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wow that's a very large herd of roan   i've never seen them  in such numbers. I don't know if it really reflects this, but i'll take it as an indicator that they are faring very well in the park.

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Zarek Cockar
1 hour ago, Kitsafari said:

wow that's a very large herd of roan   i've never seen them  in such numbers. I don't know if it really reflects this, but i'll take it as an indicator that they are faring very well in the park.


They do seem to fare pretty well from the little of the park we were able to visit.  We saw the one group of 45 or so, 2-3 times.  We then saw the large group of 40+ around Mare Fategoki once.  And then a few scattered individuals in other areas.  But, we also only visited a small section of the park, so I would assume there are plenty more within Zakouma NP, and potentially more elsewhere in the GZE.

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Zarek Cockar

A few final bits & bobs from me.  My photography pales in comparison to that of @inyathiMy bridge camera and my lack of knowledge and skill contribute to many not-very-sharp photos. And I don't have the programme or the ability to sharpen them afterward on my computer.

 Below: Red-throated Bee-Eater - one of several beautiful bee-eater species in Zakouma.



One of hundreds of Black-crowned Night-Herons that we came across near Antiga



The Abundance of Rigueik.  Just so much to see and hear in every direction.





One of my all-time favourite birds: Northern Carmine Bee-Eater



African Spurred Tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata).  Look at the size of those scales on its front legs!



One of only a handful of Abyssinian Ground Hornbills (Bucorvus abyssinicus) we saw this trip.  On my last trip we encountered larger numbers more often.



A HUGE lifer for me.  I don't know how I missed this species on my last trip, but I've been wanting to see an Egyptian Plover for a very long time.  Suddenly they were not that uncommon if you looked in the right spots along the Salamat.



The large elephant herd before they all disappeared into the bush and we tracked them down on foot.  Classic Zakouma.  Distant elephants trumpeting with thousands of birds on the ground and in the sky. 



One of my favourite parts of flying in and out of Zakouma is looking at the shape of the land, the waterways, the changes in vegetation, the colours, the reflection of the water pans in the sunlight, and especially THIS.  When grass burns, it generally burns fast at lower temperatures, leaving the ground black.  But the fire does take down some trees as well.  These burn much slower at hotter temperatures, leaving white ash in perfect tree shapes on the ground where they fell and burned slowly over several days.




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Those are certainly the largest herds of roan I’ve seen anywhere, I think the most I saw last time was possibly around 19-20, I have photo taken in Nyika NP in Malawi that has perhaps around 20, so I’ve never seen close to this many before. I think it must be a sign of how well they are doing, my last visit was 7 years ago, I think it is reasonable to assume that the population should have increased in that time. I am very aware of the elephant poaching situation in Zakouma before AP came in, but I don’t know much about the level of poaching of other animals, but it is my understanding that all the major herbivores have grown in number.    


Having decided not to do a day by day account, I then thought I would at least do an account of our time looking for Zakouma's elephant herd, having started on that post, I then decided that rather than produce a slightly strange hybrid post, as it is going to be a long post, I should take out some of the elephant and buffalo photos taken on other occasions, that I was intending to put in and post those first and then cover our search for the elephant herd, in my next post. 


Elephants have long memories and the horrific history of poaching in Zakouma, that I have discussed a few times in the past, means that they still remain very nervous and tend to stick very much to the thick bush. Zakouma certainly based on my experience from my previous two safaris, differs from other parks, in that when you are out on game drivers, you simply don’t see elephants, not unless you are actively looking for them, you won’t as a rule, be driving along and go around a corner and find a small herd feeding next to the road as you might elsewhere. Really the only elephants that you can be guaranteed to see are the bulls, that hang around Zakouma HQ. When we flew into the park, our pilot Jay kindly took us on a bit of a flightseeing tour over Zakouma to see if we could see the main elephant herd, before he brought us in to land, but we didn’t spot them, however, we did see two bulls as we drove away from the airstrip and more bulls when we drove to Zakouma (Zakouma is both the name of the park and the name of the area where the HQ and airstrip are located, I believe it was the name of an old village that was once there). The following photos are some of the Zakouma HQ elephants seen on different days, the Zakouma area is really the only area in the park where you are likely to spot elephants just as you are driving along and these bulls are sufficiently used to people and vehicles that they are quite relaxed and not liable to bolt, the moment they are aware of you. 




















Buffaloes are another species that I really love to see in Zakouma, because I think the buffaloes in the park are particularly beautiful and some of the herds can be really big. after almost two and a bit days we had really only seen bulls, some of the older darker bulls really don’t look very different to the familiar Cape Buffaloes you see in Eastern or Southern Africa, you really need to see a breeding herd of cows, to appreciate Zakouma’s multi-coloured buffaloes, as they can vary in colour from sand, through red, to chocolate brown and black, also their ears like those of the Forest Buffalo are noticeably hairier, 



The birds are Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, Red-billed doesn't occur in Zakouma, so you don't need to look closely to know which they are.





So far the buffaloes wouldn't look out of place in Tanzania or Botswana




Now and again you do find one that really does look quite a bit different








Finally just before sundowners on our second full day we did catch up with a big herd of buffaloes








If you are using a PC, if you right click the panoramas and select  "open image in new tab" then click on that image you can zoom right in and looked at the full-sized version and see the different colours of the buffaloes. 



Edited by inyathi
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Love the panoramas of the buffalo herd!   

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20 hours ago, Zarek Cockar said:

One of my favourite parts of flying in and out of Zakouma is looking at the shape of the land, the waterways, the changes in vegetation, the colours, the reflection of the water pans in the sunlight, and especially THIS.  When grass burns, it generally burns fast at lower temperatures, leaving the ground black.  But the fire does take down some trees as well.  These burn much slower at hotter temperatures, leaving white ash in perfect tree shapes on the ground where they fell and burned slowly over several days.






Me too. love those visible ashes marking the death of the trees. 

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Love those coloured fringe-earred buffaloes @inyathi

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On our first night at Tinga, walking from my room to the main building, I could hear the distinctive sound of a lion roaring from somewhere in the bush, not too far away, but once I was sat down in the dining room, I could no longer hear it, it was just too noisy inside. This was in large part because there was a big group of young expats of various nationalities, who’d come down from N’Djamena for a few days holiday in Zakouma, the general hubbub meant that the noises of the African night were no longer audible from inside the dining room. One night one of them persuaded some of us, to join them outside by the campfire for a game of charades, I somewhat reluctantly sat and watched without fully taking part, this is not quite how I would choose to spend an evening on safari, but it was fun and they were enjoying themselves. I would rather just sit by the fire and chat a bit, but quietly enough to hear any animals that might be around, so that you can stop chatting and just listen to the lions or whatever. This is why it is great to include a night of fly camping and get away from Tinga and experience a proper night in the bush. With the fly camping, Tinga offer two options for your dinner, you can have someone cook your dinner for you, or they can provide you with the prepped food and you can cook your own dinner, I was happy either way, but the vote was for the first option and I think this was probably the right decision.


Having said that you don't really see elephants when you are driving around in Zakouma, as we drove down into the Salamat to cross over on the way to our camp out, we found a bull elephant walking along the river bank, he then turned and waded across the Salamat, walked off up the other bank and melted back into the bush, I can't say if this is a positive sign that elephants at least the bulls, are getting much more relaxed, you would have to be based in Zakouma or visit every year, to really judge if they are changing their behaviour. It may be that seeing lone bulls wandering around away from the HQ isn't that unusual, but this was for me a great and unexpected sight. 










 When I saw the fly camping spot on a high bank above the Salamat River, I was slightly surprised that we would be camping right beside the road, but actually this didn’t matter and made it easy for the staff. The tents they provide have solid sides around the base and are otherwise comprised of mesh, so they’re nice and cool, on the other side of the road were two reed cubicles for toilet and shower. What was great about this experience, is that we were able to sit around the campfire enjoying a cold beer, listening to the lions roaring across the river and the spotted hyenas whooping somewhere in the distance, before enjoying a nice meal back out under the stars.










In the morning we got up to a beautiful sunrise over the Salamat and a nice breakfast of cereal, fruit even if it was tinned peaches and baguettes and jam.












One of our neighbours across the river down below


Whilst we had seen various bull elephants what we really wanted to see was Zakouma's main breeding herd, sometimes referred to as the mega-herd, to help our driver/guide Bonaventure to find them, we were accompanied by a ranger named Adun (I think), he knew the elephants very well, I decided to take a shot of everyone in the car before we set off, but I wasn't in the photo, so then Zarek took my camera and I jumped back in the car, thanks to the magic of Photoshop I've created a shot with everyone in it.  




A certain number of the elephants in the main herd are collared so the HQ should know where they are at all times, the plan was that we would go and wait at a likely looking spot on the Salamat, where the elephants might well come to drink. Bonaventure would be in touch with Zakouma HQ, to get regular updates as to where the elephants were and then he could discuss with Adun where we needed to go to intercept them. Besides being very keen to see the elephants, we were also keen to see the park’s two Black Rhinos, Goose and Bopa, but we knew this was a long shot, as we didn’t know if we could be taken to see them and just driving around the area where they live, you would need a lot of luck to spot either of them, without help it would be a case of looking for two needles in a large haystack. We’d asked various people about the possibility of being taken to see them and had been given conflicting answers. However, it turned out that it might be possible, so when we set off from our fly camp, we decided to call in on the rhino rangers and ask if they might be able to find them for us.




After speaking to the rhino rangers, we were told that if they located the rhinos and thought it would be possible to take us to them, they would contact us, we were not too surprised not to hear anything, but if you don’t ask you don’t get, so it was worth asking, and we got to see the rhino boma. Fingers crossed the boma will be back in use in December when the next six black rhinos should arrive, AP are obviously confident that they have got to the bottom of what went wrong with the first six that led to four of them dying, a lot of botanical samples were collected and sent off for analysis to establish exactly what the rhinos were eating, to find out why they were not getting adequate nutrition from their diet. I suspect that the time of year that the rhinos were brought to Zakouma may have been part of the problem, as the first six were delivered in May, whereas these rhinos will be brought in December, but I don’t know enough about it to be sure, but AP wouldn’t be bringing another six rhinos if they were not confident of keeping all of them alive, to have more rhino deaths would not be good for their reputation. The park was at one time home to a good population of them, and even though the new rhinos are by necessity a different subspecies, there is no reason why they should not be able to adapt and ultimately thrive in Zakouma. At one point on our drive, I was completely convinced that I had seen just the back end of a rhino as it was running away from the direction of the river, but when we got to where it would have gone, there was a buffalo standing there, evidently having rhinos on the brain had fooled me into thinking that this buffalo had been a rhino. I knew that with only two of them, it was never that likely that it was a rhino, but for a moment I was very excited.  



Rhino Boma



Rhino crates



Rhino Boma


With regard to the elephants, Bonaventure drove us as close as possible to where he been told they were and then Adun deciding where they were likely going, would take walk through the bush to look for them 




He wasn't able to find them, so after a while we decided to find a beautiful spot on the river to sit and wait and just hoped that we would be lucky and the elephants would arrive to drink, if not where we were, then close enough that we would get to see them. Knowing that this was going to be an all-day outing we had been provided with sandwiches for lunch. We hadn’t chosen a bad spot because after not too long a big herd of animals did come to drink only, they weren’t elephants, they were buffaloes, we had a good-sized herd coming to the Salamat to drink, they didn’t seem to be aware of or be bothered by us, but they were for some reason very skittish, so some of the animals at the front would get to drink, but then after a short while they would panic and the herd would bolt back up the bank in a cloud of dust. They would be gone for a good while before coming back for another try, I hope they all got to drink eventually.




























Bushbuck drinking from the Bahr Salamat




After the buffaloes first appeared and then a bushbuck and a pair of Common Warthogs, we noticed that there was an elephant to the left of us on our bank, he went down to the river and then headed in our direction, it was clear that it was just a lone bull and sadly not the herd that we were hoping for, he didn't seem too bothered by our presence.














Under Zarek’s direction we retreated from our shady tree back up the bank to give him some space, leaving most of our gear under the tree, where we had been sat. 






he then crossed over the river and went up the other bank.



















About 40 minutes later an elephant appeared over the other side and then crossed to our side and wandered off down the river a short way before heading into the bush, we left the river and carried on our way, catching up with the elephant on the road.











Some buffaloes ran across the road including this nice brown one 


We remained hopeful that we could still get to see the main herd, but it became apparent that we had missed them, that they had come down to drink at another section of the river only about 1km away and then gone on their way. With no more chance of seeing them and having been out since first thing in the morning, we decided to head back early to Tinga once it was also clear that we would not get to see the rhinos, we did at least find one more species that I had hoped to see, before we got back to base.  


If seeing Roan Antelopes in Zakouma is great because they are not that easy to see elsewhere, seeing Greater Kudu is also great, but for the opposite reason, in Southern Africa they are a very common sight almost everywhere and also very common in Ruaha, in Zakouma they’re not easy to see. Zakouma is home to a population of Western Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros cottoni), a subspecies found in Chad, northeast CAR, and west Sudan, those in Chad are the most westerly Greater Kudu north of the Equator, since in the south a good deal of Namibia is actually further west than Chad. I didn’t see a single kudu on my first visit, then on my second visit I saw a young bull somewhere quite close to Tinga, where they had apparently not been seen before and then some cows and calves in the south, but I’d never seen a mature bull, it was therefore nice to see a big bull and a younger bull, this is perhaps a reflection of the fact that Greater Kudu are now more common in Zakouma, but they are still not that easy to see, these were the only ones we saw.     














Even if it had been disappointing not to have seen the big elephant herd, it had still been a fantastic day in Zakouma, on safari you don't often get to be out of the vehicle, sat under the shade of a tree by a river for a few hours watching the wildlife come down to drink. 

Edited by inyathi
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It always strikes me that the heads of the Zakouma elephant bulls is so wide, even on the (what looks like) younger bulls.

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Back at Tinga, we heard from Jason, that he lucky devil had seen a pair of cheetahs down in the south, so the morning after our failed search for the elephant herd we decided that perhaps we should go south and explore the area where he’d seen the cheetahs, these cats are a rare sight in Zakouma and I was very keen to see them, as I’ve never seen them in Zakouma. We knew our chances were not great, but it was worth trying and we would get to explore more of Zakouma, we never found the cheetahs, so we carried on driving down the Salamat, passing a spot that reminded me very much of somewhere where I’d had a picnic lunch on my 2015 safari, I think it was the same spot but I could be wrong. 







Some stretches of the river also looked very familiar,






when we learned that the elephant herd was somewhere over on the east side of the river, not far from where we were, we decided to cross over and have a look for them. On my 2015 safari we had camped down in the far south and were very privileged on our drive down south, to be taken on an entirely new route to two areas Mare Am Douloulou and Mare Sourane or Sourone I’m not sure which is correct, that no one had been to before, the roads had only been put in just ahead of our trip. This is a very beautiful area with plenty of game and the usual water birds, yet I suspect not that many tourists come down this area.  Now we were driving into this same area of the park east of the Salamat River,



Tiang, Kob and Defassa Waterbuck, this was I think the only other place we saw Tiang 


To our slight amazement as we drove to the edge of one large grassy and still very wet pan, we could see a large number of elephants at the far end, the elephants had been having a relaxed time surrounded by a variety of water birds, enjoying all of the water that was still there, (it has likely almost all evaporated away since we were there). Although we were along way from the elephants and made no attempt to get closer, they were aware of our arrival and soon started running, before long the whole herd had hurried away into the bush.















We drove off slowly in the direction that they had gone, we could hear them moving through the bush and catch occasional glimpses through the thick vegetation, but could not see them properly and knew that if we try to pursue them by car, this would just cause further panic and keep them running, this was the last thing we wanted to do. Rather than simply head straight home as we were a long way from Tinga and needed to get back for lunch, Zarek suggested, that if we got out and walked, we should be able to get close enough to get decent view of them, following his instructions we set of in single file, eventually reaching a spot where we could safely watch as they passed by, totally unaware of our presence. There is simply no way that you can move quietly in a car, but you can on foot if you take care and if the wind permits you can get close to animals without them being aware of you, once you’ve got into position if you keep still and quiet you can enjoy an amazing view and then walk away without them knowing you were ever there. We were still some distance away from them, we weren’t going to push our luck and try and get really close, Zarek wasn’t armed, as most guides might be on a walk in Southern or Eastern Africa and besides, we didn’t want to disturb them anymore than we already had.














Seeing elephants whilst on foot is always special even from a long distance and what made this extra special, was the number of calves of different sizes that we could see in the herd. I think from the information I have, the population at its lowest point went down to around 430, that was roughly how many there were when AP took on Zakouma, now there are around 600, the number may even have passed 600, I don’t have an exact figure, but Bonaventure did confirm that there were 600, this is an amazing achievement. It will unfortunately still take a very long time for these elephants to start behaving normally, to start being just like Savanna Elephants elsewhere, the cows that remember the massacres of the past, are passing their fear of humans on to the next generation, it will be a while before they relax and accept that humans in Zakouma today, mean them no harm. We might not have had the close encounter at the river that we had hoped for, but we had seen the big herd and got to approach them on foot, something that would not have been possible without Zarek, Bonaventure could show us the animals from the car, but not take us on a bushwalk.  




I might not have seen a Zakouma cheetah, but I'd had a great elephant adventure and seeing elephants here is not like seeing them anywhere else in Africa. 

Edited by inyathi
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I agree wholeheartedly with you @inyathithere are many places in Africa that elephants are so relaxed and you can get almost within touching distance --- but there is something special about seeing these elephant survivors and in the increasing numbers it'll make your heart sing!  They make you work for it, but boy is it a thrill!  By the way, by my count there were at least 150 elephants that crossed that clearing in my video which was likely not the entirety of the herd.

Edited by gatoratlarge
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It's probably a step too far in terms of awareness and cognitive ability but you could almost think that the Zakouma "Mega-herd" are "wind-up merchants" - always ready to tease you with sounds & glimpses but never letting you work out what they are really planning!

Here speaks one who's spent close on 15 hours trying to see these elephants! Fortunately we did manage to "outthink" them for 30 minutes! 

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On 4/6/2022 at 7:42 PM, inyathi said:

we had seen the big herd and got to approach them on foot, something that would not have been possible without Zarek


Fantastic - well done!

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@AfricIanPerhaps as the mega-herd has recently started to split, if they form two or three herds and stay that way, then maybe they will become slightly easier to see, the population will continue growing, AP was invited to take on Zakouma in 2010, some of the young cows born after they came in, will be approaching breeding age in the next few years, I think numbers could go up quite significantly, it won’t be too long before AP have reached their target of 1,000+ elephants. Given how thick the bush can be in places, even with that many, they could probably still give visitors the run around.


Elephants are a Zakouma icon, but the symbol of the park is the Kordofan Giraffe, Zakouma’s logo is based on a rock painting of a giraffe, like some of the giraffe images that we saw in Ennedi, although we didn’t see the exact image, that inspired the park logo. The Kordofan Giraffe (Giraffa c. antiquorum) is a subspecies of the Northern Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), Parc de Zakouma was originally established in 1963 to protect the last population of these giraffes in Chad, there were just 50 or so left, now out of a total population of around 2,300 Kordofan Giraffes, 60% are found in Zakouma. That would put the number in the park now at around 1,380, these beautiful animals are a common sight on game drives, to the point where after a while you forget how special they are and just drive past them.    



















Giraffes don't actually have horns, they have what are known as ossicones, all giraffes have the two on the top of the head, the Reticulated and the Northern, have a central ossicone on their forehead, on the Masai and Southern Giraffe there is just a bump on the forehead, of the three subspecies of Northern Giraffe, this central ossicone seems to be most prominent on the Kordofan.  














For me seeing giraffes drinking at Machtour, amongst the flocks of Spur-winged Geese that are always there is one of the most beautiful sights in Zakouma, even when as was the case this time, we only saw single giraffes.      












A few more mammal shots



Red-Fronted Gazelles










Lelwel Hartebeest 





Young Lelwel Hartebeest and Patas Monkey


Patas Monkeys proved quite hard to get, we saw a few but never that well.




Patas monkey






Hairy Slit-faced Bat






My hope in visiting Zakouma again was to see animals that I’d not seen before, either species that I’ve never seen like Red-flanked Duiker, or that I’ve never seen in Zakouma like cheetah, leopard, caracal or striped hyena, we weren’t lucky with any of these mammals, this wasn’t too big a surprise. Instead, what I did get to see was some pretty impressive reptiles that I’ve not seen before.


I have seen cobras, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Egyptian Cobra before or not photographed one before



Egyptian Cobra 


I’ve certainly never seen an African Spurred Tortoise before, this species occurs across the Sahel and Sudanese climactic zones, from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, it should occur in OROA but really Zakouma is the only place I’ve been where I could have seen one before, but this was the first tortoise of any kind, I’ve ever seen in Zakouma, and I would think the largest wild tortoise I’ve ever seen.




I spent a certain amount of my time when we were back at Tinga during the day, sat by the “Pit of Despair” the pool in the Tinga River, next to the broken bridge at the far end of Campement de Tinga, one morning back from our game drive, I’d taken my book The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary over to the pool and sat and read in the shade, keeping half an eye on the pool in case I saw any interesting wildlife appeared. Just after some Kob came down to the pool to drink, Zarek came and joined me, not many minutes later he spotted a large turtle sunning itself on the opposite bank, I had not seen it. We were not able to identify it at the time, but after we got home, we worked out that it was a flapshell turtle, there are two species that could potentially occur in Zakouma, the Nubian (Cyclanorbis elegans) and the Senegal (Cyclanorbis senegalensis). I never like to upload photos of animals or plants to Flickr until I can confidently label them with a proper ID, occasionally if I’m not certain of an ID, I may upload the photo anyway and ask if anyone can offer any other suggestions, if they think my ID is wrong. Having done a certain amount of research, I think on balance this has to be a Senegal Flapshell Turtle, evidently the Nubian is extremely rare, it should occur in Southern Chad, but I think the Senegal is much more common, however, herpetology is not my area of expertise. Whatever the case, it is clearly quite able to survive in a pool full of West African Crocodiles, some of which were pretty huge. It was quite remarkable sitting by the pool seeing just how many fish there were in the pool, some of the catfish we saw were really big, we couldn’t quite workout how they survive, why the crocs haven’t eaten them all. Occasionally, there would be a big commotion and we would see fish leaping in all directions, right out of the water, as they dodged a big croc or crocs that tried to grab them.











Senegal Flapshell Turtle





Finally, as already shown we saw a huge Central African Rock Python, I’ve seen some rock pythons before in various parts of Africa, this one if not the biggest was certainly one of the biggest, I’ve ever seen.





Edited by inyathi
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@inyathiyou managed to get good shots of the gazelle and patas monkey! i wonder if the cobra we saw was an egyptian but i think we were told it was a spitting cobra because i remember we were told to just put on our spectacles/sunglasses before returning to where it was. 


Love your shot of the giraffe.

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Fantastic photos! I think that's the first photo of a wild Geochelone sulcata I have ever seen!

Not sure if the Egyptian cobra is an Egyptian cobra. There's been quite a few changes in cobra taxonomy in recent years, but not sure if what originally was the Egyptian cobra occurs in Zakouma. Various African reptile facebook groups could probably help.

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Given my two previous Zakouma safaris and all of my other travels in Africa, I didn’t think it was likely that I would see any new birds in the park, and with Zarek being the only other birder, I decided birding should take a bit of a back seat. We would look at whatever birds we saw as we went around, but we wouldn’t be hunting for specific targets, although I still hoped to see some good birds and we certainly did. As mentioned earlier in the report I had been desperate to see Scissor-tailed Kites on this safari and saw a lot of them in OROA, unexpectedly one flew over us in Zakouma, I knew these kites were on the park list, but I’d never seen one in Zakouma before, I think perhaps they’re not around in April when I’ve been in the park before. On a quick visit to the Salamat River as we were driving away, we spotted a Narina Trogon low down in a thicket, unfortunately I was unable to get a photograph, the distributions maps suggest that this species should be in Zakouma and I would have expected it to be there, but it is not on the old Zakouma checklist that I have from my earlier safaris, so I can assume no one had seen one, when that list was compiled, I don’t know if it has been added to the park list since then, this could then be an interesting record, both Zarek and I saw it clearly, so there is no mistaking, what it was. I will at some point submit my bird records to WABDaB the West African Bird Database. Even if we weren’t seriously birding, I’m sure that I saw slightly more species in Zakouma than on my last safari, but I haven’t counted them up, that’s despite missing some good birds that I saw on that trip. I’ve said in the past that Zakouma’s star bird is the Black-breasted Barbet, because Zakouma is one of only two safe places to look for it, the other is Kidepo NP in Uganda, having seen it very well in both parks, I didn’t make any attempt to look for it this time, to see it, you really need to find a fruiting fig tree and I didn’t notice any on this trip, so we didn’t see it. I didn’t see Vieillot's Barbet either, but we heard their duetting calls throughout, even during our brief stop in Zakouma at the start of the safari, we didn’t try looking for one and again you really need to find a fig tree. We did however, see what I now consider Zakouma’s second star bird, the Egyptian Plover, on my first Zakouma safari, one shot passed in front of our vehicle whilst we were watching a pride of lions by the Salamat, I’d never seen one before, but I knew instantly what it was, I could ask that we chase after it and it was the only one, I saw on that trip. On my second safari, I had excellent views of one on the Salamat, this time we had good views twice, the first time we had gone to the Salamat just to have a quick look at the river, walking on the bank looking at some of the birds, we said all we need now is an Egyptian Plover, and there it was just over the other side. The next time was when we were looking for the cheetahs, at various points we drove to the river to see if we could see anything and at one spot, we found another Egyptian Plover. Zarek was very keen to see one because as he said earlier it was a lifer and I am always keen to see it, just because it is such a beautiful bird, but we hadn’t on either occasion gone to the river specifically to look for it, it was just there. I have also seen Egyptian Plovers in Ghana, but that involved visiting a spot on the White Volta River right on the border with Burkina Faso, specifically to see the bird. You can also see Egyptian Plovers in Ethiopia and in The Gambia and Senegal, in East Africa a few occur in the far north of Uganda, there was one hanging around in Murchison Falls NP a few years ago, but they are very hard to see in Uganda. Having seen the bird on all three of my visits to Zakouma and seeing that ….. also saw one on his recent Zakouma safari, the park is among the most reliable places to see these birds, they must be common on the Salamat River.            





Black-crowned Night Heron and Egyptian Plover






Zakouma may not have as long a list of birds as some of the parks in East Africa or in Southern Africa, but it is still stuffed with birds, there are birds everywhere, as I've said about Zakouma before, you seldom seen just see one of any species, with some of the birds you see a multitude, that is certainly the case with water birds, even though at the end of Feb beginning of March there's a good deal more water than in April, even so there were still large concentrations of water birds, at Rigueik as seen earlier, the Spur-winged Geese were no less packed, Machtour was still lined with geese and African Comb Ducks, not quite as tightly packed but still a very impressive sight     






White-faced Whistling ducks are also very common, there whistles are for me one of the most evocative sounds of Zakouma 




White-faced Whistling Ducks





African Openbill Storks, Yellow-billed Storks, African Spoonbills, Great White Pelicans and other water birds at Machtour



Young Saddle-billed Storks on the Salamat.




Yellow-billed Storks





Black-crowned Night Heron


Black Crowned Cranes are always a highlight of Zakouma, the plains at Rigueik are always covered in cranes, but you see small groups around Machtour and elsewhere there are plenty of cranes down in the south, there were flocks of cranes where we first saw the big elephant herd, their calls unlike the birds themselves could not be described as beautiful, but are another very evocative sound of Zakouma. Just how many of these cranes there are in Zakouma is extraordinary , in 2019 a team from the International Crane Foundation visited the park and conducted a survey, they counted 13,885  in and around Zakouma, this is the highest concentration of any crane species anywhere in Africa.












It's not just the water birds that are very common, at Rigueik the number of doves of various species that you see flying around is incredible, there's never a moment where you don't see flocks of doves coming and going, driving anywhere in Zakouma you are constantly putting Namaque doves up of the road, I can't think of anywhere else in Africa, where Namaqua Doves are as common as they are in Zakouma.



Namaqua Dove


If you have only birded in East or Southern Africa, you won't have seen African Green Bee-eater, unless you have perhaps been to Egypt as this birds do occur along the Nile there, these bee-eaters are really a Sahel bird, besides Egypt they are perhaps seen most easily in The Gambia or Senegal, they can also be seen in Ghana but they only just occur there, in the very far north, when I went on a birding tour there, I saw I think just one pair of them, I've also looked for these bee-eaters in Kidepo NP in  Uganda, the only place where they may occur in East Africa, but I didn't find one there, In Zakouma it seems like there is one in almost every bush, you can't miss them.






Northern Carmine Bee-eaters are very common, we saw a few but didn't visit a colony, so I don't think I took any photos this time, I did photograph Red-throated and Little which are also common especially the former




Red-throated Bee-eater





Little Bee-eater


Abyssinian Rollers are another gorgeous bird that you see everywhere in Zakouma




Abyssinian Rollers






Some other good birds seen



Wood Sandpiper



Little Ringed Plover



Spotted Thick-knee 




Dark Chanting Goshawk







Long-crested Eagle 




Fish Eagle 





Hooded Vulture 



Pied Kingfisher




Senegal Coucal





African Paradise Flycatcher at Tinga 



Masked Shrike



Village Indigobird 


Of course Zakouma's most common bird, is also the world's most common wild bird, the Red-billed Quelea, I wasn't sure how well we would see the queleas on this trip, you really need to be based at Rigueik if you want to see the great swirling clouds of queleas, these murmurations are one of the great sights of Zakouma, we did see a little bit of this, where you see birds coming to the ground to drink, what did see on several evenings whilst we enjoyed some cold bottles of Gala and roasted peanuts, was the almost never-ending snake of queleas streaming over on their way back to their roost sites. 




Red-billed Queleas














I will post my full list of birds for the trip at the end. 

Edited by inyathi
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The Egyptian plover is lovely.  I've never seen it before and now I'll need to see it. Lovely bird shots. 

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@KitsafariI think that Red-Fronted Gazelle shot is the nicest one I've taken on any of my Zakouma safaris, having looked at a lot of other photos of Egyptian Plovers on Flickr, I could really have done with a longer lens, I think perhaps Zakouma might be the one place where you can see the plover without having to be on a birding tour, I think most of the other good locations where people see them are places that you would only really visit if you are a birder. 


@ForWildlifeI haven't done any research on cobras, so with that snake, I just went with what @Zarek Cockar suggested, as I know that Zarek's knowledge of African herps is much better than mine, as it should be, I like snakes but you don't often see them on safari, I don't think I've ever seen three different snake species on one trip before, I don't have any snake books, but I will have a look online and see what I can come up with. It does get complicated when taxonomies change, I quite often now come across unfamiliar bird names when I am looking at bird lists online, because it turns out that yet another bird has been split into different species, I can imagine that this might also be a problem with snakes as well. 


I created a video and photo compilation of my time in Zakouma, I may have posted most of the photos before but not all of the videos I think, so I thought I would add it, as it worked quite well, I just use some free video editing software called Shotcut, inserting photos is easy, but I haven't figured out how to include panoramas, I used to have some slideshow software that allowed you to enlarge and then slowly pan across panoramas, but I don't know if it is possible to do that with Shotcut, I don't really shoot enough video to justify paying for better software.




On my previous visit to Zakouma I had brought a trail camera with me and succeeded in getting amazing photos and videos of an astonishing range of wildlife, so I’d decided to bring one on this trip. I didn’t make good use of it in Ennedi, I had really brought it for use at Tinga, probably if I put it more thought into, I could’ve found somewhere good to put it in Ennedi, a short walk from our camp, but instead I just somewhere near the rocks behind my tent and got nothing. At Tinga I did get something, only I made a very obvious rookie mistake setting my camera up at Tinga, the most successful place I had put my camera on my 2015 safari, was pointing along a game trail by the road going past Rigueik, from memory I had the camera on a ground spike but with its back against a tree, so it wouldn’t get knocked over by any animals wandering by, that worked really well, although I had the strap for attaching the camera to trees I decided to use the spike again as it is much quicker and easier to set up. I found a good spot the other side of a little gully a short distance from the back of my room, I should have thought that using the spike was a bad idea and that I must strap it to a tree, but there wasn’t a really suitable tree that I could see, so I didn’t, I just put it next to a bush pointing along a trail. When I went to retrieve it, after a few days I couldn’t find it, it wasn’t where I’d put it, I briefly wondered if I had forgotten where I had put it but I hadn’t and I knew that no one would have walked that way and taken my camera. I kept walking around thew area where I’d put it and eventually to my relief, I found it lying face up on the ground, it wasn’t easy to find because like many such cameras it is camouflaged. when I reviewed the footage, exactly as I suspected an Olive Baboon had grabbed it and run off with it, fortunately dropping it quite quickly, so it wasn’t too far from where I had put it, I then found it had taken hundreds of videos of wind in the tree tops that it was pointing at. I should have learned from my silly mistake but didn’t and decided to move my camera and point it at the pool next to the Pit of Despair, for the last couple of nights, I contemplated strapping it to a rock, as there wasn’t a suitable tree, instead I put the spike in next to a rock and then put some dead branches around it, this time when I went to retrieve it, I was very surprised to see the ground spike was still where I’d put it, but I couldn’t see the camera, I found my camera on the ground a few feet away, this time when a baboon had grabbed it, it somehow managed to snap the screw on the top of the ground spike in half. The camera didn’t catch this act of vandalism, it just caught the baboons walking by. I was annoyed with myself about this, as I should thought that there are just two many baboons around Tinga and I would have to be very careful with my camera. I had filmed baboons the last time in Zakouma, but they hadn’t messed with my camera, but then that wasn’t at Tinga. It was fortunate that I hadn’t lost the camera entirely and that my mistake didn’t prove too costly, the camera was perfectly fine but for the fact that the broken screw was still in the bottom of the camera, I feared I might have to have it drilled out, however, when I got home and examined it, If found I was able to unscrew it and get it out quite easily, I will have to buy a new ground spike, I may try supergluing the screw back together, but I can’t see that working for long, so I will have to buy a new ground spike. I’ve used trail cameras on a few safaris, sometimes using my spike and sometimes the strap and I’ve never had animals mess with my camera before, but if I take a trail camera on future safaris, I will make sure I only use the strap and have the camera firmly attached to a tree.



Bushbuck, African Civet, Large or Rusty-spotted Genet, Tantalus Monkey, Red-throated Bee-eater, Olive Baboons:(, Yellow-billed Kites:lol: 



Before we left Zakouma as mentioned earlier, we were shown into the Zakouma HQ control room, by I believe Catherina Hall-Martin a daughter of the late Anthony Hall-Martin one of the giants of South African conservation and also one of the co-founders of African Parks.




Zakouma HQ





It was very interesting to see how they monitor the wildlife in the park. I used to receive a Zakouma Newsletter, I am guessing perhaps they no longer produce one, I’m not sure otherwise why I don’t get it anymore, in I think the last one I received, it said that they were upgrading the road between Zakouma NP and Siniaka-Minia Game Reserve, in order to move some animals this year. The numbers of certain species in Siniaka are very low, so the plan was to boost their populations with animals from Zakouma, this would also inject a bit of fresh blood, I didn’t know what had happened, so I was very pleased when she told us that they had already moved 900 buffaloes, that’s an impressive number of animals to move, even if the distance between the parks is not huge. They are planning to move another 1000 animals next year, I am not sure which species, we weren’t told and sadly our time was very limited, but I would presume that it will include giraffes and perhaps Roan and Hartebeest, she did say that moving migratory species like Tiang might be a problem as they may wander back. AP don’t have much information about Siniaka-Minia on their website and they haven’t updated their Zakouma Facebook page in a while, it often has information about Siniaka, so my knowledge of the state of the wildlife there is limited, I asked if there were still elephants there, she said that they think that there may be a few elephants there, as they have seen signs suggesting that there are some around, I was a bit surprised that she could not provide a more definite answer, as AP have been working in Siniaka for a few years now, but if there are a few left that is great news. It would suggest that there can’t be very many, perhaps they are even better at hiding than Zakouma’s elephants. Moving animals to Siniaka-Minia is great, as it is a much larger park than Zakouma, at some point it will be made a national park currently it is still a game reserve, I guess with everything that has happened in Chad recently, sorting this out hasn't been a priority. I suspect it may well be a while before any tourists visit Siniaka, but who knows, the chance to go there, even if I might not see anything new, might be the one thing that could draw me back to visit Chad again. When we had arrived at the HQ, we had hoped that we might meet the new boss Naftali Honig, but he was busy in a meeting, unfortunately we spent a while waiting to see if he would turn up, so when Catherina found us and led us into the control room, we didn't have a lot of time as I am sure there are many more questions we could have asked, she was pretty definite that new rhinos would be arriving in Zakouma in December, so I am sure that will happen and won't be delayed again due to the pandemic. Since our pilot Jay was waiting to take us back to NDJ, reluctantly we had to leave, let the HQ carry on with their work and head straight for the airstrip. Even if I don't return, I will still follow developments in Zakouma and Siniaka-Minia with very keen interest.  

Edited by inyathi
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If you wonder what it’s like driving through the surreal landscapes of The Ennedi Plateau and you don’t mind a sometimes dirty windscreen, here’s a sampling :






Flying Chad:



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@inyathii love the trail cam footage!  Goes to show that nothing goes unnoticed and anything new or alien to the environment is to be inspected or avoided! :D

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Awesome photos and videos - really gives a feeling of experiencing Zakouma. 

The large roan herd was something! We saw roans, but not that many. 

So glad you did see the elephant mega-herd; it was extremely moving when we saw them in 2020.

Totally jealous that you were able to do fly camping in Zakouma.

We were able to visit Rigueik on the days that the Camp Nomade people were fly camping; we went to Rigueik a few times in 2020.

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Gentlemen this is a wonderful Trip Report! A joy to read and watch. I loved the video @inyathimade of the highlights of Zakouma. Watching the part where the different storks are feeding was fun, and an inspiration to make more video’s on my next safari. One gets a much better insight in the dinamics between the different birds when watching them on video. Great music choice too. Thank you also for sharing your experience about trail camera and baboons, that will soon prove to be very useful when I am in South Luangwa. 


The footage that @gatoratlargemade of the days driving on the Ennedi Plateau brings me back to places where I experienced the enormity and serenity of those giant rock formations, like Utah, Turkey, Jordan, Israël, and Namibia. No doubt that Ennedi is much vaster and it must be humbling to spend days driving and sleeping in that extraordinary landscape. 

So maybe one day….

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@gatoratlargeGreat videos you’ve certainly captured the experience of travelling in Ennedi, it’s good to have a mix of videos and photos. Seeing those locations on Google maps is really interesting, I had located the Oryx Base in OROA, it is actually labelled on the map on Flickr, so I’d already added my photos from there to my Flickr map, I couldn’t find the airstrip though, and I am not surprised as there is nothing very visible, when I click the link for that location. I never would have found our camp in Ennedi, now I know where it is, I’ve started adding my Ennedi photos to my Flickr map, it is interesting to see just how close the camp was to the Guelta d’Archei, it is not hard to find, and also very close to Elephant Arch, I found the latter thanks to Wikipedia, and also Aloba Arch, Mask Rock and what I called Table Arch, I thought that was the name of it, but it seems to be known as Five Arch Rock, so I’ve edited my earlier post and re-labelled the photos of it . If you know the name of a location and Google it you may find it on Google maps, or if it is on Wikipedia, you may find the coordinates there. For some reason coordinates work fine with Google Earth, but don’t work with Flickr’s map, of course, not knowing the names of most of the other locations we visited in Ennedi I’ve not located anywhere else yet. I did find the website of the Natural Bridge and Arch Society; this has photos of many of the arches in Ennedi but most of them don’t have names.  Chad: Natural Arches of the Ennedi     


@BikoThanks, I think because my trail camera seemed to survive unharmed and only the spike was broken and a fair bit of battery power wasted filming wind, I’m almost more annoyed about the fact that if I’d found a suitable tree or rock to strap it to, I would have got a lot more footage especially night time footage, strapped to a tree, I’m sure the baboons at Tinga would still have investigated it, but they have been unlikely to be able to get it off, or having realised it wasn’t edible would have just lost interest. The music in my Zakouma video is by the Senegalese Kora player Youssoupha Sidibe, I’m glad to have found his music, I’ve not added music to videos that I intend to upload to YouTube before, to avoid copyright issues, I found his music on the Free Music Archive website, I found other good African music there, that might have done, but you can only use it, if it has the right licence, the other music I liked didn’t, but his was fine, it just means I can’t use the videos for commercial purposes. Often times my videos have brutal wind noise, I hate that, so normally I would just mute the sound and then just add some bird calls, of species found in the area, downloaded from Xeno-Canto        


Since I posted about the buffaloes being moved to Siniaka-Minia, I found an article on the move with some photos from the operation, this suggests that 905 buffaloes were moved and that the plan is to eventually move 2000, there are 15,000 in Zakouma, the idea besides restocking Siniaka-Minia is to reduce the number of buffaloes in Zakouma. An article on the same website said that Siniaka-Minia would become a national park last year, I don’t know why that didn’t happen.  


Since it is a Chadian website the article is in French, but of course Google translates everything Towards the transfer of 2000 buffaloes from Zakouma National Park to Siniaka Minia Reserve


The other very interesting thing I read on the same website is that a French organisation called the Noé Association, has signed an agreement with the Chadian government, to manage a new national park that comprises part of the Binder Léré Faunal Reserve, down in the southwest near the border with Cameroon, the park apparently has the third largest elephant population in Chad, although this is only 125, that's the number on the Noé website, it may now be even fewer than that, I hope that they can protect these elephants, perhaps most interesting is that it also has West African Manatees. I'd not come across the Noé Association before, I was interested to read this on their website



A partnership with African Parks (APN) addresses the challenges in the day-to-day management of PAs, benefiting from the NGO's 20 years of field experience. African Parks' support is ensured by technical and operational monitoring in pdn's various areas of expertise, participation in the Boards of Directors of the PAs managed by Noé, and a continuous process of monitoring and evaluation of the partnership.


I would imagine, that some of the animal populations in this new park may be so small, that they need reinforcing and there may even be some species missing, I would guess that at some point African Parks could supply animals from Zakouma for restocking, presuming that the area is safe, it could become another place to visit in Chad, I'm sure there would be some great birding, offering a good few species that you wouldn't find in Zakouma, based on my experience visiting Loango NP in Gabon, I think you'd be very lucky to see manatees, apparently they also occur in Lake Chad, but I don't think the lake is safe to visit. Binder Léré is quite far south of the lake so I would hope that it is outside of the area ,where the terrorist group ISWAP operates and is therefore safe.


The Noé Association are also managing Termit and Tin Touma Reserve in Niger and Conkouati Douli NP in Congo Republic.


Parcs de Noé












Burnt trees























We left Zakouma on the 4th of March, this was a day earlier than we had been due to leave according to our original planned itinerary, this was unfortunately necessary, because we all needed to have a pre-departure PCR test, the information we had, was that Chad was insisting on this, regardless of the rules at the destination you were flying to. We’d been told that we would be tested at the Radisson Blu Hotel on the morning of the 5th, we are all slightly concerned as to whether they would get our results in time, even though we were all flying out on the same late night AF flight, except for Zarek who was flying the next day on ET, so we were quite relieved when, Eyte collected us from the airport, to be told by Adolpho, that he had arranged for the tests to be done at the hotel that afternoon. I decided at the start of this report, to leave out all the boring trials and tribulations I had gone through to get to Chad, but those had obviously including having a Fit to Fly PCR test done as requested by Chad, the clinic emailed me certain instructions like not eating anything within half an hour of the test, and during the test I was asked “did that touch your tongue” I replied “I don’t know but I don’t think so”, meaning I can’t honestly say and just hoped that there wouldn’t be a problem, there wasn’t. At the Radisson, two guys showed up, one to do the test and the other to empty our wallets, I said in discussion with Adolpho, that I didn’t actually really need a test, since the UK government had decided, to scrap this requirement, however, we both agreed that it would be best for me to have it anyway, to avoid any arguments at the airport. We each took it in turns to sit in an arm chair in the hotel lobby and have a swab stuck down our throats, we weren’t any of us asked if we had eaten anything and the guy seemed to just shove the swab in stir it around and take it out, there was no concern as to whether it had touched my tongue or not, when I gagged that was taken as a sign that he had done it right. It all seemed very amateur and at 40,000 CFAs which I think is close to 70 USDs wasn’t cheap. I would hope that anyone visiting Chad next year won't have to worry about any of this.    



I didn't get a river view at the beginning nor at the end



The view of the carpark was better for birding, this time from my balcony the most I could see was pigeons






With our tests done we decided rather than stay and eat the buffet at the Radisson, we would rather go out to a restaurant in NDJ, we arranged to have a taxi come and take us this took a long time to come, Josep our one fluent French speaker opted not to come with us. Before a visit to Gabon back in 2008, I thought it would be a good idea to do a bit of French revision, as it is a Francophone country and I hadn’t spoken any French, since I was at school, a bought a couple of BBC learn French CDs. I am sure that listening to these discs was useful, but for obvious reasons the phrases it teaches, were of limited use on safari, when you wish to have a conversation with your guide, about what you wish to do, being able to ask what time the chateau opens isn’t much help. I had intended to have another listen to these discs ahead of this trip, but didn’t get around to it, partly because the phrases weren’t that useful on safari in Gabon, I was forgetting how much time we would be spending in N’Djamena on this trip, and might have found listening to the discs quite helpful. I am pretty sure if I am not mistaken that we went to a restaurant called the Cote Jardin, I decided that I would have the Zebu beef rib steak with chips, when I was asked how I would like it cooked, I could think what the French for rare was, I probably knew once but I’d forgotten, rather than just say can I have it rare and hope that they understood that, foolishly I asked for bleu. When the steak arrived, it was like a large chop about 2 inches 5cms thick, and it was exactly as I’d asked, bleu, meaning that whilst the outside was charred nicely, the inside was essentially still raw, I should have anticipated this, but hadn’t expected it would be as thick as it was. On the presumption that it would still be fine to eat, because the outside was cooked, I bravely got stuck in, since they had only done what I asked them to, it was actually very good, but I would have preferred it slightly more cooked, in the end though it proved too much for me and I had to admit defeat and didn’t make it to the end. I shall remember from now on, that if you want a rare steak you ask for saignant Still I was glad not to have ordered the Togolese stew with okra that Zarek had ordered, okra has a reputation for being slimy and this dish did look very slimy. Despite some of our menu choices we were very glad to have gone out rather than just eat at the hotel.


On my last morning, I spent a certain amount of time birding in the garden and walking along the river front, watching the local fishermen tending their nets and the crowds of pedestrians commuting across the bridge over the Chari. I had gone out quite early in the hope of catching sight of the hippo, as I hadn’t actually seen it at the beginning of the trip, but it wasn’t around, hippos are curiously absent from Zakouma, the habitat looks good for them, and they do occur at Lake Iro not far south of Zakouma, just not in the park, so the Chari River in NDJ is really the only place you are likely to see them on a typical Chad safari.  









Cattle on the far bank



Pied Kingfisher



Black-winged Kite





This bridge seemed permanently covered in pedestrians, commuting across, few people own cars so walking is still the best way to get around in NDJ  









The hotel has a nice refreshing pool, but you have to brave the hot sun to get to it




On our final day we’d decided that we should go out into NDJ for lunch and Adolpho had agreed that they would take us, we had opted to go to a Lebanese restaurant called Layalina where some of the group had eaten at the beginning of the trip. I again decided to have steak and chips, only this time it was camel steak, no one asked me how I wanted it cooked and I didn’t tell them either, not wanting to repeat my mistake of the previous night, in Africa they like their meat well cooked, the camel when it arrived besides being enough for two people, was more than well cooked, not how I would have wanted it, but I happily ate a good amount of it, though it was a little salty, even if it hadn’t been seriously well done, there is no way I could have finished it. I wasn’t the only one with too much food, some of the others had ordered mezze and something else I don’t recall, we watched in amusement as these huge plates of food were delivered.



My lunch, you could perhaps call this pulled camel



Black-headed Lapwing





Common Agama Lizard












The locals weren't the only ones pursuing the Chari's fish, there was a sport fisherman sat by the railings dangling a line into the water some distance below, when I looked down at the river, I could see some of the fish, that I presume he was hoping to catch.    







African Openbill Stork


There was a good sized flock of storks, herons or other large water birds on a sandbank in the river, but they were too far away to identify even with binoculars, the Chari river makes the Radisson not a bad place for birding, most of the garden in front is lawn which is not great although the lapwings like it, but there are a few trees.  







The end of my trip turned into a bit of a nightmare and near disaster partially of my own making, but I would prefer to lay the blame at the door of the UK government, as per the rules at the time, before returning to the UK, you were supposed to fill in an online passenger locator form, explaining where you had been and other details, within 48hrs of your return. I had neglected to do anything about this until the very end, I’d had no joy trying to access the online form whilst in my room and had thought that perhaps I might have more luck down in the lobby, that perhaps the internet would work better there. After checking out, I sat down in a chair plugged my phone into a socket into the pillar behind my chair and attempted to access the form, as my phone was now fully charged, I decided to plug in my iPad to top it up ahead of the flight, I’d also tried accessing the form on my iPad. I got absolutely nowhere with the form, I could read the instructions, but as soon I clicked to start the form, I could not access it, I was getting more than a little stressed about this, for no reason as it turned out. The hotel shuttle did not come until slightly later than expected, when it arrived, we all jumped up grabbed our stuff and headed for the door, said our final goodbyes to Zarek who was flying the next day and left. On the belt for my camera’s holster pouch, I have a fabric book pouch to carry my bird book when I am walking, I can then access it when I want it and put it away when I’m using my binoculars or taking a photo, just recently, I’ve taken to wearing the belt with just this book pouch at airports, to carry my iPad and my Kindle, because you always have to unpack iPads for security and I don’t have room for my Kindle in my camera bag. It makes it quite easy at security, I just unclip the belt and place it and the pouch in the plastic tray and then pull out my iPad, and put it on top, this is easier than taking it out of the inside pocket of my camera bag. When we got to the airport, there was an initial Covid check on the way in, it clearly had been wise for me to have the PCR test, we had to present our negative test certificate to have it stamped, before we could go through the police/security checkpoint to get to the terminal, then on entering the terminal we had to put our luggage through the X-ray machines.


As you may likely have guessed, when I removed my book pouch from my waist, I discovered that my iPad was missing, at first, I thought it had fallen out on the shuttle or even in the carpark, but then realisation dawned, I could not recall having repacked my travel adapter or the iPad charger cable. I knew that instant, that my iPad was still sat charging on the back of the chair I’d been sat in in the hotel lobby, I thought I would likely have to accept that I would not see it again. The rest of the team did their best to help me out sending messages to Zarek back at the hotel, but he was unable to reply, after I’d checked-in, Josep wisely decided that we should perhaps talk to airport security, he explained the situation to them in French, it was decided that I should take a taxi back to the hotel and collect it, I was a little sceptical but was informed that this was possible, so I left my heavy camera bag with the rest of the group, Josep accompanied me back out to the carpark, I had by this point spent the last of my CFA’s on my PCR test and also our meals out, so had none left, unfortunately the taxi driver who agreed to take me would not take USDs, so I had to exchange just enough USDs with a money changer, trying to sort this out took so long that I was getting seriously worried, eventually we worked out the required amount, I jumped in the cab and we sped off back to the Radisson, the Taxi driver went I guess as fast as he could, but I was still understandably worried. When we got there, I ran inside, well, after going through a metal detector first, Zarek handed me my iPad, I said thanks and dashed back to my cab and we headed back to Hassan Djamous, the taxi dropped me off, the policeman at the security check recognised me smiled and waved me through, I hurriedly put my iPad through the X-ray and rushed inside, it took me a while to get through to the gate, as I had a departure form to fill in, however, I got through met up with the others, collected my gear that they had kindly looked after for me and perhaps 10-15 minutes or so later we started boarding, this had certainly got my adrenalin pumping a bit, but I don’t think I was actually the last passenger and getting to the aircraft took a long time, as there was another security check outside, we had to have our hand luggage checked on more time before we would be allowed to board the bus to take us to our flight. I was extremely relieved once I was on the flight. Of course, I still had to fill in this stupid online form, that had caused me to be so careless and leave my iPad at the hotel, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it on the flight, I just hoped I’d be able to do at CDG. Filling it in took up almost all of my transit time at CDG, the annoying thing was that I had already read, that they would get rid of the form by Easter. If N'Djamena was not such a small city with very little traffic, I would likely not have been able to risk returning to the hotel. 


Despite the stressful end to the trip, and a lot of stress before I ever got to Chad, trying to sort out my travel arrangements, I had an amazing time, we all did, it was a great adventure from start to finish, we saw some of the most extraordinary landscapes in Africa and some exceptional wildlife and got to see truly inspirational conservation work. 


Here's my bird list for the trip, I am sure there might be a couple of species that, I forgot to add to my daily checklist, when compiling this list, I certainly noticed one species that I definitely saw, but had failed to tick, so there are likely others. If you are on a birding trip with a group of other birders you hope that someone else will remember the ones that you forget, I know in this case, @Zarek Cockar Zarek will have seen some birds that I didn’t see, but may also have noted some birds, that I did see but failed to tick. As I often think a better more dedicated birder than I am, would have seen more species than I did, there are a few surprising omissions like no woodpeckers and no weavers, I feel I must have seen a weaver, but I haven’t ticked any, I know that I didn’t see a woodpecker, but perhaps if I’d made more effort around Tinga I could have found one. I am always slightly surprised not to see certain birds, on my first safari to Zakouma, I’d hoped to see Clapperton’s Francolin, but I only succeeded in getting a very brief glimpse of a francolin disappearing behind a bush, I couldn’t get a view of it, so didn’t count it, on my second safari I got one good view and photos, this time I didn’t see or hear a single francolin in Zakouma.  


Red-necked Ostrich

Long-tailed Cormorant

Black-crowned Night-heron

Squacco Heron

Cattle Egret

Grey Heron

Black-headed Heron

Goliath Heron

Purple Heron

Great White Egret

Yellow-billed Egret

Little Egret


African Spoonbill

African Sacred Ibis

Hadada Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Great White Pelican

Yellow-billed Stork

African Openbill

African Woolly-necked Stork

White Stork



White-faced Whistling-duck

Spur-winged Goose

African Comb Duck

Egyptian Goose


Northern Shoveler

Black-winged Kite

Scissor-tailed Kite

African Harrier-Hawk

Lappet-faced Vulture

Hooded Vulture

White-backed Vulture

Rüppell's Griffon


Short-toed Snake-Eagle

Brown Snake-Eagle

Banded Snake-Eagle

Martial Eagle

Long-crested Eagle

Wahlberg's Eagle

Tawny Eagle

Verreaux's Eagle

African Hawk-Eagle

Dark Chanting-Goshawk

Gabar Goshawk

Eurasian Marsh-Harrier 

Pallid Harrier 

Montagu's Harrier

Yellow-billed Kite

African Fish-Eagle

Eurasian Kestrel

Grey Kestrel

Barbary Falcon

Helmeted Guineafowl

Common Quail

Small Buttonquail

Black Crowned-Crane

Arabian Bustard

Nubian Bustard

Black-bellied Bustard

Cream-colored Courser

African Jacana

Senegal Thick-knee

Spotted Thick-knee

Black-winged Stilt

Egyptian Plover

Spur-winged Lapwing

Black-headed Lapwing

Wattled Lapwing

Little Ringed Plover


Common Sandpiper

Common Greenshank

Marsh Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Four-banded Sandgrouse

Rock Pigeon

Speckled Pigeon

European Turtle-Dove

African Collared-Dove

Mourning Collared-Dove

Vinaceous Dove

Laughing Dove

Black-billed Wood-Dove

Namaqua Dove

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Meyer's Parrot

Senegal Coucal

Greyish Eagle-Owl

Little Owl (Saharan)

Long-tailed Nightjar

African Palm-Swift

Blue-naped Mousebird

Narina Trogon

Eurasian Hoopoe 

Green Woodhoopoe 

Black Scimitarbill

Malachite Kingfisher

Grey-headed Kingfisher

Giant Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

Red-throated Bee-eater

Little Bee-eater

White-throated Bee-eater

African Green Bee-eater

Northern Carmine Bee-eater

Abyssinian Roller

Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill

African Grey Hornbill

Northern Red-billed Hornbill

Desert Lark

Dunn's Lark

Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark

Pale Crag Martin 

Barn Swallow

Ethiopian Swallow

White Wagtail

Glossy-backed Drongo


Pied Crow

Brown-necked Raven

Fan-tailed Raven

Brown Babbler

Northern Wheatear

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

White-crowned Wheatear

Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

Green-backed Camaroptera

Northern Crombec

Moustached Grass-Warbler

Cricket Warbler

African Paradise-Flycatcher

Southern Grey Shrike

Masked Shrike

Woodchat Shrike

Long-tailed Glossy Starling

Greater Blue-eared Starling

Yellow-billed Oxpecker

Pygmy Sunbird

Scarlet-chested Sunbird

Red-billed Quelea

Northern Red Bishop

African Silverbill

Lavender Waxbill

Black-rumped Waxbill

Red-cheeked Cordonbleu

Red-billed Firefinch

Village Indigobird

House Sparrow

Northern Grey-headed Sparrow

Desert Sparrow

House Bunting


That unless I am mistaken is 158 species, not really too bad for Chad, given that it wasn’t a birding trip. 



After submitting our various bird records to WABDaB, I’ve been going through my Chad bird list and realised I needed make a few corrections. During our visit to the Guelta d’Archei in Ennedi we saw what we recorded as Peregrine Falcon, we have since been informed that these birds are actually Barbary Falcons, a bird that is either a species in its own right or a subspecies of Peregrine, I am not entirely sure, the checklist for Chad, that I downloaded from Avibase just had Peregrine on it, at the time I went with that, but I had read an article that talked about seeing Barbary Falcons in the Guelta, another case where taxonomy is complicated. Larks are not my favourite family of birds as they do all come into the category of LBJs, in OROA I had photographed a lark which I’d put down as Desert Lark, even though it is quite clearly not the same bird as the Desert Lark I’d photographed in Ennedi, I should have worked out because the photo is good enough, that it is a Dunn’s Lark a common species in OROA. I noticed that I’d left off Ethiopian Swallow, I had expected after making these corrections that that would add at least one to my total of birds, when I had a recount, I realised that when I said unless I am mistaken, I saw 157 species, that I was mistaken, after counting multiple times it seems my total is now 157, but that is after adding two birds.    


Having had a chance to go through @Zarek Cockar Zarek’s bird list, I decided to add in a list of the additional species that he saw, that are not on my list, I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t in fact see a couple of these species, but no more than that, most of them I am confident that I didn’t see. The addition of his birds, puts the total for birds up to 187, that is a pretty respectable score for a non-birding trip.  


Little Grebe

Great Cormorant

Booted Eagle


Clapperton’s Francolin

Little Stint

Common Moorhen

African Scops Owl

Pearl-spotted Owlet

Common Swift

Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird

Vieillot's Barbet

Grey Woodpecker

Crested Lark

Western Yellow Wagtail

Common Bulbul

Isabelline Wheatear

Northern Anteater Chat

Tawny-flanked Prinia

Garden Warbler

Willow Warbler

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Black-headed Gonolek

Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike

Tropical Boubou

Northern Puffback

Chestnut-Bellied Starling

Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starling

Black-crowned Tchagra


I suspect I might have seen one or two of these birds and just forgotten to tick them when going through my list, but most I know I did not see. I did though hear lots of Vieillot's Barbets but that’s normal in Zakouma and I heard lots of Black-headed Gonoleks at Tinga where this bird is common, but I didn’t see one, having seen them before a few times, I didn’t really look for them.


Back in 2017 BirdQuest did what I think is the first ever birding tour of Chad, I had been quite tempted to go on this tour, when I had seen it on their website, mainly because it went to OROA, curiously they do not have a trip report on their website, I wasn’t even sure if it had gone ahead, until we were at the Radisson, and Adolpho mentioned that some of the longest maddest drives he had had to do, were for this BirdQuest tour, so perhaps I am glad I didn’t sign up for it. Searching Google, I was surprised to find a tour report for this trip, but it is not a full detailed report, it is just the bird list, and it is not on the BirdQuest website, it was clearly a very successful trip scoring nearly 300 species, including some pretty special ones, this makes the lack of a trip report on their website a bit odd and they are not offering future Chad tours. I was pleased to see, that they do not have Little Owl on their list, they scored five BirdQuest lifers, these include the Black-breasted Barbet and the Nubian Bustard, I am quite impressed that I saw the barbet before anyone from BirdQuest had seen it. They also got some good mammals, but the only two I’m disappointed not to have seen are Fenec and Rüppell’s Fox, another reason I’m glad I didn’t go on this tour, is that when they went in 2017, there were no Addax in OROA, as their reintroduction hadn’t started then. As far as I am aware this BirdQuest tour was the only birding tour that’s gone to Chad or one of the only ones, so it’s a little annoying that I can’t find a full trip report, as they must have gone down to the far south of Chad, to have scored birds like Niam-niam Parrot, Violet and White-crested turacos and Bearded Barbet amongst others, but I don’t have the itinerary for the trip to know exactly where they went, but it was certainly a much longer trip than ours.   


CHAD 5 30 DECEMBER 2017 TOUR REPORT - PDF Free Download (hobbydocbox.com)


I hope that other birders, wildlife enthusiasts and adventurous travellers will be inspired to visit Chad, with the incredible conservation work being carried out in Chad, I think the country can only get better and better as a wildlife destination, part of AP's plan for the RNCE is to restore the ecology and recreate a functioning Saharan ecosystem as far as possible, this means returning lost species, I am certain that in the near future they will want reintroduce Addax, Scimitar-horned Oryx and likely Dama Gazelles, Ennedi as mentioned earlier doesn't have the best Dama habitat, so it may not be great for oryx either as I suspect their habitat preference may be quite similar, but there is what looked to me like good habitat, it should certainly be a good place for Addax, but competition with livestock could be an issue. Reintroducing cheetahs would be a major challenge, even if they can get the number of Dorcas Gazelles up, getting the nomad's on board would be difficult and returning lions certainly isn't ever likely. As I said earlier, I don't know when giraffes were extirpated, but if it was as I suspect not a very long time ago, it could even be possible to reintroduce Kordofan Giraffes, I certainly saw what looked like suitable habitat in the RNCE, areas with plenty of acacia trees for them to feed on and giraffes can apparently go without water for three weeks, longer than camels can, in Damaraland in Namibia, I've seen giraffe spoor in a landscape where there was barely a tree or much other vegetation to be seen. I've no idea if AP are considering returning giraffes, I just think that it might be possible. Giraffes aside, to see Addax or Oryx grazing in some of Ennedi's landscapes would be wonderful. I might not be in a rush to go back to Chad but I could be tempted, it would be good to go back to Zakouma after the next batch of rhinos have settled in, and with the restocking going on Siniaka-Minia, if you could take some tents and enough food and drive there from Zakouma for a few days exploring, that could be amazing. add on a visit to the new park at Binder Léré, and another visit to Chad has a lot of appeal.

Edited by inyathi
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