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Zakouma 2015: Returning to Wildest Africa in Style


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I love the giraffe panorama - and good to see the symbol of the park based on the giraffe.

The buffalo herds are amazing - and the panning video really helps me appreciate the huge numbers. Great stuff!

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@@TonyQ I had never really wanted a camera that shoots video, but now I have one I love it, panoramas when they work are great, but I worked out on last year’s trip, that video is an easier and better way to show Zakouma’s abundance and really capture the size of the herds and the number of birds. Having so much more time and seeing much more as a result, I took many more videos this time, so there will be more than a few more, extraordinary Zakouma videos.


Before leaving Zakouma’s wonderful buffalos we didn’t just see these enormous herds sometimes we only saw one.



Lonesome buffalo by the Salamat

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Lelwel Hartebeest


While Lelwel hartebeest Acelaphus buselaphus lelwel don’t generally form the biggest of herds they are extremely abundant in Zakouma we saw them absolutely everywhere with at least some on every day of the trip. I have never seen as many hartebeest of any kind anywhere else I’ve ever been.




Lelwel Hartebeest with Camp Nomade in the background at Rigueik










Camp Nomade is always where the wildlife is



Hartebeest at Dikere



Hartebeest at Rigueik

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Hartebeest at Rigueik




As I said back at the start of Part 2 separating the mammals and the birds would be an impossible task wherever you look in Zakouma there's almost always a fantastic combination of big game and birds together.


17574539152_c38ce7b344_o.jpg The magic of Zakouma, a typical scene at Rigueik Defassa waterbuck, hartebeest and black crowned cranes


18187456262_28b85dea01_o.jpg Hartebeest at Am Kalam in the south of Zakouma



Hartebeest with masses of egrets and a herd of roan antelopes behind at Am Kalam

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Extremely common though they may be



This pair, thought Zakouma could do with a few more hartebeest

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Fantastic stuff. The camp looks awesome, and I especially love the hartebeest.
Though, when trying to cool off with watering yourself down, were you not set upon by bees after the moisture?

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Not quite as numerous as the hartebeest the population of tiang (Damaliscus lunatus tiang) has remained stable at around 1,000 animals largely because in the wet season they disperse outside the park where a small amount of meat poaching still goes on.




Tiang at Rigueik




























The only other place I’ve seen herds as impressive (or at least from memory as impressive) is at Katisunga in Katavi NP in western Tanzania there some of the herds of topi Damaliscus lunatus jimela were perhaps comparable in size to these herds of tiang. The tiang were often mixed in with Defassa waterbuck which are also very common at Katisunga, but for differences in the vegetation and the fact that Katavi is home to plains zebras which are entirely absent from this region of Africa there is a strong resemblance between Rigueik and Katisunga. Except of course Katisunga doesn't have huge flocks of crowned cranes.




Comparably large herds of topi do also occur in the Grumeti Reserve in the western Serengeti but only because the security there is so much better than in the national park. While in a few places you may be able find herds of topi that are as impressive in size as the tiang at Rigueik the actual animals themselves aren't quite as impressive, tiang have noticeably longer thicker horns.



Tiang at Biherat down in the south of Zakouma

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Am Douloulou


Excluding the big herd of buffaloes, in the Maniam area that we saw on our flight, it is fair to say that much the biggest and most impressive herds of game that we saw, were generally at Rigueik, however, as I said in my introduction in Part One, the extraordinary thing about Zakouma, is there really is game everywhere. Even in those remote corners of the park, that the park’s management has never really got into, on our drive down to the Maniam area in the south and to our camp at Am Kalam, we were extremely privileged to drive through an area of the park called Am Douloulou. This is an area that Darren had flown over, but never actually been into on the ground, ahead of our trip, new roads were cut specially to allow us to drive through this area and visit the pans of Am Douloulou and Sourane. We were somewhat unsure as to what we would find, as a big fire had recently passed through the Am Douloulou area, however, despite the fire, both the game and birdlife as will be revealed as I continue with my report, was almost as spectacular as at Rigueik. Being able to explore this new area was a rare treat and one of the many highlights of the trip.



Tiang, Defassa waterbuck and kob at Am Douloulou


17449097500_640f250429_o.jpg Tiang, Defassa waterbuck and kob at Am Douloulou



Black crowned cranes and Tiang at Sourane



Buffon's Kob and Tiang at Sourane

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Truly astonishing wildlife densities! I actually think it was a good idea for you to separate the mammals as best as you could because that really illustrates their numbers.


All these animals are simply gorgeous in their setting and the prolific birds add a whole other dimension to the scene. Wow.

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Why not combining Zakouma with Dzangha Sangha in CAR or Loango in Gabon? Is there any direct between N'Djamena and Bangui or Libreville?

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On our flight we saw a big herd down in the south of the park in the Maniam area but surprisingly when we were actually down there we weren’t able to find more than a few dagga boys.










These images are just unbelievable! This is Wild Africa !!!

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Knowing where the elephants were Darren was able to take us straight to them without too much difficulty we saw them crossing the road in front of us, though most of the herd remained hidden in the thick bush out of sight. We could hear them crashing around indicating that there were many more there than we could see.




The Main Herd












In years to come as they do become more relaxed and their population increases they should start to become a lot more visible, becoming part of the scenery as they are in other parks. It is hoped that the population can be brought back up to at least 1,000 in the coming years. They won’t of course stop breeding at that point and as they increase further looking after them while keeping the local people on side will start to become much more of a challenge.



This is great I see APN is really optimistic! How long would it take to reach a population of 1000 or so? What are the current and expected growth rates?


I definitely enjoy this wonderful trip report, Zakouma is currently the place to be. I sometimes wish it could act as a catalyzer to develop tourism in central and western africa. Why not combining with Sao Tome? Gabon, CAR and Congo are close by. Of course this would be a top-end destination...

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Travel ideas that appear as if they should be terribly simple when you look at a map often turn out to be impossibly complicated when you start to look in to it. There do not seem to be any flights between N’Djamena and Bangui and in any case it is a full day’s drive to Dzangha Sangha from Bangui and this is certainly not considered safe, I don’t know exactly what the current security situation in CAR is but I assume this hasn’t changed. Flying in to Bayanga or driving across the border from Gabon or perhaps from Congo is really the only safe option.


When I visited Gabon in 08 the company Africa’s Eden that was running Loango Lodge also had a lodge called Doli on the Sangha River in CAR and their charter company Africa’s Connection operated charters from Douala to Bayanga. After some problem with the Gabonese aviation authorities they were stopped from flying in Gabon (not sure what the situation is now) and are now based entirely in São Tome & Príncipe primarily I think operating flights between the two islands but according to their website they do offer charters throughout the region


Africa's Connection STP offer charter services in the region, as far as Congo DRC, Congo Brazza, CAR, Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon, Guinea Equatorial, Ghana.



Combining Zakouma with STP would also be a great option in theory but I imagine a charter from São Tome to N’Djamena or vice versa would not exactly be very cheap, so you’d want to fly from NDJ to Douala and then charter from there to São Tome. At least two airlines Air Code D’Ivoire and ASKY fly from NDJ to Douala but I don’t much as said before know how well their flight schedules fit with Camp Nomade’s dates, you could have to stay in NDJ for a night or two in between but I haven’t looked into it that far. So combining Zakouma with either São Tome or with Dzangha Sangha looks like it should be possible, certainly the former should in theory be quite easy but how expensive it would be on top of you stay at Camp Nomade I’m not sure. If you want to see a good bit of STP rather than just lie on a beach then obviously you need an adequate amount of time on each island, but how long you can spend on each one does depend on the flight schedule between the two, if you are only wanting to add a week to your Zakouma trip you might not be able to do both properly . For further information on STP which I hope is not too out of date see my Gabon – São Tome report


If you can make all of the dates and flight schedules work then it should be entirely straight forward to fly on Air France out to N’Djamena and then back from Douala or the same with Ethiopian. You do need to stick with the same airline (or I guess partner airlines) as I knew would be the case when I was booking my flights flying out on one airline and back on another is just far too expensive. There are lots of possible options for combining other places with a Zakouma trip it's just a case of finding one that isn't either too complicated or too expensive.

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17490097318_7e944b6866_o.jpg Waterbuck, Tiang and Kob at Am Douloulou



Defassa Waterbuck


Waterbuck are extremely common throughout Zakouma we saw them everywhere but much the biggest herds were at Rigueik again the only other place I’ve seen similar sized herds is at Katisunga in Katavi NP. Our impression is that Zakouma’s waterbuck seem to be larger and have wider more impressive horns than those that we have all seen in different parts of Eastern or Southern Africa they also noticeably have much blacker legs. Generally only two subspecies of waterbuck are commonly recognised the common Kobus ellipsiprymnus ellipsiprymnus and the Defassa Kobus e. defassa five different races have been suggested for the Defassa waterbuck in which case these animals would belong to the western race Kobus e. unctousus



Waterbuck at Rigueik with giraffes and tiang in the background




Waterbucks at Rigueik










Waterbucks and Tiang at Rigueik with cattle egrets and a northern carmine bee-eater

Edited by inyathi
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Fantastic pictures of the cobs !

I am still amazed by the huge densities around the pans.

I slowly start to understand the plus of Camp Nomade:

- Exclusive service to bring you to the best pans, after previous plane survey to be sure you get to the best areas.

- Track the elephants by plane to have a chance to see the big herd.

- Possibilities to go and discover amazing communities around the park.

From Tinga Camp, event if there is plenty of wildlife around the camp, it is located really far from the pans, it seems posible to visit one but never on sunrises or sunsets for photographers.

Well the difference is around 10.000 USD !!!!

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While we were staying at our fly camp on the Salamat, we spent a whole morning sat in the shade beside a large pool called Tim, watching for animals coming to drink. This was a less intimate experience than we’d had at The Junction Pool last year, simply because Tim is much bigger and therefore you are not as close to the animals, but it’s still a great experience, almost anywhere else, you simply wouldn’t be allowed out of the car to do this.



Defassa waterbuck and Yellow-billed stork at Tim



Waterbucks with Nile crocs at Tim



Olive baboon, waterbucks drinking with the Nile Crocs at Tim


Visitors to Tim seem completely unconcerned by the crocodiles, apparently there are so many fish in the river that they don’t eat mammals, seeing these waterbucks standing drinking in amongst the crocs was a remarkable sight.

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Defassa waterbuck with woolly-necked storks, cattle egrets and piapiacs in the foreground





By the Salamat






At Am Souffa


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Buffon’s or Western Kob


Kob Kobus kob kob at least during our trip were entirely absent from around Rigueik we didn’t really see any until we went flying and found significant herds of them in the Am Douloulou area, they are otherwise common along the Salamat and also down in the Maniam area of the park.



Kob from the air







Kob at Sourane



With woolly-necked stork



At Am Souffa


For me because of their slightly similar appearance they take the place of impalas which I’m so used to seeing elsewhere, impalas are another species entirely absent from this part of Africa.







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Bohor Reedbuck


Especially at Rigueik the number of Bohor reedbuck Redunca redunca nigeriensis hanging out in the mix of tall grass and bush fringing the pans is just incredible they’re like rabbits, as I have already said of a few other species I have never seen so many of them anywhere else.




Not the best photo but all of the antelopes in this shot are Bohor reedbuck, the ones in the background aren't that easy to see and there are some baboons and warthogs in amongst but I would think there are certainly about 50 and probably a good few more out of shot.



Reedbuck at Rigueik


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We didn’t see many oribi (Ourebia ourebi goslingi) on our trip last year and the ones we did see, from memory were all at night, this time we saw a pair of them chasing each other beside the Salamat and a few in the Maniam area down in the South.




Oribi by the Salamat





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Red-fronted Gazelle


Last year we only saw a very few of these gazelles (Eudorcas rufifrons laevipes), that were once considered conspecific with the Thomson’s gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii) I only recall one really good view, but this year we saw them quite often, almost every day, while we were staying at Rigueik, albeit only in quite small numbers.










On the Dikere









Well grown kid feeding from mum



With Spurwing Geese and knob-billed ducks at Machtour


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Tom Kellie


~ @@inyathi


The inclusion of the carmine bee-eater is such a sweet touch.

The mix of species is interesting in its own right, but the unexpected beauty of the carmine bee-eater's ventral plumage lends a special grace to the scene.

Your species by species photos and commentary are a valuable resource for understanding the area. Thank you for your care and planning to share this with us.

Yet I must return to the carmine bee-eater, as I enjoy such visual grace notes in a trip report.

With Appreciation,

Tom K.

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Just read the whole report (thus far) in one big gulp! Loving it, thank you! I especially love the waterbuck, they are one of my favorites. Looking forward to more!

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