Jump to content


Recommended Posts

Ennedi had been absolutely fantastic, but as I explained earlier it was the chance to visit Ouadi Rimé Ouadi Achim Game Reserve known as OROA, that really sold this trip to me, it was just a shame that we only had one night here, giving us just a short afternoon plus evening and a morning in the reserve.  











Flying into OROA I was on the lookout for animals, but I think most of what I saw was livestock rather than wildlife, I was well pleased that we saw Oryx and Dorcas Gazelles just on our way to the Oryx Base and I saw a Scissor-tailed Kite. Not too long before the trip I had watched a video on the Oryx reintroduction and spotted near the end a whole flock of these kites, I’d also seen a number of sightings from OROA logged on the West African Bird Database website WABDaB by Tim Wacher from ZSL who is a leading member of the Oryx project, so I knew OROA had to be a good place for these kites. According to the book the Birds of Western Africa the kites migrate north to south and back within the Sahel/Sahara region, I’d not seen the kite before, but it is on the Zakouma NP list, I assume in April when I’ve been in Zakouma previously that the kites have moved north again. I knew my chances were very good in OROA, but didn’t expect to see one straight away, this was great and meant I could focus on the antelopes, as they were what I had really come for.  



Scimitar-horned Oryx



Dorcas Gazelles 


Earlier I referred to the African Humid Period, a time when the Sahara was not desert, but lightly wooded savanna grassland, when this was the case Scimitar-horned Oryx would have been very common across northern Africa. Depictions in Ancient Egyptian art and in Roman mosaics suggest that they were still common during those times, oryx would likely have been captured by the Romans for their arenas, so that they could watch them being killed by lions as in the following image.


Detail of the Lod Mosaic, a lioness attacking a scimitar oryx, mosaic believed to belong to a large and well-appointed Roman house and is dated to about A.D. 300, found in Lod, Israel (13541663744)
English:  Following Hadrian, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Scimitar-horned Oryx occurred as far East as the West bank of the Nile in Egypt, it is possible though has not been confirmed, that Arabian Oryx may have occurred East of the Nile, the Arabian certainly occurred throughout the Arabian Peninsula and up into Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Syria, Scimitar-horned would not have occurred naturally in Israel where this mosaic is, but were common enough within their natural range, that they would have been familiar to Romans and doubtless shipped to arenas in various parts of the empire. 


After the Roman period, the population of oryx started to gradually decline, as the climate changed and Africa became drier, and their habitat north of the Sahara which was at the time likely dry forest was destroyed, a process started in Roman times, dry forest became arid steppe, which was then converted to desert by livestock,  exactly when the species became extinct in North Africa is not known but likely before the 19th century. However, they still survived in good numbers grazing the arid grasslands and savannas of the Sahel fringing the southern Sahara and likely survived in some of the mountain massifs within the Sahara, up until the 20th century. Then their population went into steep decline, particularly following the introduction of better firearms and motor vehicles, hunters could kill more animals, more easily and gain access to areas of the Saharan region that would previously have been difficult to reach. The combination of habitat loss, competition with domestic livestock and overhunting, led to a major reduction in numbers south of the Sahara, by the 1960s only one significant population remained in OROA in central Chad, in the mid-70s there may have been 4000-6000 oryx in OROA. Unfortunately, civil war between the Chadian army and northern rebels backed by Colonel Gaddafi, made it too dangerous for rangers to operate in the reserve and these last wild oryx were poached, likely killed for meat by both sides during the conflict, sometime by the 1980s the Oryx had likely became extinct, 1978 has been suggested as the possible extinction date in OROA, surveys conducted in the 90s found only old skulls and horns, in the year 2000, the IUCN declared that the Scimitar-horned Oryx was extinct in the wild.


Luckily, in the 1960s when the oryx were still common in OROA, some 50 Oryx were captured by an animal trader named Frans Van den Brink, the animals were sent to zoos in the USA and then from there to Europe and around the world. During the 90s some captive oryx were returned to their natural habitat in fenced reserves in Tunisia and Morocco, but being fenced in, they are not truly wild. Around a decade ago conservationists started to plan the reintroduction of oryx to the OROA, to re-establish a wild population in their last known home. Oryx were selected from zoos around the world including Marwell Zoo in the UK, to create a world herd of oryx at the Delaika Breeding Centre in Abu Dhabi, the aim was to ensure that this herd was as genetically diverse as possible, oryx from this herd would then be sent to Chad and ultimately released into the wild in the OROA. The first oryx in this project run by the Sahara Conservation Fund, were released in 2016, the plan is to release 500 oryx.



Oryx calf at Marwell Zoo near Winchester UK in 2010


Oryx can live for 15-20 years, it is entirely possible that this calf could have been sent to Delaika in Abu Dhabi and even on to the OROA. Already the population in the OROA has grown to around 500, but a few more animals will be brought and released to bring the number of released animals up to 500. Currently the IUCN still lists the Scimitar-horned Oryx as extinct in the wild, the aim of reintroducing so many animals is to get the IUCN to relist the Oryx, in a different category they might be reclassified as endangered. They were last assessed by the IUCN in 2016 just as the project was starting, by the time they are reassessed there should be well over 500, if the population continues to grow or stabilises, they could well be considered endangered or even just vulnerable, the population of Arabian Oryx is put at only around 850 but because the population is stable, they are listed as vulnerable. The OROA Game Reserve is one of the largest protected areas in the world at 30,000 square miles, the size of the reserve and the quality of the habitat, made it the priority site for Scimitar-horned Oryx reintroduction. 




That we would see the Oryx was never in doubt, a number of animals in each herd have been fitted with tracking collars and the staff from SCF monitor them every day, so they always know where they are and can always find them.









The little bird is a Southern Grey Shrike




Arabian Bustard




@Zarek Cockar Given the amount of ground we covered in Ennedi, I was surprised that we only saw bustards on that last morning, I would have thought that there was plenty of good habitat for both Nubian and Arabian, I don’t know to what extent they may be hunted by local nomads or even by visiting Arab hunters. I am not aware that there is a problem with Arab falconers visiting Chad to hunt bustards, but I don’t know, this is certainly a problem in parts of North Africa and also in Asia. It was great to find that they were common here. I had already seen Arabian Bustards in Ethiopia and also most remarkably, many years ago I saw one in the Moroccan Sahara, this species is listed as extinct in Morocco, due to hunting, I suspect that the bird I saw was a vagrant that had turned up there, rather than a rare survivor. It was great to see them here, and get a couple of passable photos, it was the Nubian that I really wanted to get a photo of, but they were playing hard to get. 


We did see other birds, harriers were very common, this one is a Pallid 




Pallid Harrier



Black-winged Kite



Rüppell's Vultures


To see Rüppell's Vultures on a nest in a tree was a real surprise, as in East Africa this species nests exclusively on cliffs, but then I presume there are no cliffs in OROA



Lappet-faced Vultures



Cape Hare


We caught up with the first herd of Addax at sunset which made for a very special end to the day









The Scimitar-horned Oryx are more of an arid grassland species than a true desert species, the Addax on the other hand is a true desert animal and can live in much drier areas than the oryx. Their fate was broadly similar to that of the oryx, as people were able to venture deeper into the desert and reach even the remotest areas, Addax were hunted out. The last known wild population was in the vast Termit and Tin Touma Reserve in Niger. These last herds roamed the Tin Touma Desert, unfortunately oil was discovered in the Tin Touma Desert, Chinese oil companies were invited in to drill for the oil, because Niger is an unstable country that has a problem with various insurgent/terrorist groups, the Nigerien army was sent to Tin Touma to protect the oil workers, these soldiers poached the Addax, whether for their own consumption or to sell the meat, I am not sure. The last survey conducted in the reserve found just three Addax, it is likely that the Addax is doomed there, because the government recently decided to remove the area of the Tin Touma Desert where the oil is from the reserve, and add some land onto the other side of the reserve to compensate, the problem is that they have removed the best Addax habitat and replaced it with land that is not good habitat for Addax. There are good numbers of Addax in zoos around the world, I don’t know what their origins are, but I would think that they likely originate from Chad, and I would assume they descend from a fairly small number of animals. I would guess as with the oryx, care will have been taken to ensure that the reintroduced Addax are as genetically diverse as possible, the animals are constantly monitored and as will be clear from the photos, they have ear-tags much like cattle do, this makes it possible to identify individual animals, I presume this is so that, how each animal is doing can be recorded, their health and breeding success can be monitored. I was told that the population now stands at 97, it was great to see plenty of both Addax and oryx calves.   


If I get slightly carried away with the photos it's because it was just so beautiful to see these species, that I have only ever seen in zoos, living wild in their natural habitat. 















As mentioned some of us went on a night drive, getting autofocus to work when there is very little light is a challenge, I having had my Canon 100-400mm mk2 lens for some years, should know which of the four switches it has on it is which, even in the dark, so I should be able to switch it onto manual focus just by feel, but it seems I can't and may have ended up switching off the image stabiliser by mistake, that may account for my night drive photos not being as good as I might have expected, however, they could have been a lot worse.



Pale Fox



Wild Dama Gazelle


Wild Dama Gazelles was not something I had ever expected to see in OROA, I knew we should see captive Damas but this was a wonderful surprise, I will add more on Damas further on. 


The Oryx Base doesn't have any guest accommodation, so Eyte put up our little camp outside their compound, for this one night stop, we were provided with these small green tents, all except for the group's one couple who were given one of the bigger white tents, that we'd had in Ennedi.






As mentioned, our food was provided by Eyte's cook who had come down by car with Adolpho, whilst SCF couldn't provide accommodation we could make use of their bathrooms, where there were toilets and showers, although these were at the other end of their compound, so some walk from our tents, there were also electric sockets in their dining area, that we could use and they had Wi-Fi for those who couldn't survive without it.



African Silverbill 



Speckled Pigeons


In the morning just as we preparing to leave for our game drive, we were treated to a surprise visit from a male ostrich, who arrived just outside the gate of the compound, seeing an ostrich on foot, eye to eye like this, you get to appreciate just how big they are and you certainly don't want to get too close to those feet. 



Red-necked Ostrich

You can really see why these birds are called Red-necked Ostriches, if you look closely you will see that he has a tracking collar on his neck, until recently ostriches were extinct in OROA, African Parks who manage Zakouma, delivered ostrich chicks from there to the Sahara Conservation Fund here in the OROA. The ostriches are kept in a fenced enclosure at the Oryx Base, this male is one of the first group to have been released into the reserve, hence the collar, although he is now an entirely wild bird, he still hangs around outside the SCF compound.    






Dorcas Gazelles


Dorcas Gazelles if they are well protected as they now are in OROA, breed very well and the population will quickly rebound from any previous poaching, consequently there are now very good numbers of Saharan Dorcas in the reserve, driving through the reserve at moments I was reminded of the Serengeti as the landscape is quite similar and the numerous small herds of Dorcas were reminiscent of the Thompson’s or Grant’s Gazelles there.











With poaching reasonably under control, at least within the area of the reserve around the Oryx Base, they should be doing well, their only significant natural predator, surviving in the reserve is the African or Golden Wolf, I’m sure they take a few Dorcas kids, but not enough to impact their numbers. A long-term ambition for SCF is to reintroduce Cheetahs, but this will require a huge amount of work to convince the nomads to accept the return of these cats, my impression is that it is no more than an ambition at present. If it does prove possible to bring them back, they would certainly do well hunting the Dorcas, these gazelles would be their preferred prey, but they would also take young Addax and Oryx and of course would hunt Damas, so SCF would want to get the number of Damas up, to a suitable number first. In the recent past there would also have been Wild Dogs and I’ve no doubt even Lions, but returning these two species is very unlikely       



African Golden Wolf 


















In places the number of wild melons, was extraordinary


Although finding the antelopes is guaranteed, it can take a long time to catch up with them, it took us a couple of hours to find this herd of Addax










The Addax are sufficiently habituated that you can get out of car, if you don't move around too much, allowing for great photos










Addax are also known as white antelopes, during the summer when the desert is at its hottest, their coats are almost entirely white to reflect heat, in the cooler winter, when it can get cold, their coats get longer and turn predominantly brown over most of their bodies.  


Seeing these Addax up close like this and getting out of the car was a magical experience, my experience was all the more magical when a Scissor-tailed Kite flew quite low direct over my head, however, this did cause some severe frustration, @Zarek Cockarif your photos of the kite are not better than mine, I would be quite surprised, by the end we saw quite a few of these kites, but every time I raised my camera I could never see the bird through my lens, I don't know if this is because they are quite small and mainly white, whatever the issue was, you can't photograph a subject you can't see and I only managed to actually see the bird through my camera when they were quite far away, so I only got some record shots. 
Scimitar-horned Oryx 



















Eventually, I got to see and get reasonable photos of a Nubian Bustard






There are I believe two other bustard species that occur in OROA, Denham's but they are not seen at this time of year and Savile's which should occur in the reserve, but I don't know how often Savile's is seen or where or exactly where else they are seen in Chad, I've never seen Savile's. We did see a few other good birds in OROA 




Cream-coloured Courser




The Cream-coloured is a desert courser found in the Sahel, parts of the Sahara and North Africa and western Asia as far as the west of India 



Common Quail 




Common Buttonquail




Common Quail and Common Buttonquail are good birds to find as neither are easy to see, although they are not uncommon at least in Africa, the nominate race of the Common Buttonquail is known as the Andalusian Hemipode found in southern Spain it is critically endangered. 



Dunn's Lark 




Eastern Black-eared Wheatear





Cricket Warbler


There was one other bird that I was very keen to see before leaving OROA, the Black Scrub-robin, a Sahel species but I wasn't lucky and missed this one.


Before leaving the Oryx Base, some of us were taken to see the captive Dama Gazelles 




The captive population of Dama in OROA is still small and made up of animals caught in OROA plus some captured in the far west of Chad on the Niger border, there was a tiny remnant population there, that was considered too small to survive, rather than lose their genes, it was decided to rescue them and bring them to OROA. The wildlife vet Pete Morkel who performs a lot of collaring operations for AP, travelled out to the USA, to get some hands-on experience with captive Dama Gazelles, before attempting to dart these very precious wild gazelles. The capture was successful and a number of gazelles were taken to OROA and added to the captive herd, but tragically it seems as a result of the pandemic two of them died, as they could not be looked after as well as they should have been. Recently as mentioned, a gazelle from the reserve’s wild population, was attracted to the enclosure with the captive gazelles and staff were able to open the gates and allow this animal to wander in.


There are some 1,500 captive Dama in zoos around the world and on ranches in Texas, it would be possible to bring some of these animals to Chad, to add to the captive herd, however, SCF have no plans to do so, bringing some of these zoo animals could introduce disease, the risk is not considered worth it, because the zoo population is entirely descended from animals originally captured in the Ouadi Haouwache area of OROA in 1967 by Frans Van den Brink, he is thought to have captured either 22 or 23 and of these only 20 survived so any genetic contribution that zoo Damas might bring, would be of limited value. The aim is first and foremost to rebuild the Dama population in OROA, but in time they could provide animals to release elsewhere. Dama Gazelles were present in Ennedi in the past, there are rock paintings of them, though I don’t think we saw any of these paintings, when they were extirpated, I am not sure, however, a report I read on Dama conservation categorised the habitat in the RNCE as being of medium quality, I’m sure bringing them back to the RNCE is one of AP’s long term aims, but I guess this might not be a priority for SCF, when there are better places to reintroduce them. One such place is the Gadabedji Reserve in Niger, where the habitat is categorised as high quality, this reserve is home to the first translocated/reintroduced population of West African Giraffes, the habitat there is good for both Dama Gazelles and oryx, I suspect SCF would see taking them there as a bigger priority, time will tell, at the moment there aren’t enough gazelles, to be considering moving them to other sites. I hope that they can succeed in rebuilding the OROA population and that in time the Gazelles will revert to being diurnal so that it is possible to see wild Dama Gazelles in the day time.



Jay arriving with our taxi for Zakouma 

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites


Fantastic. Wow. It is such a shame that as we planed our trip for 2019 nobody knows about OROA. Not ourself and not Sengeeta and Adolfo said nothing. We passed nearly by. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites


We left OROA after just 24 hours but it had been a real uplifting and fruitful part of our journey to Chad.  We were headed to familiar territory for several in our group.  Zakouma is a unique and enchanting place....abundance beyond anything I'd ever seen in Africa particularly when it comes to birdlife...but it also has The Big Five now with the recent introduction of black rhino.  @inyathiwas among  the first STers to venture there and his Trip Reports inspired many to follow in his footsteps including me!  This was his third time in Zakouma!  @Zarek Cockarand myself were making our second visit.


Back to Tinga!




31EBF3FD-0D32-4951-B22F-63988B2B8848.jpeg.ef52a8986f04792f6ade2265bd9ac858.jpegI'm running a bit out of steam and am not sure I'll do a day by day but hopefully the others will.  I'll just put together some observations and some helpful knowledge to pass along plus photos tell far more the story than anything I could write.


African Parks just celebrated FIVE YEARS with no elephant poaching incidents in Zakouma which is a fantastic accomplishment!  The park's elephant population has grown to more than 600 which is up from the 450 low level mark 10 years ago.  When we saw the large herd, there will many babies and young elephants which was so heartening to see!


We got a briefing on our last day from African Parks at their operations center.  The two remaining rhinos had been recently tracked and rounded up for a veterinary check up and were "fat and happy" they said.  Six more rhinos are scheduled to be translocated in December of this year.  This is of course great news.  They believe they have figured out what the issue was with the rhinos that did not survive.  Somehow timing and the nutritional value of the food they eat in Zakouma caused their bodies to consume and burn valuable fat in their bodies and so while they looked healthy on the outside they were not getting the nutrition they needed.  I do not pretend to know what this means but I trust that they have this figured out and the two rhinos that survived are testament to the fact that they can thrive in Zakouma as they once did.


I was bummed that you're no longer able to "water the elephants" at the head ranger's house.  I know it's not "natural" and perhaps it had become a danger or hazard to the residence but it had been something folks had experienced for a number of years and the story was that these old bulls that frequented the water hole next to the ranger's house had trusted humans in spite of all the terror they had surely seen in their long lives.  I just remember it had been one of the highlights of my visit before to be that close to such a magnificent creature and to hear the long satisfied rumbles of the old bull as he drank from the hose.  The old bulls still frequent the area but there's been a fence built around the residence and the practice of letting them drink from the hose has been halted.


Rigueik Pan has got to be the greatest show on earth when it comes to birds....we visited several times to watch the quelia come in to drink and roost for the night....thousands of geese, ducks, cranes, and an inconceivable number of doves are constantly flooding the skies...it is simply hard to describe the abundance.  While the numbers of species are many, it's the sheer abundance that is like nothing I've ever seen anywhere on our planet!


The famous Zakouma mega-herd of elephants is as skittish as ever, even with years without poaching in the park, as soon as humans are detected they are on the move.  We waited hours to try to intercept them crossing the Salamat River.  They had been frequenting the dense bush for several days not too far from Camp Tinga.  Somehow they evaded us and we only caught a glimpse of a few moving in thick vegetation.  It was only the next morning that we went on a long game drive to the south and were able to see the large elephant herd.  As soon as we entered the clearing or pan, the herd moved en masse into the bush and away from the waterhole.  We were able to get out on foot and approach much closer and watch the herd pass.  It was fantastic to see the babies and elephants of all sizes and ages file past...




Zakouma is clearly a lion stronghold.  The West African males' manes seems less full from their East and Southern African counterparts.  But we had many great interactions including lots of playful cubs.  Another land rover witnessed a lone female take down a buffalo.  She seemed so exhausted that she spent nearly two days napping near the carcass before making much of a meal out of it.  Leopards remain elusive although the family we dropped off at Zakouma @bigbrownboywere able to see one.  We also didn't see cheetah although another guest was able to see a pair, one very relaxed and the other quite skittish.


























FE43C03C-04D2-42CD-8AF8-8FA281EDA256.jpeg.6b8ad9736110895e2ce83cb90b4bb351.jpegFinally, we had a great night fly camping along the Salamat River.  It's such a highlight of both of my visits to Zakouma.  We had no sooner arrived at camp then we heard the competing roars of lions and whooping hyenas...and the crocs are just about as noisy.  I didn't realize how vocal they can be!  








We called this waterhole the “Pit of Despair” gasping lungfish and crocs galore:



Along the Salamat they dig caves to escape the coming intense heat of the dry season







I had hoped to spot a honey badger just as a fun goal -- I had only seen two in Botswana years ago and Zakouma is a good place to spot them...the guy that had spotted the cheetahs saw four in one night and more than a dozen overall!  I'm not complaining because a honey badger would be a lucky and random sighting, but just as an example of the crazy abundance Zakouma can deliver.  I hope to go back again someday and sure would love to see the rhinos thriving!


Zakouma remains the only place I've ever seen serval --- and we added three or for sightings over our stay...

African wild cat on the move!






Pale fox rather relaxed---we saw several in OROA and Zakouma and some saw one or two in Ennedi


Kordofan giraffe 🦒 stronghold:











West African Buffs:









More birds:


Abyssinian Rollers are stunning

Long crested eagle

Yellow billed Kite


Saddlebilled storks in numbers I had never seen elsewhere


A lurking danger







Antelope haven:

Roan were quite plentiful -- we saw a couple herds numbering around 40 plus


Reedbuck I believe


Lelwel's hartebeest



We saw our share of reptiles too: Spurred Tortoise


An Egyptian cobra:


A massive python


Baboon country for sure---we saw Tantalas and Patas monkeys as well---not sure I have a great pic of a Patas monkey




Edited by gatoratlarge
Link to comment
Share on other sites

zakouma! the photos bring back great memories and still an astounding number of birds and animals. so nice to see a fairly large group of roans!


did they say why they stopped the practice of "watering" the elephants? is it stopped altogether or just to visitors? 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

zakouma! the photos bring back great memories and still an astounding number of birds and animals. so nice to see a fairly large group of roans!


did they say why they stopped the practice of "watering" the elephants? is it stopped altogether or just to visitors? 


They didn’t really say but the head ranger has built a fence very close around the house and there’s still the waterhole they can access. Maybe the others heard an explosion but I just got the impression, new manager, new philosophy. I was disappointed but se la vie 🤷it was such a unique experience though

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Zarek Cockar

We departed OROA by air that afternoon, heading south to Zakouma National Park. Zakouma sits squarely in the Sudan-Guinea Savanna belt south of the true Sahel. While it’s not known for having as much diversity as some of the East African savannas, the sheer abundance of all life there is truly spectacular. 

Arriving by air we already began to see a fair number of larger, more conspicuous species, including Sudanic Buffalo (Syncerus caffer brachyceros), Kordofan Giraffe (Giraffa Camelopardalis antiquorum), Defassa Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus defassa), Savannah Elephant (Loxodonta africana), Common Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus), and Lelwel Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus lelwel).  Once on the ground, we got closer looks at most of these, as well as Olive Baboon (Papio anubis) and Tantalus Monkey (Chlorocebus tantalus (I assume ssp. budgetti)) as we arrived at Tinga Camp, where we’d be staying for the next 6 nights.



Rather than a blow-by-blow account of all the mammals we saw, I’ll instead focus on some highlights below:

-          The elephant population in the Greater Zakouma Ecosystem (GZE), which includes the nearby Siniaka Minia Reserve, is estimated to have been close to 300,000 back in the 1960s.  Then through war, the rise in ivory poaching, etc. it dropped to around 4,500 individuals by the early 2000’s.  By 2011, it had dropped a further 90% to only 450.  This is when African Parks was invited by the Chadian government (around 2012) to get poaching under control and take over management of the park.  Within a couple of years, AP brought poaching levels down to near zero, and they haven’t had an incident in 4 years now.  Despite this, it took years for the elephants to calm down enough to start breeding again.  Now there’s a large, mixed herd (adult bulls, females, calves, etc.) that move around nervously.  In addition, there’s a handful of bulls who hang around near park HQ and are much more relaxed around vehicles.  The total number is now close to 600, up from 450, so while it doesn’t sound like much, it’s a start, and a cause for hope.

Finding this herd and getting a good view is notoriously difficult.  On my last trip, in 2020, we had some very good views down the Salamat River in the far southern end of the park, but they elephants were still a good 150m away, if not more.  If we’d gotten any closer, on foot or in the vehicle, they would have bolted and disappeared.  This year, we missed them crossing the Salamat by about a kilometre as we sat in the shade of a tree along the bank waiting for them.  The next day, happily, we did find them, and managed to stop far enough away that the vehicle wouldn’t spook them too much, and then approach on foot. I didn’t get any good photos when we were on foot, as I didn’t carry my camera. Perhaps the guests can share what they have. 

You can see elephants in hundreds of locations across Sub-Saharan Africa, but there’s something special about this herd, and I feel it each time.  Watching them quietly from a hidden spot in the shade as they go about their business is somehow more rewarding and more emotional than any other elephants I’ve viewed.  This will always be a highlight of Zakouma for me.


My camera battery had died and I used my phone for this shot, but clearly my lens was filthy.  This was one of 2 bulls who walked across the Salamat while we waited under a tree for the full herd. Here @inyathigets some final shots.



Waiting for the elephants that never came. But we enjoyed this herd of buffalo who must have come down to drink 4 or 5 times, each time running off in terror at some unknown danger after a few minutes.  


-          The Northern Lions (Panthera leo leo) in Zakouma are about as relaxed around vehicles as any lion in the Mara-Serengeti, allowing you to get close without disrupting their behaviour. Combine this with the unique Zakouma light, the water in the pans, and the never-ending supply of cubs.  The predator research team reckons there are around 150 individuals in the park at the moment.  What’s interesting to me is that from April to September, at least half the park is almost completely under water.  So the lions all abandon their territories and move west to higher ground where they set up new, temporary territories, or just tolerate each other without defined territories (I never got a straight answer on this). Interesting dynamic and behaviour not seen too many other places.

-          Night drives in Zakouma tend to be excellent.  African Civet (Civettictus civetta) seems to be more common/numerous here, by far, than anywhere else I’ve been.  Zakouma SHOULD have both Common Genet (Genetta genetta) and Large-spotted Genet (Genetta maculata), but we never did see a Common Genet (or at least, if we did, we couldn’t be 100% sure as we didn’t have a good view of the tail). Genets are everywhere on night drives. We also had several good nocturnal sightings of Serval (Leptailurus serval), but none during the day.  Other nocturnal highlights included Side-striped Jackal (Lupulella adustus), Senegal Galago (Galago senegalensis), White-tailed Mongoose (Ichneumia albicauda), African Savannah Hare (Lepus victoriae), African Wildcat, and Pale Fox.

-          I enjoy all the Bovids of Zakouma, especially the abundance of many of the species which are rare, range-restricted, or absent in East Africa. Western Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros cottoni) are relatively common, but not always easy to find in the thick bush. We had one good sighting with a male following a female with calf and a subadult male watching curiously. The Central Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus phaleratus) are just so beautifully marked and I thoroughly enjoyed each one we saw (many along the Salamat River). We had one, brief sighting of Common/Grimm’s/Bush Duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia), and a number of good sightings of Oribi (Ouerebia ouerebi), Red-fronted Gazelle (Eudorcas rufifrons), and Western Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus koba).  In certain areas, some species are more numerous than I can quite get my head around.  Rigueik Pan has more Bohor Reedbuck (Redunca redunca) than I could ever possibly hope to see in a lifetime in East Africa, and they just sit out in the open on barren ground, unperturbed by a passing vehicle.  I would assume they’re Redunca redunca nigeriensis?  It’s also FULL of more Defassa Waterbuck I could hope to see in a year elsewhere. At certain times, the open grassland beyond the pan is chock full of Tiang (Damaliscus lunatus tiang) – in their thousands, tens of thousands at a stretch maybe.  Other areas of the park have herds of Lelwel Hartebeest around every 10th bush.  Buffon’s/Western Kob (Kobus kob kob) is locally common/numerous in several areas of the park.


What we missed

Notable misses from Ennedi include: Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda), Ruppell’s Fox (Vulpes rueppellii), Aoudad/Barbary Sheep (Ammotragus lervia), Sand Cat (Felis margarita), & Desert Hedgehog (Paraechinus aethiopicus) – though the presence of the last species is questionable.  There’s one very good record for Sand Cat on iNaturalist from a reliable observer with good photos: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/35052030

In OROA, I would have liked to see Honey Badger, Aardvark, and Zorilla, which are apparently common.  I showed a few people images of Libyan Striped Weasel (Poecilictis libyca), but no one could confirm if they occur.  I suspect that maybe every low-slung, black & white striped carnivore is quickly identified as a Zorilla without much thought. The maps in MoA show them in Ennedi as well.  This would be a huge lifer for me. Caracal (Caracal caracal) should be common here as well, but we dipped on those.

In Zakouma we dipped on Striped Hyena, Spotted Hyena (we heard them, but never actually saw them), Leopard, Cheetah (one other vehicle had 2 sightings, but we never found them), African Wild Dog (they’re spotted every couple of years, so not surprised), Honey Badger (the same other vehicle had multiple sightings), Marsh Mongoose, Egyptian Mongoose, Black Rhino (there are 2 in the park), Temminck’s Ground Pangolin, African Clawless Otter, Gambian Sun Squirrel, Dormouse, and White-bellied Hedgehog.  All of those would have been nice, but not many of them would have been lifers for me.  The biggest disappointment for me, personally, was not finding Red-flanked Duiker (Cephalophus rufilatus), which are known from the park and have been photographed on a few occasions. 

I wasn’t spending much time on bats or rodents in any location, so you’ll notice they don’t feature prominently on the list below.


The list:


1. Rock Hyrax: Ennedi

2. Bush Elephant: Zakouma

3. Olive Baboon: Zakouma

4. Patas Monkey: Ennedi & Zakouma

5. Tantalus Monkey: Zak

6. Senegal Galago: Zak

7. Striped Ground Squirrel: Zak

8. Lesser Egyptian Jerboa: Enn & OROA

9. Gerbilllus sp.: Enn & Oroa

10. Cape Hare: Enn & Oroa

11. Savannah Hare: Zak

12. Epauletted Fruit Bat Epomophorus (I assume Epomophorus gambianus): Zak

13. Slit-faced Bat: Zak

14. African Golden Wolf: Oroa

15. Side-stiped Jackal: Zak

16. Pale Fox: Enn, Oroa, & Zak

17. Lion: Zak

18. Serval: Zak

19. African Wildcat: Oroa & Zak

20. African Civet: Zak

21. Large-spotted Genet: Zak

22. Slender Mongoose: Zak

23. White-tailed Mongoose: Zak

24. Banded Mongoose: Zak

25. Common Hippopotamous: N’djamena

26. Common Warthog: Zak

27. Kordofan Giraffe: Zak

28. Sudanic Buffalo: Zak

29. Greater Kudu: Zak

30. Bushbuck: Zak

31. Bush Duiker: Zak

32. Oribi: Zak

33. Dorcas Gazelle: Enn & Oroa

34. Red-fronted Gazelle: Zak

35. Dama Gazelle: Oroa

36. Bohor Reedbuck: Zak

37. Western Kob: Zak

38. Defassa Waterbuck: Zak

39. Tiang: Zak

40. Lelwel Hartebeest: Zak

41. Roan Antelope: Zak

42. Scimitar-horned Oryx: Oroa

43. Addax: Oroa

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Zarek Cockar


@inyathithis is about as good as it gets from my camera with a small bird flying into the sun. 


Let me tell you a story about VERY weird coincidences.  

2 or 3 days into our stay at Tinga, late on a morning drive, I said something to the effect of, "I'm surprised we haven't seen any monitor lizards. Last time I was here, we saw a few of them". Before we'd gotten back to Tinga, we saw 2 Savanna Monitors (Varanus exanthematicus) in different places.  Before the sun went down that day, we saw another 3 monitors, including this Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus).  And then for the rest of the trip, we didn't see a single one. 


Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus)


It gets weirder.  After our first evening watching the Quelea, we jumped into the vehicle and started heading home with the spotlight looking for nocturnal species.  We hadn't gone 100m before Bonneaventure (our driver/guide) spotted a large Egyptian Cobra (this isn't the weird part - wait for it). 


Egyptian Cobra (Naja haje)

We then came back to watch the Quelea at sunset a on our last evening.  We got there early, so we were pottering around enjoying giraffes and birds in the good light.  As we were sitting photographing giraffes on the opposite bank of the little watercourse, I joked, "Alright people, last time we were here, we saw an Egyptian Cobra.  Today we're going to see a Python." I think I might have received a quiet chuckle from Joel, but otherwise... crickets. 
I'm not exaggerating when I say less than 10 minutes later, and in a very short distance from where we'd been, Bonneaventure very calmly says, "And we have python in front of us".  Right in front of the vehicle, about 20m away, a large Central African Rock Python (Python sebae) was slowly moving from the side of the road into a thicket. Really!? 
I think @gatoratlargewas a little sour I hadn't loudly proclaimed to the universe that we were going to see a Honey Badger - considering that's how it seems to work.  
The snake was obviously a little wary of us, but basically calm, and we were able to get out of the vehicle, and get some shots of her (I said I thought it was a pregnant female then, and I'm sticking to it). before she eventually tucked her head into her coils 15-20 minutes later. 




Central African Rock Python (Python sebae)


After that, I was tempted to just shout out my entire wishlist for Zakouma, but I thought that might be pushing my luck.  We never did find that Honey Badger or Red-flanked Duiker (see my previous post). 



Edited by Zarek Cockar
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Zarek Cockar

Also, a quick note on our friend, Jason, who was staying at Tinga at the same time as us.  In both my mammal write-ups and in @gatoratlarge's posts above, you'll notice there's "another car" that seems to see all the things we miss.  Jason's a serious mammalwatcher, who's been all over the world looking for various mammal species.  His driver at Tinga, was Tougi, whom @RC88COR  may remember from 2020. Tougi can find things no one else can, but he doesn't speak a lick of English, and his French isn't fantastic either.  But despite the communication frustrations Jason had with Tougi, he had some unbelievable luck.  We lost track of how many Honey Badgers and Servals he'd seen. He's the one who saw the 2 cheetahs, twice.  He then got in touch after we'd left, by which point he'd seen Caracal and Striped Hyena.  Pale Fox had been one of his biggest targets.  We'd seen them in Ennedi, OROA, and Zakouma, but he hadn't yet.  He got in touch later to say that he had eventually found it. 


But @gatoratlargewill hate this: He went out with Tougi and the Rhino team and and saw Black Rhino!  Apparently only saw the rear end disappearing into the bush, though, so more of a tick off the checklist than a memorable wildlife experience. 

I don't know what all he managed to see in Ennedi and OROA, but I'm sure it's an impressive list.

Edited by Zarek Cockar
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pictus Safaris

Hey @Zarek Cockar- I know Jason well and have been in contact with him regularly throughout. OROA was even more productive than Zakouma for him, loads of fennec, plus Rueppel's fox, Libyan weasel, aardvark, wild cat, African wolf and striped hyena. A great haul, no doubt, and one that bodes well for trips next year.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Zarek Cockar

@Pictus SafarisHey Tom!  Yes Jason mentioned he knew you. I can't believe he got Libyan Striped Weasel!!  That was HIGH on my wishlist, and I asked the SCF guys and they said they hadn't seen one - only Zorilla.  I wondered if they were misidentifying LSW as Zorilla. 

Oh well, if anyone was going to see it there, it's Jason! He seems to have ridiculously good luck. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites


That's fantastic!!  I'm a bit envious!  My recollection is that he had a two week stay in Zakouma and I would guess much longer than a night in OROA...time spent out in the bush is your best bet, sadly something us Americans are allowed little of for vacation time off.  Really it's why the charter flights were our only solution to fitting all we wanted to do into one trip...plus I think overland travel is particularly difficult and not allowed at all in some areas ever since the political upheaval of last year.  Well, it's always good to leave a little something on the plate for next time!  He was quite the warrior, out every possible chance he could get in the rover looking for wildlife....well deserved!  But I wish he'd have thrown at least one honey badger our way!  :D  I'm not greedy!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Zarek CockarFor a poor shot of a Scissor-tailed kite, that is still miles better than my efforts:lol:


22 hours ago, gatoratlarge said:

I'm running a bit out of steam and am not sure I'll do a day by day but hopefully the others will. 


I sympathise, before I start on a report, I often think I really don’t want to write yet another day by day account, but then as soon as I start writing I end up reverting back to doing it day by day, I didn’t do that with my last Zakouma report, instead opting to write an account of all the principal species I saw, if anything this took longer and required more effort than if I had done a day by day account. This time I will try to basically cover the highlights of my time back in Zakouma, without doing a full day by day account, but we will see what happens. I’m still sorting out some of the Zakouma photos I want to put in and putting together the last of my videos, rather than put in another mammoth post, like my one on the OROA, I will likely add a number of posts, I hope to get my first proper Zakouma Post done fairly shortly, once I’ve worked out what I’m going to post first.:lol:


After my second visit to Zakouma, I would often think that I must be one of the only Brits to have been on holiday in Chad twice and there aren’t that many who’ve been once, I can now be fairly confident that I am certainly one of the only ones to have been three times. It was therefore a bit of a surprise, to find another Englishman staying at Tinga, we met whilst some of us were walking down to the Crocodile pool on the Tinga River otherwise known to us as The Pit of Despair. When Jason explained why he had come to Zakouma I wasn’t so surprised, after I explained that this was my third time in Zakouma, he said he’d probably read my trip reports, and asked if they were on Mammal Watching, I said no they were on Safaritalk, to which he replied that he knew a Jo from Norfolk who was on ST, @kittykat23uk    I said yes, I've met her once :). After learning that he was a very serious mammal watcher, I wasn’t surprised that he had come to Chad in search of Pale Fox and other good mammals, what did surprise me, was when he said he was in Chad for five weeks, he did then explain that he had also been due to visit the DRC but that trip had been cancelled, so he hadn’t originally planned to be in Chad for five weeks, I was very envious when he told me he was staying at Tinga for two weeks and at the Oryx Base in OROA for three nights. I’m not surprised at some of the great species he saw, because of the amount of time he had, but he did also seem to have extraordinary luck. He asked me about night drives in Zakouma, I said they can be phenomenal, when I caught up with him after his first night drive, he said it was just as I said phenomenal and then listed all the amazing species he'd seen and how many of each, although he didn’t get the Pale Fox, but I was sure he would before he left Chad.    

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, Pictus Safaris said:

Hey @Zarek Cockar- I know Jason well and have been in contact with him regularly throughout. OROA was even more productive than Zakouma for him, loads of fennec, plus Rueppel's fox, Libyan weasel, aardvark, wild cat, African wolf and striped hyena. A great haul, no doubt, and one that bodes well for trips next year.





ARRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHH! totally green now to my fingernails and toenails.


Edited by Kitsafari
Link to comment
Share on other sites

this Triple-Voice TR gets better and better, and sure makes me envious and envious-er. 


The lions seem to have adapted so well to humans now. i remember when we were there in 2017, a lioness we saw in the woods panicked on sighting our vehicle. Her total fear was in her face as she scrambled to run away. I'm glad the lions are more habituated to humans... at least, I think.



Link to comment
Share on other sites


@inyathiyes Jason was on his way back yesterday and has been making me incredibly envious of his sightings.


If you or anyone else are interested we are probably going to be planning a trip to Namibia together and might be looking for another participant or two. PM me if interested. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Posting some more videos. Here we were on foot as the mega herd crossed an open patch. You can see the babies, and elephants of all ages:



Elephants are simply the most majestic and magnificent of beasts:

More lions:

A Day in the Life Zakouma:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought before getting to the wildlife, I'd say something about Tinga. 


I type my reports and most of what I post using Word, so almost ever everything I’ve written previously is saved somewhere on my computer, when writing this report, I simply opened my Zakouma file started after my first visit and carried on typing down the bottom, so I only needed to scroll back to the top and start reading to see what I had written after that visit in 2014. This is what I said about my room at Tinga


The rooms are round with a large double bed in the centre surrounded by a mosquito net with a ceiling fan above and a table and chair that was about it. What there wasn’t, was anywhere to put your clothes no wardrobe, drawers, shelves or hangers of any kind, so thinking I wouldn’t need to use the table I put my luggage on it to save bending down as there was nowhere else except the floor.



Tinga Room

My room in 2014


The ensuite bathroom had a serviceable loo, shower and basin and some narrow shelves on the wall on which you could perhaps put some of your clothes along with other items.  There were two windows in the main room which as can be seen from the photos were pretty small, the shutters like the doors were made of metal so they don’t get eaten by termites.  At night the only way to stay cool and allow some airflow was to leave the doors and shutters open however while there were fly screens there were no hooks to keep the shutters open so if it was at all windy in the night the doors and windows would blow shut. Since it didn’t really cool down much at night not being able to keep the shutters open was a distinct disadvantage. I suppose having very small windows makes sense if you’re Chadian perhaps it’s to try and stop too much hot air getting in during the day, I don’t know but to us it just seemed crazy not to have made them bigger.   


I don’t believe that the rooms had names back in 2014, I certainly don’t remember my room having a name, this time on arrival I was informed that my room was to be Crocodile 3, I saw immediately that Crocodile was the Bungalow that I had been in, in 2014, on that occasion I’d been in what is now called Crocodile 1. My room this time was therefore diagonally opposite, to my previous room, when I walked in, I could see that nothing had changed at all, I thought that Crocodile 3 looked exactly the same as Crocodile 1 had looked, when I had stayed in it, with all of the same faults, nothing had been improved. There was one difference, as I discovered from the photo above, since I’d forgotten this, Crocodile 1 had a double bed in it, whereas 3 had two single beds.I was disappointed that nothing had been put right, it would not be big deal to attach some hooks to the walls for the shutters and the door, or perhaps put a luggage stand at the end of the bed for people to put their bags on, of course, if you are single, you just put your bag on the other bed, so I didn’t mind too much. In fact, I didn’t mind any of these things as much as on my 2014 visit, because that trip was in mid-April when Zakouma is punishingly hot all the time, this time being end of Feb beginning of March it wasn’t perpetually hot. Going out on early morning game drives it was actually quite cold in the open-vehicle, being even slightly cold in Zakouma was a novel experience for me.




My room this time Crocodile 3





What did annoy me slightly, was that soon after my first visit, African Parks did upgrade some of the rooms, but clearly not the ones we’d been put in, it came to me when I was back home, that they had upgraded the rooms in Elephant block. Walking around Tinga I did see that one of the bungalows over by the dry Tinga River, had nice looking glass doors and windows, I wanted to be nosey and go and peer inside, but I didn’t as I wasn’t certain if the rooms were in use or not.


One thing that had amazed me on my first visit, was that my room had a power-strip of UK type-G sockets for recharging, this was a big surprise as Chad does not use these sockets, this time there was power-strip glued to the table/shelf at the head of the beds, however, there was something wrong with the sockets, which were of the two pin European type, the actual proper sockets seemed to be missing, there were no proper holes for the pins to go in to, I could not plug anything in. I had a travel adapter and also a European power cord for my battery chargers, so I should have been able to plug in, but could not, the solution was to get down on the floor and slide myself underneath the table, unplug the power strip and plug my adapter straight in to the wall, this was fine because I had a charger that could hold two batteries and also my adapter has two USB sockets so I could say charge my iPad at the same time. With the number of batteries, I had charging was never really a major issue, although I did use my screen a fair bit when taking photos, more than I normally would, but I knew I could afford to do this, as I had the spare batteries and the means to recharge back at Tinga.








On my visit in 2014, when we had breakfast at Tinga, we would always be amused as to how much of a muddle they would make of our egg orders, in one instance for example when a cheese omelette was ordered, a plain omelette arrived along with a separate plate with some cheese. I was very surprised to be told this time, that we would not get eggs for breakfast, perhaps you have to be staying in the better rooms and being paying a lot extra, but for us breakfast was purely continental, this generally meant pan au chocolat and a mini-baguette with jam, with coffee and juice, although there was also cereal. The food was generally good, often the first course would be a salad and this seemed to be variations of the same basic salad each time, just with one of the ingredients changed. At each meal we would order a jug of iced water, meaning it came from the tap as this was filtered and perfectly safe to drink and saved buying bottles of water every time, although we did buy bottles to take on game drives and replenish the water in our rooms.     


Since I mentioned phenomenal night drives in my previous posts, I have to say that but for our failure to find a Honey Badger, the night drives were certainly not a disappointment, although on occasion we went for a long period without seeing anything, but generally once we started seeing animals, we would see a whole lot. Some afternoons we would go out with a cool-box of drinks have a sundowner and then night drive back to Tinga on other occasions we would return to Tinga earlier and then go out on a separate night drive. The extraordinary thing that makes Zakouma such a wonderful place, is that you almost never only see one of anything, when you see animals, you often see far more of them than you might see in other parks.     



You shouldn't spend time looking at diurnal animals on night drives, but this Saddlebill made for a nice photo






The first two civet shots are of the same animal, but an illustration of the abundance of these animals is that on one night I recall that we saw nine different civets







In the background is a Black-crowned Night Heron


African Civets were I think the most common species we saw, but we also saw a good few genets all of them Large-spotted as far as I could see



Blotched or Large-spotted Genet








Lots of Servals, Zakouma is in my experience one of the best parks to see Servals, at least on night drives.









African Wildcats are usually a common sight





White-tailed Mongoose, not a good photo, but interesting because on my last visit almost all the animals I saw were melanistic, so didn't have the white tail



Side-striped Jackal


Although I said you tend to see lots of everything, that wasn't always the case we only found one Pale Fox, but I was very pleased to see another of these beautiful foxes and got better photos than in OROA although it wasn't as close




Pale Fox




I was also very pleased to see and photograph a Senegal Galago, these animals are not at all easy to photograph and often not even that easy to see as they move so quickly. 




Senegal Galago 





We also saw a good few lions, but I will just put in one shot at this point, this male was just outside Tinga




I was quite surprised that we failed to find any Honey Badgers given the number I saw on my last visit and also that Jason saw a good few, but other than that, the night drives were very productive as they always are in Zakouma.

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@gatoratlarge@inyathi@Zarek Cockar


Thank you for putting together such a fabulous trip report! You really had an amazing time; I'm so glad the trip worked out and you were able to go.

And I must say, if anyone is thinking of doing this Zakouma-Ennedi-OROA trip, after reading the trip reports, definitely go - you will be in awe!


The overnight camping at OROA is something we did not get a chance to do in 2020, but a 2 night stay sounds perfect to me - and maybe see a caracal and ardvark.
We saw Nubian Bustards there, as well as the red necked ostrich chicks in enclosures prior to their transfer to Ennedi. Your wild damas sighting on your night drive is amazing!


Loved the Guelta de Archei video! I wish we had time to do that climb. How long did it take you to climb up?

In Ennedi, we also saw dorcas gazelles (they run faster than lightening!), a Saharan Little Owl, and I found a porqupine quill. We did not see the Barbary Sheep or the crocodiles.
It would be amazing to return to Ennedi and spend more time exploring and see the ostriches.


Zakouma ... a truly unique wildlife conservation story and what a place! I loved Zakouma and would return in a heartbeat - still want to see the ever elusive leopard in Zakouma, and the rhinos. All your wonderful photos and videos brought it all back. 


@Zarek Cockaryes, I totally remember Tougi - what an eye he has! I also remember you had a few wildlife sighting predictions in 2020 as well. That rock python was phenomenal!




Link to comment
Share on other sites

@kittykat23ukI meant to put this reply in at the start of my last post, but having typed it in Word, I then forgot to put it in:rolleyes:


That is quite a tempting suggestion, but I have visited Namibia a couple of times, the last time just a few years ago, so a return visit isn’t a big priority at the moment, although I am sure there are some great places there that I’ve not visited and species I perhaps didn’t see. If you are going to Namibia, you might be interested, that I saw a Jameson’s Rock Hare whilst staying at Sossus Dune Lodge in Namib-Naukluft NP.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Ooh thanks for the info @inyathi

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Lions are one of the animals that first time safari goers most want to see and yet after a few safaris you soon learn that they are actually pretty boring, most of the time they are not doing anything, they’re just sleeping in the shade. However, even if the males are not as spectacular as lions elsewhere, there is something special about Zakouma’s lions that always makes seeing them special. I think it’s just because they are such an important lion population, in a region where lions are now very scarce everywhere else, the last survey as just reported on AP’s Facebook page recorded 105 lions in Zakouma. What was great was the number of cubs that we saw, lion cubs are seldom boring unless it is very hot. The wonderful thing in Zakouma is that if you do find some lions, you won't have to share your sightings, with other vehicles as is so often the case in other parks. 




When we first encountered a pride of lions in the Machtour area, we were able to drive off road and park right next to them, to counter the problem of being high up in safari vehicle, I had the idea to try a photographic experiment. Since I’d brought one my tripod legs to use as a monopod and I had a wired remote control, it occurred to me that if I put the camera on the monopod, and positioned the folding screen at the right angle, I could turn the whole thing upside down and holding the end of the monopod carefully lower it over the side of the car, once I could see a nice image on the screen, I could take the shot with my remote control. Doing this I hoped I would get some very low angle shots, taken with the camera several feet lower than if I’d taken the photos normally, the camera would be more or less at eye-level with the lions almost as if I were crouched on the ground rather than being sat quite high up in a safari vehicle. The photos would of course be upside down, but that wouldn’t matter, I am pretty impressed with the results and I used this technique a few more times, the one issue is that it is not easy to perfectly frame every shot and you can’t adjust the lens with the camera in position, if you need to zoom in or out a bit, you’ve got to pull the camera up make the adjustment and then try again, because you are relying on the screen you may not notice, that you haven’t quite got the tops of the ears in shot or whatever. The other issue is you may not notice that a shot is not as well focused as it should be, and obviously holding the camera steady is not as easy as if you were holding the camera. Even so I am glad I did this, as I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to get some of the shots I did, had I not tried this, I was sat in the middle row of seats, I was limited as to how far I could lower the camera by the length of the cable on my remote control. I don’t know how well a wireless remote would have worked, I’ve had various cheap Chinese ones, none of them work anymore, but perhaps if I’d had one, I could have got right down to almost ground level. Obviously, taking shots this way with my 100-400mm does mean that probably not going to be as sharp as if you were taking them handheld it is after quite a heavy lens. Photographing the lion cubs, I was also conscious of the risk that one of them might see my camera as a potential plaything, but they didn’t, perhaps somewhere else where lions are more used to tourists, I would have got away with it.


Not all of the following photos were taken that way. 



























We encountered these same lions whenever we were driving in the Machtour area 






One of the lionesses from this pride had made a solo kill of a buffalo, for some reason she did not call the rest of the pride to join her, preferring instead feed by herself, although getting into the carcass proved to be a struggle, since @gatoratlargehas already posted his video of her feeding, I won't add mine which is pretty much the same. 










The healed scar on her flank looks like she might have been gored by a buffalo during a previous hunt, if that were the case it clearly didn't put her off hunting buffaloes.


Eventually she did call in the rest of the pride or perhaps they just found the kill, whatever the case the next night after we first saw her with her kill, on a night drive we found them feasting on the buffalo, this was a slightly grim sight as they had eaten nearly all of the flesh of the buffaloes head. 










We never saw a male with the pride, but we did see a few male lions during our stay, this one has the short mane that is typical of Zakouma lions.  





Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites


@inyathiI'm so glad you posted those shots you took with the remote control!  They look great!  For whatever reason, a ground level shot is superior to a shot made from your seat in a land rover and it translates very well in the photo.  Very cool!  I was watching a nature documentary this afternoon and it reminded me of the solo kill of a buffalo by this lioness...and I had to admire her skill!  That's a large animal to take down and to do it without the support of a pride is all the more impressive!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@inyathi awesome and sharp shots of the lions/cubs with an upside down camera. I'm so intrigued to hear that you can detach a leg from your tripod to convert into a monopod. I've been mulling a tripod for my bridge camera but my view is that a tripod is quite cumbersome and heavy to carry around, especially on a trip. My cheap probably made-in-China monopod won't be able to hold my camera upside down but it comes in very useful particularly during long treks in jungles!


Kudos to this fearless lioness - just total respect that she can take down a buffalo - even if it was sick and old - on her own. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Rigueik floodplains are the prime area in Zakouma with the most spectacular concentrations of birds and big antelope herds and other wildlife, this is why Camp Nomade is normally located in the trees on the edge of Rigueik. From your tent you have a view that will be packed with wildlife at all times, even in the heat of the day, because there is always water there, a major part of what you are paying for if you stay at Camp Nomade, is exclusivity, you have this spectacular wildlife show all to yourselves, Rigueik is closed off to guests from Tinga and other visitors to Zakouma This is great if you can afford the now extortionate prices that AP charge to stay at Camp Nomade, but not so great if you are at Tinga. Unless you are very lucky as we were and there is no one staying at Camp Nomade, I don’t know if it was a consequence of the pandemic, I guess it may have been, but Nomade was empty and this meant that we could visit Rigueik. My first visit to Rigueik had been in mid-April and then the next time when I had stayed at Nomade, that was at the beginning of April, so this time at the end of Feb was a month earlier than my other visits, this meant that there was much more water on the plains than I’ve seen before, but the wildlife was no less spectacular, where we first stopped somewhere out in front of Camp Nomade, there was a mass of noisy Black Crowned Cranes spread out in front of us, with a variety of other birds mixed in. One pool was an almost solid black mass of Spur-winged Geese. Driving around the area we passed large numbers of Western or Buffon’s Kob and then eventually found herds of Tiang, I’d been looking out for these animals (the Central African subspecies of the Topi) as we’d not seen any elsewhere. I knew we would see large herds of Tiang at Rigueik as well as all the cranes and other water birds, if there had been guests at Nomade, we would have missed out on all of this and I would have felt a bit short changed, after my previous safaris.



You need click on this to get the biggest size and then zoom in to see the cranes, you will also see Camp Nomade in the trees on the left



Black-crowned Cranes and buffaloes at Rigueik





Spur-winged Geese


Besides the cranes, the water birds and herds of antelopes, one of the other great attractions of Rigueik are the great swirling flocks of Red-billed Queleas that can be seen coming down to drink, we didn't have such spectacular views as I had whilst staying at Rigueik which is not a big surprise, but we still saw a few Queleas







Defassa Waterbuck and Queleas




Buffon's Kob













Because I had brought a tripod on the trip, I’d decided to also bring a little Nikon mini-scope, I thought this could be great to have at Rigueik to look for any interesting migrants that might be around since I was a month earlier. However, being a bit switched off before we left Tinga, I’d left it in my room so didn’t have it with me, this was very silly and annoying because I could have done with the tripod for taking videos and taking panoramas. I’d bought a video head for my tripod as plenty of advice I’d seen from some photographers on YouTube said don’t get a ball head, and obviously a video head is what you need for taking videos, one of the advantages, is that it is designed to be quite stiff so that it only pans slowly, this is what you want. What I should have known from past experience is that when you shoot video using a monopod, you invariably end up panning much too fast, as a result I messed up my video of the cranes at Rigueik. Even slowing it down doesn’t really work, it makes the pan slower, but also makes everything slow motion, besides my panning problem, the wind noise was absolutely terrible, so with my video, I muted the original sound added a music track and then added recordings of Black Crowned Cranes. Another very silly mistake I made, is having bought myself a used EOS 80D for this trip, I didn’t think to check the sensor for dirt and clean it, as a result many of my videos have annoying dirt spots on them, that wouldn’t be there if I’d cleaned the sensor. I also took a huge number of photos to create stitched panoramas, forgetting that if you use a long lens and take a multitude of shots, you will end up with an image so big that most photo software won’t be able to cope with it, I had to reduce the size of my Rigueik panoramas quite considerably to make them work. In the end what I worked out is that I should save them at the height, I’ve chosen for all the panoramas I upload to Flickr, then they are a manageable size, I can then save bigger versions for myself at whatever the maximum manageable size proves to be.














In the afternoon after our visit to Rigueik I did bring along my tripod and was then less annoyed that I hadn’t had it at Rigueik, as I encountered a totally unexpected problem that rendered it unusable, so it would have been no use to me at Rigueik. In order to use one of the legs as a monopod, I’d had to buy a new monopod head as my previous one was Manfrotto and I need one that would work with Arca-Swiss base plates which is what I now have, I bought an inexpensive monopod head from Amazon, when I unscrewed it to convert my monopod back into a tripod leg, I discovered that the screw that should have been sticking out of the leg, was now sticking out of the head. The head had clearly been screwed on so tight that when I took it off, it somehow removed the screw from the tripod leg, this was now stuck so tightly in the monopod head that I could not get it out and could not therefore reattach the leg to my tripod. I decided to leave fixing it until I got home, it took some effort with some pliers to remove the screw, I was keen not to damage the threads too much with the pliers, I then applied superglue to the screw and screwed it back into the leg, so I hope in future it will stay there.


@Kitsafari My tripod is called Mike and is made by the UK company Three-Legged Thing (all their products are named after people), it’s now not unusual for modern tripods to have one leg that can be taken off and used as a monopod, with this tripod, you can take all three off if you want and attach feet (which I don't have) to create a mini-tripod, I think that's more for people into vlogging, besides using a leg as a monopod, you can use one as a mic boom and such like. If I had had the tripod at Rigueik and been able to use it, I would have got much better videos as we were able to get out of the car and much as I like my panoramas, I think a good video might have given a better impression of the herds of Tiang, or ideally I would have taken both. Unfortunately I have another issue with the tripod all of the bouncing around in the back of vehicles meant that when I got home a screw had come loose and fallen out along with one of the leg catches, I screwed it back in, I guess perhaps I didn't put in right as the legs aren't working properly, so I need to try again.      


Because there was more water the wildlife was perhaps spread out a little more but no less numerous, on my last visit, from one particular spot watching a huge concentration of water birds we counted 85 Saddlebill storks, on this visit I counted just 45, but if I had scanned all of the birds at Rigueik, I’m sure I would have found many more.   


Although we didn't see the big flocks of Great White Pelicans feeding or on the ground, we did see a flock of them fly in 



Great White Pelicans


With all of the food walking around at Rigueik, you would expect to find lions somewhere and before we left we did see two young brothers, lying in the shade, so here's another lion that I didn't post earlier.



Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

One thing I particularly love about Zakouma is that it is one of the best parks to see Roan Antelopes, there are some other great places to see them like the Busanga Plains in Kafue NP in Zambia, but in some of the other places where they occur, they are not always easy to find, I’ve had good views of roan in Ruaha National Park in Tanzania, but I’ve also been there and not seen one. On our first morning drive, I was actually starting to wonder what had happened to all of the roan, as we had driven a fair way and not seen one, but then at the end of the morning on our way home to Tinga we saw a lovely dark bull.








After that apart from the day we visited Rigueik we saw them every day and in quite large numbers. One morning when just a few of us had gone out to visit the Salamat River, we spotted some roan on the way back, but it wasn’t a good view because they were running off into the bush, this was an example of where it pays to have professional guide along as well as your driver guide from Tinga. @Zarek CockarZarek had an idea that if drove back the way we’d come a short way, got out of the car and started walking, we might be able to catch up with the roan on foot and get a view of them that way. I wasn’t quite sure how well I’d see them, but I am always happy walking in the African bush, after a quick safety briefing, Josep and I followed Zarek into the trees and sure enough we found a good, spot crouched down and got an amazing view of some of the roan as they walked past, I hadn’t expected to get photos as good as I did.   

















More roan down in the south of Zakouma



This big herd was not too far from Tinga



I've counted 42 roan in this panorama, though they're not all easy to see. 





Roan at Mare Fategoki, I've counted around 37 but I'm sure there were over 40


I saw roan on both of my previous visits to Zakouma, but not nearly such large herds as we saw on this safari 

Edited by inyathi
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy