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Ennedi, Ouadi-Rime and Zakouma - Chad 2023

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I'm delighted to say that it's been a remarkable game-viewing season in Chad, and we've just finished up a successful season there. Across the last two months, we've run five tours, including three specifically focussed on mammal-watching - one to Zakouma, and two visiting Zakouma, Ouadi-Rime and Ennedi. Owing to the extremely wet off-season, and an unusually rain-prone dry season, it's not been a year without its challenges, but it's been fantastic to be able to enjoy what have been the most productive few months of wildlife-watching the parks have seen in many years.


Rather than go through a day-by-day of all of our trips this season, I'm planning to report in detail on our most recent tour, supplementing with a little detail and context from our other tours. Plenty of pictures, of course, to follow, once the necessary sorting out has been done. To whet the appetite, key highlights have included:


- Spectacular scenery in Ennedi, supplemented with sightings of striped hyena, desert hedgehog, Rueppell's fox, fennec fox, pale fox and more

- Stirring conservation success in Ouadi-Rime, with dama gazelle, scimitar-horned oryx and addax all doing well

- Game drives in Ouadi-Rime producing sightings of caracal, wild cat, pale fox, Libyan striped weasel, aardvark, honey badger and much more

- Zakouma offering some of the best sightings in recent years, including plentiful cheetah and leopard

- Caracal, aardvark, countless serval, wild cat, honey badger, striped hyena, lion, and elephant all seen

- Sensational viewing of quelea roosts and impressive densities of waterfowl throughout the park


More to follow!



Serval at Antiga - photo credit to client Jon Hall

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"most productive few months of wildlife-watching the parks have seen in many years"  Wow!


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Looking forward to this Tom

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A mouth-watering teaser indeed!

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oooh let's get started then. always a delight to read about CHad's parks. 

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@Atravelynn, @Soukous, @Kitsafari, @offshorebirder- great to have you all along.


A bit of housekeeping to start off with - below are the three wildlife-focussed itineraries we ran this year in Chad. I will focus on the tour I led (itinerary 3), but there was plenty of news from the other groups as well, which I will intersperse throughout


Itinerary 1: 6 clients


March 1st - Arrive in N'Djamena. Overnight at Radisson Blu.

March 2nd - Drive to Mongo. Overnight at basic campsite.

March 3rd - Drive to Zakouma. Overnight at Tinga Camp.

March 4th - March 8th - Full days in Zakouma.

March 9th - Depart Zakouma. Overnight at basic campsite near Mongo.

March 10th - Full day driving. Overnight west of Abeche.

March 11th - Full day driving. Overnight at 'aardvark site' outside Ouadi-Rime.

March 12th - Arrive Ouadi-Rime. Overnight at Oryx Base Camp.

March 13th - March 14th - Full days in Ouadi-Rime

March 15th - Depart Ouadi-Rime. Overnight en route to Ennedi.

March 16th - Full day driving. Overnight at Derde Camp, Ennedi.

March 17th - March 20th - Full days in Ennedi.

March 21st - Fly from Fada to N'Djamena. Overnight at Radisson Blu.

March 22nd - Tour End


Itinerary 2: 4 clients


March 13th - Arrive in N'Djamena. Overnight at Radisson Blu.

March 14th - Drive to Mongo. Overnight at basic campsite.

March 15th - Drive to Zakouma. Overnight at Tinga Camp.

March 16th - March 20th - Full days in Zakouma.

March 21st - Depart Zakouma. Overnight at basic campsite near Mongo.

March 22nd - Arrive N'Djamena. Overnight at Radisson Blu or Tour End.


Itinerary 3: 6 clients (focus of this report)


March 20th - Arrive in N'Djamena. Overnight at Radisson Blu.

March 21st - Fly from N'Djamena to Fada, via Abeche, and transfer to Derde Camp, Ennedi.

March 22nd - March 25th - Full days in Ennedi.

March 26th - Full day driving. Overnight at basic campsite en route to Ouadi-Rime.

March 27th - Arrive at Ouadi-Rime. Overnight at Oryx Base Camp.

March 28th - March 30th - Full days in Ouadi-Rime.

March 31st - Depart Ouadi-Rime. Overnight at 'aardvark site' east of Ouadi-Rime.

April 1st - Full day driving. Overnight at basic campsite east of Mongo.

April 2nd - Full day driving. Overnight at basic campsite near Aboudeia.

April 3rd - Arrive in Zakouma. Overnight at Tinga Camp.

April 4th - April 8th - Full days in Zakouma.

April 9th - Depart Zakouma, overnight at basic campsite near Mongo.

April 10th - Return to N'Djamena. Tour end.


For those who don't know Chad, here's a very rough map below tracing the route taken. Starting from the north, in Fada, we headed south through Ennedi to Ouadi-Rime, through Abeche and Mongo en route to Zakouma, and then back to the capital, N'Djamena, via Mongo again. Plenty of driving, but oh so worth it. This was a mammal-watching tour, to the exclusion of all else - birding and more general photography was of course enjoyed throughout, but the priority throughout was to locate as many mammal species as possible. In particular, targets included lifers for all of the group except myself - pale fox, red-fronted gazelle, red-flanked duiker, dama gazelle, addax and scimitar-horned oryx.




We approached this itinerary with a degree of concern about reports, from our first group in particular, that road conditions were extremely poor as a result of recent rain. Indeed, our second group last 1.5 days (and their tents on the return journey) to fierce wind and rainstorms of the kind I have never seen in Chad. One group arrived at Tinga at 23.30, having taken 25 hours (rather than the usual 13-16) to reach Tinga from N'Djamena. In truth, the roads were in the best condition I have seen in Chad, with repairs having taken place on the tarmac surfaces in the centre of the country. There was severe corrugation on the road between Mongo and Aboudeia but, like the security concerns of 2022, worries about road conditions melted away very quickly as the reality of the situation became clear.


Days 1-2 to come next...

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Looking forward to your report. 
Did Camp Nomade ever restart operations after the pandemic? 

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Hi @AKR1- yes, Nomade is fully operating and was at capacity for most of this season. Currently being managed by Alice.

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Thanks. Assume CN is still only open mid- December to mid-April as previously. I had read somewhere that Africa Parks was no longer advertising this, indeed it’s not even mentioned on their Zakouma site ( only Tinga is) and were marketing it to individuals who were prepared to make a specific minimum donation. Is this true? 

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Day 1 (March 20th):


Our group was flying in from all corners of the globe today, with representation from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. Remarkably, all went smoothly enough, with most of the group flying into N'Djamena from Paris with Air France, and one client flying in with Ethiopian via Addis. Typically we advise against flying in with Air France, as previously they have been hugely unreliable on this route, but this season things have improved significantly and all flights were on time.


Arrival into N'Djamena was as slow as always, but entry requirements are now eliminated for vaccinated travellers (vaccination certificates are checked on arrival), and after about an hour the group was re-united airside. Christian, who many forum members will know, is AP's man on the ground in N'Djamena, and ensured we were met by the driver from the Radisson Blu and whisked across to the hotel. The Radisson is, for now, still the hotel of choice for many visiting the city, with decent rooms and food, and plentiful cold beer. Behind the scenes, it is a bit of a mess (this year alone, we had bookings missing from the system, invoices issued with errors to clients, and even refusal to provide airport transfers), so we are considering using the Hilton property scheduled to open in the city centre later this year for future tours. The main benefit for many of our clients of staying in the Radisson is the views of the Chari, where hippo can be seen fairly usually - indeed, it did not take us long to spy several common hippopotamus grazing on the islands mid-river. 



One of the Chari's hippopotamus



The Chari was as full as I have ever seen it this year, owing to a spectacular wet season - some here may have seen the photos from Zakouma in which Tinga was about 5cm from being completely inundated by floodwaters. Birdlife was also doing well as a result and, although we didn't spot the Egyptian-plovers often seen here, there were plenty of black storks, black-headed lapwings and, of course, pied crows and speckled pigeons. An enjoyable evening was spent admiring the view, before a pre-tour briefing interrupted by several microbats flitting around - unfortunately not identifiable to species level.



The view upstream from the Radisson



Day 2 (March 21st):


Our adventure began in earnest today! Our 12.00 flight with AvMax meant a fairly relaxed morning in the hotel was in order, before heading to the airport at about 11.00. Check-in went very smoothly, and we were very quickly on board our Cessna C208 for the two-hour flight east to Abeche, to re-fuel, and then a further ninety-minute flight north to Fada. Unsurprisingly, the flight was utterly spectacular. Water abounded, with vast channels of water dotted across the centre of the country, and much of the land below was tinted green with fresh growth. Soon enough, the water gave way to inselbergs to indicate we would shortly be in Abeche, the largest city in eastern Chad. On approach, we spied our first camel trains of the tour, to the excitement of all, and were soon parking at the airport in the company of several UNFP aircraft. We had about twenty minutes on the ground in Abeche, which allowed enough time for a quick look at the gift shop (believe it or not) and a toilet break - outside the rather unpleasant toilet block, I spotted our second mammal of the trip rustling through some litter, a black rat. The mammal-watching got better, I promise.



AvMax Cessna in Fada



View between N'Djamena and Abeche


The first section of the next leg was dominated by wonderful views of the extensive grasslands of Ouadi-Rime to our west, where again there was plenty of vegetation and water. As we made our way north, the scenery did finally give way to arid savanna and then, finally desert - and this is where this flight gets particularly special. Stunning views of Ennedi's geological wonders were had to both the east and west, in what must be one of the world's most spectacular approaches. We landed at Fada's dirt airstrip about an hour before dark, and immediately ran into our first problem of the trip; the group we were meant to be meeting and taking the return leg back to N'Djamena weren't there! After a few Whatsapp calls it became apparent that our first group was at African Parks' airstrip a couple of kilometres away and, ten minutes or so later, a cloud of dust could be seen barrelling towards us - disaster averted.






On approach into Fada


We had a very quick catch-up with the outbound group, who had just done our itinerary in reverse. They had had a superb tour, although after 20+ days in the bush in Chad, they were all thoroughly exhausted and ready for a cold beer. As is often the case on small-group tours of this length, there had been a bit of tension in the last few days - our local partners in Chad are very much on a learning curve when it comes to accommodating such specialised clients and there had been one or two faux pas. But all seemed in good enough spirits, and my group was buoyed by the news of some excellent sightings. Waving them off, we began the journey of 2.5 hours across the desert in our trusty closed 4x4s to Derde Camp, deep in the massif.


Much of the journey was conducted in the dark, stopping only for a flat tyre a few minutes from camp, and we didn't make too much effort to spot wildlife en route. Nonetheless, brief views were had by some of lesser egyptian jerboa, fennec fox and an unidentified gerbil species, which really whet the appetite for the next few days to come. On arrival at Derde, we were met by the tremendously friendly camp team and had an opportunity to settle in to our comfortable tents. The camp consists of a central dining/rest area, which is where most time was spent, seven large tents (equipped with stretcher beds, a foam mattress and bedding), plus two showers and a short-drop toilet - given the remoteness of the area we are in, it is a superbly thought-out and comfortable option.



Derde Camp


A late dinner of spaghetti bolognaise was enjoyed by all, before I headed off to have a chat with the local team about the plan for the days ahead. It is fair to say the atmosphere was a little combative. The previous group had worked the local drivers hard, and for most of them this was their first taste of such a highly specialised tour with a focus on wildlife. This is not to mention, of course, that such a length of time in the heat of Chad's desert is taxing at the best of times, and Ramadan would shortly be upon us. The local team proposed a morning activity each day, no afternoon activity and a very short night drive each night, which was some departure from what had been agreed in advance. After a lot of negotiation, a more reasonable outcome was reached, greatly assisted by a representative from African Parks, Moussa, who had been sent to join us and undertake a Rapid Faunal Assessment. With the plan agreed to head to the beautiful Guelta di Bachikele tomorrow, the group headed to bed, but not before a brief view for some of the group of a pale fox.


All photos credited to clients Jon Hall and Daniel Nugent.

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1 hour ago, AKR1 said:

Thanks. Assume CN is still only open mid- December to mid-April as previously. I had read somewhere that Africa Parks was no longer advertising this, indeed it’s not even mentioned on their Zakouma site ( only Tinga is) and were marketing it to individuals who were prepared to make a specific minimum donation. Is this true? 


African Parks is adopting a donor-only model in many areas, including Chinko and Boma, and they seem to be making similar strides with Nomade. The additional complexity is that the Chadian government is looking to insert itself into the running of Zakouma (including Tinga) from next season. Quite what that means is unclear, but next season looks pretty uncertain for ecotourism in the park.

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Fascinating so far and I am sure it is only going to get better and better, especially as we know in advance that you had success. Thank goodness for Moussa from AP - although I certainly sympathise with the drivers for the reason you mentioned: encountering harder core mammal watchers can be a bit of a shock I imagine. Did your group really only do one night at Tinga Camp, after a two day drive? I’d have been crying setting off the next day. :D


I think it is safe to assume that most readers would benefit from the map and any other assistance re envisaging the route. Some few will have Chad maps to hand and have even done the trip before, but you can assume most of us will be searching for maps and other information to help us better envision what was involved - so anything you have to hand that acts as a shortcut for this will be welcome. 

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Hi @pault- well spotted, I have updated the itinerary with the full six-night stay in Tinga.


Yes, good maps of Chad are few and far between. I have GPS co-ordinates of everywhere we overnighted, and will endeavour to include as many town/city names as I can so one can follow along in Google Maps if nothing else!

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Day 3 (March 22nd):


Our first full day in Ennedi started, as all our days here would, with a 5.30 breakfast ahead of a 6.00 departure. By 5.30, it was almost completely light, but given that this portion of the trip was not to be solely dedicated to wildlife, this was preferred to heading off in the dark. All clients were a little bleary-eyed this morning, owing in part to a howling wind overnight, but the mood was brightened as everyone got their first good look at our spectacular surroundings. Derde is nestled between rock formations, which offers a feeling of being really ensconced in the massif and has a few logistical benefits too. A small solar panel allows for the running of a couple of mod-cons, including a fridge for water and perishable food, and set a small distant away from client tents is a basic outdoor kitchen area, and a communal/sleeping area for the local team. A breakfast of camembert slices and salami, with freshly-prepared bread, was enjoyed with tea and coffee ahead of a full day to come. Given this would be our last day before Ramadan, we had agreed we would spend the entirety of the day out in the field, and substitute a night drive with a night walk from camp today - this would allow us to explore several areas slightly further away from camp. The main areas we would visit today would be Guelta di Bachikele, the Aloba Arch and the Table Arch. 


Aside from the stunning rock formations, gueltas are arguably the highlights of many visits to Ennedi. They are watering points, oases in the desert that typical rise up in deep gorges and are a vital part of life in the massif. They are also hugely important to the culture of local people, and there are a number of local customs that must be observed before and during visits to areas like Guelta di Bachikele - today, after our 45-minute drive to the village of Bachikele, this meant stopping to ask permission from the head of the village to visit the Guelta, and committing not to photograph any local people or their livestock during our visit. We have a zero-tolerance policy in any case of photography of people without their permission during our tours, so this was no particular restriction for us, but it is worth bearing in mind for those planning a visit. It's also important not to enter the water with vehicles - there is a temptation to drive across very shallow sections of the gueltas to access areas deeper in, but this water is used for drinking by both people and their livestock, and it is considered deeply disrespectful (understandably) to drive through any section of water.


After getting permission to access the guelta, we parked up at the entrance to the main gorge and proceeded on foot. This particular guelta is probably my favourite area in Ennedi, and the spectacle of the deep sandstone gorge punctuated by the vibrant green of the vegetation around the channels of water is quite something. Before we had really left our vehicles behind, we spied our first mammals of the day - a troop of olive baboon were scuttling away across the rocks after raiding some of the palms for fruit, clearly used to being chased away by local herdsmen, and just below there were several rock hyrax posing nicely. We continued our walk up the gorge, as it narrowed, enjoying the lovely scenery (and cool temperatures) and a spot of birding around the main pools. The highlight for many though was the near-constant procession of camels and donkeys to the water - I don't know what it is about camels that leave us so transfixed, but it's fair to say these clients could have stayed and watched them all day.



Rock Hyrax



Olive Baboon



Guelta di Bachikele



Guelta di Bachikele


After an enjoyable hour or so walking the guelta, we retraced our steps briefly before heading off for a quick stop at the Bachikele Arch. This is an interesting formation, worth a photo, but truly it pales in comparison to our next stop, the Aloba Arch. En route, we picked up a real rarity in the form of a Beaudouin's snake-eagle, much further north than one would expect to see it in Chad, as well as a lovely pair of Barbary falcons. A recurring theme throughout all our tours was that the weird weather meant that birds simply weren't where they were 'meant' to be this year - we recorded the first crowned eagle in Chad during one tour, as well as one of the first ever Ayres's hawk-eagles too. A great year for birding in Chad to be sure.



Bachikele Arch



The Aloba Arch is deemed by most authorities to be the second-largest natural arch in the world, and it is truly spectacular. My describing it here, and even the photos, simply can't do it justice. The scale of the arch, the breadth of it even, is remarkable, and we spent a great deal of time here after lunch today admiring the fan-tailed ravens swooping through the arch, as well as getting inventive with wide-angle lenses to try and capture the size of the monolith. In the time we were at the arch, a small curio shop was set up at the entrance, perhaps showing that there is nowhere on earth one can escape the sale of trinkets. It was a welcome reminder that Ennedi is very different from most of the parks or reserves in African Parks' portfolio, in that there are people everywhere - AP's model of wildlife conservation to the exclusion of all else obviously just cannot work here. The opinion amongst many in Chad seems to be that, after several missteps early on, AP seem to be softening their approach to managing Ennedi, and that this may be opening the door to management of other areas where there is a significant human population inside the reserve, such as Ouadi-Rime. Time will tell.



Aloba Arch



Aloba Arch, with yours truly for scale



On the subject of African Parks, one of our key targets after saying goodbye to the arch was the North African ostrich. There is a small population here now that has been translocated from further south in Chad, most notably Zakouma. There was hope for an additional population of ostrich in Ouadi-Rime, and whilst there are a few of Zakouma's ostriches there now, African Parks have pulled out from an agreement to move more ostriches to Ouadi-Rime in future, so it looks like Ennedi will be the only area to receive more ostriches in future. Excitingly, more re-introductions are planned in Ennedi - African Parks originally wanted to move scimitar-horned oryx into the park, but were quickly talked round into receiving addax instead. A founder population of, I believe, 25 animals will arrive in Ennedi by next year.


It didn't take long for us to locate a pair of female ostriches, and they steamed towards the African Parks vehicle leading our convoy, having been fed from these vehicles and by hand after their introduction. Photographic opportunities were, of course, plentiful and it was a real privilege to be at such close quarters with these birds. It was about this time we encountered another real rarity - rain! A cloudburst a few kilometres away gave us a very brief downpour as we drove away from the ostriches towards Table Arch.








The drive to Table Arch was a welcome opportunity for a nap for many clients, although there was plenty to see for those who stayed awake. Evidence of aardvark was abundant, with fresh digs every few metres in some areas, and a relatively fresh roadkill of zorilla (again a long way north of its known range, in an area that should only hold striped weasel) was observed. We also had our first view of striped ground squirrel, scurrying around under a large group of chestnut-bellied starlings, and another view of an ostrich, this time a lone male.


Our final stop of the day, Table Arch, was again excellent and well-worth the journey. The formation itself, with four 'legs' like a kitchen table, is impressive enough, but it is also slightly elevated when compared to the surrounding plateau. The consequence is an amazing view stretching for miles, and we spent almost two hours here in the fading light enjoying the spectacle. I thought I spied some bats roosting deep in one of the crevices in the rock, but couldn't relocate them, and eventually the impending darkness forced us back to camp. 



The view from Table Arch



Table Arch itself


It was a bit of a Ferrari safari across the desert to camp, with brief stops only to admire an Egyptian vulture and for prayers. The wildlife highlight of the day was still to come though as, well into darkness and just a kilometre or so to camp, we came across a pair of foxes. The call of 'fennec' went up from Moussa, but 'fennec' is a catch-all term for foxes in much of Chad, and this was in fact a pair of Rueppell's foxes, with the white tip of their tails clearly visible. These foxes should be fairly common in Ennedi, but our previous group didn't record them at all and this was our only sighting of them during our trip.


After dinner on return to camp, a short night walk recorded brief views of microbats, as well as a good look at another pale fox near camp. One of the clients had permission to trap rodents near camp, so those traps were set up this evening, during which several scorpions and another pale fox were seen - one client reported a small, shuffling, dark-coloured mammal that may have been a desert hedgehog. But, after a full day, clients quickly retired to bed after a spot of star photography, ready for another busy day to come.

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Great beginning Tom! Thanks for sharing the pictures! Great to see you managed to spot the baboons! Hope you also got the crocs in the other guelta.


Have you considered visiting Ounianga lakes just for the visit in one of your future trips in Northern Chad? I am wondering which wildlife is around, as the few trips to the lakes do not focus on wildlife at all.



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Thanks @jeremie. We have pretty limited interest in Ounianga, not least as this is already a very long itinerary and as you allude to the lakes don't offer much in the way of wildlife. There have long been rumours of rhim gazelle in that neck of the woods, but no evidence has been produced. If we do extend this tour northwards, it will be to reliable spots on the other side of Ennedi for aoudad.

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5 minutes ago, Pictus Safaris said:

Thanks @jeremie. We have pretty limited interest in Ounianga, not least as this is already a very long itinerary and as you allude to the lakes don't offer much in the way of wildlife. There have long been rumours of rhim gazelle in that neck of the woods, but no evidence has been produced. If we do extend this tour northwards, it will be to reliable spots on the other side of Ennedi for aoudad.


Very clear! or maybe you would rather prefer to try other out of the beaten areas (which is kind of you signature) for lake Fitri or the new area where they found giraffes in the Koundjourou area. 


When you come with Zakouma, please give us some insights about what wildlife is present in Barh Salamat reserve (out of ZNP), with focus on lions and wild dogs, as well as the big mystery... what is left in the Aouk domaine de chasse!

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Wonderful report as usualTom, thank you so much for sharing!

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16 hours ago, Pictus Safaris said:

well spotted, I have updated the itinerary with the full six-night stay in Tinga.

What a relief! 

wow! to those arches

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Day 4 (March 23rd):


Today marked the first day of Ramadan, and therefore a slightly more restricted schedule for us, so our target areas were closer to camp. Fortunately, the wind overnight had been much lighter and all were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning. After the customary Chadian 20-minute delay, we headed out for the short journey across to Manda Gueli, one of this area's finest rock art sites, which was of particular interest to a client in our group. Shortly after departure we came across two raptors atop a tree that caught our attention - after much discussion with a few specialised birders this highly-dimorphic pair were indeed lanner falcons, with the male having an unusual pronounced white crown. The drive was otherwise without any sightings, but wildlife is very much a secondary consideration when you account for the spectacular scenery - as clients remarked several times during this tour, there are formations here that would headline their own national parks in much of the world, only for them to be unnamed and overlooked here.


Manda Gueli is a spectacular site, and well worth visiting, even if you are unsure of your own interest in rock art. Nestled in a gully, which itself clearly acts as a funnel for wildlife including foxes, jerboas and gerbils, a wide array of depicitions of people, horses and camels adorn the walls in deep red and white. An excellent view can be had from outside the 'cave' of paintings on the exterior wall. There is no sign of the vandalism that has afflicted many of Ennedi's rock art sites in recent decades, which is welcome given the cultural and historical importance of this art, which dates from between 6000 and 4000 BC. A more intimate view of the paintings can be had inside the main cave, up a narrow flight of rocks that might be considered by some to be a scramble. As we were admiring the closer views of the details of Manda Gueli's art, the call went up from outside that a bird had been seen. We emerged to be greeted with excellent views of a pharoah eagle-owl perched above the entrance to the cave - a truly lovely bird in a superb location.



Rock art as viewed from outside the main cave at Manda Gueli



Horses depicted at Manda Gueli



Rock art inside the main cave at Manda Gueli



Pharoah eagle-owl outside Manda Gueli


After over an hour at this first site, we continued on to the next rock art site, known in English as the 'Big Cow'. Our drive across of about 45-minutes was uneventful except for the last few metres, where we finally spied our first patas monkeys of the trip. Two of these handsome primates skittered away from us at quite a distance, but this initial view was welcomed enthusiastically, as this was a key target for one of our clients. We had narrowly missed a sighting the previous morning, and it is unusual to go more than a day or so without a sighting here. Just around the corner from this sighting, we again enjoyed considerable time admiring the rock art at this next site. The main cave requires a very short scramble to access (more of a step, really) and the eponymous 'Big Cow' is impressive, daubed onto the ceiling of the rear of the cave. There is, apparently, an even bigger cow painted at Niola Doa, which is several days' drive away, but this cow was sizeable enough for us.



The view outside from 'Big Cow'



Wasp nests on the ceiling of 'Big Cow'


Our drive back to camp was a hot one. Temperatures during our stay here generally reached the high 30s, although the previous day had stuck in the high 20s due to the cloud cover. A few heat-induced naps were in progress in vehicles when brakes were suddenly applied by the second vehicle, as they'd spotted a stunning fennec fox. The fox posed beautifully for a second, before the driver pursued it at speed and it bolted for its den a few metres away. Unfortunately, the driver then proceeded to jog across to the den and stamp on the entrance until I managed to intervene. A reminder, if it were needed, that ecotourism is extremely nascent in this part of the world. Explaining to the local team that we really wanted to see wildlife, but when we found it we didn't want to grab it by the scruff of the neck, can be challenging. Fortunately, a much more pleasant sighting was waiting for us just by camp, as a huge group of patas monkeys was clambering up the precipitous rock faces, showcasing some particularly impressive agility for a species that spends so much of its time on the ground. There were probably 40-50 individuals in this group, which is a cracking number in any part of their range. 



Large group of patas monkeys near Derde Camp



Patas monkey with young


The heat of the day was spent enjoying some rest in the communal area, getting a well-needed shower and plotting our approach to acquiring some beers from Fada in the next few days. The plan for this afternoon was for a short (two-hour) drive returning before sunset, followed by another short drive in darkness (again, for two hours or so) after dinner, leaving enough time for meal preparation, breaking fast and prayers at camp.


Our afternoon drive was to be fairly local, focussing on a visit to the Elephant Arch and exploring the surrounding area. Our drive took us through the main public campsite, which is in itself a spectacular area, used primarily by overlanders. Apparently the campsite doubles up as an airstrip sometimes, but I wouldn't fancy landing there myself. We paused here as we spotted a large male patas feeding on fruit on a nearby formation - unfortunately an excitable client jumped out of the car before all had had their view, and the primate scampered off. An investigation of the area on foot revealed why the patas are drawn to that area, as they had been digging up litter that had been buried by campers. A series of campfires had clearly been set here recently and, slightly concerningly, three aoudad horns were found in the back of a small cavern nearby. We were told these horns had been left here for tourists to view, which seems like a strange arrangement. Aoudad were, of course, a huge target for many clients on this tour, but we knew going in that chances of a sighting are slim. Generally, they are seen deep in the massif where there are a few guaranteed spots for them, which require significant time and effort to get to. A few weeks before our visit, an individual was camera-trapped very close to Fada, which is unusual. Moussa pointed out a few of the paths they use high in the formations, but none of our groups got lucky with a sighting during our visits.



Patas monkey near the public campsite



Aoudad horns


Our evening was spent at Elephant Arch, which is impressive, even if it looks nothing like an elephant. The highlight of this stop was actually the surrounding formations daubed in the soft light, as well as an overflight from a Barbary falcon, before we continued on to another unnamed monolith. En route, it was clear that the sensational rainfall further south hadn't reached this area, as several goats we passed has succumbed to the heat and lack of water. Some of the local team suggested they had in fact been killed by hyenas, and the nomadic pastorialists in the area had certainly set a number of 'scarecrows' designed to protect livestock from predation, but it's hard to imagine a striped hyena taking a significant toll on livestock in this area.



En route to Elephant Arch



Elephant Arch



Scenery near Elephant Arch


A quick motor back to camp, stopping only for one client to set rodent traps with Moussa, and another excellent dinner was followed by our first night-drive proper in the park. For those who have plenty of experience of night drives elsewhere on the continent, Ennedi night drives are less conventional. One of our groups spotlit from a mattress atop the lead vehicle. I chose to perch on the spare tyre on the flat-bed of the African Parks vehicle, communicating to the interior of the cab with walkie-talkies. It's not, admittedly, the perfect set-up - the local team is still learning about vehicle positioning and how to approach skittish wildlife, but in general we did OK. In fact, tonight was as good a night drive as I have ever had in Ennedi. We started with good views of several cape hare - lagomorph taxonomy in this region is extremely unclear, and I wouldn't be surprised if these guys end up being split out as a separate species. Next in the spotlight was a shy pale fox, darting away into a patch of grass, followed by a confiding pharoah eagle-owl. The next spot was at quite a distance with very good eyeshine indeed, and this was probably our very best sighting during the entirety of our stay in Ennedi, as a striped hyena emerged from the darkness between rock formations. Striped hyena are special anywhere, but their low densities in Ennedi (this was Moussa's third sighting in three years) and the spectacular scenery here made this an especially wonderful encounter. Unfortunately, Moussa did get a little over-excited and drove at the hyena at speed, sending it sprinting into an impenetrable wall of boulders, making photographs impossible.



Cape Hare


After our first hour, which flew by, we reluctantly turned around to head back to camp. Soon afterwards, we recorded a gerbil darting across the road in front of us, but too quickly to get an ID to species level. A real highlight, though, was a stunning desert hedgehog, shuffling along next to the road. This is a quite weird and wonderful animal, and it was obviously quite keen to escape our attention, so we soon left it to do its thing. Our route back saw us crossed paths with our striped hyena again and, this time around, we were able to sit at distance and enjoy excellent views of it clambering high on the near-vertical rocks near the Elephant Arch. This was, for me, a really very special encounter indeed, even if the distance and darkness didn't allow for great photographs - such a great animal in fantastic surrounds is a privilege to see. The remainder of our drive saw us record several more cape hares and pale foxes, the two most common mammals on these drives, before returning us to camp by 22.00 sharp.



Desert hedgehog



Night sky over Derde Camp


As always, thanks and photo credit to clients Jon Hall and Daniel Nugent for all images used during this report.

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Desert Hedgehog and Striped Hyena - off to a ripping start!


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woah desert hedgehog and striped hyenas! and fennec foxes. almost enough to tempt me to shed off inhibitions about a supposedly lack of wildlife (not) in ennedi. 


really enjoying the recount of the experiences. 

Edited by Kitsafari
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Pictus Safaris

Thanks @Kitsafari, @offshorebirder, @jeremie- glad you are enjoying. It was certainly an excellent night drive by the standards of the region. Our Western Sahara tour got Libyan striped polecat and sand cat last night, so night drives are really delivering in the desert this season.


Day 5 (March 24th):


This morning began with a check of the traps that had been set near camp last night. For the record, we generally do not permit rodent trapping or mist-netting on our tours - too many people wildly overestimate their ability to trap in a way that is safe for the mammals being trapped, and the last thing we want is any mammal mortality. On this occasion, a client had directly arranged permission to trap with African Parks, and we were not involved in the trapping process at all. This morning saw three gerbil species recorded; pygmy gerbil, Tarabul gerbil and pleasant gerbil. 



Pygmy gerbil


Once the gerbils had been safely released, we set out for one of the jewel's in Ennedi's crown - Guelta d'Archei. Probably responsible for more photos than any other spot in the massif, the Guelta is a stunning spot, accessed by an occasionally-steep but otherwise unproblematic hike of about an hour. Normally, that is. On this occasion, with a slightly slower member of the group, it took us over two hours to reach the watering point. It is a lovely walk, though, with superb views of the surrounding rock formations and opportunities for birding as Barbary and lanner falcons soar overhead. As you reach the peak of the walk, about two-thirds of the way to the Guelta, you are suddenly met with a wall of noise only really comparable to something from Jurassic Park. The responsible parties are, of course, the herds of camels bellowing away in the gullies far away as they come to and from the water to drink. With every step taken the noise grows, and the deep orange sandstone is suddenly replaced by a neatly grazed lawn as you approach the guelta itself. Finally, you are rewarded with an other-worldly scene - a pool of black water surrounding by towering rocks on each side, filled with camels, the surrounding pasture dotted with donkeys. The best views are had from atop a steep sandstone ramp high above the water, which offers a peek around the corner to a narrow channel that feeds the main pool. It is from here that the most famous photos are taken, and is a highly recommended perch for everyone except those with vertigo.



Typical scenery on the hike to the guelta



First view of the Guelta



The viewpoint



The view from the viewpoint


Sadly, our delayed arrival meant that the heat was beating down and many of the large herds of camels had now disappeared. Even more disappointingly, the few remaining Saharan crocodiles that call the guelta home had melted away into the water (they are still here, our other group did see them) not to be seen again. Still, it is hard to be disappointed for very long in such a beautiful area, and it was tough to tear ourselves away from this spectacular site as the heat became oppressive. Eventually, we embarked on the hike back to the vehicles and were ferried back to camp for some well-earned rest.


This afternoon we were also focussed on Guelta d'Archei, accessing it from the other side, where vehicles can get much closer (but bear in mind you are on the other side of the water here, so cannot access the viewpoint from this side) to the water. We wandered up the sandy riverbed from this side, pausing for a view of a patas monkey en route, before sneaking close to the water's edge to try and surprise a crocodile or two - no luck, but excellent opportunities to photograph camels and donkeys making their way to drink. One impressive feature of this side of the guelta is a vast cave permeating deep into the sandstone. Besides being a great place to cool off, a narrow crack at the back of the cave held two species of bat on our visit - Arabian horseshoe bat and hairy slit-faced bat. There was also an old skin of a Libyan striped polecat at the entrance to the cave, and tracks of genet inside. More troubling was the presence of dozens of dead birds on the floor of the cave - a narrower cave nearby actually had several thousand of these carcasses piled on top of one another. It was distressing to see several birds clearly unwell, flying into the walls of the cave and unable to control their movements. We alerted African Parks to this on our return, and they have visited the caves to take water and carcass samples, but it is too early to speculate about what could be causing this - apparently, there have been previous reports of mass die-offs in Ennedi but no cause could be determined. We saw plenty of dead and dying birds on this tour throughout Chad, as a result of the heat, but this was something quite different.



Approach to the 'other' side of Guelta d'Archei



Arabian horseshoe bat



Again, our evening drive back to camp was paused only for brief views of patas and to set traps. After dinner, another two-hour night drive was laid on, which was never going to live up to the action the previous night. We again headed to areas where Moussa thought we might come across an aoudad, and what we enjoyed was what I would describe as a 'typical' night drive here. Within moments of leaving camp, we had had views of cape hare and pale fox, and we spotted both regularly throughout the drive. A particular highlight was watching a pale fox at the mouth of its den curled up in a ball, only for it to spring into action and grab a scorpion under spotlight. The evidence of such kills were everywhere in Ennedi, the foxes must gorge themselves on scorpions. We also recorded two pairs of pharoah eagle-owl, but sadly no hyena or hedgehog tonight.


The very best sighting was reserved for our return to camp. Just around the corner from our tents, a very confiding pale fox put on a real show. Pausing initially after being caught in the open, this beautiful animal scampered up a near-vertical rock face, shuffled along a narrow ledge and dived down into its den, which was comfortably ten feet off of the ground. I've never seen a fox using a den so high off the ground anywhere in Africa, and just shows how specialised many of these animals must become to live in Ennedi. Flushed with the success of another enjoyable drive, we returned to camp for our penultimate night in Ennedi.



Pale fox near camp



Pale fox high off the ground



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14 hours ago, Pictus Safaris said:


First view of the Guelta




@Pictus Safaris If I compare your image with the image from African Parks annual report as they caught the Crocs in 2019 than it is clear to me that the pool with the crocs is behind the smaller rocks in the middle of your image. 

Why you were not able to walk to this place on the ground of the Guelta. It doesn't looks there was more water than 2019 as we visited this place. Ok, you have to put out your shoes and go through the stream but easy possible. 


Thanks for your report. It is always nice to remember such incredible places.  



Edited by Botswanadreams
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