March.
Wildlife safaris: Game densities along the Chobe Riverfront vary with the seasons, but during the dry season (June–October) increasingly high densities of wildlife are drawn to the Chobe River’s permanent waters. By September/October the numbers of elephant are astounding; the only downside is the peak in visitor numbers at the same time!
Attitude towards children: Children aged 12 years and over are welcome at Chobe Under Canvas.
Property’s age restrictions:
Special activities & services: An extra bed can be added to any of the tents to make up a triple room.
Generally recommended for children: There is very little to do in between wildlife activities and there is no pool, so we do not recommend this camp for children aged below 16 years or so.
Notes: This is a very open safari camp and wildlife does pass through. Children must be under parents’ supervision at all times.
Power supply: Solar Power
Communications: Chobe Under Canvas is in constant contact with their base of operations in Kasane by radio and also by cellphone when reception permits.
TV & radio: There is no television or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The manager and guides are trained in first aid and can tend to any minor ailments. The nearest doctor is based in Kasane.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: A horn is provided in each tent to raise the alarm in case of an emergency.
Fire safety: Each safari vehicle is fitted with a fire extinguisher. Park rules limit the size of the campfire.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included, but they do not wash underwear. Washing powder is provided in the tents for this purpose.
Money: This is a very open safari camp and wildlife does pass through. Children must be under parents’ supervision at all times.
Accepted payment on location: Payments are welcomed in US dollars or Botswanan pula.