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Tales from Tinga: A Safaritalkers Safari to Zakouma


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pault

 

@Atravelynn Rest assured I received only hearts from you! The hearts withdrawn were not reported. 

 

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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

The hearts work! 

 

was that the final final instalment @pault? it didn't sound like a wrap-up and perhaps there's still a morning where you can say how you had thoroughly enjoyed the trip, but that you got distracted by Michael always having his eye on the birds, Andreas quiet and smiling knowingly throughout the trip, Jane always looking for something she had in her pocket, Joel dreaming of his next epic adventure and Nam Wan on the lookout for elephants?

 

sorry you didn't get the badger and the cape fox, but i still love your shots of the serval. 

 

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pault

No @Kitsafari it is not quite over yet, although I am going to say very little as it's testing patience to keep a report that is essentially complete alive without good reason. 

 

Last morning and of course the decision to have a drive before leaving, taking the bags with us. Not really a lot of debate about that choice with this group - not even sure if Doug really put it as a question. :rolleyes:

 

It was a beautiful morning, which of course made leaving worse, but after a quiet start we didn't have much time to get all teary-eyed and nostalgic because it was a very decent drive, as the others have already shown. the birds seems pretty relaxed this morning and when we stopped at the pools we seemed to be able to get a little closer than usual. 

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The spotted redshanks were not too close but they were very busy and a bit closer than usual, so it was really nice watching them, in tight formation.

 

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Well usually in tight formation........ 

 

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At our first stop the only mammals I remember were baboons

 

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But it was still a lovely scene and the volumes made up to some extent for the lack of diversity.

 

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Doug really was not that guilty on the lions - they were in a dip maybe 80 meters from the road (Micahel and I knew exactly where they were because we's walked down there a few days previously and surprised a poor bustard who was trying to have a drink) and the truck that alerted us to where they were had a considerable height advantage. I suppose he could have seen the tracks but there were a lot of tracks in that area and we were not really looking that hard - seemed a very long shot with so little time left and he only got out as pictured by Michael when he saw tracks - to have a look and see if he could work out where they might have gone - answer was negative on that.

 

Okay, he screwed up big time! :P But we were very lucky and very happy that we got to see a couple of the lions again before we left, especially as they decided to move and not just lie still. They wandered off but we couldn't follow directly and it was getting too late to try to track them down, especially when chances were they were just going to lie under a bush for the next few hours.

 

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Our last stop was  a lovely way to say goodbye to Zakouma after the lions. No mammals right then, but a good assortment of birds and again the numbers were not disappointing. You might be able to get a better look by clicking on this as I've linked to a bigger file than usual, but I am not sure if that functionality will still work. Mashtour, Michael said, and I believe him although I wasn't paying much attention to words, only the sights, sounds and smells of Zakouma.

 

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For once I wasn't looking at something else when a bird caught a fish.

 

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Growing up is a drag with those stray feathers.... no, not a fish.

 

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They let us move relatively close and none of us pushed it enough to scare them off.

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And then it was time to go to the airstrip and it was all over.... 

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Yeah, I survived a week of you!

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Time for a last snap - yes Michael and Nam Wan stripped naked to change at the airstrip!*

 

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You can see the arriving group in the background - we might even hear from them in due course - I hope so.

 

*In the bathroom of course.

 

The flight was uneventful, other than the minor concern that Michael might touch something he shouldn't in the cockpit seat he was occupying. I didn't notice we flew over Tinga - or don't remember, but Michael had the advantage of commentary from the pilot. Me I was just sitting at the back wishing I had more time there and taking pictures to keep my mind off the sadness of leaving.

 

Bye to Zakouma

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Of course it was a bit odd for me to come to a country and not actually see anything of it, other than the market visit, a night at the Hilton and the shopping trip for a hat. I'd love to see more, although from the air you could see it is a country with a lot of arid, empty space.

 

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Made livable and even fertile by its rivers. Seeing this green remember we are only 6 weeks or so away from the end of the dry season. That's pretty green down there.

 

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We'd met a group doing an overland trip one day. I was a bit jealous of how much they had had time to see on the way, but they were no doubt more jealous of us in our Landcruiser while they and their luggage were pretty crammed into their cars - not terrible but definitely a tighter fit than I'd like. I assume they were on a tight schedule as they were gone when we got back from flycamping - or at least soon after. We also met a couple of brothers who lived in different parts of the world and had apparently decided to meet up and travel to Zakouma. I thought their story was very fishy - I mean who does that? And they were only there about 4 days. It's not the Mara is it? I was even more sceptical because they were big, young guys and their boots looked a bit like "Desert Storm' issue to me, but it turned out one of them was originally Thai and spoke Thai very fluently to confirm it - smallest world ever. He also spoke Thai very camply and seemed genuinely to think nothing of the fact that brother had called him up and said "let's go to Zakouma National Park in Chad for a few days." The way he discussed it with my wife and lots of other things too (like once they relaxed chatting with my wife  -she is very disarming - they were touchy in away that said they really were brothers - or an actual couple. Either this guy is the best spy ever or first impressions were very wrong. I still don't know what to make of it so I'll just take their word for it. They really came from the US/ UK where they live all the way to Zakouma National Park for 3-4 days, with a day in N'Djamena on either side. Anyway, nice guys. :D

 

N'Djamena wasn't the most interesting looking city in Africa. This is the posh part along the river, where the Hilton and a number of government buildings are. Most of the rest of it reminded me of a small East African town, but supersized. 

 

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Oops, there are quite a number of dust bunnies on that photo!

 

There really were a lot of checks on the way out - cannot emphasise enough hat you should be ready for them so that you can get shoes on and off, clear your pockets and not get things confiscated (my lighter that I realised I had forgotten to put in my hold baggage made it all the way to the steps of the plane thanks to my smuggling skills but I was "caught" there and 'fessed up without a struggle. I think that last check may have been because the Prime Minister was on the flight.) People are reasonably polite though and the biggest trouble you'll have is from people in front of you who are not ready and want to discuss it all with the officials - to be fair the number of checks must be very trying for the elderly.

 

On board we found ourselves sitting right behind the Prime Minister and one of the ministers, and also flanked by who was I assume something like a cabinet secretary or advisor ( clearly very educated and dignified but not chatty with the Prime Minister unless spoken too) and the PM's aide de camp, who appeared to be a general himself (otherwise I would have pegged him as bodyguard) and sat silently focusing on the PM's need and handing him documents and his laptop when needed. He was quite an intimidating guy I thought - all business. That didn't deter Nam Wan from asking him if he could get the PM's signature for her! He was not best pleased about that I could see, but he remained polite, even if his refusal did not involve any words (in fact of course he may not have understood what she wanted if he didn't speak English. I don;t know what Nam Wan was thinking - things had been normal for most of the flight, and I can only think she got bored and wanted to spice up her day. Her official explanation is "Why not? The aide de camp was very handsome too." I'm still at a loss as to what to say to that.

 

So.. done! A week in Ethiopia to come. 

 

Zakouma was a really good experience, the group was fun and easy and Doug is a very good guide indeed, as well as being an extremely nice man. I could easily have stayed there another week. It couldn't have been too much for me, or for Nam Wan, who loved it. The weather was not exactly pleasant but it was no worse than I've had elsewhere in places like CKGR in summer and Samburu (a bit more relentless perhaps but only a bit). Getting there was pretty straightforward as the only tricky bits were handled by an African Parks representative. In fact it was all easier than expected and it would be quite possible to do it independently, although I wouldn't because (1) it could get to be a hassle and it's nice to have African Parks taking care of things (2) more importantly, Tinga does not have many vehicles and I am not sure how the experience would be sharing with strangers whose interest may be a bit different - probably okay but this was safer (3) if you're there sort of officially, even if not as preferred by African Parks at Camp Nomade, people are really helpful - really important stuff like the elephants and the fly camping and the bull elephant watering would be much more difficult if you were not in that situation, especially if you were sharing a vehicle with different people every day (4) Doug or equivalent - there are so many things Doug did to make our trip a success and so many things he knew having been before, that it just would not have been the same without him. The camp guides are actually fine, but most people are not fluent in English and ... well I don't know really because we always had Doug - just going on chatting with those two brothers...w ho even more bizarrely were not safari regulars - maybe second time for big brother and first for the younger. It's not always easy to find much in a couple of hours. 

 

Actually it'd be great however you did it, I am sure. You always feel you more or less have the park to yourself, although you'll pass staff on the roads from time to time and we actually saw a Camp Nomade vehicle at one point when we were with the lions and they arrived after us. 

 

Camp Nomade's location and advantages cannot be beat, but Tinga is an alternative. Chartering a flight is expensive but driving is possible, and if there is room I think you can book a kind of single ticket (very much x,y,z dependent) as that is what those two guys did on our charter. The drive up was long and tiring enough that they did not want to drive back, but they apparently did it in a long day, just hiring a car and driver in N'Djamena (do keep in mind the very minor suspicions I have - they may have actually arrived in the night abseiling down from a Black Hawk ;)). You can actually nowadays arrange everything in and through N'Djamena quite easily, but I have no idea how reliable it is to do so.

 

Anyway, it was great. I will go back. Thanks to our pioneers here for bringing it to everyone's attention. It's adventurous but there's nothing to worry about there really. So you should go too. A "no brainer". :)  Not much of a sales pitch, but if you are not sold by now nothing I can say at this moment will make a difference.

 

 

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pault
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Last morning and of course the decision to have a drive before leaving, taking the bags with us. 

 

Actually I think the camp transported the bags for us in a separate vehicle. 

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Galago

Really enjoyed this report - memories, similar sightings, envy at some we missed! Thank you all for the time and effort you've put into it. Three months ago today was our last whole day there and I still haven't added to @johnweir 's TR. I will do it soon - promise!

On the airport security when departing, it really is a bit of a 'mare. We also had 4 x checks, including one right in front of the plane steps. I'd bought a couple of very small, delicate, silver letter openers and I had them wrapped carefully in my hand baggage. At the first check I was questioned and, when the guy saw them, he said they were fine and I could leave them in my cabin bag. After all, you couldn't have stabbed a balloon with them. And then at check number three, after the hold baggage had gone through, they were confiscated. A very kind Brit, working in international development in N'Djamena and fluent in French, arranged for them to be stored in the Air France office there and said she'd collect them on her next trip to the UK. Unfortunately that coincided with an AF strike, the office was closed and she flew via Addis. I'm hoping to get them by the end of the year! When I go back (and I really want to go back) I'll be prepared!

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pault

I decided to "evoke" you if you were reading , and not disturb you if you weren't.... thanks for popping in! And I think I choose to believe that it was a gentlemanly act, since it wasn't you and I can therefore imagine. I think you might have had an invader at Camp Nomade if Nam Wan had known your Dad was there - fortunately I didn't realise in advance he would be.

Edited by wilddog
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SafariChick

Yes, we could not see who was in the Nomade vehicle but it did not stay long, and we really never saw another vehicle the entire time we were there as far as I can recall!  @pault I like that photo of all of us (minus you, sadly) you posted and may have to steal it, giving you credit for taking it of course!  I had forgotten about those brothers, that WAS unusual! The one who said he lived in Thailand for a while now lived in NY and I think the other one lived in England and had an English accent. Strange wasn't it, they looked nothing alike really and had different accents and had lived different places - maybe half brothers at best? It did all seem a bit suspicious though they were very nice. Hmm ...

 

@Galago that's a shame about your letter openers! I am amazed I managed to get through with my knife, which really is a weapon, though as I said, they did take it out and question me about it.  The departure procedures are a bit frustrating - I just remembered when we first got off the charter plane at NDJ we were directed to go up some stairs into the airport and someone would let us in there but at first no one was there and the door was locked! Eventually though someone came to let us in. Anyway, these things were minor in the grand scheme of the trip, and it is absolutely well worth it to visit there! And now with rhino being there, how cool is that, definitely makes me want to return! 

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pault

The original invitation re photos still applies @SafariChick They are all in the same place. 

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SafariChick

@pault Already grabbed it - thanks!!

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screentraveller

P.34: i was deeply moved by the pelikan beautifully spreading its wings flying (in the sky) towards heaven.

p43: never ever will i complain about the boredom i experienced when i watched ONE giraffe standing like a monument for a a quarter of an hour, this was in Solio. The  giraffes interacting in this scene are simply fantastic.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
Atravelynn
  On 4/20/2018 at 1:56 AM, pault said:

The second visit to Rigueik (Is there a harder word to spell? Yes, Makgadikgadi 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.

 

Now I remember where I left off--wild cucumbers and naughty boys. 

 

Paul, in all seriousness I do feel so bad about your photo troubles and hope it was not too great of a disappointment.  I'm sure your travelmates would share with you (even the ones you tussled with) but I know it is not the same as your own photos.  I do recall from some of my past photo fiascos that I clearly remember some of the sights I saw but could not snap very vividly.  Somehow it has a way of focusing your mind.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Atravelynn

"There was just one logical thing to do after almost being trampled to death by a stampede of angry pachyderms, and so Doug suggested: "Let´s go try to find the Elephant herd again, shall we?"

That is SO Doug!  After that video, @gatoratlarge, I am the one who needs a gin & tonic.  It was so nice to see the peaceful herd at the end.  Those crips BIFs mean you had a functioning camera, @pault !  That was you breathing, @SafariChick!  It added to the suspense of the videoclip.  What a nice peace gesture you made @michael-ibk in stopping to pick up the lens cap.

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TonyQ

I am sorry it has taken me so long to finally respond.  Great report with excellent writing and photos throughout. It is interesting getting different perspectives and memories. A good psychological study of the reliability of human memory.

 

It sounds like a fantastic trip in a wonderful place, with excellent companions and a first class guide.

 

Thank you all for posting.

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Atravelynn

Lion time!  Great stuff watching the cubs brought to the kill.  Fine work by all of you, and you all look stunning in plaid.

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Atravelynn

The light has improved immensely by page 6.  If I count the servals correctly, @gatoratlarge, you went from 0 for 15 to 6 for 16.  @michael-ibkand @AndMic that is a lovely shot of you near the water but the previous photo looks like there could have been crocs accompanying you, yikes!

 

I love the non-boring story of conflicting approaches to waiting or not waiting, so much more interesting than the boring one.

 

@SafariChick I am hoping I see more of your lovely photos after the camera mishap.

 

@pault you have mastered the fisheye! 

 

Gorgeous lion cubs everyone!

 

The plane ride was as interesting as your time at Tinga--dramatic shrieking, autographs from the Ministers!  A fitting end to a fantastic trip.  Your varied accounts have made for a marvelous report!  Thank you for sharing your adventures and photos with us.

Edited by Atravelynn
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michael-ibk

Many thanks, @TonyQ and @Atravelynn, do join us next time! :)

 

And Lynn, they were very friendly crocs. It probably was a bit insane, never have been so close to so many Crocs like here in Zakouma. It was a bit like with the Caimans in the Pantanal, we almost started to ignore them.

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Atravelynn
5 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Many thanks, @TonyQ and @Atravelynn, do join us next time! :)

 

And Lynn, they were very friendly crocs. It probably was a bit insane, never have been so close to so many Crocs like here in Zakouma. It was a bit like with the Caimans in the Pantanal, we almost started to ignore them.

I believe the locals swim right near the caimans, but I hope you did not get that chummy with the friendly crocs! 

 

Thanks for the invitation!

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