Chobe Under Canvas: Our full report
Chobe Under Canvas aims to combine the advantages of a mobile camping safari with the luxuries of a semi-perma...... nent 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 different private site in the same area.
Chobe Under Canvas has just five spacious, walk-in tents, taking a maximum of ten guests. These are fairly traditional Meru-style tents of khaki canvas with mesh windows, and have sisal matting covering the floor. Each is furnished with very comfortable twin or double beds, a bedside table with two rechargeable lanterns, a box of tissues and a flask of cold water, and a luggage chest. Behind the bed, a canvas wall separates the en-suite bathroom, where you’ll find a hanging rail with canvas shelves, insect repellent and a laundry bag. Another rechargeable lantern sits on a small wooden table here, alongside a shaving mirror, tin basin, water jug and complimentary soaps. Above a slatted wooden mat is a bucket shower, which is filled with warm water when you return from the day's safari activities, and a rolled-up canvas doorway leads to a separate flush toilet – all under the same roof. At the front of each tent is a small covered ‘porch’ with two deckchairs and a table.
The five tents are arranged in a semi-circle, just a few metres apart, facing an open-sided marquee-style tent which forms the main area of Chobe Under Canvas. Delicious meals are enjoyed here as a group, around a long, lantern-lit table. There is also a small 'bar' table holding a selection of drinks, a coolbox packed with cold drinks, a very 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 at Chobe Under Canvas will enjoy a game drive both 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 August 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, there is a great variety of birdlife to be seen from boat cruises, from fish eagles to goliath herons and white-fronted bee-eaters to giant kingfishers.
As with previous visits to Chobe Under Canvas, on our last visit in November 2015 we experienced the camp’s pros and cons first hand. A real pro is its location inside the national park. Most lodges in Chobe are located outside the park, so they have to queue at the park gates before and after every game drive. Chobe Under Canvas has the advantage of being one of the first vehicles out on drives and one of the last to head back to camp in the evening – allowing you more time on activities. We had some wonderful elephant sightings with a number of young babies; a herd of sable; buffalo and jackal; a pride of about six lions; and lots of pregnant impala desperately waiting for the start of the summer rains before they gave birth.
One of the cons was that our guide had found a female leopard with an impala kill in a tree earlier in the day, but when we returned to find her in the afternoon, she was no longer there. Strict park rules state that you are not allowed to drive off-road within Chobe, but there was clear evidence that many vehicles had been driving off-road to try and get a closer look. She had obviously been chased away.
It’s also important to note that 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 – which we witnessed on our most recent visit in November 2015. 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 an exciting animal sighting, and at breaks for tea and coffee or sundowners, as in the national park these have to be taken at designated spots.
Although Chobe Under Canvas retains a semi-permanent camping atmosphere, the tents, service and food are more in keeping with Botswana's excellent safari lodges. It offers wonderful wildlife viewing, especially at the end of the dry season, and a more economical, and 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.
- Chobe National Park, Botswana
- 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 or 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.
- The road transfer to Chobe Under Canvas from Kasane takes approximately an hour to an hour-and-a-half, 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
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- Considering Chobe Under Canvas is a semi-permanent mobile camp with the simplest of kitchen facilities, we were very impressed with the standard of meals on our last visit here in November 2015.
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 in the morning and at tea time in the afternoon.
Dinner is a more substantial meal. On our last trip we enjoyed pre-dinner drinks with nibbles of biltong around the campfire. Then for starters we had creamy vegetable soup and freshly baked rolls, followed by crumbed hake, fluffy mash potato, green beans and butternut squash. Dessert was apple pie and cream.
- 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!
- See ideas for Solo Travel
- The Chobe Riverfront is not just about the 'big stuff': it's also a superb destination for birdwatching. Over 450 species of birds have been seen in Chobe, including African skimmers, found between about October and March.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Wildlife safaris
- During the dry season, increasingly high densities of wildlife are drawn to the Chobe River's permanent waters, making Chobe Under Canvas a good choice for wildlife safaris in Botswana. By September/October the numbers of elephant are astounding.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Children aged 12 years and over are welcome at Chobe Under Canvas.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Generally recommended for children
- There is very little for younger visitors to do between wildlife activities, and there is no pool, so we do not recommend this camp for children aged below 16 years or so.
- This is a very open safari camp and wildlife does pass through. Children must be under parents' supervision at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Chobe Under Canvas
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Chobe Under Canvas have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- 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.
- Water supply
- Transported in
- Water supply notes
- The tents at Chobe Under Canvas do not have running water. A jug of water is provided in your bathroom and will be topped up when necessary, and your bucket shower will be filled with hot water on request. There is no running water in the tents, but the toilets are plumbed with flushing water
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- 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, between an hour to an hour-and-a-half drive away.
- 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.
- The tents do not have safes.
- Accepted payment on location
- Chobe Under Canvas cannot accept payments by credit card – but as everything is included, there shouldn’t be any need for this. Any necessary payments are welcomed in cash in US dollars or Botswana pula
Other lodges in Chobe National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.