Boat Congestion At Chobe River Front

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The Chobe River is a significant tourist attraction and provides significant wildlife and birdlife viewing opportunities from motorboats of varying sizes. However, the movement of these boats is resulting in significant impacts upon the riverbank because of erosion from wake wash.

This wake wash erosion results in the exposure of tree roots and ultimately the collapse of a significant number of large mature trees, including majestic knobthorns (Acacia nigrescens), due to undercutting of the riverbank.

Additionally, this erosion is washing sediment into the river which exacerbates turbidity in the water and over time will contribute towards the silting up of the Chobe River. There is currently a one-way system on the river which results in a flotilla approach with all boats circumnavigating Sedudu Island in a clockwise direction.

Whilst intended to reduce congestion this system merely serves to concentrate impacts and encourages boats to race one another to get ahead or reach sightings first in addition to compromising photographic tourism opportunities dependent on the light and the angle of the sun.

A total of 738 boats were registered for use at the Chobe River in 2019. In addition, 144 boats were operated by Namibia. However, not all these boats are operational in the Chobe River even though registered to operate. Approximately 95% of the local boat usage in Kasane is for tourist purposes to visit the Chobe National Park. The remaining boat usage is for private and commercial usage.

This usage is negligible since most private and commercial traffic is done terrestrially via road vehicles. The boat used for tourism in Kasane can be distinguished by their size and construction type. The four most common types are Dinghies, Pontoon, Catamaran, and Houseboat. Hulls are constructed from fiberglass, aluminum, or steel. The list below shows the distribution of boats between the different types.

In relation to tourism and usage periods, the usage period of the boats is determined by the tourist seasons in the Chobe National Park. From July through August as well as December are considered high season. From September to November are considered the average season, and the period from January to June is considered low season.

The High season runs up to three tours per day are operated by each boat. The tours start around 9:00 AM, 12:00 AM and 3 PM. The Average season is such that each boat usually performs one tour per day, and finally, the Low season: each boat usually performs three tours per week.

During each season, the distribution of boat activities or tours during the week is balanced, i.e., there is no preference on weekdays or weekends. These boats often crowd around different species either crossing the river or those grazing and drinking water at the Chobe River. The high number of boats on the Chobe River front indicates that the riverfront is congested and are often a disturbance to wildlife and birds species hence posing an environmental challenge to the riverfront. It is from this background that a lasting strategy is needed to manage boats sustainably.

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