Jump to content

Paradise Regained – Parc National Zakouma Tchad


Recommended Posts

@@Galago it's unlocked. please try again. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 6 : Flight of fancies


“In a Wonderland they lie

Dreaming as the days go by,

Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream-

Lingering in the golden gleam-

Life, what is it but a dream?”

- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass



On the sixth day, I wove a tapestry with tales of leaping antelopes, spun gold brown threads of central African buffaloes that zipped by in clouds of dust; then flashing blue birds were needled in with strands of liquid silver shimmering in the dipping sun.



I plaited grey shades of trumpeting jumbos that looked shrunken from the skies above, and tiny hordes of hard-horned buffaloes were stitched to garnish the seams. The ends were laced with butterflies of crowned cranes while red-orangey shades of kordofan giraffes intertwined with dancing pelicans in the air.


And my tapestry took shape on the carpet of life in Zakouma.


There were many tales to tell. And now that I’ve been home some three months, it does seem like I had dreamt all of them. But there are flashes of memories and the photos help bring back those memories.


The mornings would bring out the antelopes walking to the plains but hartebeests sprung surprises as one or two would be pronging among its kind. For a minute, I wondered if what I saw was from the tales of wonderland? then, one morning Mr T mentioned it as well and I knew what I saw was real. How do such heavy antelopes prong like a springbok does? And why would it do it when there was really no need for a bigger potential prey, as it was, to show the predator it had skills to get away? Would it be anthropomorphic to think it was just showing off to the herd its pleasure to get to the pans?


A thick mist hung above the watery pans and this morning the buffaloes were chewing and grazing their way to the waters. Some were enjoying a cold morning dip in the waters. Hearing the vehicle, some fled while others took their time to move off. The misty morning light cast an almost mythical glow to these otherwise fearsome creatures. With the egrets almost permanently at their hooves, they couldn’t look less intimidating than they really were.



































Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari you write with such poetry about Zakouma, I've never read such a lyrical trip report about the place. Definitely one to treasure and reread in the future.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari I just love your buffalo photos. I only wish that five percent of your ability to write in such a beautiful and poetic style. Never tell anybody again that you aren't a great

photographer or stress your technological ineptitude because I think your photos are simply express the beauty and remoteness of Zakouma in a fabulous way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@twaffle thank you. that means a lot to me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@optig thank you Owen for such encouragement and support. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Then there was the tale of the red acacia. We were heading to the Tinga waterhole once more, hoping it would be as productive as it was the first time. Part of the way was lined with forests of acacia with the trunks and branches wrapped in red, looking rather pretty. Apparently, the redness was a result of some kind of fungus that sometimes appeared, in addition to red, in silver. The trees were still healthy despite the fungus, though. With my rose-tinted dark glasses on, the red acacia woods were dressed with sparkling green leaves making the place looking like a Christmas celebration.



And, after a brief googling, the Christmas allusion was most apt. The acacia, known as red acacia or acacia seyal (which has now changed to Vachellia seyal , is also known as shittah tree or shittim as a plural form. In the bible, the shittah wood was valued as a noble tree. In one link (http://www.scienceofcorrespondences.com/shittah.htm), it refers to the wild acacia as sont of the burning bush. The wood was used as part of the tabernacle and apparently used in the making of the ark as well.


There are many uses for the shittah tree, which is very tolerant to periodic floods. Burning the shittah wood keeps insect away, while the bark is often eaten as food by animals or fed to cattle and sheep during the dry season. The tree produces gum Arabic which can be made into a syrup. Its pods and leaves are nutritious while its bark, leaves and gums are used to treat colds, diarrhoea, jaundice, headache and burns (see http://www.worldagroforestry.org/treedb2/speciesprofile.php?Spid=109). It’s amazing the things we learn during a safari!







Edited by Kitsafari
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The tale at the Tinga waterhole jaunt was one of stillness.


Though not many mammals were about (n0 thanks to that hidden lioness), there were birds galore. Herons perched high on the trees, commanding a grand view of the waterhole while queleas and doves drank thirstily. A fish eagle eyed potential prey from a branch atop.


We were so well hidden among the bushes, and so still, a group of waterbuck antelopes very cautiously came down one by one to quench their thirst on the other side of the bank from the hidden lioness.


Waterbucks are simply adorable. Their almond liquid eyes and the rounded ears with the cute button nose seem so incongruous with their size. I’m always surprised at how big they are.




























is that some kind of a jacana? accompanied by probably a stilt?



a long-tailed burchell's starling perhaps?



the iconic African fish eagle





a laughing dove



blue spotted wood doves? red billed queleas? a red finch at the far right?








Link to comment
Share on other sites

Other animals along the way...


























Link to comment
Share on other sites

We had discussed the possibility of doing the flights over the park before we arrived in Zakouma and was told they were possible only if the plane was available and if the pilot Darren (apologies if I got his name wrong!) was available. When we arrived, we were told we could do the flights on Saturday afternoon. There would be 2 flights to accommodate six of us - each flight could only take a maximum of three guests. We were cautioned that without the doors, anything could drop out of the plane. So the strategy was to go into the flight with only the bare essentials.



I was to be in the second flight, so while the first flight was in the air, Leon invited us to his verandah to sit and wait. It was while there that he said he was planning to swap the compost long drop at Camp Nomade with a flushing toilet. Our group said we were very comfortable with the long-drop and in fact the sawdust from the neem trees magically absorbed the odours and there was hardly any bad smells. But I can imagine some guests might not be comfortable with such toilets, and there is only a finite supply of neem trees. Apparently, before the HQ was handed over the AP, the previous person leaving in the managers home had planted quite a lot of neem trees. This is not native to the park and AP was keen to remove such an invasive species. The wood from the neem trees were also used for the tables and chairs used in the school, so they were put to really good use.


That got me thinking that if Leon has considered flushing toilets for CN, wasnt that a substantial investment for the long-term? So if there were any questions about the viability or the long-term survival of CN, surely he had no doubt of that.


Soon enough, it was our turn for the flight. Very quickly, we were off the ground. To be honest, I did not completely enjoy the flight. We couldnt talk because of the massive noise from the engine. It was a very small plane and I sat with the Dude at the back row while Twaffle was in the front seat. I was very conscious of the fact that the Dude was a photographer and that my camera would have no reach for what was on the ground. I kept as still as I could as I could see that the dude was having issues swinging his lenses in the very tight space from the right to the left, and with me in the way, trying in a split second to snap the scene before we passed it.


And yet. To see the trees get swallowed by the ground, to fly above the cranes, and see the giraffes taking slow strolls, to finally see the water in Rigueik pans shimmering against the camp, or see the setting sun gleaming in the Salamat river, or see the elephants spread out relaxed or the buffaloes going for their evening drink it was a story that was told over and over again on the ground but now we had an overview of the entire story in a few moments.


The vastness of the park came home to me.


don't expect great pictures from the skies - these are rather shaky shadowy slurred pictures that will give you an idea of what to expect when you soar into the sky.














Camp Nomade is at the right and if you look carefully you will see Kate waving to us outside the dining/lounge tent









black crowned cranes looking like butterflies below us








The many lanes marking the journeys and traverses of the wildlife on the ground











Edited by Kitsafari
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari great photos and I love the cranes. Sounds a bit scary though - no doors, that sounds scarily vertiginous! Presumably you were all strapped in to your seat?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Galago definitely! It was scarier for the passenger sitting in the front sear next to the pilot. But its very safe.


I thought about air sickness for a second before the flight but once we were airborne it was completely forgotten. It wasnt an issue at all. The animals were not affected in any way by our flight as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari Handy hint gratefully received and note to self 'do not sit in the front seat'

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari I just adore your latest photos of the all the birds in Zakouma. I'm sure that I'll see between 50 and 100 new species of birds in one week!! I imagine that I'll see a couple of new species even in the brief time which I'll be spending in N'jademna. I bought a copy go the Princeton Field Guide of Birds of Western Africa by Nick Borrow and Ron Demey in anticipation of my trip next year.


I love both your photos and commentary about the flight in the plane. Please stop underestimating your abilities because you outdo even yourself in modesty.All of your photos from the air brilliantly convert the sheer wildness and wilderness of Zakouma, of course they do manage to increase my even my tremendous enthusiasm for my visit next year.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari Handy hint gratefully received and note to self 'do not sit in the front seat'

@@Galago hahaaha... thats also a vantage point for taking unblocked photos!

Edited by Kitsafari
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Kitsafari I think vertigo may over rule photos - haha!

Link to comment
Share on other sites




You might have had some trepidation about the flight over the park, but from where I am sitting (comfortably on the ground in my home, admittedly), I think it had to add a dimension to your experience that, were I to be offered the opportunity, would be something not to be missed. Not only do your photos depict the literal vastness of the area, but some of them also look like abstract pieces of art. My favorite is of the perspective of the black-crowned cranes in flight from above.


Your beautiful, lyrical writing is almost like a love letter to Zakouma. And a very convincing one at that. On Safaritalk, Zakouma has always come across as an almost mystical place where only those select few chosen by the gods are allowed to enter. You give it an aura that, while not removing the sense of absolute magic about the place, nevertheless, makes the rest of us think that a visit someday just might be feasible after all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari Sorry I have been reading but not commenting too much lately


Great to see the elephants and with some nice young calves and nice that you got to meet some of their protectors the Mambas, thankfully for the sake of the elephants (and soon rhinos) and for that matter tourists like us, their friendly smiles hide an extremely venomous bite.


It is fantastic as I think I said earlier, to see so much game, it doesn’t look like you missed out on much being in the park in Feb rather than April.

I’m glad to see you got a view of some patas monkeys, they are I think beautiful creatures and unless you go much further west or perhaps to northern Uganda, you’re not likely to see them on safari.


I’m not as good with waders as I should be, but I think the wader in post 208 in front of the black-winged stilt is probably a wood sandpiper. I can’t see them well enough but the blue-spotted wood doves could alternatively be black-billed, but the two are very similar, the best way to be sure (if you mind) is to look closely at the bill to see what colour it is, the blue-spotted has a red bill with a yellow tip where as the black-billed is entirely black.




Excuse my ignorance. There are incredible numbers of birds in Zakouma. Do cranes, pelicans, yellow-billed stork and marabou storks breed in the park too?






I ought to know, but I have to confess that I’m not entirely sure where Zakouma’s waterbirds breed, I don’t know if some or all of them breed in the park or if they move elsewhere, as you know storks breed at different times in different parts of Africa, but generally they time their breeding to coincide with when fish are most abundant. In Zakouma this would be at the height of the dry season in April when the water is at its lowest and the fish most concentrated, but I don’t recall seeing any signs of breeding. Saddlebills are solitary breeders but yellow-billed and marabous generally nest in colonies, often both species together so I tend to think that if they were breeding I ought to have seen at least some signs. So maybe for some reason they don’t breed at this time or breed outside the park or just in an area that I never got too, I don’t recall seeing any nests anywhere even empty ones. Great white pelicans in Africa are known to breed in huge colonies I assume that they might perhaps move to Lake Chad and breed there but I haven’t been able to find out online or in any of my books if this is the case. This is really a question I needed to have asked on one of my safaris because there isn’t a lot of information online that would provide answer; I regret that I didn’t think to ask someone. The black crowned cranes must I assume breed outside the park because crowned cranes breed in shallow marshland and in Chad their breeding season is in August when I imagine the water level in the park would be too high. If the rains are on time then it should start raining at the beginning of May so I’m guessing by August the water be too high in most of the park. The RAMSAR wetland site actually covers the floodplains of both the Bahr Salamat and the Bahr Aouk (the Aouk River forms the border with CAR) a vast area it’s one of the World’s largest RAMSAR sites, whether inside or outside the park I would guess the birds must breed within this area.






@@Safaridude - what a magnificent roan and what a privilege to see it.


I'm wondering if the kob in Zakouma is the same species as the Uganda Kob?




The answer to this question is open to debate, I have referred to all of the kob that I saw in Zakouma as Buffon’s kob (Kobus kob kob) which is also known as the western kob, the Uganda or Thomas’s kob (Kobus kob thomasi) is a subspecies of the same species. Or is it? according to the Kingdon Field Guide and also the Mammals of Africa their mtDNA suggests that they may not be subspecies at all and yet they are phenotypically distinct which is why they are regarded as subspecies. So Kingdon treats them as subspecies, along with the white-eared kob, as did the German mammalogist Theodore Haltenorth who wrote the Field Guide to the Mammals of Africa including Madagascar first published in 1977 in German and in English in 1980. However, taxonomists have always been divided between so called lumpers and splitters. Haltenorth was certainly a lumper because he regarded the puku as a fourth subspecies of the kob and there are still some people, who think he might have been right. Meanwhile leading the splitting camp is at least as far as books are concerned, Jose R. Castello author of Bovids of the World published in 2016, he splits the kob into four distinct species, western kob Kobus kob, Loder’s kob Kobus loderi, Uganda kob Kobus thomasi and white-eared Kobus leucotis . According to this book then the kob in Zakouma is a distinct species Loder’s kob and the western or Buffon’s occurs from the west bank of the Chari River across to Senegal.


Until somebody decides for sure if they ever do, I would regard Zakouma’s kob as Buffon’s and consider them same species as the Uganda kob.


Herr Haltenorth was a serious lumper, the most ridiculous example is that he treated the gemsbok, biesa, scimitar-horned and Arabian Oryx as a single species, Senor Castello goes to the opposite extreme with for example 11 distinct species of klipspringer where Kingdon only has 1.


According to Bovids of the World, other animals that have been elevated to full species that are found in Zakouma include:


Western and Central savanna buffalo Syncerus brachyceros

Central bushbuck Tragelaphus phaleratus

Western greater kudu Strepsiceros cottoni

Lelwel hartebeest Alcelaphus lelwel

Tiang Damaliscus tiang

Sudan oribi Ourebia montana

Nigerian Bohor reedbuck Redunca nigeriensis

Defassa waterbuck Kobus defassa


As well as elevating these subspecies to full species in the case of the 4 species of greater kudus, they are placed in an entirely new genus Strepsiceros instead of Tragelaphus as they were before. Whether any or all of this new taxonomy will be widely accepted, I guess only time will tell, either way as far as my own visits to Zakouma are concerned I’m sticking with what I knew at the time. Interestingly this book appears at first glance to be illustrated just like any other guide book, except that all of the pictures are actually photographs and a few of them were taken in Zakouma by @@Michael Lorentz, when I look at the heads of the Central African buffalos shown I'm certain I have shots of the exact same animals.


I suppose arguably all this splitting could be a good thing, if it further illustrates just how important it is to protect places like Zakouma, if some of these animals really do qualify as full species, then the park would be their most important sanctuary.


@@Kitsafari I'm glad you also got to see the park from the air, taking photos isn't that easy unless you really know what you are doing, I didn't too well with my aerial photos last time, your shots bring back happy memories of flying over the park, flying with the doors of is a very memorable experience and well worth doing even if it does make you feel seriously green, I think after the first time I did it, my face was a similar colour to my green shirt or at least that was how I felt.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites


@@Kitsafari, I do so agree with @@Alexander33. Your trip report has been an absolute joy to read and as with @@Alexander33, I now feel 'a visit someday just might be feasible'.

@@inyathi, I saw some patas monkeys in Ol Pejeta, earlier this year. Obviously did not appreciate just how fortunate I was!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Seniortraveller Patas have become increasingly rare in Kenya, there are probably only a few hundred left in the whole country, ranches on the Laikipia are one of the few areas where they’re still doing reasonably okay, mainly I think because the habitat is good and well looked after. Ol Pejeta and some of the other conservancies in the area are I would guess the only places where you do have a fair chance of seeing them in Kenya, but even so I think you may still have been quite fortunate.


I would think that Pendjari NP in Benin which APN are now going to be taking on, should be another good place to see patas.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari Thanks for the excellent travelogue on Zakouma that I am excited to visit next year. I was also able to get the Romain Gary book which will be great read prior to going. We had great views of Patas Monkey in a few places in Senegal in February including Bandia Reserve and they are also seen in the fantastic Ramsar site of Djoudj national park in northern Senegal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


According to Bovids of the World other animals that have been elevated to full species that are found in Zakouma include:


Western greater kudu Strepsiceros cottoni






Thanks for your answer @@inyathi it would be interesting to hear from people in the future, about where Zakoumas abundant wetland birds breed.

In Luangwa and Liuwa waterbirds breed in the wet season, with the chicks fledging towards the end of the wet season.


Are kudu in Zakouma scarce? I don't remember seeing many pictures of them?.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@egilio I'm not really sure why I was suggesting that the waterbirds would nest in the dry season since I have actually visited nesting colonies of storks both in Luangwa and in the Okavango and on each occasion it was in the wet season :rolleyes: so perhaps they nest around October time, I was also forgetting that there is a small lake called Lake Iro fed by the Salamat just south of the park and I wonder if any of the birds breed there. I've also just discovered that there was an International Waterbird Census conducted in January I'll be interested to see what the results were if they publish them online. 

My Impression is that kudu are more common in the west of the park away from where most of the tourism is taking place, but then after we glimpsed a few near the Bahr Dikere on my last visit outside the area they were known to occur and then three down by Biherat in the south it appeared as if they were expanding their range in the park. If that's the case it would certainly be a good thing, the population in Chad is the most westerly in Africa north of the Equator and Zakouma's kudu must be by far the best protected, I couldn't guess how many might survive in northern CAR where I imagine they're not well protected at all now. 

I'm assuming that as no kudu have put in an appearance so far, that you didn't see any @Kitsafari  


Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 2017-6-4 at 7:36 PM, optig said:

@@Kitsafari I just adore your latest photos of the all the birds in Zakouma. I'm sure that I'll see between 50 and 100 new species of birds in one week!! I imagine that I'll see a couple of new species even in the brief time which I'll be spending in N'jademna. I bought a copy go the Princeton Field Guide of Birds of Western Africa by Nick Borrow and Ron Demey in anticipation of my trip next year.


I love both your photos and commentary about the flight in the plane. Please stop underestimating your abilities because you outdo even yourself in modesty.All of your photos from the air brilliantly convert the sheer wildness and wilderness of Zakouma, of course they do manage to increase my even my tremendous enthusiasm for my visit next year.


thank you @optig. you'll be so busy checking every bird in your new book!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Alexander33 I never thought of it that way - as a love letter.... but that sounds so lovely!


Zakouma is such a lovely place and has such an aura about it that it is a pity that people in general give up the idea of visiting it immediately on hearing its name. 

Tinga is such a natural and affordable alternative accomodation to stay at if CN is too expensive. I too agree that CN is very expensive, but you have to realise that, net of the private guide's fee, net of the chartered flight, net of the costs of the camp, the rest goes back into the park via-funding the Mamba anti-poaching protection, and to the local community as the camp provides jobs for them. (a tailor at the camp sews everything from the table mat to the napkin and the dressing gown in the tent; the huts are put together by the local community; the toilets are made fresh every year; the groceries bought weekly at the nearby town for the guests at the camp). But realistically not everyone can afford CN and I understand it. 

But that doesn't mean they can't come to Zakouma - There's still Tinga. so what if it is brick and mortar and is not close on the ground? so what if it is not at Rigueik pans? look at the offers from @soukous and  Chalo Africa via @sangeeta - they are affordable and they provide expert guides. 

Forget the expensive stuff you've heard of CN, forget about sponsors and A list of private guides. forget about CN or Tinga. why would we want to go to Zakouma? to see the incredible abundance and diversity of species in both birds and mammals and flora. Zakouma is still affordable and Chad is politically stable and welcomes foreign tourists to its parks - for now. go asap when you can. the changing politics in the Middle East shows you how quick things can change. 


My motto to borrow from a famous shoe brand : Just do it. 

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