Last week, I noted that this week I will become specific about the nature of congestion at the Chobe River Front (CRF) which therefore dictates that consideration should be taken in any development proposal in the area. Vehicles and game drives contribute to congestion at the CRF. The proximity of the CRF to Kasane on the east and to Ngoma and the Chobe Enclave on the west results in a much higher proportion of day users at the CRF.
In August 2019 (peak month) there were 4,109 vehicle days recorded entering Chobe National Park (CNP) through Sedudu gate. Commercial vehicles made up 3,219 of these days at an average 104 per day. Private vehicles comprised 890 of these vehicle days at an average of 28 per day.
Most commercial game drives into the CNP are 3-4 hours in duration and occur twice per day. It can therefore be assumed that approximately 52 commercial vehicles enter in the morning and 52 in the afternoon. There are approximately 17 km of road along the riverfront between Sedudu gate and Serondela which is the peak usage area. These 52 vehicles will join the 11 vehicles operating from Chobe Game Lodge which utilise the same roads and result in at least 63 vehicles using the CRF daily.
Game drives congestion at the CRF started in 2000 as tourism grew in Kasane and in the park. The high volumes were largely experienced during the peak season along the river frontage and the problem was well pronounced between Sedudu and Serondela which is only 17 kilometers. Some park users open illegal routes to assess unusual wildlife sightings to avoid congested traffic in the area. This often results in degradation of the wilderness experience for tourists and leads to some degree of negative publicity for CNP.
Congestion from game drives and animal harassment is common at the CRF. For example, tourists’ vehicles often gather around wild animals especially lions and the Big Five. Crowding is caused by tourist vehicles that enter the park at Ngoma and Sedudu gates and drive along the Chobe River with a stopover along the River Front and Serondela campsite. This is the area with the highest concentration of wild animals.
Tour operators also prefer to bring their guests to this part of the CNP because they are more likely to see predators (e.g., lions, leopards), buffaloes, and large herds of elephants. Overcrowding of safari vehicles along CRF results in off-road and concentration around a single group of animals (e.g. lions). Off-road driving has created at least 325 km of roads to the north of the tarred road linking Sedudu and Ngoma and this is considered too much for a small area.
Many of these roads are impacted by erosion and have been washed away by seasonal rainfall. The overcrowding of safari visitors on the CRF is linked to the heavy marketing of the River Front zone at the expense of other gazetted zones within the park. The pathways and treks in the park constitute visual pollution to a visitor who may have seen positive messages in the marketing and promotional media. Congestion by game drive vehicles is not only an environmental hazard but it also destroys the aesthetic beauty of the area. Next week I will write about congestion caused by boat activities in the Chobe River.