Jump to content

Zakouma 2015: Returning to Wildest Africa in Style


Recommended Posts


Thank you for this extraordinary Trip Report! And thanks to @@graceland for pointing me to this thread :) Makes me want to go as well! It looks incredible and very adventurous. I especially loved all the giraffe photos and the elephant getting water from a hose, the best!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Patas success on this trip! You had all the right camera equipment when they showed up this time!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Like us all primates have full colour vision which explains why so many monkeys are quite brightly coloured (much like birds) it is because they are so colourful and the fact that they are often interesting to watch that I have always been interested in them. Patas are certainly more colourful than some and the big males are particularly handsome.


Having neglected to include an entry on bushbuck due my not having any photos it appears that much as I like monkeys I don’t have any photos of tantalus monkeys perhaps they’re just not colourful enough.


It occurred to me that even though I’m intending to include a full mammal list at the end of this part that leaving out those species that I/we saw but that I don’t have photos of was a mistake as there are actually very few of them so I will include them from now on


Tantalus monkeys


Formerly considered conspecific with the vervet monkey, tantalus monkeys (Chlorocebus tantalus budgetti) are not uncommon in Zakouma, while we saw them almost every day, either we didn’t get particularly good views or didn’t really stop to look at them, so I don’t think I photographed them this time. I did put in at least a couple of photos in last year's report though.


Olive Baboons


Last time it struck us that Zakouma was literally swarming with olive baboons (Papio anubis), this time while we still saw plenty of them, for some reason they didn’t seem to me quite as overly abundant as last time, though there must still be just as many. It's probably just a matter of perception, going back this year, I would not have been at all surprised to see large numbers of baboons, which is perhaps why they numbers didn't seem so unusual. Whatever the case we certainly saw baboons every day and with all the water in front of Camp Nomade at Rigueik, even during the hottest parts of the day ,there were always baboons foraging for something, in amongst the spurwing geese and waterbuck.



Olive baboons grooming and a great white egret by the Salamat




Drinking from the Salamat




Senegal Galago


Senegal galagos or bushbabies (Galago senegalensis) are presumably fairly common in Zakouma, we saw a couple of them on several night drives, but it’s not easy to get good views of them and I certainly didn’t even attempt to take any photos.


Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Still going strong on the mammals!


Honey badger?

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Bushbuck or Harnessed Antelope


Those photos from last year posted by .... were taken at The Junction Pool on the Bahr Tinga just perhaps 2 minutes walk from the lodge Campement de Tinga. Bushbuck are extremely common there as the habitat is ideal and on the few occasions when I walked around the lodge in the morning looking for birds I often saw bushbuck in the surrounding bush immediately behind our rooms. Around Tinga they must be very used to people being around they still keep themselves rather hidden away and will obviously run off if you approach them but otherwise they are happy to hang out around the lodge. So the bushbuck that come to The Junction Pool must be much more used to people than those elsewhere in the park.


These two shots at The Junction Pool were taken in 2014






This time we never went to Tinga so we really didn’t get great views of bushbuck but we certainly saw a few as checking my list I have them marked down on 6 days but not well enough for me to take any photographs. One even came quite close to camp while we were at Rigueik but kept itself very much in the shade, the best view I had this time was at our fly camp beside the Salamat. While relaxing sitting in the shade up on the river bank during Siesta time reading my book I happened to stand up at just the wrong moment to go and get a drink having failed to notice that a male bushbuck had come to drink from the river needless to say it spotted me and bolted very quickly. Had I spotted it before I stood up I might have been able to get some photos. At Rigueik and down in the south most of the time we were out in the open so not likely to see bushbuck, not surprisingly most of the ones we did see were along the Salamat where as at Tinga the habitat is ideal the bushbuck just aren’t in any way habituated as they are at Tinga.


As much as anything for my own interest I’ve tried to identify the correct subspecies of the various mammals that we saw but in the case of bushbuck this is quite complicated the bushbuck in Zakouma would according to the Kingdon’s Mammals of Africa seem to be Nile bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus bor. Interestingly bushbucks across Africa are apparently divided into two separate distinct genetic groups scriptus and sylvaticus which some scientists even go so far as to suggest are different species. The Kéwel (the Wolof name from Senegal) or harnessed antelope Tragelaphus scriptus distributed from Senegal across to Eritrea and south to Angola and the Southern DRC and the Imbabala (the isiXhosa name from South Africa) or bushbuck Tragelaphus sylvaticus found throughout southern Africa overlapping with the Kéwel in Angola the DRC and East Africa. It is even suggested that Imbabala is in fact more closely related to the Bongo Tagelaphus eurycerus and the sitatunga T. spekeii than it is to the Kéwel which is closer to the nyala T. angasii, this seems to me somewhat hard to believe but then I'm no expert on either antelopes or genetics.


Bushbuck: two species where there was one


Confusing but very interesting none the less, however whatever the actual case it doesn’t matter as far as Zakouma and my report is concerned, I don’t wish to start a debate on the genetics of bushbucks so I will leave it to the antelope aficionados to ponder the difference between harnessed antelopes and bushbucks, Kéwels and Imbabalas and carry on with my report.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my excitement at the memory having seen so many patas monkeys this time while equipped with the appropriate camera and lens I got a little bit ahead of myself and forgot about the humble common warthog.


Common Warthog


The common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) is the only pig species to occur in Zakouma, even though there might appear to be ideal habitat, the bushpig (Potomachoerus larvatus) is completely absent from Central and West Africa and its close relative the red river hog (Potomachoerus porcus), is entirely restricted to the rainforest. Warthogs are found throughout the park and we saw them on I think every day of the trip.



Warthog at Sourane



A very muddy hog




Warthog and piglet with black crowned cranes and cattle egrets at Rigueik

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites


WOW! Just fantastic! Love learning about new places --- never even knew wildlife in Chad could be so prolific! And such interesting variety of species! The plane flights provide such cool photographic opportunities---were those part of the way to see wildlife in Zakouma? In most of the places I've traveled in Africa, it takes a small plane to get from one camp to another, but here it looks like it's part of the way you spot wildlife... Love the herds from the sky..!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


very cool-- I understand how that works. When you are visiting such a rarely frequented place, opportunities present themselves that might not otherwise be available on a big scale. What a privilege! I've been able to snap some pics from the air on hot air balloons and some of the small aircraft traveling from camp to camp in the Okavango but nothing like these! Love the buffalo herds! And really everything else you've posted : ) Lions seem to be the main predator but there sure is a lot of "food" walking around!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I’m afraid I wasn’t very competent with my photography on the flight I took both my cameras with me so I could make use of both lenses but unfortunately I failed to notice that I’d got the settings wrong on one of them so some of the photos and videos are hopelessly out of focus. However I will make sure I’ve gone through all the photos and videos to ensure that I’ve posted all the ones that are worth posting.


The flights really are a wonderful privilege. Last year because we didn’t have adequate time at Rigueik or in the Maniam area we didn’t see the big herds from the ground quite like we did this year so I only really came to appreciate the abundance of large herbivores in the park after my flight with Rian. As well as seeing the animals flying over the park also gives you a much better understanding of the geography of Zakouma.


A lot of the freedoms that you have in Zakouma are really down to the fact that there are almost no other tourists, so you can still do things that would just not be at all practical or desirable in the more overcrowded parts of say Kenya or Tanzania.


@@gatoratlarge You might be right about the lions, I’m not sure I need to go through my photos to see if I can find any ;) Maybe I'll find some you’ll just have to watch this space. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As my preceding photos in this report have shown there is a lot of meat wandering around in Zakouma and as a result the park supports a healthy population of lions, with such huge numbers of Bohor reedbuck and also in some areas kob you would expect there to be healthy numbers of leopards and also perhaps cheetahs and wild dogs. A cheetah was radio collared in Zakouma in 2012 so they are present but they are extremely rare, likewise wild dogs have been seen on occasion in the park but they also are extremely rare. I’m not sure why but with any park it is easy just to think of it as it is at the times when you‘ve visited and seen it, forgetting about what it and its wider ecosystem may be like at other times of the year. What might seem for example like the perfect habitat for cheetahs might well be in the dry season but may be anything but in the wet season when most of the park is under water. If cheetahs and wild dogs are clearly not able to stay in the park all the year round one has to wonder what happens to them when they have dispersed outside the park and whether this explains their rarity or it may just be that life is difficult in Zakouma because there are so many lions and baboons I’m not sure. Whatever the surviving cheetah population is in Chad it must be very small, interestingly the entry for cheetahs in the Mammals of Africa shows Chad as completely blank on the distribution map which is clearly wrong given the animal that was collared in the park. It is possible that a few may also survive up north in the Ennedi area, but cheetahs are probably extinct in the Ouadi Rim Ouadi Achim Game Reserve in central Chad, whether anything can be done to boost their numbers in Zakouma I’m not sure.




The abundance of food combined with so much perfect cover would suggest that Zakouma should be absolutely crawling with leopards but it is not and this is almost certainly due to the very high population of olive baboons in the park. Where large populations of baboons occur mobbing of leopards by the baboons significantly reduces their hunting success .They are around though but leopards do have a tendency to remain virtually invisible particularly in parks that receive very few visitors, 20 yrs or more ago when hardly anyone went there you had to work very hard to find leopards in Ruaha National Park and you’d likely only get a brief view if you were lucky, now lots of tourists go to Ruaha and the leopards are relatively habituated and quite easy to see. On his very first visit to Zakouma @Micheal Lorentz had the extreme good fortune to have excellent views of a leopard on the Salamat and Rian and Lorna while driving around see them now and again so they certainly can be seen and may become more visible in future as more tourists visit. Did we see one?


Well I think so, just as the light was starting to go around dusk while Darren was driving us back to Camp Nomade at Rigueik after our brief sojourn down south Squack sitting in the back of the car glimpsed from the corner of his eye what he thought was a small lioness but the message to stop did not get through in time. When we did eventually stop just slightly further on we saw a quite small animal slinking off through the grass keeping very low to the ground, it seemed to be covered in a tight mass of rosettes making it appear quite dark. Only Darren, Squack and I really saw it, we knew that it was a cat but were convinced that it could not have been a serval it just didn’t look quite right, it appeared to me somewhat broader and in any case servals don’t have rosettes which we are certain it had and it was also too big for a wild cat and besides they don’t have rosettes either. With no photos we can never know for sure but the three of us all agreed it had to have been a leopard cub, in which case Squack concluded that the animal he had first seen was probably the mother however despite going off road and searching the area for a good while, we did not see either animal again. That both Darren and Squack with all their knowledge and experience of the African Bush were both convinced that it was a leopard is good enough for me to definitely include it on my list, had it just been my inexpert opinion I would have left it as a question mark.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Zakouma has a good population of lions, a recent survey a few years ago suggested the population was around 140-150 and it’s likely that it has increased a little bit since then. Between all of us on this trip, we think that the total number of different lions that we saw is 37, some of them seen from the air and we certainly saw them on 7 days. You might think given the abundance of prey and the large numbers of buffalos that the lions would form large prides, but generally they don’t, as I mentioned earlier, you have to think about what they are doing in the wet season, at the height of the dry season, Zakouma might be able to support large prides, but not at other times when the game has dispersed. At least that’s my understanding; certainly the first lions we came across were just a mum with three cubs.





Whether from protecting her cubs or some other reason mum had a major scar on her face







Being on her own and having to provide for three cubs was cleary not a problem with so many reedbuck around













Completely stuffed with reedbuck












Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brilliant.... the impact mounts. And I loved how you added the seciton on Bushbuck at the drop oif a hat.


And there is still quite a bit to come I guess? Good!


And thanks for the additional link to the aerial shots They are wonderful.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As Paul correctly says - the impact is indeed mounting - and painting a very dramatic picture to boot.


Great going, Rob - thanks so much for persevering with this. It is a thing of joy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On occasion we may have gone out at Rigueik hoping that we might see lions but as .... says we didn’t really go actively looking for them and tended to stumble across them as when we saw the same family again in the morning out in the open at Rigueik.





















Predators and prey lions and hartebeest at Rigueik


Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

We also saw lions on the Salamat River during our flight however I wasn’t very successful at photographing them.





When we went for a second pass over them I thought I might have more lucky videoing them so here’s a slow motion video of lions from the air taken with my smaller lens from what I can see from the photo and the video there are 6 in the pride.



Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the morning before we left Rigueik to go and fly camp on the Salamat we found a nice little pride of beautiful young lions beside the Bahr Dikere.









Zakouma short-maned blonde


There was some debate in last year’s report as to the exact identity of Zakouma’s lions, this I’m not sure was entirely resolved, according to the Mammals of Africa, the Senegal or West African lion (Panthera leo senegalensis) occurs east from Senegal to the CAR, which would suggest that Zakouma’s lions should be of this subspecies. As West African lions are highly endangered, this would make the park’s lions very significant, but whether they really are of this subspecies or not I’m not sure. Male lions in Zakouma have characteristically short pale manes, but this likely has little to do, with whichever subspecies they may belong to or anything really to do with genetics.


Once while in Botswana, when we found a lion, the guide very proudly announced, that we were looking at a Kalahari black-maned lion, something about the way he said this, amused me, perhaps because it was very obvious, after all we were in the Kalahari and the lion did have the thickest blackest mane I’ve ever seen or maybe it was the idea, that this was not just any lion, but the Kalahari black-maned lion. As though somehow its thick black mane, made it somehow superior to all other lions, this came into my mind when we were watching this male lion at Dikere and since he was a handsome young fellow, I decided he should be a Zakouma short-maned blonde.




The serious point to all of this, is that while trophy hunters, Botswanan safari guides and people who market safaris to the Kalahari, may revere black-maned lions, what do lionesses think of them? Various scientists, have over the years tried work out, what the function of the lion's mane really is and answer the question do lionesses prefer lions with dark manes. It would seem to be the case, that in the Kalahari at least, sexual selection has favoured lions with luxurious black manes, but not so in other places like Tsavo, where lions may have little or no mane or Selous, where like Zakouma manes are pretty short. The reason for this regional difference in lion’s manes as was suggested many years ago by famous hunters like F. C. Selous is to do with heat. A lion’s mane serves to signal to other lions, particularly other males, but also lionesses how fit and strong he is and the darkness of the mane relates to the level of testosterone, he is producing. However, there is a cost, lions are very prone to heat stress and a thick dark mane absorbs and retains a lot of heat, so in a very hot location like Zakouma, a luxurious black mane would be a huge disadvantage. Research carried out in the Serengeti and Tsavo, demonstrated that it is heat, that determines whether or not a male will produce a thick dark mane.


Developmental Effects of Climate on the Lion's Mane (Panthera leo)


However, research on captive lions in zoos in the US, indicates that in fact cold is more important and that lions when living in colder climates, produce much thicker darker manes as would be supported by the fact, that the extinct Cape lion and Barbary lion that lived in a temperate climate, both had huge luxurious dark manes. Likewise the Kalahari, while it can be very hot during the day, gets very cold at night and the same is true of the Ngorongoro Crater where lions also have large manes and the Serengeti can be very cold as well.


The Lion’s Mane


So, perhaps, if you were to translocate a male lion from Ngorongoro to Zakouma, he would after a little while lose his lustrous mane and become a short-maned blonde and if you sent a Zakouma lion to Ngorongoro, he would with sufficient testosterone soon grow a nice lustrous dark one.














Really although they look a little different, they’re just the same underneath and even though they don’t have the impressive mane of the legendary Kalahari black-maned lion, I think Zakouma’s short-maned blondes, are still handsome lions and it’s very good to see so many of them and that they are doing so well, thanks to the huge abundance of large herbivores in Zakouma.













Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Zakouma Pales are very handsome indeed! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Handsome and looking in very good condition!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@inyathi, Though not actively seeking out the lions, I am so happy you "stumbled" over them. Quite lovely to see and observe...and who doesn't love a cub with the family.


I prefer "my" male (lions) with blond manes; but I've seen a few darker ones that seemed very mysterious :rolleyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm increasingly in awe of the spectacle that you are presenting for us here. It truly feels, at least from a reader's perspective, that anything might be around the corner.

Great job with the Patas monkeys; you definitely made up for any deficit on the last trip. The second picture in post #117 really brings out some unexpectedly vivid color in its subject.

Ouch. I've had an African Honey Bee burrowing about in my hair...is the sting (as I was told) much worse than a European one?

Do we have an ST "Horror Stories" thread? Because if anything belongs there, that does.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


I just hope you have seen many other mammal species which are still to come, really don´t want this report to end too soon! Awesome stuff, thank you! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As we knew both from last year’s trip and our flight the Bahr Salamat is a pretty good place for lions, not much more than half an hour after leaving our fly camp by the river, setting off on our drive south to Am Kalam, just as we were about to cross over the river. we came across a radio collared lioness and her small pride.













Then at Sourane amidst the herds of antelopes and flocks of birds we came across a couple of lionesses lying under the shade of a bush.








While her sister remained largely hidden from view by the bush this lioness took some interest in a passing Kob





She then proceeded to stare intently at a warthog that started to wander in her direction.




We were hoping that we might see some action and that she might as were, decide to have bacon for breakfast, but it wasn’t to be and she lost interest.



Sourane Sisters


We didn't see any lions in the Maniam area this year. However on the way back up the Salamat in the morning we saw more lions at one point Squack stopped the car walked off through the bush to look at the river and spotted a lioness hoping that we might find a way in to have a look we drove on but couldn’t find a way in so the rest of us did not see her. We then came across three mid-sized cubs but they quite quickly disappeared into the bush not wanting to be seen or photographed. Much further up the Salamat in the afternoon we saw some lionesses over the other side of the river and got out to take a closer look through the trees.





Zakouma is a pretty amazing place for mammals during the daytime, but it’s after the sun goes down that things get really exciting.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites







Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, just glorious that is all I can say.


On the list; even OH loves it, but time is a problem right now.


One day.......

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Night drives in Zakouma


Many mammals are either partially or entirely nocturnal, to stand any chance of seeing them you really have to go out at night, so if the opportunity is available, I always take it. Thus for me one of the really great things about Zakouma, is being able to go on night drives every night if you wish, something you don’t get a chance to do on every safari. When it comes to national parks, different countries have different rules, in Zambia you can night drive in all of their parks, in Zimbabwe you certainly can in Hwange, but I don’t think you can in all of the other parks. In Botswana you can’t night drive in any national parks, only on private concessions, likewise in Kenya and Tanzania you can’t night drive in any parks, only on private conservancies/concessions. In Tanzania the number of places you can night drive is very limited, in somewhere like Katavi I think it is very disappointing, that they don’t allow night drives, but on the other hand at somewhere like Ndutu, in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area which is now very crowded in high season, I’m extremely glad they don’t allow them. As I’ve said before, so many of the freedoms you have in Zakouma, relate to there being so few tourists, in places where there are large numbers of tourists, you can’t realistically allow night drives the disturbance would be just awful.


Last year we were astounded, by just how productive the night drives were and they were just as good this year, proving once again to be a real highlight of the trip, so often night drives can be either amazing or very disappointing. It would be wrong to say that every single one was amazing this time, but none were really disappointing, there was always something good.


So before carrying on, listing each species I thought I would describe my last night drive, on our final night in Zakouma. During our stay at Camp Nomade one of my travelling companions, had asked our hostess imogen the manager of the camp, if she happened to have a DVD of a documentary about Zakouma, that he had not been able to obtain at home and if she did, would we be able to watch it. She did indeed have a copy of the film, he and his girlfriend decided they would watch it, on our final night after dinner, though I would like to have seen it, I opted out, in favour of going on one final night drive. As Darren had joined us in camp that night, he decided to drive, with Squack operating the spotlight, my travelling companions enjoyed movie night with Imogen and the staff, while the three of us set of in the direction of the Bahr Dikere, as Darren had recently seen some caracals by the Dikere.


We started our drive with a mongoose, before I reveal its identity, would anyone like to have a guess as to what species of mongoose this is?




This was followed not many minutes later by a lioness







And then a pair of crested porcupines which we were able to follow for quite some time



Crested porcupine


A lion then appeared





I think this may be the paler blonder of the two handsome young males, we'd seen five days before by the Dikere, the porcupines were literally just in front of him we wondered what he might do, he took a look at them, wisely decided that porcupine wasn’t on the menu, turned and then walked off in the direction of camp. Having enjoyed our night time encounter with the lion we carried on our way.



African civet




Greyish eagle owl








And finally to finish up a honey badger.




Not bad for one night drive, try as we might we hadn’t managed to find a caracal, but we could hardly complain after what we had found, it was quite some time before we got back to camp very happy, with what we’d seen. Once back we were greeted by a somewhat relieved Imogen, after the Zakouma film had finished she had escorted the other guests, to their beds and then returned to the mess tent on her own, to sit down with her laptop and catch up with some work. She hadn’t been there that long, when our friend the lion arrived and walked straight past the mess tent, not more than perhaps 10 metres away giving poor Imogen the fright of her life. She briefly took refuge under the table, in the hope he wouldn’t see her, but fortunately he was just wandering through, so she waited until he’d passed by and then made a dash for the staff quarters. Before going on to warn the other guests, to stay in their tent as there were lions about. Our earlier experience with the lion ,while sat safely in the car had been a most enjoyable one; we weren’t to know as we continued our drive that Imogen would have an altogether less enjoyable and slightly more terrifying encounter with the same lion. Encounters like this are par for the course if you live in the wild, but no less frightening for being so, a lion at night is a quite different beast to one seen in the daytime, with their superb night vision far superior to ours, they have the advantage and they know it and are much more confident in the dark as a result. Thankfully, he was no more interested in human prey, than he had been in porcupine and went on his way, no doubt joining the rest of the pride, who probably weren’t too far away. As I said, when the sun goes down is when Zakouma gets really exciting, perhaps in this case a little too exciting for poor Imogen.


Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy