[Updated July 2020]
Before we went to Chobe National Park in Botswana for the first time, we asked around to find out the best of Chobe campsites. Through various forums we got a number of replies from people who had their strong favourites.
A friend of mine visited Ihaha in March 2016 and here are her tips: 'Stand 1 on the edge is secluded and great for a view down the length of the river, but site 10 is the prime spot for sundowners ... I'd avoid site 2 as baboon troops favour the branches of this big shady tree. Stands 8 and 9 were the smallest and bushes blocked the view a bit .... the only thing provided is a clean ablution block.'
We did see some 4x4s pulling trailers, so if you’re an Echo, Bushwacker or Conqueror owner – and you know how to drive it through deep sand without getting stuck – this is the place to go. We could maybe have pulled the Xplorer through the deep sand patches with a Land Rover Discovery 4, but we were pleased we’d played it safe. If anyone has made it through with a heavy caravan, I’d love to hear from them, though, so I know for next time!
[Update January 2020: there have been a lot of recent complaints about the ablutions not being clean at Ihaha, as well as some people being robbed. Police do patrols, but I'd suggest you get a local update on the current situation before you go.]
Bear in mind that, apart from Ihaha campsite inside the Chobe National Park, most of the other options are Kasane accommodation or Kasane campsites, on the eastern fringes of the park.
Further consensus from those in the know was that if Ihaha wasn’t an option – it gets booked up far in advance – Chobe Safari Lodge campsite was the place to go for Kasane camping. When we went that first time, they didn't take bookings for camping so it was a first-come first-served bunfight, which wasn't something we wanted to rely on. (As it turned out, we met a young chap who had just driven 14 hours to get there but found no space available for him. He was gutted.) Fortunately, a reader informed me in December 2018 that this policy has changed and you can now book your site ahead of time, which is a great improvement to Chobe Safari Lodge camping.
The only place where we could get a booking was Toro Safari Lodge, which some people told us was horrible. One guy said it was nothing but a ‘collection of concrete ablutions’ dotted everywhere. Another warned that we’d be ‘right in’ Kasane town, so we’d hear dogs barking rather than hyenas calling. Our hindsight opinion couldn’t have been more different; we loved the place and didn’t agree with either of those negative comments. Find out why in more detail.
Note that Toro Safari Lodge no longer exists. The facility has been taken over and now trades as Big 5 Chobe Lodge. It still has camping and on a visit in May 2016 I noted that the chalets were being renovated. We went back in May 2019 and enjoyed the peace and quiet once again.You can book for this lodge through Temba, tel +27 21 8550395.
An option we didn’t check out for ourselves was Senyati Safari Camp, about 18km from Kasane. One benefit it certainly seems to have is an elevated bar overlooking a waterhole with flood lights, which is reported to draw elephant, buffalo, hyena and sable. It enjoys good reviews on TripAdvisor and gets booked up well ahead of time, which is usually a good sign. Anyone with first-hand experience of this camp is welcome to add their opinions in the comments below.
So what are my top picks?
Of the options on the eastern/Kasane side of Chobe that we investigated personally, my first pick (if you’re tenting or trailering with a sturdy 4x4) would be Ihaha for the bonus of being inside the park itself. (But see the January 2020 update above.) There’s no place better if you like the wilderness experience and aren’t freaked out by the notion of being surrounded by big game (think hippo, croc, elephant, buffalo, lion, hyena) or indeed anxious about your rig’s ability to handle heavy sand. Ihaha gets booked up far in advance, so book early. [Update July 2020: It's no longer booked through the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks, but privately through Kwalate Safaris.]
After that, and bearing in mind that I have no personal knowledge of Senyati, my second pick would be Toro Safari Lodge (now Big 5 Chobe Lodge). We discovered in May 2019 that many of the 8 reasons to camp at Toro Safari Lodge still apply, certainly in terms of the facilities, but I can't personally vouch for the food because we didn't eat there. [updated May 2019]
Camping on the western side of Chobe
All the camp sites I've mentioned so far are either inside the park (Ihaha) or at Kasane on the eastern side of Chobe National Park. There is also a nice campsite on the western side of the park, just a few kilometres from the Ngoma border post with Namibia. Called Muchenje campsite, it offers shaded camping on the banks of the floodplain overlooking the Chobe River.
Bear in mind that if you stay here, it makes sense to explore the western side of Chobe National Park. The big plus of this area is that it's less busy than the crowded eastern section near Kasane. The downside is that you miss the wonderful riverside drive and the boat cruises (something you must experience at Chobe) of the far east.
My advice would be to stay a few nights on each side to get the best from your Chobe safari.
You may also enjoy
Safari for two at Ngoma Lodge, Chobe, Botswana
See elephants on a Chobe River boat cruise