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Tales from Tinga: A Safaritalkers Safari to Zakouma


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Inspired by Safaritalk. Organized and guided by Safaritalkers. Six Safaritalkers going to Chad together. Recipe for a wonderful, unforgettable trip - or disaster?


Find out with us as we try to find the famed Elephant herd of Zakouma - and have to learn that "Whatever you do don´t run" doesn´t always make as much sense as we all had thought.




Marvel with us at the incredible abundance of life here in the Heart of Africa.




Get to know variations of familiar animals like Zakoma´s very Black-Faced Roan ...




... or Kordofan Giraffe.




Meet new mammals like Red-Fronted Gazelle (I swear it´s not a Tommie!) ...




... or Buffon´s Kob.




There will be old friends ...




... colourful birds ....




... and good old Safari classics.




Oh, and some cool night drive stuff - promise!




We might tell all about "The Masked Shrike Incident" which split us in two unconciliatory fractions - Team @Doug Macdonald vs.Team Michael. Maybe we will give away how often @SafariChick shocked us by doing unspeakable things to her camera. The kinky stuff @gatoratlarge managed to buy at the market in the middle of nowhere. What @AndMic did with a huge wild Elephant bull that was so close that he could have touched his trunk. How @Nam Wan managed to boost our group identity spirit straight away. And if it´s really possible to get along with @pault. :P




Join us for a Safaritalkers trip to Zakouma!



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@michael-ibk I was still waiting for this adventure. A dream destination. 

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This is gonna be good! :D


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Great start with great pictures already! Zakouma is very high in my list as well..

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I suspect that I will enjoy this very much;). Great start and I can only say that Chad looks awesome!

Edited by JayRon
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@michael-ibk what an awesome beginning (and an awesome travelling group of Safaritalkers - is there a collective noun for this gatherings???) so looking forward to your TR.

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Wow! That’s an ST all stars gathering. What a start. Really looking forward to this report. 

PS: How could you have left @Gamewarden behind? 


Edited by AKR1
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Game Warden

@Treepol Perhaps a Gallimaufry of Safaritalkers? 


@AKR1 It's okay, I'm easy to forget... :(

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6 hours ago, AKR1 said:

Wow! That’s an ST all stars gathering. What a start. Really looking forward to this report. 

PS: How could you have left @Gamewarden behind? 


Damn! I knew we'd forgotten something!

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This morning I had to consult my Oxford Dictionary to check on "gallimaufry" and this evening watching Gardening Australia on TV the commentator referring to a collection of indoor plants says "a gallimaufry"!


Rest easy @Game Warden - never forgotten!






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22 hours ago, Game Warden said:

@michael-ibk I'm along for the ride...


Very happy about that Matt! In a way you were with us - we talked about Safaritalk and how much it means to us a lot!


22 hours ago, Botswanadreams said:

@michael-ibk I was still waiting for this adventure. A dream destination. 


Thanks, @Botswanadreams, just stop dreaming and go there! :)


21 hours ago, gatoratlarge said:

This is gonna be good! :D



Well, this is just as much in your hands as in mine, @gatoratlarge - no pressure. :P


21 hours ago, Grasshopper_Club said:

Great start with great pictures already! Zakouma is very high in my list as well..


Thank you, @Grasshopper_Club - I know how much you love Kafue, Zakouma would be perfect for you.


21 hours ago, JayRon said:

I suspect that I will enjoy this very much;). Great start and I can only say that Chad looks awesome!


Thanks, @JayRon, I hope you´re not wrong about your suspicions. ;)


19 hours ago, Galago said:

Looking forward to this :rolleyes:


Happy to have you on board, @Galago, I´m sure you will recognize many familiar places in this one.


19 hours ago, Treepol said:

@michael-ibk what an awesome beginning (and an awesome travelling group of Safaritalkers - is there a collective noun for this gatherings???)


Thanks @Treepol, didn´t you know, it´s of course a Gallimaufry, everybody knows that.:ph34r:


19 hours ago, AKR1 said:

Wow! That’s an ST all stars gathering. What a start. Really looking forward to this report.


Don´t know about the "all stars" part, @AKR1, but I can tell you it certainly was a gathering of six very nice people (including Doug) - and  then myself! :)


7 hours ago, Caracal said:

@Game WardenThis morning I had to consult my Oxford Dictionary to check on "gallimaufry" and this evening watching Gardening Australia on TV the commentator referring to a collection of indoor plants says "a gallimaufry"!


You´re definitely a much more learned person than me, @Caracal, I had just assumed Gallimaufry was a Dr. Who reference. B)

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A bit about the genesis of this trip:


Like pretty much everybody of us here on Safaritalk I was just completely blown away by the incredibly aweseome report by @inyathi about hist trip to Zakouma.I must get there, I thought, what a spectacular place, what a splendid adventure! Then I checked out Camp Nomade. And went "Oh. Oh-oh". Well, we all have our limits about what we are willing or able to spend, and this was  not in our range. So I accepted that Chad would have to do without us.


Then, more than two years ago now, we met with Safaritalk veteran @Sangeeta in Vienna for a very lovely dinner with her friends and other Safaritalkers. A fun night! And then she explained to us that she was trying to create an alternative option for Chad with her company Chalo Africa , using Camp Tinga as the base and getting Doug MacDonald as a guide there. Would we be interested? What a question!


And Sangeeta was not joking around, after some months we had an itinerary, we had Doug on board, and soon also a full Safaritalk ensemble for this group.


And after many long, long painful months of waiting it was March 1st 2018, and we were finally on our way, looking forward to a week in "wildest Africa". Visa stuff was much simpler for us than it had been for others - we sent our passports to the embassy in Berlin and had them returned one week later with our stamps, straightforward enough. EUR 100,--, and quite weirdly one has to put the money in the envelope, which we were not too comfortable about, but it went fine.


The flight started with a shock: Arriving at Munich airport I got a friendly email saying "Dear Sir, your flight to Frankfurt has been cancelled, you won´t be able to make your connecting flight to Ethiopia. Thank you for your understanding and have a nice day."


Shock! If we could not get to Addis the next day we would miss the only flight to Chad that day, and then the next day the charter flight to the park would be gone - without us! Panic, pure panic, mixed with anger ("Understanding? NICE DAY?" *§$&"§()/&§%/()=)"§4/= censored)  and despair! But it was a good thing we were at the airport very early - the service attendant managed to get us rebooked to an earlier flight to Frankfurt, and it all worked out in the end. Best service attendant ever! We had been lucky though, the flight to Frankfurt was full to the last place and if we had gotten to Munich a bit later I´m quite sure that would have been it. Phew!


In Addis we met @SafariChick and @gatoratlarge, and a little later on the plane @pault and his wife Nam Wan. Our little group was almost complete. Security and immigration in Chad was actually far less complicated than I had expected, we were out of the airport in not much more than half an hour. Doug was welcoming us, and we stepped out into African air again - and it was hot indeed!


We decided to just relax a bit in the hotel for the rest of this day. There were no horse races on for Friday, and most of us were pretty tired anyway. And the Hilton Hotel was a really nice place to enjoy a lazy afternoon.






Obviously I was not able to just sit still or lie around. I was in Africa, and there were birds to be seen!




Red-Cheeked Cordon Bleu




Bronze Mannikin




The Chari river just next to the hotel. I felt a bit trapped, the hotel is protected by a high metal fence with guards at each corner. All of them were quite suspicious about me and why I was running around with the camera poking the lens through down to the river. :)




Grey Heron




Western Marsh Harrier. As you can see the air was thick with Sahara dust.


The hotel grounds were crawling with little critters. I will just call them the "Sahelian Orange-Headed Agama".








Grey-Backed Camaroptera




One of this trip´s mystery Weavers - all of them out of breeding plumage and I still am not quite sure about their IDs. Probably Black-Headed.




Laughing Dove


We shared our first group dinner, and since we were not yet familiar with each other still very polite all, but the jests and banter would soon start.:) Nam Wan shamed us all by having brought the nicest gifts - the lovely bandanas seen in the group picture in post 1, everybody getting a personal piece with our names and "Zakouma 2018" sticked in.


One more night - and then we´d finally go to the park!

Edited by michael-ibk
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I've been waiting for this for so long! And then here we go! 

Very much looking forward to this too n can't wait to experience Zakouma through everyone's eyes. 

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Delayed or cancelled flights leading to missed charter flights for safaris — one of my greatest nightmares. I’m glad to hear you scraped by. Looking forward to all the details. 

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Only 15 posts in, everything is still very polite.  I'll be closely monitoring how that mannerly tone shifts over the course of the trip and the real fun starts.  Turns out you did have a good day after all.  And good birds too.  The pied kingfisher is indeed one of your old friends.  Your intro provides some intriguing clues of the excitement to come!

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I've been tasked by the group to keep this going and we're to go chronologically day-by-day---already I'm intimidated by the witty prose and the excellent pics.  I would just encourage the group to add on pics and remembrances as at my age, the details get fuzzy fast!  Perhaps since the first day was largely a travel day, this assignment was by design! :D


The N'Djamena airport was smallish and quaint.  Security consisted of multiple "traffic stops" and a half dozen checks to see if you still had the same passport as the last time they looked---your bags get scanned on the way in the building and then again before you reach the passenger lounge.  It may be the redundant department of redundancy but I suppose it does add a layer of security in case someone might be in cahoots at the entrance x-ray. :D  The head of Zakouma NP for African Parks rode along with us which was great so we could pepper him with questions along the way.  Our charter was some sort of missionary flying service and I was impressed with how carefully they checked and weighed the luggage and the passengers---somehow I may have added a pound or ten since I filled out that form, so honesty is the best policy.  After a brief prayer, we were off!


The capital city of Chad was neatly laid out below as there are few trees, everything was visible.  The big wide Chari River joined in N'Djamena by the Logone River winds its way northward to Lake Chad...another river that flows north like the Nile except it doesn't cross the Sahara and reach the ocean...it terminates into Lake Chad, I suppose in the way the Okavango disappears into the Kalahari...


Dust from the Suhel blotted out much visibility below but about midway through the flight I saw some granite monoliths in the arid land below...we landed and it was definitely a dry heat like when you open the oven door to look inside.  I would say it was tolerable though for most of our stay and the evenings did cool down enough for comfortable sleep even as we fly camped later in the week.  I was told the temps were hotter in Zakouma than in N'Djamena and I noticed temps in the capital were to peak at 109 degrees F mid-week but I never got a clear answer on the temp in Zakouma during our stay and there's that Farenheit/Celsius conversion to contend with...suffice to say it was warm but not intolerable :)




30624699_10156745647943488_406931348506819604_n.jpg.59a76cd1f9bbe7182c93072428923f98.jpgHere we are looking like we've arrived on another planet :D


We had a game drive on the way to Tinga Camp.  Doug MacDonald, our illustrious guide, had met up with us in N'Djamena but had already been at Zakouma for a stint earlier this season.  He pointed out the abundance of endemics along the way, even the species that experts or taxonomists hadn't agreed were sub-species seemed just a little different here be it bird or mammal.  The pictures I had seen of Zakouma do not lie...the abundance is real and it is spectacular to see.  A waterhole covered in knob billed ducks and black headed herons and crawling with busy orange-legged stilts.  Baboons in large troops coming to drink...a couple of Defassa waterbuck, a lone Lelwel's hartebeest, the always skittish Patas monkeys take off running stealing the occasional look when they can, the hybrid Central African buffalo that seem ragged eared and reddish, others black like their East and Southern African relations...the bush is quintessential Africa...Suhel acacia with reddish bark and yellow green thorns, tamarind and ebony.  The trees slightly stunted (perhaps due to the soil?)...




I loved the Kordofan Giraffe with their beautiful long tails!



Some pics of Tinga Camp which I found to be surprisingly comfortable (the fans in the rooms were a Godsend in the heat of the day) and I thought the food delicious.  A government owned lodge doesn't typically inspire confidence but they were eager to please and the service I give high marks.



Our first afternoon/evening drive we were out to intercept some of the incredible murmurations (is that a word?) of quelia that flock around the pans.  Surprisingly this eluded us on this trip---not that we didn't see quelia by the thousands!  There's almost no watercourse that we didn't see them like an endless flying snake winding their way along the Salamat or other oxbow lagoons, some stopping and filling a tree, then to the water's edge to drink and in a panic back to the tree, nary a collision!  But the cloud of quelia that you've seen in the videos of Zakouma (perhaps a million strong?) somehow we missed---but it wasn't for a lack of trying!  Our afternoon drive took us to the impressive Regueik pan where the Suhel dust turned the setting sun into a white circle.  A thousand(?) tiang, mixed with waterbuck, hartebeests, kob and reedbuck...and one of the great symbols of the park: the black crowned crane.  A hundred or two gathering in the foreground prior to roosting for the night in the bush according to Doug.  They have the coolest silhouette against that pale yellow-white sky!





After sundowners overlooking a lagoon and underneath the flight pattern of the crowned cranes, it was time to turn on the spot light and look for the nocturnal animals we've heard so much about.  Night drives are particularly special at Zakouma and I found them one of my favorite activities of the safari.  My night time photography is even more dubious than the daytime but in summary we saw a couple of amorous African crested porcupines, an African wild cat, and African civet, several large spotted genets and a Senegal bushbaby...we had to creep along the road so as not to run over many long tailed night jars which would be an unforgivable offense to @michael-ibk:D


such as it is my night shot of the porcupine:




Doug explains the theory about a couple of porcupines :)







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How cool you took a video of the Porcupines! I already had forgotten about Doug's dubious story about their mating needs.:D

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Game Warden

One of the most gratifying consequences of Safaritalk, for me, personally, is that it has connected like minded folks from around the world who share a passion for Africa, Safaris, wildlife conservation and in this topic, we see another example of Safaritalkers getting together and sharing experiences. Thank you to all who make ST what it is.



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Great to see some familiar sceneries again!


Regarding the topic of visa - after having chit-chatted a while on the phone with the right lady at the Chad embassy in Berlin, I asked if there was a way to transfer the fee to them. To my surprise she gave me a bank account number which I then used. I got the feeling noone had ever asked for it, and I was glad it worked out fine.

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57 minutes ago, Game Warden said:

One of the most gratifying consequences of Safaritalk, for me, personally, is that is has connected like minded folks from around the world who share a passion for Africa, Safaris, wildlife conservation and in this topic, we see another example of Safaritalkers getting together and sharing experiences. Thank you to all who make ST what it is.



Indeed it has!  Thank you for making this community a reality.  It was such a treat meeting and sharing this experience with these formerly online friends, now "in person" friends...they are special people!

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I'm going to take things back a bit to around November last year. I found there was a Chad Consulate in Bangkok, which made the visa application process really easy, especially it was near our house - based at a Porsche dealership! I was a bit concerned when I received a response to my original enquiry from the email address nof_idea@yahoo.com (not exactly that as I don't want to post their email address here, but there it was NO F.......... IDEA). Not very reassuring, but everything went smoothly and the visas worked and got us into the country.


We also had a smooth flight there - bags checked through and after an overnight flight from Bangkok, just a nice 2-3 hour layover before the flight to Chad. I looked for the others during that time, but couldn't find them, which was surprising given the size of the airport. I did spot them getting on board though and then found them in their seats - they'd already ganged up and Jane seemed to have dragged in Rian Labuschangne (Zakouma park director) too. Where she'd got him from I had no idea, but all good! :)


In fact getting there and even being there was so easy at first that I wondered what all the fuss was about. My original trip report title was "Zakouma - too cold to sleep" after I woke up cold the second night and had to pull the duvet over me. That turned out to be a false impression though - things definitely warmed up considerably over the following days, and that wind blowing that Sahel (the area south of the Sahara) dust around was hot and gritty. Much more "as advertised". 


However, even on the first day we had plenty of dust, and consequently almost no sun. As Joel intimated (although he made it sound quite romantic) basically sunset was a brief period when you could look directly at the sun, but it wasn't quite low enough to be interesting and orange yet, followed by an hour or more of gradually diminishing twilight with the sun completely invisible in the dust filled sky. Unfortunately that flat uninteresting, sunless, twilight coincided with our first (and probably best) visit to Regueik pan. The tiangs and waterbucks and crowned cranes were out in their hundreds and all pretty active. Cranes were flying over us, while tiangs ran around in front of us - starting a near stampede at one point. We were soon out of the vehicle.... on foot and surrounded by wildlife - what a good start!  Michael and I (and maybe others - I only had eyes for tiang and cranes but I could smell Michael behind me) hit the ground for some photos and I am convinced that despite the light I took some fabulous shots.


Unfortunately I will never know for sure as I downloaded those photos to a drive that (before I had a chance to back up) crashed and burned... totally - recovery is apparently not possible unless I want to pay $10,000 - 20,000  - and even then it is unlikely I'll get much. Of course Michael has shots but he claims they aren't very good because the light was so poor. I'm not sure if that is testament to his incompetence or to his good nature - helping ease my disappointment. Probably the former, although he'll deny it.   


Anyway, so I only have photos from one of my cameras for the first day. and then mostly nothing for the next two days. And the only reason I have what I do have  is because I accidentally formatted a card (this is not going to stop here by the way - this trip was just a catalogue of disasters - right through Ethiopia as well, but it didn't really spoil my enjoyment of it as much as it could) which is not a big deal as I have software for that and as long as I don;t use the card again first I am almost guaranteed to recover all the photos on there. I guess I will just have to go back. 


Here are a few photos from the first afternoon and evening - and maybe the second evening too. They actually clash with Joel's a bit, but since it is all I have until the third day, forgive me! :D



Ostriches guarding their chicks - the three males started fluffing out their feathers and Doug said they might get aggressive and even attack us - he'd seen it before. I thought it was a bit wussy considering we were in a Landcruiser, but since ti was the first day an ostrich-related pecking injury could be disaster for someone.


Anyway, I did think it was good to stop stressing them out. 




The scary stuff......





Sucky light......... (Yes, okay Michael, you are vindicated - enjoy your moment.)





Believe it or not, the sun is behind these birds.




This fly past took minutes to complete - just hundreds of cranes.... a wonderful sight.






The first night drive (The others will have to do the second one as I have no shots left.... sob)


We saw at least a couple of genets on every drive.



This thicknee wouldn't get out of the road.



And neither would this nightjar






And the porcupines - already more than covered by Joel, but in case you can't play the video at work..........





And a civet



A pretty good haul for the first night, and everyone was really happy with the first evening we'd had. We would have been even happier if we had not realised that by the time we got back we just had time to eat dinner before we had to go to get a shower and then direct  to bed, as we had to be up at 4.30 am next morning for a 5.30 start. "No slacking on my watch" Doug told us with a touch of glee. "We'll get you soft, round city folks in shape by the end of the week or we'll die trying."  


Or at least if he had said that, he would have been rather prescient, as we were actually going to face our own mortality soon enough... but let's not jump ahead just yet. ;)


And it wouldn't be this fella, although he surely wanted to.





And I will stop baiting Michael now... or I will try.  He can have one more strike back, but this could get messy if we don't rein it in. 


And we  probably need a few photos from Michael  to round this off -  better I play nice for now. Sweet Michael... do you have any shots from this evening that meet your exceedingly high standards ? Pretty please..... :D

Edited by pault
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I love you too Paul. B)

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