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Addax back in the Sahel

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The gorgeous Scimitar horned Oryx with wild melons which supply all the water they need in the foreground

 

Planning a safari to Chad in the midst of a global pandemic at times seemed like a fool's errand, but perseverance, determination, some grit (and thanks perhaps to a little bit of luck) we are all back home safely after an amazing expedition to the Ennedi Plateau, the Ouadi Rime-Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve (OROA) and of course, Zakouma National Park!  Thank you Chalo Africa and @Sangeetafor putting such a challenging trip together for our group!

 

Safari-ing in times of COVID-19 is extra, with added steps, but upon return, you realize it wasn't nearly as intimidating as it seemed before you left.  For the US travelers (four of us), it amounted to a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure (show document), a negative antigen test upon arrival at the airport in NDJ (didn't happen) and then a negative test prior to departure which was conducted in our hotel lobby on our day of departure which consisted of a mouth/throat swab.  Other than that---all proceeded as normal. 

 

Hopefully I'll have plenty of help with this TR as photographer extraordinaire @inyathiwas with us as well as our wonderful guide @Zarek Cockar.  Please chime in at any time to correct my memory, share your experiences and impart knowledge in any way.  I just figured I'd get the ball rolling.

 

The itinerary went something like this:

 

Arrive in N'Djamena (we arrived late Saturday night) and spent Sunday in town resting from the long travel --- we had hoped to see the horse races but they have not been re-started since the coup attempt or whatever the political turbulence should be entitled.  Monday we had to check in with the police which was done for us by our ground operator and we were then free to go to Ennedi.

 

Yes @Zarek Cockarspotted a hippo across the Chari River from our hotel --- a most unexpected sighting! 

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Charter flight to Ennedi Plateau --  (road travel these days in Chad is particularly difficult and may not be permitted in places so we were fortunate that we had chartered flights between all of our destinations.  We had four nights camping in Ennedi to explore this remarkable place!  Rock paintings, some 3000 others 8000, even 12000 years old, many yet to be seen by western eyes scattered about the labyrinth of caves and rock formations; arches soaring some 40 stories or 400 feet! into the sky and Rock formations and dunes that a Hollywood set designer couldn't conceive for a sci fi picture, oasis's or gueltas that water the nomads camels, goats and sheep...this is an AMAZING place and we quite frankly just scratched the surface!

 

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Next stop for a night was OROA where we pitched tents next to Base Camp Oryx --- such a worthy stop and a highlight for me adding six new species of mammals I had never seen before as well as many birds.  The Sahara Conservation Fund is doing incredible things here to re-introduce previously "extinct in the wild" antelope and wildlife back into their native habitat.  A night drive was very productive --- such a great thing to see!

 

And then Zakouma which has been well-documented on ST but still shines as a place of unfathomable abundance!  It is unique to the places I've visited in Africa and is indeed a global wildlife treasure.  We spent six night here, one night "fly camping" on the Salamat River.

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We flew back in a night early to get our COVID test which was made available the next afternoon and we were free to fly home....plenty more details to come!  But to whet your interest, a few photos from our time in Chad....

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Edited by gatoratlarge
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woohoo - 2 epic ST reports side by side to read! since I can't travel to Africa now, they should satiate my thirst for Africa's fantastic bushlife.  

 

Gorgeous, stunning, spectacular shots of Ennedi and OROA and always magical Zakouma. Like @michael-ibk's Uganda trip, i shall read with envy, regrets, excitement, and relief that the epic trip finally took place, and too fast, ended. 

 

Very much looking forward to an at least dual-voice TR here!

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Thanks @gatoratlargefor kicking this off.

 

I didn’t know an awful lot about Chad before I visited Zakouma for the first time in 2014, that was just a one-week trip and I only visited Zakouma National Park, nowhere else, but obviously that safari gave me an interest in Chad and I started to read about an area of the southern Sahara called Ennedi, and that the NGO African Parks who manage Zakouma was going to establish an entirely new park there. This led me to think that the combination of Ennedi and Zakouma could make for an ideal Chad safari, as just going to Zakouma on its own for a week, as I had done, was too short a time to be in Africa. In fact, I did go back in 2015, but again only to Zakouma, albeit for a week and a bit, fantastic though that safari was, I wasn’t in a huge rush to return to Zakouma for a third time, it remains one of my favourite parks, but it is expensive and there are other places I’ve not been to that I would rather visit, certainly in preference to doing another Chad safari exclusively to Zakouma. I’d decided if I were to go back, it would only be in conjunction with a visit to Ennedi, I had looked at safaris combining Ennedi and Zakouma , but the ones I’d seen offered were seriously expensive, this was in part due to the cost of charter flights but mainly due to staying at Camp Nomade in Zakouma. I really wanted to visit Ennedi, but the trips I’d looked at just didn’t appeal to me quite enough, to want to return to Chad, when other places on my bucket list had more appeal. I didn’t really see myself going on another Chad safari anytime soon. Until that is, thanks to the hard work of dedicated conservationists, another destination in Chad started to rise up my bucket list and make me seriously interested in a third Chad safari.

 

After my last Zakouma safari in 2015, I wrote the following trip report Zakouma 2015: Returning to Wildest Africa in Style at the end I wrote about some of the other conservation work going on in Chad, mentioning that the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi and the Sahara Conservation Fund, would very soon start reintroducing Scimitar-horned Oryx to the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve known as the OROA. I was very excited by this development, as I have seen these oryx in captivity a few times over the years, notably at Marwell Zoo near Winchester in the UK and had been following the story of their return to the wild.

 

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Scimitar-horned Oryx at Marwell Wildlife near Winchester UK

 

I then wrote a long post on the oryx with lots of photos in a topic about the oryx reintroduction First scimitar horned oryx released in OROUA, Central Chad and pondered if it would be possible to visit the OROA and see them in the wild. This led me to think, that the perfect Chad safari would combine Ennedi, OROA and Zakouma, I didn’t know if and when this might become possible, but I knew if it did, it would tempt me back to Chad. Unbeknownst to me my writings about the oryx, had planted a little seed in the mind of @Sangeeta at Chalo Africa, she hadn’t been aware of the oryx project or even of the existence of Scimitar-horned Oryx, but following what I had said and other information posted by @jeremie, she took a keen interest in the project. Finding that it was possible to visit OROA and see the oryx, she added a stop in OROA to Chalo’s Chad safaris, constructing a near perfect Chad safari, and going to OROA with the first group in 2020. When I read her report Beyond the Red List: Rising From the Ashes in the Ouadi-Rimé Ouadi-Achim Game Reserve, Tchad and saw the photos, I was green with envy and determined that I would have to go one day and see the oryx in the wild for myself, I was very sorely tempted to book myself a place on one of Chalo’s 2021 Chad tours, but I didn’t and those tours didn’t go ahead because of the pandemic. After being very fortunate to squeeze in a wildlife tour of Vietnam, at the beginning of 2020 just before all of the travel restrictions came in, I had no other travel plans in the pipeline for the near future, it didn’t seem wise to make any plans, with Covid causing so much disruption. When Joel contacted me to about this Chad safari a year ago and asked me if I wanted to join, I said yes almost immediately, this was too good an opportunity to turn down and signing up a year ahead of time, I assumed that by now, travel would be if not normal a lot easier, since I knew I would be vaccinated and I was confident a lot of restrictions would have been lifted. I knew that if I didn't join this trip, every time I looked at my photos of the captive oryx like the one above, I would regret not taking the opportunity to go and see them in the wild, not least because some of the oryx now in the OROA, will undoubtedly be descendants of the animals in my photo, that was taken in 2010.

 

The road to Chad inevitably proved to be extremely bumpy, Covid threw up all kinds of real and imagined problems, that made sorting out our travel arrangements very complicated and stressful, for myself based in the UK obtaining a Chad visa proved both unnecessarily expensive and stressful, I’ve covered my issues with the visa in this topic Where are you planning for 2022 I don’t need to go over that again. I could write pages on the complications of arranging my flights, and the issues that came up, real issues like should I flew through Ethiopia given the civil war there? Or imagined issues, like could I fly home on an Air France flight that stops in Abuja in Nigeria, if Nigeria is on the UK’s travel red list, etc but I’ve decided I don’t want to bore everyone with all of that. Although I’m sure bits and pieces may come up, at the moment I will simply say, that in the end I opted to fly Air France a day later than the US contingent, arriving on the Sunday night, primarily because I didn’t fancy their arrival time in N’Djamena, their flight stopped in Abuja on the way and arrived at 23:55, my flight the following night was direct and arrived at 21:05      

 

I am still going through the lengthy process of uploading my photos to Flickr, it’s looking like it this one will be my largest album on Flickr, as there was a never a moment when there wasn’t something to point a camera at. I hope to add a good selection to this report as it progresses

Edited by inyathi
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A while ago I found a website called The True Size Of that allows you to compare the size of different countries, by taking the outline of one country and overlaying it on another, I used this to create some maps, that would show how big Chad is, in comparison to the UK, the USA and East Africa, that I could add to the report, that I anticipated we would eventually write.  

 

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The following map shows our main destinations in Chad, I don't know the precise location of our campsite in Ennedi, so I've just marked on Fada where the airstrip and African Park Ennedi HQ is located 

 

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I'll get the less interesting things out of the way so we can get to the good stuff.  We arrived near midnight to N'Djamena having flown through Paris with a brief stop in Abuja, Nigeria where we were not allowed to deplane.  From the air there was little to see on the ground at night.  Minimal lighting,  Mostly dark.  The covid test upon arrival was not performed and we just made our way through customs and baggage and out the door to meet our driver and guide.  The streets were basically empty which seemed odd for a Saturday night in any capital city.   The hotel was sleepy and almost entirely empty, lights were off or at least dim in the lobby/reception and we were checked in and off to bed.
 
DAY 1 was a day of rest at the Radisson Blu hotel and like the other hotel we stayed last time in Chad it sat prominently on the banks of the Chari River and is built like a fortress.  Expansive grounds, security checks at the entrance gate with the mirror check under the car, the lobby this morning bustling in comparison to the previous evening.  We ate breakfast, roamed the grounds a bit, watched life on the Chari River pass us by, net fishing locals from wooden boats, cattle and livestock coming to drink across the opposite bank of the river, and a steady flow of people and traffic on a nearby bridge.  Cameroon is opposite N'Djamena on parts of the river but where we were situated it was still Chad across the way.  
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We had hoped to see the horse races that occur on Sundays we had read about.  But like many places with very little tourism, we seemed to be more "in the know" of what goes on than the hotel staff or even our guide.  At first I believe they thought we wanted to see a statue of a man riding a horse which we drove past on the way to the hotel from the airport, but we told them the races took place at the Hippodrome near the Presidential Palace.  Bottom line is that whether due to COVID or the political turbulence, they haven't started back horse racing on Sunday afternoons.
 
@Zarek Cockararrived early afternoon from Kenya via Ethiopia and our UK and Luxembourgian (?) adventurers would arrive later that night.  Their time zones were less complicated to navigate. Always envious of the Europeans that can travel to Africa in a day and only change time zones an hour or two but I digress. So we headed out to drive about town.  We drove through the market, passed the heavily guarded presidential palace, the grand mosque, the Place de la Nation.  As tense as it may sound (for those that don't know, the previous president was purportedly mortally wounded in battle with rebels near the Tibesti Mountains ten months ago and his son and the military took over, dissolving the parliament) the truth is that even though there was a visible military presence, it seemed to me to be relatively relaxed.  Airport security was cordial, even friendly -- "Welcome to Chad" were the greetings.  Young military approached and asked to take pictures from their cell phones at the Place de la Nation...perhaps it was an illusion but N'Djamena was an understated, dare I say relaxed place for the largest city in an African country.  Folks sat on mats outside their businesses, wherever there was shade, many doing their daily prayers, devoted people.
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After driving around getting a lay of the land, we stopped off for a Gala beer at a place called Layalina. 
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We had beers on the terrace at the top of the hotel and the buffet for dinner. We were ready for the rest of our crew to arrive and get this adventure started!  
 
we crashed for the evening and would meet up with our full party at breakfast the next morning. 
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Just awesome! I really regret not joining up for this one - Ennedi really does look breathtaking! Looking forward to this report very much!

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@michael-ibkI hope we don't get too distracted by reading each others reports :lol:

 

Thanks to Covid, I had not been able to go with my preferred option, of staying a night in a hotel at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and had ended up staying the night at the Sheraton at LHR instead. It is a curious thing that at airports in the UK, hotels cannot operate their own shuttle service, instead the airport operates its own shuttle bus service that goes around all the hotels in turn and you have to pay for this, at least this is the case at Heathrow. I asked when I checked in, what time I should get the shuttle and was told 06:48 and that it takes 12 minutes, so would get me there at 07:00 in plenty of time for my 09:00 flight to CDG, I think I was waiting outside the hotel by 06:45, but either I was late or the bus was, because it didn’t arrive until close to 07:00. This meant after check-in I had to make do with a take away coffee and brownie for breakfast, but I got to CDG on time and when sat at the departure gate, I was relieved to see my travelling companion Josep arrive, we’d not met before, but he is a veteran of an ST Chalo Africa safari to Gabon, I recognised him from a photo I’d been sent, that is in this Gabon trip report Into the Heart of Madness - This is Gabon!. We arrived in NDJ on time, as the others had found the night before, there was no Covid test, it had been suggested that there would be an antigen test, but that with proof of vaccination you could possibly avoid this, but I saw no evidence of anyone being tested anywhere, getting through was somewhat slowed down by having to fill in a Covid form, but it wasn’t a big deal, I showed my negative PCR test certificate and gave them the form and then went through passport control, without any trouble. Perhaps this time next year the Covid forms won’t be necessary I don’t know.

 

Once through, and bags collected, we realised as we walked out of the building and saw no one waiting for us, that they must be waiting in the carpark, I had clearly forgotten that at Hassan Djamous International, no one is allowed to wait outside the terminal, to meet arriving passengers. By the time we reached the Radisson Blu and checked-in, the rest of the group had unsurprisingly already gone to bed, we went up to the restaurant and partook of the remains of the buffet, as it was around 22:30, they said they were supposed to be closing, but were happy for us to have our dinner. At least from the point of view of getting to N’Djamena I was very happy to have gone Air France.it is only six-and-a-half-hour flight and being a daytime flight, you’re not wanting to try and sleep. Travelling In February from the UK there is a 1-hour time difference between London and NDJ, but Europe is 1 hour ahead of us, so there was no time difference for Josep. We will move our clocks forward 1 hour on the last Sunday of March, so on my previous two Zakouma safaris that were both in April, I had no time difference. Visiting Africa from Europe is definitely easier and less tiring than from the States, it made sense that the others had arrived a night early and given themselves a day to rest. On the way out, I think @Zarek Cockar had the best deal as he was flying from Nairobi to Addis Ababa and then onto N’Djamena arriving on the Sunday afternoon.

 

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The view from the Radisson Blu, N'Djamena, Chad

This was not exactly the view over the Chari River that I had hoped for 

 

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However, I had an interesting view into some vegetable gardens and with my 100-400mm could take some photos of the gardeners hard at work tending their crops

 

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Also the carpark proved surprisingly good for birds and I was able to score a number of species like Piapiac, Black-headed Lapwing and Abyssinian Roller just from my balcony and by the time I met the others for breakfast, I'd seen seven different birds, five more than on my last stay in NDJ. 

 

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Abyssinian Roller, one of a pair flying around the carpark.

Edited by inyathi
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@inyathii think we won’t trip over each other too bad and between the two of us and the occasional contributions  of @Zarek Cockarwe should be able to do the trip justice 😁 


Day 2

We had a WhatsApp group text going before we took off for Chad and we hadn’t even gone down to breakfast that morning before @Zarek Cockarhad alerted us of a lone hippo mixed in amongst the cattle coming to drink across the river. I certainly hadn’t expected this and in some guide books it seems well above their northern distribution limit but upon googling “hippo” and “N’Djamena” it’s certainly not the first time. I just knew there were no hippos in Zakouma and it certainly appeared more like desert in N’Djamena to me!  So I rushed to the top floor with my camera and snapped a few pics!  He (or she) had settled in for a nap on the far bank:

 

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No ordinary sighting in my view!

 

After breakfast, we awaited the ground handler and guide to get back from registering us with the authorities and 

We were free to head to The Ennedi. There appears to be one charter flight operator in the whole of Chad and one pilot, Jay (Jay is awesome btw) and we were a bit miffed we had to fly a family to Zakouma first before flying on to Ennedi. It’s not exactly on the way. In fact they are in opposite directions!  So instead of having a few hours to get settled and explore that first day, we landed at dusk and drove an hour and a half (like banshees) in the dark to our camp. It’s not that we didn’t have plenty of time to explore over the next four nights and days, and we did get a stunning flight over Ennedi as the sun lit the sand and rocks and the desert floor in magical light!  The video doesn’t do it justice but we were nearly silent as we flew over the plateau realizing this was indeed as special a place as we had hoped and dreamed it to be!

 

 

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11 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Just awesome! I really regret not joining up for this one - Ennedi really does look breathtaking! Looking forward to this report very much!

 

 

(shh pse count me in...)

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@gatoratlarge  awesome video clip!

 

Sounds like Josep and his luggage arrived together this time. 

 

Wonderful to hear the voice of @inyathionce more with Joel in a Tchad TR. After all, it was your pioneer trips that spurred me and many others to embark on the Tchad train. 

 

 

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@KitsafariThanks, this is what I love about ST, with my writings and photos, I inspired others like yourself,@gatoratlargeand @Sangeetato visit Chad and my efforts were rewarded with this trip, were it not for my previous reports showing what a wonderful place Zakouma is and that it is actually okay to visit Chad, and not an insane thing to do, this trip would never have happened. I am pleased that a good number of people here have now been to Chad and even more pleased that I was able to go on another fantastic Chad safari with a great group of people, thanks to Safaritalk. I hope that people who read this report and see all the photos and videos in it will be inspired to return to Chad or visit for the first time. 

 

@gatoratlarge My aim is to let you take the lead and then hope that what I write and my photos compliment what you’ve posted

 

On the way in to the airport, there are plenty of money changers waiting to do business with you, we were told that it was fine to exchange money with them, as the online currency exchange that I’d used back home to buy my USDs, had unhelpfully included three 100$ bills, I took the opportunity to dispose of one of these and get some CFAs. The currency in Chad is the Central African Franc, the same currency is used in Cameroon, CAR, Congo Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Currency exchanges in the UK don’t tend to offer CFAs and the Bureau de Change at CDG in Paris did not have any, there are ATMs at the Radisson where you can get cash. Generally, it is fine to pay in either USDs or CFAs, so it’s not essential to have CFAs and we really only needed money for tipping at this point and generally used USDs for that, but I knew I’d have use for some CFAs before leaving Chad.

 

When flying in Chad, I can never resist taking a good few shots of N'Djamena 

 

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The Chari River

 

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Chad Flight

 

 

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It is always good to see these mountains, because then I know it's not much further on to Zakouma

 

 

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 Zakouma

 

It was a bore having to fly to Zakouma, I had hoped that spotting animals on the way in, might make up for it, but I didn’t really see any, we had to wait for some time on the ground, whilst Jay’s plane was refuelled. The “terminal building” at Zakouma is just a thatched roof, there are no chairs, but I didn't mind standing up, after the flight this was no bad thing, we ate some sandwiches there, there is also of course a toilet block there. At least having dropped off the other tourists, we could spread out a bit for the onward flight, making it more comfortable, I had worn a mask for the first leg, but took it off for the next leg.

 

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Refuelling Zakouma National Park, Chad

 

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Zakouma 

 

The flight was spectacular towards the end with the sunsetting over the mountains, but capturing this was tricky, I think taking video was the answer, I only took a very brief clip, that is not worth posting, as it doesn’t compare to Joel's, I did take plenty of photos, so I will add a good few

 

 

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I even managed to stitch two shots together, this worked far better than I expected

 

 

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The major drawback to having arrived at Fada at sunset, is that we now had pretty long drive through the dark to our campsite, this was our first introduction to Eyte Voyages’ drivers, their interesting driving styles and love of playing the same few Chadian songs over and over, a subject which I suspect may come up again. It was a long way, we weren’t totally sure if we would ever get there or arrive in one piece, but we did and arriving at camp in the dark meant that we had no idea where we were camped and what our campsite looked like, we would have the joy of waking up to find out. Although when we walked a very short distance from camp, we did get to see something of the beautiful scenery we were camped in, when the Moon came up 

 

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Otherwise, this was as much as we could see of our campsite when we retired to our tents.

Edited by inyathi
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Great start of this TR, can't wait to continue reading. Chad seems to be a really interesting destination, very tempting.

 

@inyathigreat capture of the desert and surrounding landscape from the plane

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@gatoratlarge@inyathi @Zarek Cockar
 

Loving this TR! It's bringing back lots of memories, can't wait to continue the journey with your reporting.
And I have to say, I am very envious of your flight over Ennedi - stunning! 

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3 hours ago, bigbrownboy said:

@gatoratlargesorry you had to drop us off at Zakouma before continuing on to the north!  :)


 

Lol not your fault at all!  We were told we had a charter direct to Ennedi and assumed we’d have an afternoon of daylight to get to camp but instead we got a sunset flight with beautiful light that would have been much harsher several hours earlier.  So, it’s Africa…roll with the punches … there’s always going to be a surprise or two and you make the best of them. 😁👍🏻

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Posted (edited)

So this part is going to be a bit difficult since I’m not 100% certain where we were or what the areas were called and it was hard sometimes to differentiate between the highlights we were supposed to be impressed with and the ones we were simply impressed with because everything you see is just gobsmackingly impressive.
 

I do know that our camp was about an hour and a half southeast of Fada and that was the area we covered mostly during our four nights in Ennedi. As previously described, we had a white knuckle ride through the desert in the dark to reach camp and in my vehicle we were treated to local music which at first I found charming, but then repetitive and then ear splitting!  With the shrieking ullalations common to Arabic/African style music 😆 I was quite happy to finally reach camp. We were very lucky I think weather wise as our first few days the air was clear of dust and as you can imagine, even in the dark, the stars alone illuminated the camp site. You could tell they had picked an amazing dramatic setting for camp!  A rock amphitheater, formed a semi circle as the backdrop, on the sides, the stars shown nearly to the horizon with great rock islands looming in front of us!  When the moon rose, you needn’t use a flashlight. The desert floor glowed surrounding the great rock monoliths. This was a few days I didn’t mind waking up to use the rest room so I could stand outside the tent flap staring in all directions in pure amazement!

 

I took a ton of panoramic photos because quite frankly the views were all 180 if not 360 degrees — it’s the part of the experience that is hard to convey. There’s a lot of “you just had to be there and see it for yourself.”  That being said, I’ve been pretty happy with my pics and I’m certain @inyathihas taken some amazing photos. So here’s what we woke up to the next morning:

 

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Difficult to get the entire height of the rocks walls surrounding us but you can get an idea at least. 
 

we headed out early morning and our first stop was some cave paintings very close by. There is an untold number of caves and recessed rock walks that must hide thousands of cave drawings, many likely never seen by western eyes.   From internet reading, there are some ranging from 3000 to even 12000 years old. Cattle show up time an again indicating a climate capable of supporting herds which require daily water. We saw giraffes, cheetah, camels, what appeared to be warriors on horseback and people etched on the walls. Here’s a link to a good website briefly chronicling some of the rock art of Ennedi:

 

https://www.factumfoundation.org/pag/260/rock-art-survey-and-documentation-in-the-ennedi-mountains-of-northern-chad
 

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We continued on and each turn in the desert brought new discovery and beauty…

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These little guys had a couple rocks for sale 😊❤️

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Light changes everything...

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This was called Champagne Rock...

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We passed this long camel train our second morning out on the way to the Aloba Arch...my camera must be keeping EST so it combined some of the first and second day 😬

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Nomads stored supplies in these trunks tucked in the caves...community property I suppose...

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The scale almost requires a human to show the immense size of the rock formations ...

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Elephant Arch

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Gadaffi's tanks littered the desert -- he was routed in the Toyota Wars in the late 80s by the Chadian forces and they are being swallowed into the desert, relics of the past...

 

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Giraffe rock art...

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A pop up market at camp nomad children...I bought a camel bell...

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A peek inside my tent...the nights were cool and comfortable...

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A scared Patas monkey baby rejoined its momma after we departed....

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Sci Fi Worthy...

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Edited by gatoratlarge
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What amazing rock formations and a stunning location for your camp. I was intrigued by the donkeys water bowls...

 

Really enjoying this report and looking forward to more when you have time.

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Absolutely stunning @gatoratlarge (& your photos are pretty good as well :D)

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@gatoratlargeEnnedi really is beyond words! It is definitely a place that needs to be experienced.
Your photos are stunning, and yes, I am still in awe of the majesty of it all.

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@bigbrownboy Welcome to Safaritalk, all is forgiven regarding your hijacking of our flight, we had more than enough time in Ennedi for it not to matter that we arrived somewhat later than expected. I hope you will stick around, if you wish to contribute a report on your own safari, that would be very welcome, otherwise feel free to offer some comments on Zakouma, when we reach that stage of our trip.

 

I've camped in some amazing places around Africa, but as campsites go this one would be very hard to beat  

 

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An almost 360 degree view 

 

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Camp Ennedi, Chad

 

 

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Morning view from camp

 

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The view in front of camp

 

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Our dining table

 

 

Camp dining table, Ennedi, Chad

 

Every morning local nomads would pass by with their camels

 

Camels, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Camels, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

 

Camels, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Camels, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

and other livestock

 

 

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Young shepherd chasing after his flock

 

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Like @gatoratlarge I do not know the names of many of the specific sites that we visited, to look at the rock art or just view the spectacular rock formations. This was the case when I originally posted this, but since then I've discovered the names of many of the places we visited, that I either didn't know at the time or had forgotten, so I decided to edit my Ennedi posts and add some of the names that I do now know, these are what I believe to be the correct names, but I can't guarantee that they are 100% correct, but they are names that I have found online for these locations.  

 

In selecting which photos to post, I’ve tried not to pick too many that are very similar to shots already posted. Since I am still uploading photos, I’ve no doubt, I may end up at a later date, posting a few more photos from the same spots that are in this post, before we are done with Ennedi, if I find that I've missed out some great view  But I'm not intending to post all of my Ennedi shots in chronological order anyway. 

 

 

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Looking for rock art at Dibirké shelter Degedey Mountain, Ennedi, Chad

 

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Looking at rock art

 

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Giraffes

 

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Rock art site, Ennedi, Chad

 

Often times I include a section on the history of the country I am visiting in my reports, I don't intend to do that here, however, I did right a tiny bit about the Toyota War and the conflicts between Chad and Libya in this thread Unrest in Chad, if anyone is interested in finding out even more, there is plenty of information on Wikipedia Chadian–Libyan conflict the desert in Ennedi is littered with wrecked Libyan tanks destroyed during the 1987 Toyota War. 

 

 

Libyan Tank, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

 

Libyan Tank, Ennedi, Chad

Zarek inspecting a Libyan tank

 

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Zarek on the rocks, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

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Photographing Ennedi, Chad

The modern way to take photos

 

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Visiting a well to see livestock being watered proved to be an interesting experience and some members of the team had a go at drawing water. 

 

 

 

Josep watering the livestock, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Donkeys, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Donkeys, Ennedi, Duck

 

 

Drawing water, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Drawing water Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Goats and donkey, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Camel and goat, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

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Rock art at Terkei

 

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Often when taking photographs, I might curse when someone inadvertently wonders into my shot, spoiling my perfect view, but photographing Ennedi's amazing rock formation, I was often times very happy to have people in my shots to provide a sense of scale. 

 

 

Ennedi, Chad

 

 

 

Ennedi, Chad

 

 

 

Ennedi, Chad

 

 

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The landscapes were so remarkable, that almost everywhere we stopped there was an incredible view in every direction, whilst exploring some extraordinary rock formations up close, you would turn around to see another phenomenal view looking across the desert to other rock formations, as amazing in their own way as the ones you were looking at.  These next two shots were taken from the same location, if you zoom in on the panorama, you can make out the rocks that feature in these next two shots. 

 

 

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Rock Pillar, Ennedi, Chad

 

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In many places you find rocks known as champignons the French for mushroom, there were some in earlier shots that would qualify, but this following site had some of the best examples.

 

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Champignon, Ennedi Chad

 

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Champignon, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

 

Champignon, Ennedi, Chad

 

You wonder when you stand a little nervously next to or beneath one of these champignons, just how they remain standing, I couldn't help being reminded of the old Warner Bros Roadrunner cartoons, where the villainous Wile Coyote would often times end up being squashed beneath a huge rock, similar to the top of one of these mushrooms,   

 

 

Ennedi, Chad

 

I don't know the names of most of the places we stopped, but I do know the name of this next stop, as the English name is obvious and not hard to remember

 

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The Elephant

 

 

At the Elephant Rock Ennedi, Chad

 

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Ennedi Chad

The Bottle of Bamena

 

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All of these sites were just from our first day and we hadn't even scratched the surface.

Edited by inyathi
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Posted (edited)

Wonderful shots @inyathi!  So glad to be tag teaming this TR with you!  As I remember from past reports, your photos are stellar!  And I hope you will continue to add photos as you go through your pics even when they become out of order. I come back to these reports long after we’re officially “completed” 😁

 

the next day we set out for Aloba Arch which is one of the most iconic scenes in Ennedi. An arch that soars 40 stories or nearly 400’ into the sky!

 

On the way to finding Aloba Arch we passed a camel train (previously pictured), and then a couple male Barbary ostrich which the local population has been bolstered by African Parks and they are working closely with the nomads to make sure they’re not hunted. 
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We stopped for a bit at Table Arch — a short drive in any direction reveals there are hundreds if not thousands of arches in Ennedi. Often inexplicable holes in the middle of solid rock. Weaknesses in the sandstone?  Wind? Water?  Whatever the reason, it’s really really beautiful. I couldn’t help but think that if any one of these formations were back home in the US, they’d create a national park to protect it and thousands if not millions would flock to see it, yet here we were, six or seven of us with our drivers and the passing nomad and herd of camels or goats…remarkable! And these formations are everywhere in all directions!


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We arrived at Aloba Arch just before lunch and we surprised by the scene — some French Extreme Sports Competition was in progress and Aloba Arch was the finish line!  We saw three people actually complete the race while we were exploring and there was some sort of advance crew cheering them in…quite a surprise but still only about four or five other people…

 

We took our time exploring and it truly is a marvel  we were told it was the highest in the world  C4E952C5-82A3-4B07-9668-0DB0FB165FA4.thumb.jpeg.5b450658737802312584cf9fc8c83323.jpeg

 

I can’t imagine too many more lunch spots with a better view!14B5429D-9D58-4E0D-922F-D6BBAA9C8BB4.jpeg.3c3a1cdd6c47f623340fa62f03b26fa0.jpeg

 

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Still we had much more to see this day, so we headed to the labyrinth:

 

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This one seemed vast but there was another labyrinth which was smaller that we explored:633B2444-EEC0-455C-807C-F1346D1AEF12.jpeg.568b5efff10cb4415bf612add647e813.jpeg

 

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we ended this extraordinary day of exploration in a cave looking at rock art thousands of years old…

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I include this photo from the previous day — this particular formation reminded me of the island of Manhattan:

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Another view of camp…

 

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Edited by gatoratlarge
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The landscapes just keep getting more & more impressive although didn't the local Health & Safety Officer have anything to say about the lack of warning signage and safety barriers around the water well :wacko: 

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, AfricIan said:

The landscapes just keep getting more & more impressive although didn't the local Health & Safety Officer have anything to say about the lack of warning signage and safety barriers around the water well :wacko: 

😂😂😂 clearly we threw caution to the wind signing up for Chad to begin with! 😂😂😂

 

One of my goals or targets for Ennedi was to glimpse one of the four remaining desert crocodiles that live in the permanent pools of the Guelta de Archei. To do that I had heard several different versions of how to best do that. Any sign of human or livestock disturbance or presence and they hide amongst the boulder filled pools and although the pools are relatively small you can see how difficult it would be if they decided to hide. 
 

Getting there earlier is better. I thought I read there were four females left and African Parks was trying to decide whether to add a male into the mix. Others heard they were all male and needed a female. Still another said three were female and the other’s sex was undetermined. I’m not convinced that they’ve avoided humans like the plague ever since they were snatched out of the pools and gone through the sex determination process!  I’d hide under a rock until the coast was clear too!  Alll I know Is that I think early visitors to the Guelta seemed likely to snap a photo of a sunning croc and I’ve not seen one in a few years…still, it’s cool to know they are there and it gives you more than a little pause to know they exist when you wade through the very same pools!

 

We got up relatively early to hike down into the Guelta and try to beat the camel herders to the punch. The terrain is stunningly beautiful and was certainly a top highlight of Ennedi and although it was rocky and might appear dangerous, our guides were ten and thirteen year old nomad girls in flip flops so how dangerous could it really be! 😁

 

We saw a sand snake on the climb down, one of three snakes we saw on our trip to Chad. Ultimately we arrived at an elevated view of the Guelta and it was as pretty as any photo we’d seen. No camels 🐪 while we were up there which would have been the only possible improvement. Eventually after drinking in the view for a while, we descended further down to the pools. We explored the boulders, looked for crocs, and then waded through the chilly waters (and camel dung) to exit the canyon. We crawled into caves and finally saw a herd of camels making their way in to the Guelta for a drink. And this French Extreme Sport competition ground crew turned up again making for yet another scenic backdrop for the athletes. 
 


Some photos of the hike down in to the Guelta:

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we hiked over, down and down some more, waded through the cool waters and hiked out the other end. Just a spectacular day. From there, more ancient caves with rock art and then the trippy mushroom formations. We have one more day before we depart for OROA but bear with us as we carry on about rock formations and rock art a little bit longer!

 

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Edited by gatoratlarge
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@AfricIanQuite, and they really ought to rope off all of those Libyan tanks, just letting tourists climb all over them someone is sure to have an accident 

 

@gatoratlargeI think sometimes I forget how long it takes to put all of the photos into a post, so finishing this post took longer than I expected and you got in with your post about 15 minutes ahead of me :lol:

 

Time to include a bit of wildlife, whilst we had all come to marvel at the magnificent landscapes, I was keen to try and spot a few birds as well, but I found it quite hard to focus on finding birds, as I was so busy taking photos of everything. Wherever we stopped Zarek would gravitate to the nearest trees in search of birds and any other wildlife he might find, so I think he found many more species than I did or spotted them before I did, Ennedi might be desert but it is still home to a good few bird species, a bird survey conducted by African Parks produced 189 species. The most common bird that we saw both around camp and almost everywhere we stopped was the White-crowned Wheatear.

 

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White-crowned Wheatear

 

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White-crowned Wheatear, Ennedi Chad

Juvenile without the white-crown

 

Exploring the rocks around our campsite Zarek found a pair of owls, these proved to be Saharan Little Owls, a North African subspecies of the charismatic Little Owl found in Europe and introduced to the UK. A nice find as the maps in our bird books, didn’t suggest it occurred in Ennedi, maps I’ve looked at online since, do show these owls in Ennedi, still very nice to see and nice to have them living right next to our camp, we wouldn’t have seen them otherwise.

 

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Saharan Little Owl

 

 

House Bunting, Ennedi, Chad

House Bunting

 

 

Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Ennedi, Chad

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

 

What I am calling a House Bunting is a very common bird in Ennedi, the House Bunting (Emberiza sahari) found in north-western Africa is very closely related to the Striolated Bunting (Emberiza striolata) found in north-eastern Africa and the Middle East, the Ennedi region would appear to be on the dividing line between the two, a science paper on the subject from 2017 that I have just looked at, states that the birds in Ennedi based on genetics are House Buntings and a recent article in Birdlife South Africa on the bird survey conducted in Ennedi referred to these birds as House Buntings, that's good enough for me, but photos taken in Ennedi on the African Bird Club website are labelled Striolated Bunting.

 

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When the NGO African Parks established the Reserve Naturelle et Culturelle d’Ennedi, the Red-necked Ostrich also known as the Barbary or North African Ostrich was believed to be extinct in the reserve. Since these ostriches are still very commonin Parc de Zakouma , AP started a reintroduction project, collecting eggs from nests in Zakouma incubating them and taking the chicks up to Fada where their RNCE HQ is located, they have established a captive breeding site there. Some of the birds were then moved to a fenced enclosure inside the reserve, before being released into the wild. Since their release these ostriches have produced seven chicks as far as I know. Meanwhile after this project was started, a French researcher surveying rock art sites in a remote part of Ennedi, discovered a small remnant population of ostriches that had survived. Even if ostriches weren’t in fact extinct in RNCE, the reintroduction will be a very good thing for the reserve, boosting their numbers. African Parks will do their best, to see that the last of the original ostriches and these new birds are well protected and will not be poached, ensuring that these endangered birds will once again be common in this part of the Sahara.

 

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Red-necked Ostrich

 

Before departing on this trip, I posted that I hoped to see this ostriches ideally with a good backdrop of rocks, I almost got my wish, the rocks/mountains were not quite as impressive as I would have liked, but I am not complaining, I'm just glad to have seen them 

 

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This was more the sort of backdrop I had in mind 

 

 

Table Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

Five Arch Rock

 

 

Table Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

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As it turned out, we could have got lucky and seen ostriches walking passed the arch, because whilst I was walking over towards the arch, I found some very clear ostrich spoor 

 

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Ostriches only have two toes, so their spoor is very distinctive

 

 

Ennedi, Chad

 

 

At Table Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

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Zarek, Ennedi landscape Chad

 

Whilst at our next stop, a man turned up on a motorbike 

 

 

Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Ennedi Landscape, Chad

 

Being the only one appropriately dressed, well that and being the only fluent French speaker in our group, Josep went over to talk to him.

 

 

Ostrich Liaison Officer, Ennedi Chad

 

If I remember correctly he was from Fada and the son of a local chief as denoted by his white turban and was working as AP's Ostrich Liaison Officer, essentially his job is to go around all of the local nomad communities, making sure that they are aware of the ostrich reintroduction project and that they know that they must not disturb the birds and certainly not poach them. 

 

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I was certain that we must be the only tourists in Ennedi, so it came as a shock when we arrived at Aloba Arch, to find other white people there, I thought how come there are other tourists here, but it turned out that they were not regular tourists, as already mentioned there was an extreme sports event taking place, Le Treg Ennedi Trek an ultramarathon.

 

 

Le Treg, Ennedi Trek ultramarathon, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Aloba Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Aloba Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Aloba Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

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Aloba Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Aloba Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Aloba Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

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Whilst we explored the Arch and its surroundings we saw some of the Le Treg runners arrive

 

 

Le Treg runner, Aloba Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Le Treg runner Aloba Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

The race is obviously run in cooperation with African Parks, so there were also some people from AP there  

 

 

Aloba Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

Normally we had lunch back at camp, but it is a long way to Aloba Arch and despite le Treg it was a very special place to have our picnic lunch

 

 

Aloba Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Aloba Arch, Ennedi, Chad

 

When going out for the day, we would divide ourselves between three vehicles since there were seven of us, we would take turns in different vehicles, I was very lucky that on this particular day, my eagle-eyed driver, spotted a pair of Dorcas Gazelles, sheltering in the shade of a bush, from the afternoon sun. In the past, Ennedi would have been home to Scimitar-horned Oryx, Addax and Dama Gazelles but these species have certainly been extirpated from Ennedi, due to poaching, the population of Dorcas Gazelles has been much reduced, but small numbers survive, we were very lucky to see these two. I hadn’t really been expecting to see gazelles and hadn’t been looking that hard, as most often when you see likely looking animals standing in the shade, they prove to be goats or perhaps sheep. We could very easily have just driven passed with out seeing them as the other cars had done. I knew that I should see Dorcas in OROA, but it was good to see some here, if only to confirm that they are still surviving, I hope that the establishment of the RNCE and AP’s management will ensure that they are now protected and their numbers will increase.    

 

 

Dorcas Gazelles, Ennedi, Chad

 

Dorcas Gazelles

 

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A lesson in why you need to be paying attention and looking out for animals, just in case, once we were stopped and looking at them, there was no possibility of mistaking them for goats. 

 

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Rocks, Ennedi Chad

 

 

Rocks, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

The Labyrinth, Ennedi, Chad

 

In the Labyrinthe d'Oyo

 

 

The Labyrinth, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

The Labyrinth, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

 

The Labyrinth, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

The Labyrinth, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

The Labyrinth, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

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The Labyrinth is well named it would be quite easy to get lost if you just wandered off and started exploring.

 

Going to to look for rock art in Manda Guéli Cave not too far from camp

 

 

Going to see the rock art, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Going to see the rock art, Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Going to see the rock art, Ennedi, Chad

 

From around 11,000 to 3,000 BCE the climate of this region was very different to how it is now, this was the so called African Humid Period at this time what is referred to as Lake Mega-Chad was the largest freshwater lake in the world, slightly larger than the Caspian Sea, there were other smaller lakes further north and west and the desert as it now is, was crossed by rivers now long gone. The Sahara Desert as it now is (and the Arabian Desert) was lightly wooded savanna grassland, many of the people during this period were pastoralists keeping herds of cattle, the importance of cattle can be seen in the number of images of cows in the rock art, every site that we visited had depictions of cattle, as seen in some earlier photos. During our visit to Ennedi we saw large flocks of sheep and goats and numerous camels and donkeys but very few cattle, on one morning returning to camp, I was very surprised to see a herd of cows, as we had seen none up to that point. Very few cattle are kept in Ennedi today, simply because they have to be supplied with water every single day, we did see a few more cows on a couple of occasions, but very few. 

 

Before looking at the paintings here are a few donkeys and camels

 

 

Donkeys, Ennedi, Chad

 

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Camels, Ennedi, Chad

 

Scientists have only fairly recently determined that the dromedary camel, definitely originated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula, that this is where the first wild camels were domesticated, soon after their domestication, these camels became extinct as a wild species, from Arabia they spread across Western Asia and into Africa. The paintings of camels and also horses are more recent than those depicting cattle a reflection of the fact that camels and horses arrived in the Ennedi region later than cattle.

 

 

Rock art, Ennedi, Chad

 

When the Sahara was green it would have supported characteristic African savanna wildlife, that would have included species that like cattle require water every day, as the climate dried out and the grasslands became more arid the trees sparser, these animals would have disappeared. Giraffes which were evidently very common or had some significance to the people, only require water every few days and obtain most of the moisture they need from their diet, they may well have survived until quite recently, given how giraffes are able to survive in the deserts of Namibia, exactly when they disappeared from Ennedi I don’t know, but they are the most common wild animal depicted by Ennedi’s ancient artists. Lake Chad which is principally fed by the Chari River that flows through N’Djamena, is now just a fraction of its former ancient size and continues to shrink as a result of climate change and poor water management.    

 

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Rock art warrior riding a camel, Ennedi, Chad

Warrior riding a camel

 

 

Cave rock art site, Ennedi, Chad

Manda Guéli cave

 

 

Ennedi, Chad

 

 

Rock, Ennedi, Chad

Rock looking a little like a sculpture of a seated figure

 

 

Sunset Ennedi, Chad

Sunset

 

 

 

Edited by inyathi
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Ooooh, I've been busy and missed out on the start of this TR!  Thank you @gatoratlargeand @inyathifor getting us going.  
It was great, albeit briefly, to meet you and your family, too @bigbrownboyIt would be great to see a trip report from you here, especially on how you fared in Zakouma before we got there.

I don't know how much I can add to this TR that hasn't already been written, but here are a couple of points.

- From my understanding the drivers we had in Ennedi (other than Ibrahim) were not actually Eyte employees, but random drivers who had been subcontracted by Eyte.  Omar (Abdelkarim), mentioned they were provided by African Parks, which I wasn't so sure about.  

- In several photos above, I'm standing around looking at my phone!! Just to clarify, I had ZERO phone signal the entire trip.  Believe it or not, I was birding.  Whenever I see/hear a bird, I record it on eBird on my phone.  You can see my eBird checklists for the whole trip here: https://ebird.org/mychecklists/TD?currentRow=1&sortBy=date&o=desc 

 

I haven't edited my photos on my laptop (only a handful on my phone for instagram), so apologies that my photos aren't quite up to par with what you've seen above.IMG_3269.JPG.2ee182833e5edc9287b7c308d30840d2.JPGIMG_3276.JPG.8c4325a7995a010fb70b8288237a983a.JPGIMG_3297.JPG.2e71267ab344489d3f7ebcfb2c72839c.JPGIMG_3303.JPG.aef144b6e4cd3fb62d26357df06a6284.JPGIMG_3313.JPG.68bc509ba45ba665e7fc51cb44c2835f.JPG

Patas Monkey.  We didn't get many sightings, but their spoor was at almost every spot we stopped and got out of the vehicles.  They're obviously not fairing too badly in Ennedi, though they're VERY shy.  This poor youngster got left behind in this tree when we drove up.  It was very clearly afraid of us and our cameras, so we backed off and left it alone before too long.

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Short-toed Snake-Eagle

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Forskal Sand Snake - Psammophis schokari.  We found this on our hike in towards the Guelta.  The two little girls who were guiding us were ready to kill it with a big rock, but we managed to save it (they're completely harmless).

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Edited by Zarek Cockar
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