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Zakouma – A belated report from March 2019


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 Oooh they have a hide now? Super!


still enjoying my return to Zakouma through your eyes and thoughts.

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Yes, @Kitsafari, the "hide" was a great way to get a close-up, low level elephant experience, I wouldn't have fancied trying to get those pictures by lying on the ground in front of them:unsure:.  There is a "minor design flaw" with it in that the bar you push on to lift the access trapdoor from the inside is steel & fastened directly to the steel trapdoor so was "more than a little warm" when it was time for Doug to lift the lid - I'd visions of us being in there until the sun was off it & it cooled down but Doug is made of stern stuff & we "escaped".:)



Next morning our destination this morning was to the Rigueik pan area where Camp Nomade is situated.  A lot of this area appears to be a “no-go to Tinga plebs” when there are guests in camp but as they were out fly-camping further south, we were able to move around quite freely.



Abyssinian Hornbill pair.  Although we saw Abyssinian Hornbill quite often this was the only time we saw a pair in a single frame, the male is on the left & female on the right


Then, some distance away, the male lion from one of the prides was finishing off a very leisurely breakfast


but as we bumped slowly over, he wandered off leaving the coast clear for (& I hope I’ve got these right!!)



Tawny Eagle



Yellow-billed Kite


The lion was clearly “doing the rounds” of his territory


Is this my best side?




Whilst some of the “prey animals” were keeping close tabs on him, a lot had decided that with a belly like that he wouldn’t be able to chase down anything & went back to browsing









Huge numbers of Black-crowned Crane, Black-headed Heron and Saddle-billed Stork



This lone lioness was constantly watching the male as he wandered around his patch.  She never got up so we couldn’t see if she was lactating but we did wonder if there were cubs hidden in the bushes



Being escorted off the premises!









Before he finally sought out some shade and we headed over to Rigueik pan to see how the other-half lived at Camp Nomade



It is truly a stunning setting






Secretary Bird



Don't think I got the approach quite right!


The rest of the lion pride weren’t doing much



so it was back to camp for lunch where I discovered that my fleece, which I’d worn first thing in the morning was no longer in the Land Cruiser.  As you should, we’d been rotating round the seat rows and it had been Vicky & my “turn” for the back row where, because the seat hangs out the back, there is a 3-4” (100mm) gap between the front of the seat & the tailgate of the vehicle – well wide enough for a fleece to drop through. Steve radioed the park management & Camp Nomade to ask them to keep an eye out but although he was hopeful that it would turn up, it never did so next time one of you visits Zakouma keep an eye out for a baboon trying to emulate Madagascar’s King Julian dressed in a green HSBC /Jaguar Racing fleece!


After lunch our first port of call was to see if the lions had done much and initially it seemed like we’d see some action as the lioness’s sized up the buffalo and the cubs were despatched into the bushes







but the buffalo stood their ground & the lions decided that they weren’t hungry enough to tackle them and after that it was a relatively quiet afternoon



Why walk when there is free transport available


But the evening drive back was enlivened by a couple of Genet



and a beautiful Serval posed happily for us










along with a patrolling Hyena




Edited by AfricIan
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What a beautiful Serval!

and such abundance all round.

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Nice Lion photos @AfricIan - and I love the shot of the waterbirds with the tents in the background.  



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Oh those Serval shots! We saw quite a few but never got shots like that. 

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Thanks @TonyQ & @Galago, yes that was quite a special sighting as "she" was reasonably close to the vehicle & didn't bolt for cover immediately.  I'm very please to have got those photos.


Thanks also @offshorebirder, that male lion was very co-operative as he wandered round his patch. The Camp Nomade location at Rigueik pan is absolutely stunning, just think how wonderful it would be to wake up to that vista each morning!!

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Thanks for following along with my ramblings folks, today was going to be dedicated to finding the “Mega-herd” of Elephants so it was a slightly earlier start with a packed lunch.  Some of the herd are radio-collared and by radioing the park HQ, Steve was able to get their GPS position - well to the south in a heavily forested area, they weren’t going to be an easy find.


There had been Lions calling quite close to camp overnight and sure enough we found them close to the road making their “morning greetings” and having a play











Who put that rock there?


This was also the patch of the local Side-striped Jackal who didn’t seem to appreciate the lions presence



Likewise the lions weren’t going to be best buddies with the Jackal but everyone seemed content to just watch each other





so we left them to it, picked up the main road and continued south.


From the GPS coordinated, Doug/Steve thought they knew of a likely spot where we might get a reasonable sighting of the herd but when we got there we found we’d been beaten to it by the Camp Nomade guests who, from their fly-camp, had been much closer.  They also had the “protection” of some of the “Mamba Team” of park rangers and very impressive all-terrain vehicle complete with a monster roof-mounted heavy calibre machine gun – you don’t mess with these guys!!

After getting some updated GPS data, “plan B” saw us move a bit further round where Steve grabbed his trusty panga & headed off into the trees, returning a short time later to report that whilst he could see elephants they were in dense woodland & it wouldn’t be safe to try to get 8 people into a position where they’d see anything other than an occasional hint of grey.  Plan C followed as did Plans D to F as we tried to second guess the herds movements but the ele’s were having non of it and judging from the amount of trumpeting going on it seemed that something (perhaps the Camp Nomade guests?) had spooked them so we decided to find some shade well away from them, get our lunch & generally chill (if you can chill in 40+ heat) for a bit whilst working on Plan G.

Plan G went the same way as all previous plans but there was always something to see



Lion brothers



Where there is water………



Steve & Doug try to figure out how to see these elusive pachyderm


Upto now the score was definitely Elephants 3 – Tourists 0 and in a final throw of the dice Doug & Steve agreed that the herd would have to head to water soon so our best option would be to take a punt on a location, go there & wait where finally


A tantalising glimpse










They were still very reluctant to come out but there appeared to be a lot of pressure coming from those behind – you could image the conversation “Come on you lot in front, I’m thirsty  – get a move on”






as more and more of them “broke cover”
















Until at ~6pm, with the light pretty much gone






The red trees aren’t a camera artefact but Red Acacia which is used to obtain gum Arabic, it would have been a better picture in better light but “what the hell” – it had taken us over 12 hours to get these 30min of sightings and worth every minute!  Elephants 3 – Tourists 1


At the start of our trip the moon had been up before the last of the daylight but wasn’t now expected for another hour or so but Doug though it might be worth trying to get to the river ahead of the herd & watch them drinking in the moonlight so we high-tailed it to the riverbank.  The herd arrived very shortly afterwards and although it was (to my ancient eyes) pitch dark we had a wonderful experience as we sat surrounded (so Doug & Steve said) by drinking & “talking” elephants.  Vicky couldn’t see anything & I could only occasionally make out what might have been a bit of a silhouette but we could “feel” & hear their presence as we waited for the moon to come up.


Then, just to prove they been playing with us all along, there was a concerted trumpeting & splashing as the herd headed back into the trees – just as a faint lightening in the eastern sky heralded the arrival of the moon – Final score Elephants 5 – Tourists 1 and we still had a 2hr drive back to camp! It had certainly been a long day but I wouldn't have missed it for the world :D :D

Edited by AfricIan
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Great sighting, well told and lovely pictures of the elephants emerging from the bush.

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The Elephants did not make it easy for you (do they ever?) but what a great sighting in the end!

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Thanks @Zim Girl & @michael-ibk, yes it was hard work, not least for Doug & Steve as the "high fives" between them when we finally succeeded showed.  It was one of those days that if you try to explain it to a "non-safari-ist" you get a look of total non-comprehension - close on 15 hours to see elephants for no more than 30 minutes "does not compute", you could fly most of the way from the UK to Australia in that time :wacko: :unsure:

Edited by AfricIan
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After last nights “late night” we had a bit of a lie-in this morning before heading out of the park to visit the local market


En-route, an impressive male Ostrich in “full pink”



Just outside the park there is quite a large village but at the time we passed through (~8am) it was very quiet with just a couple of ladies off to fetch water



and some lads around the “brick stall”



There was an interesting contrast between “north” of the road





with the more traditional circular thatched roof houses and the more modern “south” that were rectangular with “tin” roofs




We had been “advised” that photography was not generally well received in the market and our entire group decided to put their cameras away so there are no pictures. Interestingly, we all elected to see the market through our own eyes & not through a viewfinder without any discussion. I know others have taken a different view and I’m not trying to make any sort of point regarding right & wrong here.

The market itself was a very busy place comprising two “halves”, “on the left” of the road through is the livestock market and “on the right” rows of small stalls selling everything you could possibly need -clothing and material, fruit, nuts & veg, salt & spices, all sorts of leatherwork, metalwork from brass bells to knives, mobile phone chargers & other electricals etc. I’m not much of a shopper, even less of a browser but it was fascinating insight into the locals “real lives” and for me it was especially interested to see veterinary products that are either banned or only available “on prescription” in the UK, all of which appeared to be freely available to anyone who had the cash.


The temperature, which had been peaking at ~40-42C (~105-108F) earlier in the week was “going through the roof” today and by lunchtime was over 45C (113F). Everyone was finding it tough, even Tushar & Anshuman (though Tushar claimed to be unused to the heat as he “lived in an air-conditioned apartment, travelled in an air-conditioned car & worked in an air-conditioned office”!) and Vicky opted to skip the afternoon drive leaving the rest of us to head out into the “cooling breeze of a 3KW fan heater”!!


It was a relatively quiet afternoon but a big herd of buffalo came down for a drink









and a good daytime encounter with a serval











The usual view of a family of mongoose!


And to finish off, our best sighting of a Pale Fox



The Pale Fox is another species found only in the band of African Sahel and although we'd seen them earlier in the trip this was the only time they's been close enough for me to get a photo (admittedly poor), but it was a nice way to end our last full day in Zakouma

Edited by AfricIan
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Oh my goodness, those eles! And so many youngsters too. Love the photo of the three little uns in a row! I remember those red trees but to have them as a backdrop - perfect. And you saw Pale Fox. Not envious, no, not envious at all, are we @johnweir :rolleyes:

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those elephants really m ade you guys work for it, but even in total blackness how fabulous it was  to be surrounded by them, listening to them rumble and rustle. you described it well. 



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The ostrich escort shot is a great one.  That pale fox in the dark night is wonderful.  Great location for the camp.  Do you know if that's where it always is?  The elephants really came through for you.  Hope you did not freeze without your fleece.  I lost a monopod one time that bounced  off of the seat of a vehicle.   The multi-colored buffalo in the sun are lovely.  Your alphabet of plans worked out well.

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Some of those places look familiar! Happy memories.


You're having some great sightings. Despite it being the same month you somehow seem to have got both higher concentrations of the birds (including quelea) and clearer air than us! Now that is just not fair. 

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@AfricIan, A great trip report with some wonderful images, they brought back some fantastic memories from possibly still my most memorable trip to date. A couple of questions if you don't mind.  Did you see any Greater Kudu whilst you were there? Did any of the park staff make any reference to any recent Cheetah or Wild Dog sightings, either inside or outside the park.?

@Galago, You certainly know how to 'twist the knife'. I hope you have a great trip next year, you certainly deserve it. My fascination with the Pale Fox will hopefully take me back to Chad at some stage, I did consider next year but other wildlife destinations need to take priority.

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@AfricIan - what a lovely TR, and what an engaging writing style you have. Loved too many of these images to cite specific ones. But agree with Paul that your bird numbers and densities seem to be really high! Good for you. Tushar & Anshuman did not do a TR,so it's very nice to see this trip through your eyes :) 

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Many thank everyone for sticking with me and apologies for the "break in transmission".


Before I continue, in reply to @Galago, @Kitsafari, @Atravelynn@pault, @johnweir and @Sangeeta's comments/questions:


The elephant encounter was wonderful - it was really hard work and so sad that they are so fearful of humans but it was great to see all the youngsters and hopefully they will become more accepting as time goes on.

The name Camp Nomade implies that it could move but I can't see why they would want to relocate it far from where it currently is - It's such a stunning setting.  Then again, perhaps it doesn't move & the name just reflects the "style" of the camp?

With an early morning temperature in the mid 30C's (mid 90F's), there was no chance of me freezing and my "backup" of a sweatshirt for the first hour was more than enough - and that was only if we were in the "front row" on the LandCruiser.  On the last two mornings a T-shirt was too many layers :unsure:.

I think we were lucky with the clear air, as you'll see from the last photo later, it was much dustier back in N'Djamina.

Greater Kudu - We didn't see (or hear of) Kudu of any description.

Cheetah - Are seen in the park reasonably regularly, indeed one had been seen very close to Tinga only a week or two before us but generally they keep well clear of the river area - too many lions & buffalo for them to be comfortable in?

Wild Dog - Very infrequent sighting and I think they are as likely to be spotted outside the park as they are inside.

Tushar did post some of his photos (and he & Anshuman's subsequent time in the Ethiopian highlands) on Instagram at @travelingtoosh, Lennart's photo's & blogs at https://www.lensman.se/


Edited by AfricIan
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Our last day in Zakouma, :(.  It had been a very tough night with the temperature not dropping much at all and nobody got much sleep. We weren’t going to be flying out until 2pm so there was a last drive available but Vicky was still struggling with the heat so opted out.

We started at the waterhole


Playing “chicken”?



but the storks were happy to pick up the catfish head that the croc had left

A game drive was akin to sitting in right front of a 3KW fan heater so everyone was happy to agree when Doug suggested parking up and walking along the riverside to find a shady spot to just sit & see what turned up



Even the crocs don’t have things their own way all the time



A bit further along we found a nice spot & were soon rewarded

To the right


and to the left


then, right in front







Before something spooked them


Time to head back to the fan heater!



Four-Banded Sandgrouse

It was even too hot for the Patas Monkeys to bother legging it




Although as that looks suspiciously like a “crack pipe” in front if it, perhaps it was just too stoned to bother :unsure:





There was a debate as to whether this was a Savannah or Nile Monitor






I’d got the impression that Tinga guests had to very much play “second fiddle” to the Camp Nomade guests but as they had left on the early flight, the coast was clear at the camp managers house and Steve was able to get permission for us to get the hosepipe out and “water the elephants”.  Make no mistake, these are still wild elephants but their love of clean water "out the tap" has overcome their distrust of man and Doug led the way:








Before everyone had a turn (or two).  Many thanks to Tushar for videoing “my go”

An absolutely unforgettable experience, as was our whole time in Zakouma, and on that high note it was time to head back to N’Djamena 





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Hi Ian, thanks very much of sheering your experience from Zakouma with us. It was very nice for me to compare our two weeks. I can say it was for us a ones in a lifetime destination and every cent worth to spend for this.

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Thanks Christa and yes, although it was an expensive trip I don't begrudge a penny of it

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thank you @AfricIan for the trip report - it brought back so many good memories. 

On Camp Nomade - from what I understand - early in the season the Riguek pans is too wet to locate the camp closer to the pans, so it is located at another higher part of the pans. Once it is drier, the camp is  moved to where you probably saw it. 


I have to add it's hard to begrudge the priorities given to camp nomade's guests as they pay double what Tinga guests pay. 

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Ian, thanks so much for a great trip report, really makes me want to go back! After all, I missed out on the Ele watering fun last time.B)

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