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Zakouma 2015

Returning to Wildest Africa in Style

 

 

Black Crowned Cranes flying into Rigueik in Zakouma National Park

 

A quick note before starting, when writing reports I always like to go the extra mile for the more remote off the beaten track destinations that I love, because although I would hate to see these places spoilt, they do really need just a few more tourists, to help ensure their survival. So, I'm very glad that we wrote last year's report the way that we did, however putting it together did require considerable effort, such that prior to this trip, I agreed that we would not do another joint report in the same vein as last year's. So, I have decided to shoulder the burden of putting a report here on ST, this report will therefore be a largely solo effort. When thinking about how I would put together this report, I decided that for the main part of the report Part Two that will eventually follow I did not want to write the further adventures of Inyathi/Rob in Chad, that I would instead try to keep it much simpler and just concentrate on the photos and videos. I thought that just posting a few photos and videos would cut down my workload considerably and indeed it would, if only I really could limit myself to just a few but in my case, despite my best intentions, just a few nearly always turns out to be rather a lot. So, this report may turn out to require almost as much effort as last year's, but I want to do justice to the majesty of Zakouma and it was always my intention to upload a sizeable selection of my photos and videos to the internet regardless of this report.

 

All photos and videos were taken by myself using a Canon EOS 50D & an EOS 70D and a 15-85mm and 100-400mm MK II.

 

Part One

 

Last year’s trip report was called Zakouma: One Week in Wildest Africa but when I uploaded the photos to Flickr I chose to call the album Unknown Africa – Zakouma NP in Chad, even for me, going to the park on that trip was a journey into the unknown. It is incredible to find somewhere that supports such a truly staggering abundance of wildlife and yet remains almost unknown to the outside world. That Zakouma is so little known, is really down to the fact that it is in Chad and that in itself is remarkable, it is hard to believe that such abundance, could still exist in a formerly troubled and war torn country like Chad. What also makes Zakouma very special is to have such a wealth of wildlife in what is still a very wild, very undeveloped and basically unspoilt wilderness, this is a rare combination these days. There are large areas in the park like Rigueik, that are perfect for game viewing and yet there are almost no tourists at all, throughout the entire season of around three months, when the area is accessible; anywhere else you would expect to find at least half a dozen tourist camps and have to share some of your sightings, with at least one or two other cars, but not in Zakouma.

 

You can also still find other places that have the same sense of real wilderness that Zakouma has, but not the wildlife spectacle to go with it. If you go right off the beaten track outside the main tourist areas, in some of the big Tanzanian parks like Ruaha and Katavi, you can still find unspoilt wilderness devoid of tourists, but inevitably there’s a trade off. These more remote areas generally haven’t already been opened up for tourism for a reason, to enjoy a true wilderness experience in parks like these, you have to sacrifice the great game viewing on offer, in their “core” tourist areas. Of course, you can with luck still enjoy some quality wildlife encounters, but you do have to work hard to find the animals. Either animal densities are naturally low, because of the nature of the habitat, which may be predominantly miombo woodland (not a good habitat for game viewing) or simply these more remote areas are not as well patrolled by park rangers, allowing the animals to fall victim to meat poachers. In the days some fifteen years ago when Katavi NP, was still very little known and there was only one very small seasonal camp at Lake Chada, it was common to hear gunshots at night and to still find meat drying racks out in the bush. Not so in Zakouma, remarkably the wildlife seems to be just as abundant throughout, including in the more remote and least explored (even by the Park’s management) corners, where you might imagine there would be fewer animals and this is a testament to just how well protected Zakouma is.

 

In the previous report, I did address the obvious concern about security and whether or not Chad and Zakouma is a safe place to visit, having visited before I had no concerns this time at all. So, all I will really say this time, is that the extraordinary abundance of large game ‘meat on the hoof’ seemingly throughout Zakouma, is a very good sign of just how safe the park is. In general the remote African bush is a very safe place to be and the fact that the wildlife including the elephants is safe, means that you really have very little to worry about security wise in Zakouma.

 

Our first safari to Zakouma in late April last year, was a chance for @Michael Lorentz to go on a second recce trip to the park, but it was also a recce for a travelling companion, who was already planning a proper safari to Zakouma this year. That trip, despite nearly being derailed by early rain, had been a huge success, so much so that once I was back home, I knew I had to return to see more of this fabulous park, but also much as I might want to selfishly keep it to myself, I knew that other people needed to come and see it and in doing so help pay for its protection. So, I wanted us to write a report, that would help if only in a small way, to make Zakouma a little bit less unknown and if possible help it take its rightful place on the safari map of Africa.

 

Of course, we didn’t want to as it were shoot ourselves in the foot and find that we couldn’t return when we wanted to, because everything was booked up, by people who’d read our report. Whatever our small contribution, the fact that Zakouma is now starting to appear on the tourist map, is really down to Michael’s hard work and we knew from him and from African Parks, that things would really start to happen this year and if we wanted to be part of it and to be amongst the very first tourists to visit Zakouma in proper safari style, then we had to put our names down straight away. So, when asked if I’d be able to join this safari I didn’t hesitate for too long before deciding as I had last year, that I would be crazy to say no.

 

In January of this year, African Parks set up a mobile camping operation in Zakouma called Camp Nomade and we would have the privilege to be amongst the very first guests to stay in the new camp. Ahead of us African Parks, would be hosting some groups consisting of travel journalists (like the Financial Times’s Sophy Roberts), and selected people from the safari industry, especially some of Africa’s top professional guides it is hoped that they will return with some of their clients and this will then help to fund the protection and management of this of this special and vitally important wildlife paradise. Camp Nomade will be exclusively marketed and sold through these accredited guides (or the companies they work for), but it is worth noting since staying at the camp will not be cheap, that all of the money paid to Camp Nomade goes straight back in to the park. A tourism model that is probably unique within the safari industry.

 

After our pioneering trip last year, we had hoped to be the first ever tourists to stay at Camp Nomade, but in fact it turned out that Colin Bell and Ralph Bousfield both participants on the guide’s recce trips, immediately returned with clients. So, we had to settle for being the third group of tourists, the third amongst what I hope will become a small, but steady stream of tourist groups, to visit Camp Nomade in future seasons.

 

The last of these three guide groups, would still be in residence on the night of the 31st of March the day that we planned to arrive in Chad, so it was agreed that we should stay the night in N’Djamena, before flying out to the park on the 1st of April. Spending a single night in NDJ, before transferring to the park, will be the norm for future tourist groups visiting Zakouma.

Edited by inyathi
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graceland

@@inyathi

 

I am so looking forward to this!

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inyathi

Flying to Chad

 

 

Yellow-billed Storks flying over Rigueik Zakouma National Park

 

Last year we all flew Ethiopian Airlines and this worked very well, the flight from London is only about 7½ hrs which isn’t too bad and we all got to meet up in Addis first, before flying on to NDJ, obviously arriving all at the same time, this was important as we then flew straight on to Zakouma. Rather than just do this again, this time I wanted to fly Air France, as this would have meant that I could leave home in the morning on the 31st of March get to Heathrow, fly to Paris at around 12:15 spend a about an hour and a half waiting in Paris, before flying on at around 16:10 arriving at about 20:50 in NDJ, the same evening. My only concerns were that if the AF flight was delayed or there was any kind of hold up at the airport in NDJ, I could end up getting to the hotel a little late and if I then wanted dinner, it could make for a late night which would not be ideal, as I would have an early start the next morning. However Hassan Djamous Airport in NDJ is very small, there’s only one baggage reclaim and there aren’t loads of flights coming in, so really unless the airport is in chaos, it shouldn’t take too long to get through. So, on balance going Air France did seem to be the best option as it would be a lot less travel time, only about 8½ hrs in total from Heathrow as opposed to 14hrs going Ethiopian and it would cut out a probably sleepless night on the plane. Unfortunately however, there was no return Air France flight on our day of departure and flying Air France on the way out and Ethiopian on the way back would be prohibitively expensive. If you’re coming from Europe and can make it work with your dates, then Air France would seem to be the way to go, likewise from the US if you can make your dates work or you could spend a day or two in Paris before flying on. You can also fly on Royal Air Maroc, however, the flight gets in to NDJ at 04:35 not a friendly time of day and given that the flight from Casablanca is only 4hrs 55mins you’d likely have a pretty sleepless night. Another option is Turkish Airlines, however, their flight gets in to NDJ at 22:45 and leaves at 23:40, not really ideal arrival or departure times, having said that N’Djamena is a very small city so none of the hotels are too far from the airport.

 

 

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N’Djamena in Chad by inyathi, on Flickr

 

For me flying Ethiopian again, seemed to be the only option and this time they did have a return flight to London on our day of departure or rather to my dismay, the small hours of the following morning at 02:30. This flight would get me back to Heathrow at 07:05 as opposed 09:30 going via Frankfurt, as I had done last year, that flight leaves several hours earlier, but stops for an hour in Jeddah and obviously involves another flight from Frankfurt to London. Ethiopian moved the London flight forward to 01:30 and I didn’t realise until I arrived back in Addis at the end of the trip, that with no time difference between Chad and the UK, a 2hr difference in Addis going on Chad/UK time, my departure would in fact only be 23:30 which isn’t nearly so bad, but still not that great when you’ve had to get up at about 04:45. The problem with late night flights as I found on the way out, when to my immense annoyance my flight was delayed for several hours, is that what you really want to do, once you’ve taken your seat, is just go to sleep, but you don’t want to do that until after the meal. However, by the time they’ve actually got around to serving the meal and then come back and cleared it away, it is seriously late; still, I’m very glad that I waited for the meal, as Ethiopian didn’t serve breakfast.

 

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Flying Ethiopian Airlines

 

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Fields along the Chari River Approaching N’Djamena

 

After the somewhat fraught time that we had had last year, applying for our visas it was something of a relief to learn this time, that we would be able to obtain our visas on arrival. All we needed was a permission to travel letter signed and stamped by the Minister of Agriculture and the Environment and the Director of Immigration amongst others, along with our letter of invitation from African Parks and a couple of photos and then for the princely sum of $25, they would issue our visas at the airport. Last year it had cost me £250 to get my visa, a large part of that was the cost of having my passport couriered to and from Paris, if you live in a country with no Chad embassy, there’s quite a saving in getting your visa on arrival. It also means you’re not deprived of your passport for a week or so which can be a serious inconvenience, if you have other travel plans prior to visiting Chad.

 

However, you do need to check with your airline, that they will allow you to fly without having a visa, since it is the airline's responsibility to take you back home, if you are refused entry, some will demand that you do have a visa. I checked with Ethiopian well in advance of leaving home and was assured that no visa was necessary and was not asked if I had one, when I checked in at Heathrow. However, different countries and different airlines may well have different rules, my travelling companion had to explain to Ethiopian that he would be getting his visa on arrival in NDJ, before they would allow him to fly and actually had to send a copy of the permission to travel letter to them in advance and was still questioned at the airport. So this is something anyone hoping to get their visa on arrival should check far enough ahead, to allow time to apply for the visa in advance if it proves necessary.

 

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Chari River N’Djamena

 

When we arrived at Hassan Djamous, we discovered that the airport was in complete chaos as it was being renovated, according to the instructions from African Parks, they would have a man called Youssouf there to meet us to help us with our visas, but unfortunately he was unable to get through to us. After we all filled in the usual arrival forms, queued at one of the immigration desks, while we tried to work out how to negotiate our way around them, to get to the office the other side, someone from security then spotted us and ushered us in the right direction. It wasn’t entirely clear exactly what we had to do, other than fill out the various forms we’d been given, after we handed them over with our passports, the official we gave them to suggested that he would quite like to have a coffee or perhaps a Coke so my travelling companion, took the hint and gave him a couple of dollars. He then sent us on our way, somewhat confused as we hadn’t been asked to pay any money or hand over our photos, at the baggage reclaim we met up with Youssouf from AP and gave him our photos and one of the forms, which he needed in order to reclaim our passports.

 

Clearly Chad, has quite a lot to learn about issuing visas on arrival, every other country I’ve been to, where they do this they issue the visa on the spot, while you wait but not Chad, in theory, we would have our passports back with the visas in the morning. If visiting Chad for the first time you have to register yourself with the police within 72hrs of your arrival, but having been the previous year, I did not have to do this, one of my companions did have to, this is something that African Parks does for you and because it takes some time, they have to return your passport to you at the end of the trip. We realised that with all the chaos at the airport, it was very unlikely that we would get our passports back in the morning and sure enough we didn’t, the $25 cost for each of our visas was added to our respective Camp Nomade bills at the end, all in all the process was very confusing, if only because we don’t speak French, but it worked. Had the airport not been being renovated at the time and therefore not been so chaotic, Youssouf would have been there to help us and it would have all been quite straight forward.

Edited by inyathi
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inyathi

The Kempinski Hotel

 

When it was decided that we should stay a night in NDJ, there seemed to be only one choice of hotel the Kempinski, however, since it isn’t that cheap, I thought I should have a good look at Trip Advisor, to see if there were any other options before agreeing. The reviews simply confirmed what I already suspected, that the Kempinski is by far the best hotel, by a significant margin and that you simply would not want to stay in any of the others; the Novotel and Meridian are apparently pretty dreadful and certainly all of the cheaper alternatives are best avoided. I was particularly amused by the review of one hotel that finished by saying

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At $110/night, you are better off offering $50 to a stranger and unrolling a bedmat in a corner of his courtyard.

Even the reviews of the Kempinski aren’t entirely glowing, this led me to think that it might not be the best Kempinski Hotel in the world.

 

At check-in needless to say, they wanted our passports which were all still at the airport, however, this was not a problem as I always carry a copy of mine and this sufficed. I keep a scan of my passport on my computer, so I can print out copies whenever I need one, wherever you are going in the world, it is always a good idea to take copies of your passport.

 

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The Front of the Kempinski Hotel N’Djamena

 

It had been suggested that if we wanted to, we could go and visit the local craft market, but after we checked in, we all decided that actually we’d rather just relax at the hotel for the afternoon. The Kempinski has quite a sizeable garden of mostly lawn, with a few shrubs with some trees at the front around the car park. So, I decided after a couple of hours rest, to see if there were any birds in the garden, to which the answer was lots of house sparrows, a few red-cheeked cordon bleus and plenty of speckled pigeons, but nothing much else. One thing I don’t need on safari is a swimming pool, but if there is one I will make use of it, if it’s very hot and the Kempinski has a large one, in a sort a figure of eight with one half entirely shallow and the other very deep with a bridge over the middle. Having exhausted the garden’s birding possibilities, I went for a swim, I guess because the deep end is properly deep, the water was pretty cold, but then the weather was also very hazy, just from dust I think, so it wasn’t as hot as it might have been.

 

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The Back of the Kempinski Hotel N’Djamena

 

The Kempinski must be one of the tallest buildings in NDJ, as almost everything else is single story, so in the evening we decided that we would have dinner at the restaurant on the 9th floor to enjoy the great views of NDJ at night. However, when we stepped out of the lift the entire floor was dark and the restaurant very obviously closed, we went back down to the restaurant on the ground floor. There we were offered a choice of the buffet or the menu, while buffets can be good I would almost always rather order of the menu, as it’s usually much nicer. The chicken starter was very nice and the beef, which I perhaps unwisely ordered bleu, was absolutely delicious, I was half expecting a very tough bit of meat from some poor beast, probably raised somewhere on the edge of the Sahara, but it was as good as any beef, I might get at home. To finish off, I had a piece of opera cake, made with chocolate from the Island of Bioko (Equatorial Guinea), this apart from being a larger portion than I’d anticipated, was very good. At least based on this one meal, the food at the Kempinski was excellent.

 

The hotel room was much like any other, at Heathrow I’d bought some chocolate and still had some left over, so decided to put it in the mini bar for later, in the room information it said that mini bar items were available on request and when I opened the fridge, I found it was completely empty and not even plugged in, in fact in order to plug it in, I had to unplug the TV as there was no other socket within reach. Had I not wanted to put my chocolate in there, I would likely not have opened the mini bar at all, so I didn’t mind that it was empty. Also, since I had brought an iPad with me, I decided to briefly try out the WiFi and it seemed to work perfectly well, though I didn’t actually need it, so it wouldn’t have mattered to me, if it hadn’t worked.

 

When we’d checked in, we had enquired about breakfast and had been told that it was available from 06:00 to 10:30, but when we’d said we needed to leave at 06:00, they suggested it might be possible to have something earlier and in fact the information in the room, says that breakfast is available on request from 05:00 at the cafe/restaurant in the lobby. I was the only one who decided I would try to get breakfast, however, I managed to set my alarm clock slightly too late, so had to get up in a rush and then didn’t really have time for breakfast, however, we did manage to get some coffees. There were a few croissants and such like left on the side, but they didn’t look that appetising, so I decided just to finish off the last of my chocolate and make do with that, as I had no wish to take it into the heat of Zakouma. Therefore, I can’t comment on breakfast at the Kempinski, but for a one night stay, the hotel was more than adequate and the dinner easily surpassed my expectations.

Edited by inyathi
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Tom Kellie

~ @inyathi:

 

The level of detail in this trip report is IMPRESSIVE!

Struggling to write my own initial trip report, I realize how much time, care and planning is required to write a high quality trip report.

From what I've read thus far, your trip report is a classic!

I'm with @@graceland, looking forward to this!

Many thanks for sharing this with us on Safaritalk.

Tom K.

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inyathi

At 06:00 on the 1st of April, we were taken by an AP driver back to the airport which only takes about 15 mins and then initially deposited at the MAF office to wait, but before we could board our plane, we had to of course, to go back to the terminal and go through security. Although the airport was in complete chaos and it looked like we might have trouble getting through, all we had to do was utter the magic word "Zakouma" at appropriate moments, to be sent off in the right direction. As always with MAF, the pilot said a short prayer before we took off, but either God wasn’t listening or was looking the other way when we landed, because we hit Zakouma with a thump and bounced a couple of times before coming to a stop, our somewhat embarrassed pilot had to apologise for the landing.

 

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Mountains/Hills west of Zakouma

 

 

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Zakouma National Park

 

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Zakouma National Park

 

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Zakouma National Park

 

After disembarking, we met the previous guests, who were various South African guides and folks from the safari industry who were leaving on our plane, with the exception that is for our own guide Owen “Squack” Evans who had been with them, learning all about Zakouma ahead of our arrival. Michael Lorentz hadn’t been available to guide for us this time, but we knew that with adequate preparation and help when necessary from African Parks’s driver Mahamat, Squack would be a very suitable replacement.

 

 

Squack Evans on the Salamat in Zakouma National Park

Squack sitting beside the Salamat River

 

I had been slightly nervous about signing on for this trip, fearful that it could never match up to the amazing time, that we’d enjoyed last year but once I was back on the ground in Zakouma amidst the sights, sounds and smells of the African bush, all of my doubts disappeared. I knew that this trip could not be anything other than amazing, because this year we would really have time to explore and have the chance to spend proper time at each location and really see what the park has to offer. What’s more we would be doing it, from the hopefully much more comfortable and certainly far more stylish surroundings of Camp Nomade, from the few photos that I’d seen, it looked like it was going to be my kind of camp. Last year, we had enjoyed two wonderful nights of fly camping, eating out under the stars is one of the great joys of being on safari, this year every night would be under the stars. When we arrived in camp we were not disappointed, the camp was everything I’d hoped it would be and the location at Rigueik was spectacular, with a constant array of wildlife. present in front of the camp throughout the day.

Edited by inyathi
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twaffle

@@inyathi Good trip reports of new places with little existing information on them take a lot of time, effort and commitment. Thank you for deciding to post a detailed one from Zakouma the 2nd time (the first combined effort was also fantastic) around and along with what I know will be excellent photos it's one to relish and look forward to. Lots of excellent advice for anyone lucky enough to follow in your footsteps.

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michael-ibk

Really glad you are doing it again, inyathi, and terrific that you have chosen to go for "full-length-all-the-details"! For many of us Zakouma is out of reach, so I'm thankful that we can experience it here on Safaritalk through your report.

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Earthian

Can't wait to see the rest of it. Thank you @@inyathi Agree with Tom- The devil is in the details and you seem to have captured him! :)

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inyathi

Camp Nomade

 

The beautifully designed camp is decorated in a style that evokes a Chadian/North African nomad camp.

 

 

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The spacious main or mess tent has a comfortable lounge area to sit and relax

 

 

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Lounge area Camp Nomade at Rigueik in Zakouma National Park

Having a sitting area like this is a definite luxury in a mobile camp and it made for a very pleasant place to relax, however, if you didn't wish to be down on these cushions, there were always plenty of camp chairs around.

 

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Being open on all sides there is usually a nice breeze blowing through, keeping it nice and cool but if you're still too hot you can sit and fan and yourself, in case anyone is wondering what the two items are on the cushion. As those who've read last years report will recall, in April Zakouma can get ferociously hot, so if fanning yourself proves insufficient on its own, the tents are equipped with misters, a small container of water that you pump air into, so that at the flick of switch it releases a fine mist.

 

If necessary the misters could also being taken out in the vehicle on game drives, though as last year we generally relied on a wet kikoi to keep cool, when going out, if you wanted to be really cool, you could soak your kikoi in the cool box.

 

 

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In one corner is the bar comprising a large cool box, containing a plentiful supply of water and a selection whatever other drinks you requested, when booking. The bar operates on a self service basis, so you can help yourself to drinks throughout the day and at least at certain times, there was ice, as there was an ice machine in the kitchen.

 

 

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The Dining Table

 

At lunch time the dining table is inside the mess tent, but for breakfast and dinner the table is moved outside

 

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Breakfast at Rigueik

 

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The Dining Table at Am Kalam in the south of Zakouma

 

Throughout our stay the food was excellent

 

 

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Lunch of Tortilla/Spanish Omelette and various salads

 

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Dinner at Rigueik

Dinner at Rigueik

 

As you can see there was a plentiful supply of wine to wash down the food, importantly cooled to the right temperature for the climate, there's really no need to suffer at all when your camping in the bush and we didn't. One of the great joys of camping in Africa, is being able to eat out under the stars listening to the sounds of the night, the frogs, nightbirds and the occasional roar of a lion or whoop of a hyena. At Rigueik it was mostly frogs their chorus was sufficiently loud most nights, that you could barely hear any other animals, though perhaps this could be an advantage for nervous campers, or indeed for city dwellers who aren't used to quiet nights.

Edited by inyathi
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TonyQ

@@inyathi

A very enjoyable start - the camp looks beautiful.

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inyathi

Camp Nomade sleeps a maxium of eight

 

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The tents that are essentially a large spacious rectangular mosquito net under an awning, much cooler than a traditional canvas walled tent would be in Zakouma's climate.

 

 

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Around the back half of the tent there are curtains to provide privacy.

 

 

 

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A tin trunk/chest provides a bedside table and there is a shelf and a rail for hanging your clothes.

 

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Not much more than about ten paces behind the tent at the nearest convenient spot is a bathroom, this consists of a round grass/reed wall surrounding a basin filled from a bucket, a bucket shower and a short drop loo.

 

 

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I have to say I much prefer having a short drop loo, than the chemical loos that some mobile camps have to use. While this sort of bathroom arrangement is perfect for me, the fact that it is not en-suite, won't be for everyone, if you are lying in your tent in the pitch dark, listening to a lion roaring somewhere and you're desperate for the loo, you might be in for an uncomfortable night. Really though, if you have a decent torch and you take care to look around, when you are going to and from the bathroom at night, you shouldn't be in any danger. The camp is always being moved, so unlike some permanent camps, there shouldn't be a problem with the animals getting too used to people. However, you do need to be escorted back to your tent at night, by your guide or a member of the management, purely as a precaution. Both the bathrooms and the tents are lit at night, with solar jar lamps some of these can be seen on the dining table in the previous post, the front of your tent and the paths are lit with kerosene lamps.

 

 

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In this picture, you can see where the bathroom is located behind the tent.

 

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During our stay, there was still quite a lot of water out on the floodplain in front of the camp, which meant there was always wildlife present, even during the very hottest times of day, in this photo taken at around 11:15 there are mostly spurwing geese, but also a variety of other birds and often in the distance too small to make out various antelopes.

Edited by inyathi
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wilddog

Thanks so much for this TR @@inyathi . I am so pleased you are prepared to do it.

 

The camp looks superb. The communal area has a very different but appropriate, local ambience and I love the mosi net tents. Right up my street.

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graceland

@wildog, you an me both..

 

Thank you @@inyathi, for all the pictures, descriptions and details. I am dying to go to Camp Nomad..but for now, will just enjoy a leisurely stroll with your report.

 

 

As I am typing this an insect was crawling on my shirt, and I just about threw my laptop onto the floor. Then I remembered I am supposed to be a wildlife kind of gal.(cracked myown self right up)

Maybe that does not include INSECTS that crawl...yikes..

 

We had loos outside our tent in Ruaha with Kichaka Expeditions. I worried for months about it..Actually I STRESSED for months. No big deal. But thanks for showing the distance I love the colors incorporated as well; feels a more "chic-chic" than all Greige and Green :)

 

@@wilddog, lets' start a funding campaign, :P

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inyathi

Thanks to everyone who has commented.

 

@@graceland inexperienced campers who perhaps haven't spent much time in Africa, are bound to be a little nervous about not having an en-suite bathroom, but I don't imagine too many of such people will be going to Camp Nomade. The great thing is that putting in a permanent camp isn't an option, so there isn't really an alternative, so travel agents can't insist on there being en-suites as might otherwise happen. In any case as you found in Ruaha, you soon get used to it and it's only really in places where the animals are just a little bit too used to people, that you need have some concerns.

 

There is no electricity at any time in the tents or in the mess tent, so in order to charge your camera batteries and any electronic gadgets iPads and such like, you need to hand them over to the manager of Camp Nomade Imogen Hills in the morning, before leaving on your game drive. As the generator is only on at certain times during the day time, as long as you have plenty of batteries (I have three for each camera) charging is not a big issue, though obviously it does depend how many photos you take and how much video you shoot. I only actually charged one of my batteries for my EOS 70D at almost the end of our ten day trip, just to be safe as I was on to using my third and last battery in that camera.

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inyathi

The camp is fully mobile, so like any nomad camp it can be packed up and moved to a new location, however, moving a camp of this size and setting it up again, at an entirely new location does take some time. So, on the day that the camp is moved, guests have the option of staying the night at Campement de Tinga or fly camping. Given our preferences, we had all agreed that we would rather fly camp than stay at Tinga, as we were lucky enough to have ten nights in the park, we opted to spend two nights camped on the Salamat River, rather than just the usual one.

 

When fly camping you sleep just on a mattress, in a much smaller dome tent though these tents are also mostly mosquito net.

 

 

16840095204_ef74a12cbd_o.jpg 

Fly camping on banks of the Bahr Salamat

 

There’s no mess tent and we had a shared shower, so it gave us a much simpler, but no less enjoyable experience and allowed us to explore an entirely different area and camp at spot, where it would not have been possible to put up the full camp.

 

 

 

17274870928_037ee6e8b2_o.jpg

Breakfast in the Salamat

 

Lunch was served back up on the bank under the shade of the trees.

 

Tinga

 

Although we chose not to stay at Tinga this time, it should now be a very comfortable place to stay, in our last year’s report, we pointed out some of the many shortcomings that rooms suffered from, for example

 

Quote

What was missing was anywhere to put your clothes no wardrobe, drawers, shelves or hangers of any kind, or anywhere to put your luggage, I decided to put mine on the table, as I didn’t really need the table for anything else.

 

 

Eight of the rooms in what is known as Elephant Block, have been fully upgraded dealing with all of the issues that we pointed out, so that these rooms have a luggage rack and shelving units, better bed linen and carpets. Perhaps best of all, given how awfully hot we found the rooms air-con, I’m not usually a fan of air-con, but in Tinga’s case, this should make a big difference to how comfortable the rooms are. With a private dining area as well, guests transferring to Tinga for a night, will not suffer too much at all. As was the case last year, there is electricity in the rooms, so you can recharge batteries anytime while at Tinga.

 

The majority of the rooms at Tinga, will remain as they were for the use of Chadians, expats and for that matter any adventurous international tourists, who manage to find their way to Zakouma. While staying in one of the standard rooms at Tinga, would be obviously a good deal cheaper than staying at Camp Nomade, you would not have the services of a top professional guide. Instead you would have to rely on Tinga’s driver guides, who may not yet be up to the standard that you would expect elsewhere in Africa and of course having to return to Tinga every night, does curtail your ability to properly explore Zakouma, quite considerably. To make staying at Tinga really affordable, you probably need to drive from N’Djamena to the park as MAF’s flight is really not cheap and they have just put their prices up for next year. It is actually quite safe to drive, however, it’s not really encouraged, because of the severe inconvenience if you break down along the way.

 

The fact that you cannot properly explore the park from Tinga, is something of a disadvantage for the ordinary tourists staying entirely at Tinga, but as such people are the only other tourists you could possibly see in Zakouma, it is something of an advantage for guests of Camp Nomade. From Tinga it is possible to get up to Riguiek and the Bahr Dikere, but unless they make a day of it, they can't stay for too long, they can obviously explore the Bahr Salamat but really the south of Zakouma, is simply much too far to go. Which does mean, that you really just don't see other tourists and the fact that there may be a few people staying at Tinga, in no way detracts from the feeling, that you basically have the entire park to yourselves and certainly every sighting to yourselves.

 

Edited by inyathi
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inyathi

Along with fly camping on the Salamat, we also camped down in the south of the park at a place called Am Kalam, a different site to where we had camped the previous year. Our camp at Am Kalam, was in a sense a hybrid camp, in that we were using the small dome tents, but we each had our own bathroom as at Rigueik and had the mess tent. If, perhaps the trees aren’t suitable, it’s not always possible to put up the full sized tents or necessarily possible, to camp exactly where you want last year’s campsite, was occupied by bees.

 

 

 

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Dome Tents at Am Kalam

 

 

17462623585_ae136b3e8f_o.jpg 

Camp Nomade at Am Kalam

 

The roads down in the south are much less well defined and there are no road signs anywhere, because the park is almost entirely inaccessible for most of the year, maintaining roads is a real challenge. Newly cut roads can quite quickly disappear, almost entirely after the wet season, so in the south of the park, not only will you not see any other tourists, but there is still a sense that you are exploring a completely unspoilt wilderness.

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Zim Girl

Great report so far.

Lots of really interesting detail and the pictures of the Camp and tents look amazing.

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Double Dare

What an adventure! How lucky to be able to experience this. I am green with envy! :rolleyes:

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pault

Excellent again @@inyathi - everything we could want to know... and we still have the interesting bit to come - what you saw. I am glad to hear you have an excess of pictures. You are failing miserably at putting people off visiting this park you know? It sounds wonderful - even the hassles.

 

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graceland

@@inyathi,

 

Agree with all the above! Zakouma is definitely on the forefront.

 

I showed my OH the report; he was interested in the camp. But 7 nights is about 7 nights too short for us coming so far to Africa.

 

Any thoughts on what you'd add to the itinerary to complement the Zakouma portion? Wildlife oriented of course...no beaches, cities, etc.

 

We can't go until after 2016, but sure would like to make a plan if feasible. More time to save :wacko:

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Atravelynn

I have looked at nothing more than the initial photo so far. What a perfect choice for a trip about the two of you flying back to a favorite destination!

 

---------

Great practical info on visa choices. Not only did your report last year send visitors, it may have contributed to the more convenient visas on arrival. Good point on the airline being the arbiter of whether visa on arrival is acceptable or not.

 

Looking forward to the rest.

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graceland

 

 

 thank you so for the info. For me quite a number of places I KNOW nothing about, so a good time to get the maps, google fingers ready and read up! I am not up for any five hour drives, the 4.5 hrs in Zim just about had me screaming bloody murder!

 

Good idea though about a place on my list, Uganda. Though while in Chad I'd be up for anything STUNNING. You know I love my landscapes as much as wildlife, though OH would prefer wild and crazy with loads of wildlife. Will check out the western area of Ethiopia. We could not possible do this in 2016 so perhaps enough time to do a "proper" plan instead of my usual jump right in and go NOW; I can't wait type safaris! (although all of them were spectacular so am not complaining!)

 

Really appreciate the list :D I can now add more to the obsessions.

 

As stated, we fly all the way to Africa, we want more than 7 nights! I'd love six months if I had the funds.

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Tom Kellie

 

 

 

Thank you for teaching me a new term.

 

I'd glimpsed kikois before, but until your post never knew their name.

 

What an iced kikoi might be, I couldn't imagine.

 

Tom K.

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inyathi
On 5/12/2015 at 12:06 PM, graceland said:

@@inyathi,

 

Any thoughts on what you'd add to the itinerary to complement the Zakouma portion? Wildlife oriented of course...no beaches, cities, etc.

 

Apart from the cost this is the big issue with Zakouma as a safari destination, combining Zakouma with Ennedi does seem to be the best option. One of the companies now offering Zakouma trips Steppes Travel offers this possibility they also suggest combining with CAR and Cameroon. Which is a little odd as they don’t actually offer trips to Cameroon in any case you’d want to stay away from the north of Cameroon at the moment because of Boko Haram. Also any of the national parks in the north of Cameroon would be a big disappointment after Zakouma, combining the park with somewhere in the rainforest has much more appeal but I think CAR would be a better bet (and maybe Congo Rep as well). Just for the contrast combining Zakouma with Dzangha Sangha in CAR would make for a fantastic trip the difficulty is trying to find a way to get from one to the other. It is possible to fly direct from N’Djamena to Douala in southern Cameroon (on the coast) it is only about 1hr 45 mins, from there I presume you can get a charter flight to Bayanga in Dzangha Sangha this certainly used to be possible. Whether it still is possible to charter a plane from Douala and how much it would cost I don’t know and whether the flight from N’Djamena to Douala would even work with Camp Nomade’s dates I’m not sure either. Even if it proves possible and not too complicated I imagine it might be pretty expensive but other than Ennedi this is the combination that appeals most to me. @@graceland Of course the select few travel agents that will be offering Zakouma trips will be looking for an answer to your question and may well come up with a way to combine Zakouma with CAR or elsewhere.

 

If you are flying Ethiopian then combining with Ethiopia makes sense but there’s so much to see in Ethiopia that only spending a week there would be a shame. However after Zakouma, hiking in the Simien Mts or going to the Bale Mts and if possible adding a visit to the rock hewn churches at Lalibela (not wildlife but certainly spectacular) would still make for a great trip.

 

Now back to Zakouma

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