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Tales from Tinga: A Safaritalkers Safari to Zakouma


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pault

Just to be clear - in case anyone sensible is reading this, yes I posted photos of exactly the same things from the following day because I have no photos from that day at all! Artisitic license. :P

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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 tr

Our plan for a (relatively) timely lunch did not quite work out. After all, can you really drive by a scene like this?     This, for me, was pure magic, and one of my most cherishe

On to day 2:   Phew, Doug is running a very tight ship indeed, our night was short and departure early but we were all eager to see what Zakouma would give us today.   One of the t

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Kitsafari
11 hours ago, gatoratlarge said:

I'm loving the sharp, clear photos from my cohorts---I view my role as inserting imperfection to the TR! :D

 

I'll add a few of what we've already seen and and take us on into the first full day's night drive.  If it's shaky camera work you like here's those same male ostriches jogging down the road---Shaky camerawork aside---I always love seeing ostriches running as they remind me of those things in Jurassic Park---living dinosaurs for sure! here they are just until they flair up -- you can even hear @pault 's camera shutter capturing the shot! :D

 

 

@gatoratlarge psst don't mention about @pault's camera... oops too late.

 

I'm having such fun listening to the exchanges and poor @pault 'smishaps and little misadventures with his hat and knee pads. but those quela shots were vivid Paul. 

and Jane, those pictures of the serval in the night were sharp - that FZ200 is still serving you very well. 

 

 

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pault

He was very insensitive wasn't he Kit? Thanks for reminding me. I'm taking the bullseye off Michael's back now and placing it on a significantly larger target.:P

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Kitsafari

If you can find him.  He's, after all, a Gator At Large.

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michael-ibk
On 19.4.2018 at 4:53 AM, Kitsafari said:

had the rains there been very good?

 

I´m afraid I have no idea Kit. As you should have realized by now after the LeonRian-fiasco this is not the report to expect any straight and accurate facts from. :)

 

5 hours ago, pault said:

First of all I have to comment on Michael's photo of me. Clearly the one taken by Jane is at the same time, but Michael has turned me into the Red Man, clearly about to burst a blood vessel! This was only Day 2 and "the sun" hadn't really come yet. True, I would shortly be almost that red, and so would Michael - we were having a competition to see who could get reddest without actually bleeding through our pores, which I think I just about won by day 6.

 

On the contrary, Paul, I tried to be kind and actually de-redded your grotesque ketchup imitation of a head. This is what the original photo looked like before I took mercy on you:

 

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4 hours ago, pault said:

The second visit to Rigueik (Is there a harder word to spell? Even now I am not sure I spelt it right) didn't seem quite as magical as the first, but I think that was partially because I was expecting a repeat and it was completely and utterly different.

 

I disagree there - for me the sight of 50+ giraffes was like something out of a safari fairy tale, absolutely loved that.

 

4 hours ago, pault said:

Michael posted a picture of a baboon with its penis on display above. Out of interest, here is what the grown-ups were photographing at the same time. 

 

"Grown-Up"? I will only concede you are much older than me, what, 40 years, is it? :P

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michael-ibk

Just a few added photos from our second day:

 

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This little bird prompted a heated discussion between Doug and me. He was adamant it´s a Woodchat Shrike while I was insistent it had to be a Masked Shrike. We both called all members of the team to declare their allegiance. Sadly, only Joel, my truest and bestest friend ever, firmly declared for Team Michael, even Andreas just preferred to do it the Switzerland way, and Jane, Paul and Nam Wan just gave us baffled looks and had no idea what the hell we were talking about. :)

 

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Long-Crested Eagle. As mentioned before, this raptor was unusually common here in Zakouma. I´d really like to know why exactly they are so successful here.

 

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One of the pans which had already dried out:

 

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Jane is not the only one who is fond of Waterbucks:

 

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Rollers everywhere:

 

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This Snake-Eagle was almost finished devouring a snake - the thing in its beak was much too wobbly to be a stick or something like that.

 

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Lelwel Hartebeest - unlike Tiang (mainly wet areas) or Kob (mainly dry parts of the park) they were around in pretty much every habitat.

 

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A Pallid Harrier, one of the many palearctic migrants still around in early March.

 

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This was a very iconic scene for me, really showed the abundance of the wetland areas like Rigueik.

 

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Giraffe bouquet:

 

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The Buffalo herd Paul already mentioned - they were not very comfortable with us being close.

 

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Only a small fraction of all the Giraffes we saw here:

 

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Our sundowner spot. Well, the downing sun was missing, otherwise it was a very nice place for a beer or/and G&T:

 

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One of our night drive Genets - Large-Spotted which seemed to be the regular one:

 

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I´m not completely sure but it seems to me that this one (seen the evening before) is a different one, the Common Genet?

 

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One of many White-Tailed Mongoose:

 

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And two more pics of our wonderful Serval sighting to cap this off. Of course we were all happy about this, but Joel was just beaming with joy since it was his very first one, and that was really nice to see.

 

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pault

Yes the day I have no photos from was the most magical @michael-ibk Of course it was. The cruelty of you guys is just unlimited isn’t it? Merciless! 

 

 

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Galago

@michael-ibk It's a Masked Shrike! The broad white above the black eyestripe is key. Woodchat (which I saw there and have seen many times) has a much darker head and lacks all that white. And a good tick too as Borrow & Demey say Masked is a rare winter visitor.

 

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michael-ibk

Are you afraid Joel? :)

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gatoratlarge
1 hour ago, michael-ibk said:

Are you afraid Joel? :)

Kinda -- plus I've been enjoying watch you two battle it out---no sense in muddying the waters! :D

 

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offshorebirder

I am just catching up on this excellent group T.R.   Thanks for the team effort everyone.

 

@pault - I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your photos.   What a crushing blow.   And we are poorer for missing them.

 

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Soukous

A terrific collaborative effort. Most entertaining. 

I'm just glad @michael-ibk hasn't had a chance to take a photo of me as I'm sure I'd make @pault look positively pasty.

 

When you're young, everyone tells you rosy cheeks are a sign you're healthy, when you get older everyone assumes it's due to the booze. (which it is not).

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SafariChick

Well, you can all see by now what torture this trip was - traveling with these crazed companions who were in feuds constantly - @michael-ibk and Doug, Michael and @pault - come to think of it, the common thread here was Michael ... hmmmmm ^_^ All I know is that Nam Wan and I were perfect travelers and caused no problems whatsover, I can tell you that much!  :P (and I know that assertion will get shot down very soon!)

 

Day three was a different one from any other on the trip. It started out with a morning drive that had us driving back and forth on the same bumpy track - Michael says we were following lion tracks, I don't remember what we were following but apparently a leopard ran across the road that I didn't see? The only thing I remember seeing was a wild cucumber, but my photos show we did see a few other things:

 

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I loved these trees - maybe my travel buddies can recall, are they are called the Sahel Acacia? but that are not really acacia?

 

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And the highlight of the morning, the afore-mentioned fascinating sighting of a wild cucumber that caused most of us to miss seeing a leopard!

 

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Next up: Safari-talkers to to market!

 

 

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TonyQ

Your joint report is working really well,entertainingl and engaging writing and great photos and video.

An overall impression of abundance o wildlife, and of fun!

 

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SafariChick

Later in the morning, we set off to visit a nomadic peoples market. Unfortunately, @michael-ibk did not accompany us as he was having trouble with his back, but he will describe later his time back in camp. We were driven by Bonvenue, rather than our usual driver Sulemon. Bonvenue was the manager of Camp Tinga and he was driving us as this was a newer market and Sulemon was not familiar with its location.  We were told it was about 40 minutes from Camp but it took us a bit longer, possibly because we kept stopping to talk to and take photos of all the interesting people and sights along the way!

 

Here is a group of boys who were traveling with their teacher and studying - I think they said for about 3 months? They were carrying few supplies with them (though Doug did think that there was a laptop in one of those bags on the donkey!) and they planned to ask for food along the way, as they were on a sort of religious pilgramage.

 

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Also seen along the way:

 

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Note the boy in the yellow shirt in this one holding up a phone case and pretending to take a photo of us as we took a photo of him :)

 

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We arrived at the market and Nam Wan and I put on head scarves, as a sign of respect as all the women there would have their heads covered.  We were noticed as soon as we arrived - we were definitely the only white folks there and we stood out. We were met with friendliness and curiosity.  Bonvenue translated for us as much as possible, especially when talking to vendors but he couldn't be everywhere at once, and some of the children and even adults smiled and said things to us and I wish I could have understood what they were saying and spoken back to them. Here are some photos from the market, all taken with iphones - Doug and Bonvenue advised that not everyone may want their photo taken so to be discreet and mindful of that.  The light was not the best but I think the vibrancy of the people and the market comes through.

 

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Some incongruous items being sold at the market - didn't expect to see these modern wares mixed in with the old - I am live in Silicon Valley in the town next to Google's so it was pretty amusing:

 

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Doug bought us a large bag of these delicious peanuts and we snacked on them the rest of the week!

 

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We wandered around looking at all the wares. Doug wanted to show us the knife section as he'd bought a knife when he was there previously.  I decided to buy a knife to take back home as a souvenir. Here's a photo of me examining them and many other people at the market examining ME as I did so (thanks to @gatoratlarge for this one):

 

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Here is the knife, sheath and a set of tweezers that Doug insisted I needed to add as all the real nomads have them with their knife - they are useful for pulling thorns out of their camels' feet, you see.

 

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Later in the week, I was forced to try using them on a thorn in my own foot, but alas I was not able to make them work. Luckily I was able to live with the small thorn and get it out once I was home.

 

There was also an animal side of the market and a section where meat was being cooked and sold. Being a vegetarian, I tried to avoid these parts. I must say, like a prior recent report, i was not sure I wanted to give up 'animal time' to go to a market but it was a really interesting experience! Though it was very hot - late morning into midday was a tough time to be outside in the sun!

 

Next up: an unplanned but delightful stop on our way back to camp!

 

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2 minutes ago, Hads said:

@michael-ibk, @SafariChick & @pault thanks for an entertaining TR, great pics with excellent commentary.

 

+1

 

Thanks for a riveting report of an extraordinary place. Made even more memorable by all of you meeting on this site. @Gamewarden is justifiably proud. 

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SafariChick

We headed back to camp, hot and tired and looking forward to lunch.  Entry to the park:

 

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As we drove back to Tinga, we had to pass by the manager's house and Doug told us that some of the big bull elephants were there having a drink, would we like to stop and see them? We felt bad that @michael-ibk was not with us but didn't want to miss the opportunity so we said yes!  One of the eles came up to be given water from the hose, and Doug obliged:

 

 

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Then we all took turns - this elephant was drinking for what must have been at least ten minutes straight between all of us!  When it was my turn, @gatoratlarge kindly took this video of me giving the ele water and @pault also took this photo of me.

 

 

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It was a moment of great awe for me - standing on that platform right up next to the ele and seeing how much bigger than me he still was, and looking him in the eye while he made rumbling noises and slurped up the water was pretty amazing!  

 

Paul's turn:

 

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and @AndMic 's turn: 

 

 

There were a few other bull eles there but none was brave enough to come over and take water directly from us - but they still were having a great time.

 

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Finally we returned to camp, I think it was close to 2 p.m. by then, for a very late lunch, hot and hungry but satisfied! 

 

 

 

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Kitsafari

awesome interaction with the elephants. sorry that @michael-ibk missed it because of his back. 

and wonderful atmosphere at the market! that "knife" looks more like a weapon than a kitchen knife!

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SafariChick

Every day after lunch, we would have the typical safari siesta for a couple of hours. This day, since we'd gotten back so late for lunch, I think we only had about an hour and 15 minutes break after lunch! It was always the hardest walking back to our rooms after lunch as it was the hottest part of the day, but I would take a shower usually and sit under the fan a bit and be refreshed and ready for the next game drive!

 

I don't recall anything super exciting from this afternoon, just a variety of different animals here and there and I don't have a whole ton of great photos from this afternoon. We did start off with a large gathering of crocs basking in the sun:

 

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a few other things we saw:

 

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That evening we were lucky to get to go fly camping. The tents were set up already for us and when we arrived at the magical spot by the river we were excited to get to have this new adventure.  We had before-dinner drinks in chairs sitting right next to the river, and then dinner was brought to us there. Contrary to what I expected, it was so comfortable sleeping in the tent, both temperature-wise and even the camping beds. It was really perfect and I slept wonderfully well.  I know @pault has some photos he can add to this section, but I just have a few of the fly camp set up I will share:

 

Simple tents - perfect comfort:

 

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One of the loos at the fly camp:

 

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and bucket shower:

 

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and with that, I shall hand over the report to the next of my comrades which I believe will be the inimitable @pault - take it away, Paul!

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SafariChick
5 minutes ago, Kitsafari said:

awesome interaction with the elephants. sorry that @michael-ibk missed it because of his back. 

and wonderful atmosphere at the market! that "knife" looks more like a weapon than a kitchen knife!

 

Oh it is! Apparently they wear them on their sleeves when they are out in the desert - there is an arm contraption that they use to hold it on the arm so they can pull it out quickly - I think @pault and Nam Wan got one for their knife, perhaps he will share a photo :-) Doug had gotten a different one that was broader to use as a cake server and that might have been more practical but I liked the sheath and that one didn't come with one.

 

I was a bit worried about whether the U.S. would give me a hard time getting it back in to the country, but I was checking my bag all the way through from Chad (or so I hoped) or at least from Ethiopia. The funny thing is when I went through the metal detector with my bag at N'djamena, before checking my luggage on the way home, security saw the knife on the x-ray and were concerned about it. They asked me what was I going to do with it, was I taking it out of Chad? I said uh ... yes? And they said, oh ok. LOL. I don't know what else they thought, maybe that I was going to pull it out of the luggage and start a fight in the airport? It was rather amusing!

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Dawnvip

Thank you for the excellent trip report! Great idea sharing the narrative.

And what an amazing interaction with the elephant! Once in a lifetime experience.

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pault

Good stuff Jane. Very matter of fact, and its interesting that you have so many blanks in the memory. You should see a doctor about that. Fascinating how memory works in these circumstances and how we each select different things to hang our memories on and fill in blanks in different ways. For example Jane mentions Doug a number of times during the village visit, but apart from when he bought the groundnuts, I barely remember him saying a word. I remember Bienvenue much more clearly and Doug seemed to be taking much more of a back seat, as this was alien territory for him too. Obviously he did say things and Jain paid attention to them while I clearly didn't... so we have different recollections even of the time we were together and that's going to be fun - it was certainly fun to read Jane's as she mentioned things completely lost to my memory - or perhaps I didn't even notice them.

 

So here's my side of the story, mixed with Nam Wan's because of course we have discussed this trip a lot and so now some of her memories are part of my own (in some cases incorporated at virtual gunpoint) - as Jane's will be when I give myself time to re-read her part, which is something I am deliberately not doing now. 

 

Let's start with what was a 2/10 game drive - really Doug Macdonald in Zakouma and a 2/10! It wasn't Doug's fault, or Zakouma's... that's just how it goes sometimes but I don;t see the point of sugar coating it, and it's ironic that it was this snoozefest that took Michael out of the game.

 

The morning a was a bit chaotic. We had an extra few minutes in bed but we were still going to do a game drive before we headed out to the market. Doug was getting antsy about not finding the lions yet, especially since we had seen the lioness and cub on the night drive, so they were clearly around. There were only a couple of other guests at Camp Tinga and they seemed to be there for the relaxation as much as anything, although I assume at some point they were doing drives. With the Camp Nomade folks in their flycamp (the reason we were able to make a couple of visits to "their" pan without disturbing them and another reason we had been so disappointed by the light there, as once they took up residence again, it would be off-limits.) there was very little information on the bush telegraph about animal sightings. However, what there was suggested that the lions were around but hiding out (well the lions wouldn't have put it that way - they were just away from the roads and river-beds and waterholes that were accessible to us in a vehicle). 

 

Anyway, lions were on our menu for the morning and, as is often the case when you focus strongly on a particular thing and don't find it, the drive was pretty poor and I can almost guarantee everyone else has pretty much the same meager haul of photos as Jane. We found some tracks but it didn't really add up to much at all - the only vaguely interesting thing was the variegated buffaloes, of which we found an excellent example (see Jane's pic above and my "fakes" from the previous day's description. But Doug had been through that the evening before, so even though he added a bit more colour it wasn't exactly riveting - like watching one of the more middling Planet Earth episodes for the seventh time. Of course following the lion tracks involved going off road quite a lot and this meant we had to go slowly and often hit dead ends, where further progress would have required machetes. It also meant most of the wildlife had ample warning of our arrival and scarpered before we got a look. the sightings we did have were vastly inferior to what we'd had before. There was some fascination and a tiny bit of excitement in the tracking, sure, but I don;t think we ever even got close to finding them - the more promising trails quickly went stone cold and none of the hail mary passes worked. Guineafowl were probably a highlight but I honestly don't remember. I think we ended up just hanging around some pools in a river bed shooting quela and ducks, which was quite cool but we'd lost the best light of the day by then.

 

Upon arriving back at Tinga to get whatever we wanted to take to the village (headscarves for the women of course) Michael had that sick dog look I know only too well. His back was hanging together by a tiny thread and he was out of action for some indeterminate period of time (fortunately only a few hours, which was a relief as I really didn't have the heart to put him down, even though the option of carrying dead weight was a non-starter... I suppose we could have used him as bait for the lions - given him a fighting chance - but fortunately it didn't come to that). 

 

Deprived of Michael's company we set out. And I want to note there that despite all my nasty comments we really were poorer for not having him. It would have been a finer adventure if he had been there - he really is a fun guy to travel with, as long as you don't have to sit too close for too long and can just shut your ears to pointless excitement about barely visible birds that usually turn out to be something we've all seen before - and who really cares if they are 3km outside the range identified by Sinclair? 

 

As it happens. Michael's excitement about birds would have been a welcome distraction. We took a game drive via an unexplored route to get to the park gate, and if we thought things couldn't get worse we were mistaken. The only differences from the early morning were that there were now even fewer animals around and that it was getting uncomfortably hot. Bumping along most bumpily (thinking thank goodness Michael didn't try to come) seeing only rather ugly little trees and the occasional flash of a warthog bum, I thought this must have been what Zakouma was like in the dark times before Africa Parks, and what it could easily become again if this region destabilises. It wasn't a thought that made me feel better. However, the safari gods test us like this for a reason. We kept going and kept trying and made the best of it we could and we were about to get rewarded with the very rare sighting of a leopard in daytime, just a few meters in front of the vehicle. Without all the boring kilometers that came before we would not have had this opportunity. It's one of the rules of the game. We all know this - or we should.

 

A lesser know rule, but one that Jane still seems to have missed (or maybe she is just being polite)  is that when pault shouts "Oh wow look a the cucumber!" you don't turn around and peer intently while Paul explains it's the orange thing. And Doug! Keep your eyes on the road, man. Despite years of experience, he too made the fatal mistake of turning around and confirming my identification, causing everyone else to turn too, just as a leopard ran out in front of the vehicle. Bienvenue shouted "leopard" and we all turned (although I believe not everyone turned in the same direction) and strained and looked at each other and were excited, but to no good purpose. It had crossed the road in front of us and nobody except Bienvenue had been facing the front (thank goodness he hadn't turned to add some interesting tidbit about the orange cucumbers or we might have been spending the rest of the morning in Leon's office explaining how we managed to run over the first leopard sighted that month.

 

We drove off road for a look but of course if a leopard doesn't want to be found, it generally won't be. The window of opportunity had opened, laughed at us and slammed firmly shut in our silly, surprised-looking, bright red faces. 

 

 

Edited by pault
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pault

of course I insisted that we return to take some pictures of the cucumber. Someone even asked whether animals would eat it. Given the big holes in some of them I can only put that question down to shock. I was in shock, but that soon changed to the happy realisation that in fact this was a pretty good story.... wonderful though it would have been to show Michael a few leopard pics over drinks that evening, in a way it was better we didn't even see it. Well, in a way. :wacko:

 

The glorious orange  cucumber... well actually "cucumber-ish". Also available in yellow.

 

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