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   I was fortunate enough to visit Zakouma N.P., Chad in early February of this year. As a wildlife destination it had rapidly moved up my 'wish list' after joining Safaritalk and reading the postings of @inyathi and @Ant Kaschula. The Nat. Geo. documentary Zakouma in the Extraordinary Africa series was the final catalyst for my visit, shortly after booking @Kitsafari's wonderful 'Paradise Regained', possibly one of the finest pieces of travel/wildlife writing to grace this website, confirmed in my own mind that I had made the right decision to go. Travelling from the U.K., I was keen to fly direct to N'Djamena via Paris if possible, stay at Camp Nomade and to deal with a U.K. based operator. Following enquiries I was offered a place at very late notice (2 weeks to go) on a trip in 2017, but was very concerned about the visa application process and the timescale involved, I therefore decided to put all my efforts into a 2018 departure. Even with a 12 month lead up time finding a suitable trip proved more difficult than I expected, two of the larger tour operators in the U.K. were not sure about their plans, one citing that they did not make any money on the previous years trip. The other did get back to me months later to say they had decided to run a trip but I was fixed up by then.

   I eventually came across a trip being organised for 2018 by Busanga Safaris, (it wasn't an operator I had any experience of however they turned out to be outstanding in all aspects and I will certainly use them again), unfortunately they were fully booked, disappointment. Later that week Tony rang me back, a place had become available, was I interested, yes, game on. All the arrangements were handled by Tony, the only extra needed was an additional night in N'Djamena on the way back to dovetail with the Paris flight, only three per week.This was to be my first trip travelling alone as part of a group, despite some anxiety it turned out to be a wonderful experience.

   Insurance for the trip was difficult to arrange as most companies refused to even quote, but eventually cover excluding terrorism related issues was organised, £146 single trip. The important elements included were cancellation, missed flights etc. and medical, including evacuation. I used Campbell Irvine based in London.The need for adequate insurance cover hit home hard as one of our group was taken seriously ill during the trip and at one point was on the verge of being flown out to receive medical attention. I would respectfully reiterate the importance of good cover on trips of this nature.

   The visa was arranged through a U.K. broker , who charged £352 for a visa with a face value of 70 euros. I could have had a weekend in Brussels and collected it myself cheaper.

   So I left Scotland on the 6th of February and flew via Paris to Chad (5h 40m) to team up with my fellow wildlife enthusiasts. I had a significant delay in Paris due to snow, the following day CDG was closed completely , so if I had travelled a day later the whole trip would probably have been in jeopardy.

   We all stayed overnight at The Hilton (just like any other Hilton), and met at breakfast, three members would be guided by Doug McDonald and five by Tyrone McKeith. The nationalities of the group were U.K. 3, U.S.A. 4 and South Africa 1. Doug pointed out two hippopotami in the Chari River in front of the hotel during breakfast.

   When we got to the airport for the 2.5 hour flight to Zakouma the total luggage weight proved to be over what could be legally carried, so several members of the group were asked to put essentials into their hand luggage. The rest of their luggage would be taken to the camp by road and would take at least 24 hours to get there. Somehow I managed to avoid this inconvenience, not sure how just noticed my bags were loaded at the back of the plane.


 The group prepares for departure, and includes some well known Safaritalk members. The flight was operated by MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship), who appear to support Christian Initiatives throughout Chad, this contract with African Parks I assume subsidises these activities. A great flight anyway, apparently it is a very expensive element of the trip.


 Park H.Q. from the air.


First sight of wildlife as we begin our descent, two elephants, these are part of the group that regularly visit the Park Manager's house for water.


 The safari vehicles we would use.

   It was clear within minutes of setting out for camp that I was indeed in a wildlife paradise, a very special place. It took around 50 minutes to reach camp and I had already recorded four mammal species I had not seen before! The location of the camp varies and for my visit it was situated on the western side of the Riguek Pan south of H.Q., the pan in front of camp was occupied by vast flocks of birds and herds of bovids. Waking up to this experience every morning was an absolute privilege.


My home for the next seven nights (-1 at the fly camp), basically a mosquito proof cube with a flysheet. Quite spacious inside and more than adequate for my time in camp. This is the tidiest it was all week!                                                                                                                                                                             


Inside the tent, the bed was very comfortable, a few non-biting ants also called it home.


En-suite facilities. Bucket shower great, wash basin out of shot. Lighting in both areas courtesy of a battery system.


A group of Chadians enjoying their park. I believe they were staying at the campsite provided free of charge for Chad nationals to use. Lovely to see and it was the only other safari vehicle we saw all week.


Aerial view of our tents, mine 2nd from the right.


The campfire and social area from the air. Camp Nomade is a fairly basic bush camp, with great service and wonderful food, in a magnificent location. 


In part 2, I will start to try and do justice to the wildlife viewing experience. It will probably not appear in diary form but more as a series of related events and observations.



Edited by johnweir
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@johnweir I'm so happy that you've started your TR on Zakouma. Not being able to go again, I was so hungry to revisit the park through someone else's eyes, words and pictures. Memories just flooded back with your TR. I notice that the tent seemed to open to the ensuite bathroom - that's a very nice change. and the toilets have not been changed to flushing loos - an idea that Leon had been thinking of.


BTW thanks for the tip on NatGeo's series on Extraordinary Africa. I don't think it's been shown in asia so I'll have to look out for it, or watch it on youtube. 


Looking forward to more. :)

Edited by Kitsafari
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Well, this is an exciting safari destination! The other day I stumbled on some pics of Ennedi, the area in the north-east, which looked amazing as well. Unfortunately Chad isn't regarded as safe to travel around. How did you experience the safety situation over there, @johnweir? Hopefully I'll be able to go there one day. Very curious to the rest of your TR.


Oh, and what are those animals (birds?) on the plains in front of the camp? Must have been an amazing view from your tent!

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I should go to Zakouma next week, but alas, at least I can "be there" through this trip report. 

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@Kitsafari, Yes luxury at Camp Nomade, ajoining en-suite facilities now. Believe you had to take a walk when you were there. Not too sure about flushing toilets, prefer the present system. The Nat Geo. Extraordinary Africa was Series 1, Episode 3 released in 2014 and titled Zakouma.

Thanks for the encouragement, you know what I mean, without it this thread would probably not have come to fruition.


@LarsS, FCO (U.K.) recommend against all but essential travel to the area covering Zakouma, hence insurance difficult and expensive. The limited contact we had with the people of Chad indicated strongly that they were warm, friendly and very curious about Europeans. Thoughts based on a village / market visit to Kash Kasha whilst staying in the park and a visit to the local Craft Market whilst staying in N'Djamena. I would revisit Chad tomorrow if it were possible.

Birds on the plains in front of camp on this occasion were mainly Black Crowned Cranes.


@xelas, You need to go I know you would love it. I realise I was privileged to be able to make the trip and will try to do it justice via this report. Incidentally you seem to do some wonderful trips also, I enjoy your reports and your Namibia 2017 will impact on my future travel plans. Thank you.  

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2 hours ago, johnweir said:

You need to go I know you would love it.


Ahh, just don't put too much salt on this open wound :blink:; I was on the list but eventually the finances prevailed ... I will hate myself if I will die and still with some money on my bank account :angry:.

Anyway, world is wide and travelling is great and reading other people trip reports is almost as good as being there myself ^_^. Luckily there will be several from Zakouma this spring :D.

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Life in camp very much revolved around two game drives per day with some additional activities throughout the week which will be discussed in the appropriate section.These were proper game drives, out in the bush for lengthy periods with like minded individuals. We got up at 04.30, breakfast at 05.00 and were out on the road by 05.30. We returned to camp for lunch between 11.00 and 12.00. After lunch we usually had a few hours in camp before afternoon tea at 15.00 and then out again at 15.30 for a late afternoon/evening game drive, returning to camp between 19.00 and 21.00 for a hot refreshing shower before drinks and dinner. We were usually in bed by 22.00 and everyone commented on how well they were sleeping. The temperature at this time of year was very pleasant, it was hot from 10.00 onwards peaking most days at about 32C , evenings were warm (very pleasant camping weather) and it was cool/mild during the early part of the morning. I personally found the climate very agreeable, early February is a good time to visit as I believe the temperature does get very hot as the season progresses. Visibility during our stay was generally good with just one day really when the dust in the air was apparent. In its most acute form 'The Hamattan' does impact negatively on the lives of the people of Chad. Insect bites were not a problem, I got a few around my ankles but they soon healed. Definitely not in the same league as parts of Tanzania. Our wildlife sightings were just as impressive as those people who travelled say in mid March. (Comparisons with other trip reports).

We spent most of the first two days exploring the areas around Riguek Pan and the road out to Zakouma H.Q., there was lots of differing habitats to explore on reasonably good tracks.The tracks are re-graded every year after the flood season, it must be a massive undertaking. Sensible off-road driving does appear to be allowed.

The first thing that is very noticeable as you drive around the park is the sheer volume of wildlife, there is something new around every corner with some species being represented in significant numbers. I will try to include as much detail as possible as the report progresses.

   Early in the morning on our first full day (8th Feb) in the bush (06.15) we suddenly became aware that a female lion was walking towards us, she walked calmly past us and vanished into some woodland. She was approximately 5 years old and was clearly pregnant. We would see her again several times over the next few days.


Lioness (pregnant), our first lion sighting, taken early morning, poor light.


   The following day once again early morning (07.05) Doug reported in that his group had found a lion kill which consisted of an adult giraffe and that two young males were responsible for the kill and were still with it. When we got to the kill the two males were nowhere to be seen but the female we had seen the day before was feeding on the carcass.

We visited this kill several times over the next few days and it was fascinating to see how different species took advantage of the opportunities the kill afforded them. The kill for a while was very much at the centre of our activities.


The female at the kill as seen on arrival.


Close up, a wonderful animal.


Female feeding, her power was remarkable.


She appears to have had a nasty wound at some stage to the upper part of her mouth.

  We stayed at the kill for about 30 minutes and then left her to feed in peace and we went off to explore other areas. We returned to the kill that evening (18.45), the female was still in attendance and she had been joined by the two young males who had made the kill. They were resting about 15 meters from the kill and seemed very comfortable in each others company. Tyrone felt the males were quite young around 3 years old and were probably brothers. I am assuming that as they got on so well one of the males was probably the father of the soon to born cubs.


All three lions together resting, well fed.


One of the two brothers.


The same male feeding.


The other brother.

   Discussion had already started in our group and with our other companions that the lions we were seeing in Zakouma were different to those we had all seen many times in Eastern and Southern Africa, based on size, mane, and the shape of the head. (This can be quite an emotive subject so I will leave it for discussion elsewhere). From my observations all week we never saw lions in a group larger than three, in fact usually they were alone or in pairs. One member of our group was convinced that the calls of Zakouma lions were not as loud compared to his experiences elsewhere. As we sat in their midst right on cue all three began to call , Tyrone turned off all the lights. Within seconds the volume was incredible, the whole vehicle shook. Just sitting there in the dark under the crystal clear night sky was an unbelievable experience, for a few seconds I felt quite vulnerable. Anyway that was one hypothesis quickly dismissed.

   The following day (10th) we visited the kill only once, on the evening drive at 18.40, a new male lion about 18 months old had obviously been feeding and was sat near the kill, we left, later that evening the female was seen heading in the general direction of the kill.


The latest visitor to the kill, a young male about 18 months old.


   The following day at 06.30 we again visited the kill this time no lions were present but two Spotted Hyena were greedily feeding, the carcass by now had developed a very unpleasant aroma, infact if I shut my eyes and concentrate I can still smell it! During this trip I only saw one other hyena so would suggest that they are not that common. (Could be wrong). On one of the night drives from a considerable distance (using binoculars in poor light ) an additional hyena was located and it was possibly a Striped Hyena , which are known to occur in the park, however it was not included in my records.


Two Spotted Hyena at the kill.


A wonderful specimen.


   Next day, again early morning , we again visited the carcass by now Vultures (White-backed, Lappet-faced, some Marabou Storks also) were everywhere and were doing what they are designed to do.


Vultures at the kill.


Nature's garbage collectors at work.


On the 13th (early evening ) we made our final visit to the carcass, which was now just dried skin and bones, no wildlife present.




During this prolonged observation period Doug and his group saw two Serval near the kill and we observed Side-striped Jackal near the carcass but on our arrival they vanished into the bush. Lion numbers in the park appear fairly stable at around 120-150, (conversation with senior park staff), and have been at this figure for several years. A 2006 paper which looked at lion-prey relations in West and Central Africa estimated the lion population in Zakouma at that time at 120. In total we observed eight individual lions during the visit, which compared to other peoples' experiences seems low. We did track a female with two cubs for a lengthy period of time one day but were unable to find them.









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Thanks for this excellent TR from an alluring location @johnweir.    I am relishing the level of detail.



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fascinating that the male lions are bringing down giraffes - that must have been an epic fight for the males. you saw hyenas! we didn't see any altho we heard them - I wonder if they would do a count for hyenas. it'll be interesting to see how many there are since the park is pretty much a seasonal one. 


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Great to see another Zakouma report here, thanks so much for that. Very cool sightings at that giraffe kill indeed. I do hope there´s still more to come?

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All I can say is need More More More ! :-)...What a place and great to see so many reports from Z here at Safaritalk. 

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@Kitsafari, the 2006 paper mentioned above (lion-prey relations),as well as lions also estimated hyena numbers in Zakouma, the figure published was 200. I personally find that very hard to believe as you saw none and I only saw 3 possibly 4.


On our first full day (8th) we returned to camp around noon had lunch and then I decided to go back to my tent as I had noticed a Yellow-billed Kite was surveying The Pan from the heights of a dead tree in front of my tent, I fancied trying to get up close and secure an image.


Yellow-billed Kite, on the lookout for prey.


When I got back to the dining tent prior to our afternoon departure there was a degree of excitement, one of the camp staff had spotted about 100 metres in front of the tent a brown mass which appeared to be moving, binoculars confirmed it was indeed an African Rock Python. Most of the group walked out towards it before it started to get rather wet underfoot, it appeared to be quite a large specimen, but we weren't really close enough to get a meaningful image.


What we initially thought was one python. (Taken from about 30m, lens 400mm).


One of our group from the U.S.A. decided he wanted to get a better image so he needed to be closer, the others in the group returned to the tent, he moved forward I decided to follow. (Stiff upper lip and all that). We waded knee deep in mud until we were about 5 metres from the snake, which indeed was a huge specimen, and turned out to be not one python but two.


Two pythons, the one centre lying vertically across the other is the smaller of the two. (Image taken from 5 metres, lens 100mm).


The snakes were in the process of mating. One was very much smaller than the other, it was impossible to tell which was male or female. Both at the time we were there had their heads submerged in the water. The larger of the two was certainly a very big snake, without over exaggerating I would estimate that it was at least 5 metres in length, possibly longer. (A considerable portion of both snakes is not visible on the above image). This would make it an unusually large specimen. As this species is known to have some personality issues I was relieved to get some images and then wade back to the tent to get cleaned up. I have seen a few pythons before but never one this large, I think this was possibly quite a unique sighting, the camp staff had never seen one so big either. Not to everyone's taste but very much indicative of Zakouma, anything is possible.







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Phew, knee deep in the mud and only 5 meters away from a huge python?! I would surely have stopped when the (larger) snake would fill the viewfinder ... at 500 mm on a crop body :D!

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You are one brave soul @johnweir, or simply nuts. 

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From the moment we left the airstrip en-route to camp it was more than apparent that we were in a very wildlife rich environment, as the week flew by this view was reinforced on an hourly basis. Wildlife was simply everywhere mammals, birds and reptiles. Everywhere you looked there was some new wildlife experience to savour. The whole eco-system was fascinating and unlike anything I had ever seen before. In the main most of our time was spent in the areas around Zakouma and the pans around our campsite at Regueik.  The main habitats being a mixture of grassy plains (still quite wet at the time of the visit) and different types of savanna dominated by various plants and trees, acacia being very well represented. We did explore further east and west during our time in camp and much further south during our fly-camping expedition.

I think it would be fair to say that on my travels to date I have not visited a location with such a high concentration and variety of wildlife (Serengeti possibly?) and I have always thought the sheer number of birds in The Pantanal was pretty impressive, but Zakouma must beat them all. A visit to Zakouma is like gorilla trekking, it can be life changing. It is possible in Zakouma to stand on the edge of a pan and rotate through 360 degrees, stopping every 45˚ and see and enjoy a completely different wildlife scenario at each turn.

Possibly the most common and varied group of mammals seen in Zakouma are the bovids, some species/subspecies occur in huge numbers and are seen in large herds several times each day, whilst others are rarely seen and occur in much smaller numbers often being difficult to locate. In Zakouma you see species with which you are familiar but often they look slightly different, one example would be the Waterbuck, immediately I saw one I was convinced that they were different to the 'Defassa' I have observed for example in Ruaha. One member of our group who is a very experienced safari goer said he had seen literally hundreds over the years but the ones in Zakouma were different.

I have decided to limit each species/ssp to two images and have included both portraits and landscapes to try and give a feeling of the wider viewing experience, but feel that with still photography it is impossible to do this 'Garden of Eden' justice.

I am using common names and the taxonomy is as used in Castello J.R. (2016) Bovids of the World. Princeton Univ. Press and Groves C. & Grubb P. (20110. Ungulate Taxonomy. Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, with the exception of the Waterbuck, which is adopted from Frost W. (2014). The Antelope of Africa. Jacana Media. I understand this may be controversial, but that debate is better aired elsewhere.

All eleven bovids seen during my week in Zakouma were new to me and the images were taken across the seven days I spent in the park. Any comments on the images are my own views based on my experiences.



Found in significant numbers in the areas visited, in large and small herds and in association with other species. Found in a variety of habitats mainly on the plains. Very common, seen several times daily.


Adult with juveniles.



A small group on the move, found in similar numbers and habitats as Hartebeest, again common perhaps less so than Hartebeest. Seen daily.


Previously considered a subspecies of the Topi.


Comparison of species.Tiang left, Hartebeest right. Note difference in horns and body colour.



Again very common in the areas visited seen several times daily, found in medium and small herds, mature males usually solitary. Appeared to prefer to fringe woodland and areas with standing water. Often found with other species. Mature males extremely large and colouration lighter than I have observed elsewhere.


Young Waterbuck of various ages, leaving the woodland and heading out onto the pan.



Female, taken early morning. Very common in the area around camp, would see several times daily, less so when we travelled further south in the park, Kob then became the more common medium sized antelope.


Male Reedbuck, within seconds of taking this image a female lion arrived. (See image PART TWO).



Medium sized herd taken well south in the park as we proceeded to our fly-camp on the Salamat River, seen in quite large numbers. Previously a subspecies of Buffon's Kob, viewed by some as being invalid. Males appeared very territorial, harem groups noticed.  Around Camp Nomade only one Kob was seen during my visit, a male with only one horn. (Had it been forced out and found sanctuary further north, no competition?). No reedbuck seen in this area further south, I find that interesting.


Male Loder's Kob. (ex. Buffon's).



Not common, small numbers seen most days in all areas visited. Seen in in all habitats but appeared to prefer bush. Have seen images of medium herds taken in Zakouma but on this visit only individuals and small groups were seen. This image was taken near Camp Nomade.


Image taken well south of Regueik.



Seen most days but not common, usually in small herds (3-5) and always in the bush. Very nervous and hence difficult to photograph.


Taken from a considerable distance, on the road just south of park H.Q.



Not common, seen most days either individually or in pairs, always in the bush often around water.  Very nervous, lucky to get this shot.


The more usual view.



Very different from your average Cape Buffalo. Found in the park in a variety of colours from black to almost red, this individual being a good example, see also the chocolate brown example to its right. Note also the smaller size, Forest Buffalo ears, different horn configuration and they apparently are slightly calmer than their southern cousins! They were seen several times every day in small groups up to mega herds, throughout the areas visited, in all habitats. They have been a real success story in the rejuvenation story of Zakouma, down to just a few hundred in 2010 they now have a population of at least 10,000.


Dark specimen on the move, early morning.


Medium herd, early morning.


Old black bull.


Will include when I do a report on my visit to the village market as this sighting was outside the National Park.


Six seen but all on night drives in poor light, hence no images .


Unfortunately none seen on this visit.


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Superb collection of photos of some really nice species @johnweir.  


That is a really impressive population recovery of West African Buffalo!



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Fantastic stuff. The buffalo are especially interesting. Thanks for sharing this wonderful destination.

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What a diversity of wildlife! I am happy for those Safaritalkers that are enjoying Zakouma right now!

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really enjoying this report! I was there from March 3-9 and we did see larger herds of roan, so they are there - we saw perhaps 40 at a time on one or two occasions.  

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Great stuff, @johnweir - thanks for doing the TR & do keep it coming :) 


@xelas - you’ll make it there one these days, I have no doubt at all!

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Beautiful shots of the bovids! 


And great stuff before that too. The pythons were a remarkable sighting - fantastic.

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@johnweir really enjoying your TR.


The python sequence is interesting as is the wide range of bovids, especially the red buffalo.


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Welcome back from such an exciting destination.  Love the mating pythons and the various antelope.  Thanks for the insurance hint for this destination.

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I would be the first to admit that my knowledge and identification skills of birds is to say the least poor, although I am working on it and making some progress. I also find birds challenging to photograph and need much more practice, however I thoroughly enjoy spending time observing birds and try to keep accurate records of what I have seen. We were particularly lucky on this trip to have a very experienced 'birder' in our group and Tyrone was very knowledgeable in this field also. I have written at length about the diversity and density of the mammal species that occur in Zakouma and the same can be said and more, regarding the birds. I have selected 25 (ish) images for this section which has been very hard to do. Hopefully members will get a general impression of some of the birds I was privileged to observe and the habitats in which they were found.

During the week we recorded 137 different species/ssp, The African Bird Club listed 373 in 2013 and I am sure that figure has increased significantly since then. 

One of the highlights for Tyrone was our sighting of The Black-breasted Barbet, sorry no image. On the 12th we were driving south to the fly-camp and stopped early morning for a coffee break near two large fig trees (in fruit), he had indicated we would be very lucky to get a sighting of this barbet. We walked 50 yards to the trees with our park guard, stopped and within a few seconds had seen three high up in the branches, they were unmistakeable.

What did impress me in the park was the sheer numbers and the size of some of the flocks of cranes, storks and general water birds, they added to the whole magical Zakouma experience.

Raptors were well represented, we recorded twenty three.

The infamous Red-billed Quelea murmurations were observed every evening in and around Regueik Pan and we chose a different location each evening to watch this amazing spectacle from. Apparently they get more intense as the season progresses, I can only say that what I saw, the like of which I had never witnessed before, was pretty impressive and unforgettable.

I think and others will know better than me, that  some of the birds found in Zakouma in many respects like the mammals, demonstrate regional differences to some species we are familiar with from further south, not forgetting also the West African influence.

In précis Zakouma is  a birder's paradise.


A large flock of Great White Pelicans, located close to camp. Image taken early morning (07.00) first full day in camp, we parked up about 300 metres from the flock and approached to within about 100 metres before many relocated further into the pan.


Close up of the same flock.


Starting to get restless, ready to relocate to the centre of the pan.


Juvenile Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse.


Little Green Bee-eater.


Yellow-billed Kite in flight, the same individual photographed before the python sighting. Taken later in the week.


Spur-winged Geese.


African Spoonbill.


View outside my tent, mainly Black Crowned Cranes and African Openbill Stork. Flocks appeared every day.


White-faced Whistling Ducks.


Storks and Vultures, set against a wonderful sunset. (as seen).


Male and female Abyssinian Ground Hornbill.


Around every corner a rich diversity of bird life.


Clapperton's Francolin.


Black Crowned Cranes taken very early one morning. This is the image that will always remind me of Zakouma.


Close up of the bird that is Zakouma.


Verreaux's Eagle Owl.


Greater Spotted Eagle. (pale morph). ? Can anyone confirm please.


Saddle-billed Stork.


Marabou Stork in flight.


Yellow-billed Stork in flight.

The three images below were taken during our visits to observe the murmurations. Unfortunately they do not do this amazing spectacle full justice.





Abyssinian Roller and Namaqua Dove. Must have tried about 30 times to get a roller in flight image, not to be, good reason to return.


Long-crested Eagle.


Just a brief glimpse into some of the avian wonders of Zakouma National Park.


Please feel free to correct any identification errors I may have made and I am more than happy to provide any interested members with a full list of the birds I recorded (common names) if you make contact via a PM.



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