What to Expect When Visiting Chief's Island in Botswana
Chief’s Island, in the heart of Moremi Game Reserve, is a massive sand island or “sandveld tongue” that covers 1,000 km2 of the central Delta region. On the northwestern tip of Chief’s Island lies one of the Okavango’s most famous game-viewing areas, the Mombo Concession. Mombo is known to BaYei locals as “the place of plenty” and arguably the most fertile land of the Okavango. Mombo is located just below where the Okavango River splits into three primary channels and supports a diversity of wildlife hard to find anywhere else in Africa. When the water levels of the Okavango rise during winter floods, many animals move to find dry land on the island.
Chief’s Island is particularly famous for its predators. Its far-reaching floodplains and diverse habitats attract high concentrations of prime prey species including buffalo, lechwe, impala, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, tsessebe and warthog.
In the nineties, wild dogs ruled the Mombo Concession with the largest pack having as many 40 dogs. Their presence inspired the book Running Wild by Dave and Helene Hamman, which played an important role in raising awareness of the behaviour and vulnerable status of these lesser-known carnivores. Nowadays, Mombo is famous for its large lion population and very relaxed leopards.
Rhino in the wild: Besides the small Khama Rhino Sanctuary in western Botswana, Chief’s Island is the only place in the country where you have a good chance of seeing a rhino in the wild. Once common across Botswana they were completely wiped out by poaching but were successfully reintroduced to central Moremi in the early 2000s.
Exclusive game viewing: Moremi is arguably Botswana’s best wildlife-viewing region, and Chief’s Island is undoubtedly the reserve’s most game-rich and exclusive area. It’s the only place in Botswana which supports all of the Big Five and excellent predator sightings are virtually guaranteed.
Chief’s Island’s two main lodges are among the most luxurious in Africa, offering all-inclusive, fly-in safaris, usually transferring through Maun. Day or overnight boat trips from Maun are the more affordable option, but however, you visit you’ll need to book well in advance. The island can be visited at any time of year, but May to August sees extensive flooding in some areas. This can be a wonderful time to visit Chief’s Island, but the focus shifts to boat and mokoro excursions instead of game vehicles and walking safaris.
Getting around Chief’s Islands