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KafueTyrone

Zakouma NP, Chad - January 2016

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KafueTyrone

I have recently returned from a fascinating safari to Zakouma NP in Chad, staying at Camp Nomade. Here I have attached some of my images which I hope give you an indication of the wildlife on offer in this truly remote, wild and most intriguing of wildlife destinations. Feel free to fire away with any questions about the place, there is almost too much to say on here! The trip started and ended in N'Djamena (the capital) where we flew into and out of via Paris on Air France. It was amazing that in just over 5 hours you can be looking at the Eiffel Tower and then Hippos (a small pod can be found in N'Djamena, right outside the new Hilton Hotel). A 2 hour long internal flight the next morning took us from N'Djamena to Zakouma airstrip, a fascinating (if expensive) little flight where terrain changed from the a-typical dessert/sandy soils around N'Djamena to the acacia scrub and pan/wetland systems of Zakouma. Overall feelings were that this is a truly quality wildlife destination with genuinely plenty to see. Buffalo were particularly numerous, with herds of hundreds up to thousands being common. Other notable species of interest were Lelwel's Hartebeast, Tiang, Buffon's Kob and Roan (who seemed to be a rather dark fore-legged morph of what we see in the Kafue). Night drives were the best I have had anywhere with Honey Badger and Serval particularly evident, plus a sighting of the apparently relatively common melanistic White-tailed mongoose. Lion were in good number, seen almost daily, generally a little flighty on average. Cheetah and dogs in theory exist in Zakouma but sightings are sporadic at best for Cheetah (last sighting in the main tourism area was 2014) and dogs are seen sporadically outside the park in the more peripheral habitats, they have never been sighted inside the park (neither has their spoor). Leopard are seen from time to time but not very often. The Elephant of Zakouma are well documented and we saw them well from air and fortuitously on one game drive. The Elephant tend to spend time in the denser acacia thickets which is pretty much impossible to get in to, however they did come out to the core of the park when we were there after a poaching incident the day previous made them head towards the relative sanctity of the park headquarters. I was impressed with both the sheer number of game and birdlife but also by the variety of habit types, something I hadn't come to expect. Although I am not a fan of comparing any one place to another it was very hard to not drive around Zakouma and see areas which reminded me of the South Luangwa and other areas just like the Busanga Plains in the Kafue (particularly with the large flocks of Crowned Crane on the open plains, flanked by Roan antelope and lion). On the face of it the wildlife seemed very familiar in many ways, but when you had a closer look, everything was actually slightly different, from the Abysinnian Roller's pretending to be LB Rollers, to the Buffon's Kob pretending to be Puku...

Overall a fascinating place, well worth a visit for those who are up for adventure, and have around 9 to 10K$ to spend!

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Edited by KafueTyrone

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KafueTyrone

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KafueTyrone

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KafueTyrone

And finally, some aerial shots of Zakouma...

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AfricIan

Nice review & photos @@KafueTyrone, an interesting take on what, for me, is very much an unknown destination. In your opinion, other than the rarity what do you get in Zakouma for the premium you would pay over a visit to eg the Kafue?

Edited by AfricIan
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wilddog

Good to hear that you got to Zakouma @@KafueTyrone - I think Dad was with you too? Quiet an experience I imagine. Thanks for posting about it.

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TonyQ

@@KafueTyrone

Thank you for posting these - great to see some more images from Zakouma - very enjoyable

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KafueTyrone

Indeed the AP staff do a great job and the Camp Nomade is easily on par in terms of quality of camp, hosting and food (which is arguably the best I have ever had on safari) with Zambian bush camps. I would liken it somewhat to an RPS Mobile Camp in terms of quality and style.

The safari experience in January we were told is not quite what it is later in the season, but in all honesty we saw loads! I am sure it is very impressive later in the season, especially the massive quelea flocks but it certainly is pretty impressive in January already. Plus the weather was perfect, not too hot at all, in fact we were wrapped up warm for morning drives...

 

And, Ian, in my opinion other than the rarity; you get a safari experience that I have never experienced before and that I very much doubt exists in many other places. I expected to see bits and bobs and hoped to see some of the unusual 'specials' in Zakouma, but what I was not expecting is the sheer number of game, everywhere you look there are herds of Tiang, Hartebeast, Roan, Giraffe and Buffalo. This is a national park in North Central Africa, 5 hours flight from Paris that has the most remarkable history which is very much an ongoing conservation project. The mix of the north african/arab/Islamic/Nomadic cultural interest is also fascinating and adds a whole new angle to this safari. In fact what we expect of a 'safari' goes out the window here, there is no culture of international tourism at all in Chad, the whole experience is something special itself, but combined with genuine quality in terms of sheer wildlife numbers, added to the plethora of rarities, makes it totally unique and worthwhile destination.

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Big_Dog

Excellent trip report, I hope more of us visit Zakouma, it's such a fascinating place.
Love the hyaena, python and badger pics in particular. Some beautiful scenery like the algae river too.

It's also great to hear of such big herds, herbivores can make or break an ecosystem so it's a thrill not to hear of empty forests.

Was also interested to read the comment about the 5 hour flight. Non-crowded, unique and only a short place...maybe more people will start to come to Zakouma?

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KafueTyrone

Big_dog I certainly hope people do visit Zakouma! You could almost go for a weekend from Paris!

A lot of people show interest in these lesser known areas but in my experience there is a big difference between people that show interest and those who actually go through with it and book. If I had a $ for everyone who said they would love to go to x,y and z but never actually went there, I'd be a wealthy man! But, to be fair, Chad and Islamic North Africa do conjure up images that are a little scary, but the unknown is always a little scary and arguably this is half the excitement in visiting such areas, for me at least...

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inyathi

@@KafueTyrone Thanks for posting this; it’s great to see another Zakouma report.

 

Zakouma really is honey badger central the fact that you sure plenty of them in January suggests that this is true throughout the season I would think the park has to be just about the best place in the world to see them. It’s coming up 10 years since I visited Busanga but I still very clearly remember the herds of roan I saw there and the Central African ones in Zakouma are distinctly different. Aside from some of them being very dark at the front, comparing my photos another obvious difference is that they also don’t have the long hair on the neck that southern roans have. It’s very good to know that you still saw good big game in January; I’ve tended to think having only been in April that I would only want to go at this time given how expensive Camp Nomade is because it really is the very best time to go. Your report has really changed my mind and shows that even almost at the start of the season the park is well worth visiting.

 

I was very keen to go by Air France on my last visit but because we stayed for 10 nights there was no return flight on my departure date and I didn’t really want to stay in N’Djamena at the end and fly another day. If you’re based in the UK or anywhere in Western Europe only an hour or so by air from Paris then as you say just a 5hr flight on Air France is great, leaving home in the morning and arriving the same evening without having to spend a night on a plane is an attractive option. Also although at the moment there’s an hour’s time difference between Chad and the UK in April when I’ve been, we’ve moved our clocks forward here by then so there’s no time difference at all, that really makes going for a long weekend not seem like a daft idea if you can make it work. I’ve seen adverts in the past for a long weekend gorilla trekking in Rwanda and thought that’s completely mad idea how tired would you be after doing that. The trouble with going to Zakouma for a long weekend is even staying at Tinga it would be a quite an expensive trip given the cost of the MAF plane.

 

While the short flight time on Air France is a big attraction I’m afraid from the point of view of attracting more tourists to Zakouma the fact that it is in Chad is a major handicap it does take a certain amount of confidence or faith to think yes lets go to Chad, and not think Zakouma does look and sound amazing but I think we'll stick with Bostwana thanks. Very few people know anything about the country and a lot of what people do know or think they know isn’t good, it doesn’t help that when people look up Chad on Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet there’s a travel warning at the top of the page linking to the FCO website which pretty much advises people not to go at all. Sadly now following recent events in West Africa the world is now a slightly scareier place than it was even just two years ago when I first went, I really hope this won’t put too many people off visiting. The more of us that do go and safely return to tell the world about the wonders of Zakouma and that Chad really is a safe place to visit the better.

 

I hope this won’t be the last trip report from Zakouma in 2016 to appear here on ST (or elsewhere on the web perhaps).

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Jakob

What a trip Tyrone! Congratulations.

 

What species is the snake in one of your pics in the post?

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Antee

One of my dream destination at the moment is a combination of Zakouma and the surreal landscapes of the Ennedi plateau up in northeast of Chad.

I know people travelling there at the moment but for me there is not a sense of 100% security as it borders to Libya, Egypt and Sudan and is really remote.

One day...one day...

Thanx for great pics!

Edited by Antee

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Alexander33

Thanks so much for an incredible post. Zakouma is a fascinating place, and I appreciate pioneers like you who help put it on the map. Very reassuring for those less intrepid souls like me.

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CaroleE

@@KafueTyrone

Thank you for some great photos and report on what sounds like a fantastic trip. The more I read avout Zakouma the more I would like to visit. And now I hear only a 5 hour flight from Paris. With the Air France/KLM partnership this could be an easy trip to make!

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Marks

If I had a $ for everyone who said they would love to go to x,y and z but never actually went there, I'd be a wealthy man!

And if I had to give you a dollar for every time I said something to that effect, I'd be broke! :P

 

Excellent photos. It's great to see and learn more about Zakouma.

 

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Caracal

@@KafueTyrone - Thanks for this fascinating report. You certainly saw a wide variety of Zakouma's distinctive wildlife and in large numbers.

 

I'm wondering how many nights you stayed at Camp Nomade?

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KafueTyrone

@@Caracal We spent 7 nights in Zakouma, with 1 night out from Camp Nomade on fly-camp. Basically there is no 'set' itinerary for Zakouma. Each guide who leads trips to Zakouma does so to suit themselves and their particular guests. For example guests who I would take to Zakouma I would encourage to do 2 nights on the fly-camp, not just 1, and this and many other factors are all flexible and dependent on the guide and his/her interests.

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