Constituting Chobe National Park and Chobe Enclave, Chobe is Botswana’s wettest climatic zone. Annual average rainfall levels are 640 mm*, with January and February being the wettest months.
Setting aside Savuti (see below), Chobe’s flora and fauna is governed by Botswana’s wet and dry seasons. During the wet season – November through to March – the game disperses east and south, and is reasonably evenly spread throughout the park. At certain times, and with certain species, the migrating animals will concentrate in favoured areas. Zebra, for example, can be found south of Savuti, in the Mababe depression, which provides good early and late season grazing opportunities. However, in general, the majority of species follow similar migration corridors and will concentrate around shared seasonal water sources.
The dry season begins in April. During these early weeks the game continues to be relatively well spread out, thanks to a number of Chobe’s large seasonal water sources – the Ngwezumba Pans, for example, which attract elephant, oribi and oryx. But as the land dries out, all but desert specialists head north, for the Chobe riverfront, which by July becomes one of the only sources of water in Chobe, and which by September and October contains one of the highest and most diverse concentrations of animal found in Africa. As well as attracting lion, spotted hyena and striped jackal in great numbers, it is also a temporary home to African hunting dog, leopard and cheetah, as well as to enormous herds of elephant, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and antelope. The last of these includes Chobe bushbuck, waterbuck, roan and red lechwe.
Savuti Marsh is situated to the west of the park, and is fed by the Savuti Channel, which runs from Zibadianja Lagoon. The channel has been periodically dry throughout its history, and there is much speculation as to why it flows, with explanations ranging from tectonic activity to hippo trails to rainfall patterns. After a relatively long period of dryness, it flowed – with a year’s break – between 1957 and 1982, whereupon it once again ran dry. The effect on the marsh was devastating, and despite its nutrient rich soils, and the fact of a number of manmade waterholes, the area changed significantly, its resident population of game forced to migrate during the dry season. However, in 2008, with the advent of heavy and unseasonal rains, the Savuti Channel once again began to flow. It reached Savuti in January 2010. Should it continue to flow, the arrival of water in Savuti will serve to take the dry season pressure off the Chobe riverfront.
*This figure will need to be revised upwards now that the area has entered a wetter annual cycle.