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Benin 2017 - French Africa Awaits!


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Fascinating report about such a little-visited area. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.  It seems like you are always the one calling out the tracks. I'm impressed!  But I have to ask: Were the guides not particularly effective/well-trained in this area, or is this just a reflection of your personal expertise and passion?


Looking forward to more!

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On 1/17/2018 at 4:34 PM, jeremie said:

Thank you very much for this fantastic TR, it seems you have been really lucky with the lions!!!!

Could you tell us more about the changes that APN will implement in the park administration? Did you hear some recent sightings of the cheetah? Do APN plan to collar some cheetahs?




Hi Jeremie, glad you're enjoying the TR, we certainly had some lion luck.


Do bear in mind that almost everything I picked up regarding AP was second hand, but here's a brief summary. In some ways, it seems AP is applying the "Zakouma model" to Pendjari, starting first with increasing the quality and quantity of rangers defending the park. This has raised some eyebrows as at least some of the rangers are from outwith Benin (as one might expect), and at this stage it's too early to definitively say what impact this will have on poaching. Before AP arrived, poaching was a significant issue, but the Beninoise government seems to have done a passable job protecting the park to this point, at least compared with parks like W.


The suspicion is that AP will move Pendjari towards a luxury tourism model, increasing prices at the lodge and perhaps even taking control of the hotel as well. An airstrip has recently been created, and AP have introduced walking and boat safaris recently. AP is working closely with a number of organisations on work including, but not limited to, camera trap studies and collaring efforts. My sincere hope is that AP does continue to invest, but maintaining the accessibility of Pendjari to Beninoise people - I would hate for people to be priced out of their own park. I do also hope that AP is able to instill higher standards of guiding (although there is significant resistance to this amongst the guides) and to create a more expansive road network - I believe this latter point to be very high on their priority list.


I saw no sign of cheetah at all during my stay (spoiler alert for the rest of the TR), but there is plenty of suitable habitat and there's no doubt in my mind there are still a few here and there. Three or four times guides told us they had seen cheetah during or just before our stay, but much like elsewhere in Africa, I suspect this was the result of bravado amongst guides rather than anything else. No photos could be produced. That said, Boris did mention that James had seen cheetah since his arrival in the summer, and I know that a cheetah was photographed earlier in 2017 also.


I am sure that, long-term, collaring a cheetah must be on AP's wish list. But for now lions and elephants are more realistic targets, and I saw a few convoys moving around the park indicating that such activities are underway.

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On 1/18/2018 at 4:35 AM, Alexander33 said:

Fascinating report about such a little-visited area. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.  It seems like you are always the one calling out the tracks. I'm impressed!  But I have to ask: Were the guides not particularly effective/well-trained in this area, or is this just a reflection of your personal expertise and passion?


Looking forward to more!


Hi Alexander, glad you're enjoying it.


I suppose a bit of both. I love tracking, and know what to look for, so even with experienced guides I'll be the one seeing the tracks quite often. But there is little/no culture of wildlife guiding in Benin. Knowledge of the animals, let alone tracks, is lacking compared to better-visited areas of the continent (which is to be expected). It is not unusual in Pendjari to come across a guide doing something you would consider a cardinal sin elsewhere, so bear this in mind if you are planning a visit!

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Hi all,


Apologies for the pause in the TR, had to get some work done!


Day 5: Boxing Day


After a relaxing, but frustrating, day in camp I was raring to get going! The night before, my fellow guests had enjoyed a sighting of four lions just a few hundred yards away near Fougou. I had been convinced there were lions there from day one, so our first task this morning was to see if we could locate them.


In the twilight we nipped briefly down the main road towards the turning to Fougou, and bounced along the track keeping our eyes peeled for the lions from the night before. And we were in luck! As we approached the main Fougou viewpoint, there was a tawny cat balled up in the road - our lion streak had continued!



Good morning!


It quickly became apparent that this sub-adult female was not alone, with an adult female scampering into the grass behind her. As we edged past to allow a vehicle behind us a closer look at the beautiful cat, we could just make out a cub peering out from the long grass that surrounds the road approaching Fougou. 



Pendjari Baby


And 50 metres further down the road, another lioness darted across the road. This time, however, she was not darting away from us, but rather towards something else. A big male waterbuck, albeit one without his full head of horns, was grazing absent-mindedly in the highest grass at the waterside. We were treated to a few minutes of stalking before the lioness gave up and retired for a morning nap. What a great start to the morning!



Unicorn Hunting


We continued around the Fougou circuit, bidding good morning to kob, baboons and a common duiker as we did so. We also spied our first Burkinabe animal of the trip - a vervet monkey frollicking on the far bank of the Pendjari bank of the river. We decided after completing the loop we would continue south on the main road for half an hour or so before returning, and the road was littered with lion tracks from the night before. Many of the tracks seemed to belong to an adult male, but alas we could not locate him. Instead, I was placated with several brilliant roan sightings, definitely the best of the trip so far!



Roan Crossing


We retired to camp at ten to reflect on another lucky morning, but also agreed to head out early in the afternoon to have a nose around Yangaouli and the southern plains for cheetah.


Our afternoon drive began in much the same vein as those that had gone before, heading north west from camp towards the poste d'Arli. This time, however, we took a brief detour to have a look at the actual border crossing (a wooden bridge) between Benin and Burkina Faso. We were greeted by a troop of baboons undergoing cross-border formalities and a litany of tsetse flies, causing us to depart at quite a rate. The tsetse flies were nowhere near as bad here as they are in Tanzania, for example, but there were still a nuisance on occasion, particularly in the most thickly wooded areas of the park.


Escaping the wrath of the tsetses, the drive to Sacree was very quiet, with only an annoyed Patas breaking up the journey. We were too early for the lions, and as planned we continued on to Yangaouli. I was transfixed for the whole journey on the patches of grass that might hide the serval from our first day, but we had no luck and only kob kept us occupied before Yangaouli.


At the lake itself a few distant hippos snorted and I managed a glimpse of a red-chested bee-eater. Other than that, however, we were left empty-handed, and we continued on towards Porga, before turning left to cross the vast plains in Pendjari's south. This section on the drive was more generous game-wise, allowing us views of a large herd of roan, cranes in flight and an impressive fire scorching the grass to our south.

Red-Chested Bee-Eater



Pendjari Alight



The plains were largely deserted, decorated only with kob, roan and the occasional duiker. Food enough, I thought, for a cheetah or two but no more. The road brought us out at Mare Bali, where we spied plenty of ellie tracks but again nothing more. Not all drives can be a mile a minute!


But things did start to hot up on the drive north, as the air cooled and the ellies came out. Firstly we encountered a very agitated group of ellies just off of the road in thick grass, and it took a mock charge to convince us we should reluctantly trundle on. And we were glad we did, as a second, more relaxed group, approached a small waterhole not far on. It was a brief sighting, but to see Beninoise elephants at ease with their youngsters was an absolute treat.



Synchronised Ellies



Relaxed Elephants


Spoilt once again, we just had time to take in a vast herd of buffalo on the drive back before rolling back into camp with broad smiles once again.

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Thanks so much for your great trip report! I didn't even know they had safaris in Benin! I have to stop reading trip reports as I keep adding countries to my lists of places to go...


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Absolutely loving this! What a treat!


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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Great trip report, please continue :) 

It is always special reading reports from "new" safaris places...

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  • 1 year later...

I know it is a very old topic, but i needed to reply. 

Very cool trip report, would love to go there some day. 

Do you know if this is the only good national park in Benin?



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