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To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour William Blake Auguries of Innocence So starts one of the world’s best poems (always for me). It harks of lost days when we used to stop to examine a flower, or chase a grasshopper, or lie on the green carpet of grass, or kick the waves in the sand. When we were kids, unafraid of anything, free of the chains of fear. How does that relate to Zakouma? The newly opened park is exactly that – a paradise for me, and a haven for animals. The poem descends into a whirlpool of depression and repression, but for Zakouma, the opposite is true – it has rebounded from the repression and the loss, the forgotten and the hopelessness. For me, the trip to Zakouma began on a whisper of hope and ended with buckets of optimism, even if tinged with fears for the future.
inyathi posted a topic in Chad / Central African RepublicZakouma 2015 Returning to Wildest Africa in Style A quick note before starting, when writing reports I always like to go the extra mile for the more remote off the beaten track destinations that I love, because although I would hate to see these places spoilt they do really need just a few more tourists to help ensure their survival. So I'm very glad that we wrote last year's report the way that we did however putting it together did require considerable effort such that prior to this trip both Paolo and I agreed that we would not do another joint report in the same vein as last year's. So I have decided to shoulder the burden of putting a report here on ST, this report will therefore be a largely solo effort though I'm sure Paolo will still contribute whenever he sees fit. When thinking about how I would put together this report I decided that for the main part of the report Part Two that will eventually follow I did not want to write the further adventures of Paolo and Inyathi/Rob in Chad that I would instead try to keep it much simpler and just concentrate on the photos and videos. I thought that just posting a few photos and videos would cut down my workload considerably and indeed it would if only I really could limit myself to just a few but in my case despite my best intentions just a few nearly always turns out to be rather a lot. So this report may turn out to require almost as much effort as last year's but I want to do justice to the majesty of Zakouma and it was always my intention to upload a sizeable selection of my photos and videos to the internet regardless of this report. All photos and videos were taken by myself using a Canon EOS 50D & an EOS 70D and a 15-85mm and 100-400mm MK II. Part One Last year’s trip report was called Zakouma: One Week in Wildest Africa but when I uploaded the photos to Flickr I chose to call the album Unknown Africa – Zakouma NP in Chad, even for me going to the park on that trip was a journey into the unknown. It is incredible to find somewhere that supports such a truly staggering abundance of wildlife and yet remains almost unknown to the outside world. That Zakouma is so little known is really down to the fact that it is in Chad and that in itself is remarkable it is hard to believe that such abundance could still exist in a formerly troubled and war torn country like Chad. What also makes Zakouma very special is to have such a wealth of wildlife in what is still a very wild, very undeveloped and basically unspoilt wilderness this is a rare combination these days. There are large areas in the park like Rigueik that are perfect for game viewing and yet there are almost no tourists at all throughout the entire season of around three months when the area is accessible; anywhere else you would expect to find at least half a dozen tourist camps and have to share some of your sightings with at least one or two other cars but not in Zakouma. You can also still find other places that have the same sense of real wilderness that Zakouma has but not the wildlife spectacle to go with it. If you go right off the beaten track outside the main tourist areas in some of the big Tanzanian parks like Ruaha and Katavi you can still find unspoilt wilderness devoid of tourists but inevitably there’s a trade off. These more remote areas generally haven’t already been opened up for tourism for a reason, to enjoy a true wilderness experience in parks like these you have to sacrifice the great game viewing on offer in their “core” tourist areas. Of course you can with luck still enjoy some quality wildlife encounters but you do have to work hard to find the animals. Either animal densities are naturally low because of the nature of the habitat which may be predominantly miombo woodland (not a good habitat for game viewing) or simply these more remote areas are not as well patrolled by park rangers allowing the animals to fall victim to meat poachers. In the days some fifteen years ago when Katavi NP was still very little known and there was only one very small seasonal camp at Lake Chada it was common to hear gunshots at night and to still find meat drying racks out in the bush. Not so in Zakouma remarkably the wildlife seems to be just as abundant throughout including in the more remote and least explored (even by the Park’s management) corners where you might imagine there would be fewer animals and this is a testament to just how well protected Zakouma is. In the previous report I did address the obvious concern about security and whether or not Chad and Zakouma is a safe place to visit, having visited before I had no concerns this time at all. So all I will really say this time is that the extraordinary abundance of large game ‘meat on the hoof’ seemingly throughout Zakouma is a very good sign of just how safe the park is. In general the remote African bush is a very safe place to be and the fact that the wildlife including the elephants is safe means that you really have very little to worry about security wise in Zakouma. Our first safari to Zakouma in late April last year was a chance for @@Michael Lorentz to go on a second recce trip to the park but it was also a recce for Paolo who was already planning a proper safari to Zakouma this year accompanied by Anita. That trip despite nearly being derailed by early rain had been a huge success, so much so that once I was back home I knew I had to return to see more of this fabulous park but also much as I might want to selfishly keep it to myself I knew that other people needed to come and see it and in doing so help pay for its protection. So I wanted us to write a report that would help if only in a small way to make Zakouma a little bit less unknown and if possible help it take its rightful place on the safari map of Africa. Of course we didn’t want to as it were shoot ourselves in the foot and find that we couldn’t return when we wanted to because everything was booked up by people who’d read our report. Whatever our small contribution the fact that Zakouma is now starting to appear on the tourist map is really down to Michael’s hard work and we knew from him and from African Parks that things would really start to happen this year and if we wanted to be part of it and to be amongst the very first tourists to visit Zakouma in proper safari style then we had to put our names down straight away. So when Paolo asked me if I’d be able to join him on this safari I didn’t hesitate for too long before deciding as I had last year that I would be crazy to say no. In January of this year African Parks set up a mobile camping operation in Zakouma called Camp Nomade and we would have the privilege to be amongst the very first guests to stay in the new camp. Ahead of us African Parks would be hosting some groups consisting of travel journalists (like Financial Times’s Sophy Roberts), and selected people from the safari industry, especially some of Africa’s top professional guides it is hoped that they will return with some of their clients and this will then help to fund the protection and management of this of this special and vitally important wildlife paradise. Camp Nomade will be exclusively marketed and sold through these accredited guides (or the companies they work for) but it is worth noting since staying at the camp will not be cheap that all of the money paid to Camp Nomade goes straight back in to the park. A tourism model that is probably unique within the safari industry. After our pioneering trip last year we had hoped to be the first ever tourists to stay at Camp Nomade but in fact it turned out that Colin Bell and Ralph Bousfield both participants on the guide’s recce trips immediately returned with clients. So we had to settle for being the third group of tourists, the third amongst what I hope will become a small but steady stream of tourist groups to visit Camp Nomade in future seasons. The last of these three guide groups would still be in residence on the night of the 31st of March the day that we planned to arrive in Chad so it was agreed that we should stay the night in N’Djamena before flying to the park on the 1st of April. Spending a single night in NDJ before transferring to the park will be the norm for future tourist groups visiting Zakouma.
I have recently returned from a fascinating safari to Zakouma NP in Chad, staying at Camp Nomade. Here I have attached some of my images which I hope give you an indication of the wildlife on offer in this truly remote, wild and most intriguing of wildlife destinations. Feel free to fire away with any questions about the place, there is almost too much to say on here! The trip started and ended in N'Djamena (the capital) where we flew into and out of via Paris on Air France. It was amazing that in just over 5 hours you can be looking at the Eiffel Tower and then Hippos (a small pod can be found in N'Djamena, right outside the new Hilton Hotel). A 2 hour long internal flight the next morning took us from N'Djamena to Zakouma airstrip, a fascinating (if expensive) little flight where terrain changed from the a-typical dessert/sandy soils around N'Djamena to the acacia scrub and pan/wetland systems of Zakouma. Overall feelings were that this is a truly quality wildlife destination with genuinely plenty to see. Buffalo were particularly numerous, with herds of hundreds up to thousands being common. Other notable species of interest were Lelwel's Hartebeast, Tiang, Buffon's Kob and Roan (who seemed to be a rather dark fore-legged morph of what we see in the Kafue). Night drives were the best I have had anywhere with Honey Badger and Serval particularly evident, plus a sighting of the apparently relatively common melanistic White-tailed mongoose. Lion were in good number, seen almost daily, generally a little flighty on average. Cheetah and dogs in theory exist in Zakouma but sightings are sporadic at best for Cheetah (last sighting in the main tourism area was 2014) and dogs are seen sporadically outside the park in the more peripheral habitats, they have never been sighted inside the park (neither has their spoor). Leopard are seen from time to time but not very often. The Elephant of Zakouma are well documented and we saw them well from air and fortuitously on one game drive. The Elephant tend to spend time in the denser acacia thickets which is pretty much impossible to get in to, however they did come out to the core of the park when we were there after a poaching incident the day previous made them head towards the relative sanctity of the park headquarters. I was impressed with both the sheer number of game and birdlife but also by the variety of habit types, something I hadn't come to expect. Although I am not a fan of comparing any one place to another it was very hard to not drive around Zakouma and see areas which reminded me of the South Luangwa and other areas just like the Busanga Plains in the Kafue (particularly with the large flocks of Crowned Crane on the open plains, flanked by Roan antelope and lion). On the face of it the wildlife seemed very familiar in many ways, but when you had a closer look, everything was actually slightly different, from the Abysinnian Roller's pretending to be LB Rollers, to the Buffon's Kob pretending to be Puku... Overall a fascinating place, well worth a visit for those who are up for adventure, and have around 9 to 10K$ to spend!
For those interested, and to complement @@inyathi,s ongoing brilliant trip reports, here are some galleries with photos taken by @@Anita during our trip: - Aerials https://www.safarious.com/en/posts/14168-zakouma-n-p-april-2015-aerials - Antelopes (for @@Safaridude ) https://www.safarious.com/en/posts/14164 -Kordofan Giraffe https://www.safarious.com/en/posts/14166 - Buffalos, elephants and lions https://www.safarious.com/en/posts/14167 A few more galleries covering Zakouma's amazing birdlife, smaller mammals, night drives and Camp Nomade itself will be posted when time allows.
Justback home after the most amazing safari in Zakouma National Park in Chad. I have been blown away by that magical and wildest of places during my first visit last year, and even more so this time around. I am sure that @@inyathi shares my view. We were blessed with an overload of scenes and experiences of an Africa that one would have thought gone many decades ago. A very big and heartfelt thank you to Imogen Hills, Darren Potgieter, all the fantastic African Parks Team in Zakouma and the staff at Camp Nomade for having really gone the proverbial extra mile to give us such an incredible time. "Extra mile" in reality might be quite reductive. How during our stay Darren, as well as Rian and Lorna Labuschagne, managed to run the park, fly to N'Djamena for an impromptu meeting with the Prime Minister, whilst at the same time scouting secret pans bursting with life for us or putting tracks to previously unvisited parts of Zakouma for our benefit was really a humbling experience for all of us. Camp Nomade is superb, and really perfect for Zakouma - outstanding service, and giving a total, extreme and raw bush experience, inclusive of lions walking in camp, prompting you to use a bit of care when going to the loo in the night
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