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Zakouma on a Budget


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#1 Sitatunga95

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Posted 05 January 2017 - 09:10 PM

Good evening all (or good day, wherever you are in the world!)

 

Firstly, sincere apologies if the below contravenes any of the forum rules or is in the wrong sub-forum, I'm still very much in the process of working my way around - a gentle nudge if I've made a mistake will be more than welcome.

 

Following on from an exciting year of safaris in 2017, I am hoping to visit Zakouma in 2018. Sadly, barring a lottery win between now and then, some of the fabulous safaris being offered at the moment, mostly going for between £6500 and £18000, are beyond my budget. I have found a company offering a tour at cost price in February 2018 (linked at the bottom of this post). I'm a firm believer in 'if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is' and I'm a bit concerned this falls into that category. The company has excellent reviews, but is an antithesis of the operators I'm sure we all normally use. Has anybody here had any dealings at all with this company? If not, does anyone have any advice on how to confirm that the company is safe to use?

 

Best,

 

Tom

 

http://www.lupinetra...udget-tour.html



#2 Paolo

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Posted 06 January 2017 - 12:40 AM

@Sitatunga95

I have no information on that company, but the statement that Zakouma is a "Big 5" destination (it is not, at least for now) and the scarcity of details (what camp (I assume Tinga), how big is the group, who is guiding in the park besides the "tour leader", what vehicles are used for game viewing, etc...) is not inspiring. Besides, it seems that they have no previous experience in Chad (they speak of that being their "first tour" in the country).

I have always flown into Zakouma, so I have not experienced the drive myself, but based on what I know 12 hours might be a bit on the optimistic side (normally the journey entails an overnight stop somewhere) and hence not sure if the 3 days in the park (out of a trip lasting one week) can be assured under any circumstance.

If you are considering a group/overland type of tour, I would suggest you contact Spazi d'Avventura (www.spazidavventura.com) or their Chadian operating company SVS Tchad. They have been operating in Chad for over 20 years, mostly in the Sahara, but they might have a trip or so each year that briefly touches Zakouma for a few days.

They have a fairly wide range of offerings, though now they are strongly banking on combining their Ennedi camping product with trips run by guides accredited with AP at Camp Nomade and they have possibly become much more high end than in the past, but it might still be worthwhile checking if they have something that could suit your needs.

Good luck!

Edited by Paolo, 06 January 2017 - 12:55 AM.

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#3 ExtraordinaryAlex

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 08:25 PM

Ooh, interesting. Who are they? Can you get a person's name who's behind it and do a little gentle online "stalking" of them? When I set up EA I deliberately made a lot of info available about myself online to reassure people I was a real person and my experience was real. Can they book flights for you? Legally here in the UK that is pretty difficult to do without being fairly (traceably) legit so that would be another way to follow up on them. It's no guarantee, but their Facebook and twitter accounts look pretty active. 

If it were me personally I would:

- Spend a good bit of time on the internet finding out what I could about them.

- Look for any bonding they have. Some companies have insurance instead of bonding to cover you financially. They do mention cover with Towergate on their website. Towergate are a legit insurance co that work with a lot of companies. You could ask them to send you their insurance cover letter. They might tell you to b**ger off. I might do if asked the same question (coming from the TO side I'm pretty reluctant to work with anyone who doesn't trust me to that extent- it's a recipe for a really difficult working relationship when I have to justify every move in triplicate if all I really want to do is get excited and give them an incredible safari- BUT Lupine deal with a lot of strange and unusual spots so might well be used to strange and unusual requests). Or write to Towergate so you have 3rd party confirmation of the insurance. I am friends with at least one TO who went down the insurance, rather than official bonding, route because he didn't want the paperwork so this isn't necessarily non-legit.

- Pay on a credit card. 

Officially I must tell you that you should absolutely NEVER send money to anyone you can't 100% check up on. Personally I'd be tempted, my Africa radar tells me that so many of the best adventures can't be stamped and certified. Not everyone is that internet savvy, particularly the sort of people whose minds are on far flung adventures. Your money, your shout. Be sensible. Have fun. If you choose to go, please write a trip report.


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#4 optig

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 08:56 PM

This is a ridiculously low price for a safari to Zakouma.  There is no such place as the Zakouma Safari Lodge; the only equivalent being Tinga which was is a government lodge. You could take a safari to Zakouma which would cost half of staying at Camp Nomade if you're willing to stay at Tinga Camp. It will still set you back for $5,000 for a round trip cost from Njademma,Chad to Zakouma.  If you decide to stay at Camp Nomade it will cost you double.



#5 inyathi

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:18 AM

My intention when I first saw this question was just to write a short reply but inevitably as I’m keen for a few other people to visit Zakouma it grew somewhat longer than I first anticipated.

 

@optig Hang on a minute a significant part of the cost of visiting Zakouma is the return charter flights with MAF in this case they are driving so they've dispensed with that cost entirely. They won't have the services of one of Africa's top safari guides for the duration of their stay as you would at Camp Nomade and could possibly also have when staying at Tinga (I assume that would be the case on the safari at Tinga for the price that you mention), they're only at Tinga for 4 nights and I presume not in the best rooms. They also have 3 nights in NDJ but they won’t be staying at either the new Hilton or at what was the Kempinksi now the Ledger Plaza, at best they’d be at a mid range hotel or quite likely a very cheap one. On a Camp Nomade Safari you’d have 7 nights in camp and for any nights in NDJ you would likely be at the Hilton. This trip is very cheap, but to decide whether it is ridiculously cheap or not one would need to compare it to another budget tour, I would have said that’s pretty difficult but fortunately I have in fact found some alternatives.

 

I didn’t pick up on the fact that they refer to Zakouma National Park Lodge but then it was obvious to me that they could only be staying at Tinga as there’s no other option. Although it is called Campement de Tinga I generally call it Tinga Lodge because I regard it as more of a lodge than a camp and it is really the national park lodge, so I can forgive them for this. But you could perhaps argue that their use of a different name doesn’t reflect that well on them, their other information what little there is of it isn’t exactly accurate either, they say that Zakouma holds the ‘big five’ it doesn’t, as I understand it negotiations between Chad and SA regarding the black rhinos are ongoing so there is still (to my knowledge) no date for their arrival in Zakouma. Some of the articles written about Zakouma in the recent past have pointed out that it will be the nearest ‘big five park’ to Europe, so I can understand where they got the idea that it’s a ‘big five park’ from, even so it doesn’t inspire confidence in them if their info is not entirely correct.

 

@Sitatunga95’s question was really "should I travel with Lupine Travel"? In my view the answer is yes if you want to visit North Korea, the DPRK as it’s also known seems to be about their most popular destination and you’ll find plenty of positive comments/reviews from people who’ve done their tours there. They are clearly as far as I can see one of the recommended tour operators for the DPRK but since it’s not a country that’s very high on my list of places to go I hadn’t come across Lupine Travel before. Looking at their website they’ve clearly chosen a niche market specialising in low budget tours to unusual destinations that not many other companies go to. I suspect for the people who sign up for these tours there is an element of wanting go to places that no one they know has ever been to, and perhaps also going to places that might be perceived as being somewhat risky even if mostly they’re actually not. Being a little cynical, I might suggest that some of their tours are really aimed at people who like to collect passport stamps. I haven’t really found anything negative about Lupine, not from people who’ve used them, so I think you ought to be okay to travel with them.

 

The problem with this tour but I think this is the same with the few other budget Zakouma tours is that you only get 3 whole days in the park, personally I would want to have a minimum of 5 days, which is what we had on our first safari (plus a short evening and morning). Of course staying at Tinga you are limited as to how far you can drive and therefore how much of the park you can see and February is not primetime so maybe the 6 game drives you’d get on this trip are enough, I don’t know but I think I would be a bit frustrated by this. Obviously even if you could add an extra couple of days in the park it would still be a budget tour, you wouldn’t be able to visit all of the places that Paolo and I did or do the amazing things that we did on either of our safaris. However more time would increase your chances of seeing the less common or harder to see species. Whether it is possible to find a slightly longer budget tour I’m not sure. If a budget tour is the only way you can ever hope to visit Zakouma and your happy that 3 days in the park is probably as much as you are going to get, then I would say go for it, however not necessarily with Lupine Travel.

 

To do any kind of budget safari in Zakouma the only option is to drive to the park, I would assume that driving to the park in one go in 12hrs is doable in a reliable vehicle, whether it’s a great idea or not is another matter, I suspect not. I imagine that on the way from NDJ there may be a few interesting things to see, landscapes, villages, people and such like but after a while I guess it would get very monotonous and boring and on the way back it would be even more boring because you’ve seen it all already. They don’t say anywhere what their group size is, but if you scroll down and look at their tweets there’s a photo of their tour to Liberia which shows 12 participants plus tour leader, I would therefore assume their group size is normally up to 12. That’s clearly too many to fit in a single 4x4 so I would want to know how many and what sort of vehicles they use, would you be in several 4x4s or in a minibus? Imagining what Chad’s roads are like I might be a little concerned if it is the latter, I doubt it would be but I want to know. The big risk in driving is the possibility of breaking down, you’d want to be sure that your time in the park isn’t going to end up even shorter because you’ve broken down on the way and ended up having to spend the night on route, and obviously you want to be sure that you will get back to NDJ when you’re supposed to. Having looked at two other budget Zakouma safaris I think that what Lupine are doing is perhaps slightly crazy.

 

The two other safaris that I have looked at are more expensive but compared to Camp Nomade they’re certainly budget safaris, I would guess that their itineraries are very much the same. One is with Spazid’Aventurra that @Paolo already suggested and the other is with a UK company Native Eye, Spazi don’t provide an actual itinerary on their website, but Native Eye do and what little Spazi do say suggests their itinerary is likely pretty similar. I suggested above that driving to Zakouma in one go while possible might not be a great idea, well I assume Native Eye don’t think it is because they stop somewhere along the way and camp for the night. It seems to me that aside from being crazy doing the drive all in one go, stopping for the night means that you arrive at Tinga in the afternoon unless I’ve misunderstood I presume this means you might have at least an hour or two of daylight left after you get to Tinga. You won’t get to go out on a game drive but you would be able to walk over to The Junction Pool to see the northern carmine bee-eaters for example as we did when we arrived in Zakouma on our first safari. Going with Lupine I would assume you must arrive at Tinga well after dark, even without the possibility of having sufficient daylight to go to The Junction Pool, simply being able to check in to Tinga in daylight would be an advantage in my view. You then as with the Lupine tour have 4 nights at Tinga and 3 whole days in the park. Since you would be camping for 1 night on the return drive as well, I guess you wouldn’t necessarily have to race out of Zakouma first thing, so you might have a little bit of time in the morning to see a bit more wildlife.

 

Even though you are camping on the way rather than driving to Zakouma all in one go it seems to me, if I’m right about arriving in daylight you get very slightly more time in the park with Native Eye (and with Spazi) than with Lupine. Other than the camping the main difference between the itineraries is that with Lupine after you arrive, you stay in NDJ for two nights in order to give you a free day in NDJ and then leave for Zakouma, with Native Eye you only stay one night and then start your drive in the morning. This is where for me Native Eye and I presume Spazi win, a free day in NDJ is in my view a completely unnecessary waste of time, you really don’t need it. While I’m assuming that Spazi’s itinerary is roughly the same as Native Eye’s they say on their website 1 night in hotel, 4 in Lodge, 3 in tents, if they do same and camp overnight on the drive to and from Zakouma, I’m not sure where the third tent night is. The Lupine trip also has another night back in the hotel in NDJ, whereas with Native Eye you just have a day room ahead of your flight.

 

Here are links to the two tours

 

Native Eye

 

Spazid’Aventurra Chad-Zakouma The Animal Kingdom

 

In case anyone thinks but if I was doing this trip I’d want to do a bit of sightseeing or I’d want to relax after in NDJ after my flights, the reason Lupine’s free day in NDJ is a complete waste time, is that you don’t need a whole day for sightseeing, and you won’t likely need time to relax after your flights either. According to Lupine’s itinerary you arrive and depart on a Sunday this means you have only two flight options Air France or Ethiopian. With AF starting in the UK you fly on Sunday morning to Paris wait a couple of hours and at 15:10 fly on to NDJ this leg is just 5 hours and 40 minutes getting you in at 20:50, assuming no delays or problems at the airport you shouldn’t be very late getting to your hotel and even if you then have dinner you won’t likely be going to bed too late. There’s no time difference between the UK and Chad so you shouldn’t end up particularly tired after your flight, depending perhaps on where in the UK you started from. The departing AF flight leaves NDJ at 23:55 therefore you have a whole day to kill at the end of the tour before heading to the airport, you don’t after all want to be stuck at Hassan Djamous International all day. Unless you are staying at a hotel where the food is awful, I’d imagine whatever you do during the day you’d want have dinner at the hotel and only leave for the airport afterwards when you have to. I’m not quite sure how this would work with what their itinerary says because it says Sunday Feb 11th check out of the hotel and transfer back to the airport for your flight home. You could obviously check out in the morning and just leave your bags at the hotel but given how late the flight is I would have thought you might possibly want a day room if that’s possible. You might want to go out in to NDJ during the day rather than stay by the pool, but you probably wouldn’t want to be out after dark unless perhaps taking a taxi to recommended restaurant.

 

If you are flying on ET you have to leave the UK on the Saturday and fly overnight to Addis and then wait a few hours before flying on to NDJ mid morning, this second leg is therefore a daytime flight and quite short it gets you into NDJ at 12:00. This means you have the whole of Sunday afternoon in NDJ, plenty of time to relax and recover from your flights if you need to, or to do a little bit of sightseeing if you prefer. At the end of Lupine’s tour you have another night in a hotel and the departing ET flight is at 14:15 so you would have a final morning in NDJ as well. I have to confess that I didn’t do any sightseeing, I only really saw NDJ from the air, but as far as I know I didn’t miss much, the consensus well okay the 2 accounts I’ve read online is that there is nothing really worth seeing at all in NDJ. You could see what few sights there are mostly monuments/statues that sort of thing and maybe the Chari River quite easily in an afternoon with a taxi. The only thing you wouldn’t be able to see on a Sunday, as far as I know is the National Museum because it’s only open on week days, it’s a very small museum not one of the world’s greatest and from what I know it mostly has a small selection of anthropological exhibits. Perhaps its star exhibit is a fossil hominid skull named Toumai that was dug up in northern Chad somewhere and could be a human ancestor, unless you particularly want to see this I see little reason in going to the museum.    

 

Here’s an account of a day Exploring N’Djamena which has photos of the museum and the Place de la Nation monument, the latter looks quite interesting I’d happily go and look at it if I had nothing else to do,  but as they explain their driver told them they couldn’t take photos of it. I would think if you wanted to see this monument you could just ask if it’s possible to be driven past it on the way to or from the airport or just get a taxi to take you there which would presumably take very little time at all, You don’t as I say need a whole day to go sightseeing, as this account suggests if you do go sightseeing because of the high levels of security you may struggle to find anything you’re allowed to photograph. 

 

The Native Eye tour would appear like the Lupine tour to arrive and depart on a Sunday, but on your final night you would be camped somewhere, presumably not too far from NDJ rather than in a hotel, you’d then in the morning drive to a hotel freshen up in a day room and either fly out on ET at 14:15 or on AF at 23:55. So doing the Native Eye tour you would have sufficient time to do a drive around NDJ to look at a few things, either at the start if you came in on ET or at the end. With no itinerary on their website I haven’t entirely managed to work out the Spazi tour because they say it’s 9 days and according to their dates you leave Chad on a Monday which doesn’t work well with the flights as far as I can see. There’s no AF flight leaving NDJ on a Monday, you have to fly Air Cote d’Ivoire leaving at 07:50 going to Douala in Cameroon and then AF to Paris, the only later flights are on ET and depending on the date they leave at 11:55 or 13:50, there aren’t any flights with anyone after that as far as I can see. This doesn’t make much sense because their website suggests you fly Air France. For cost reasons you wouldn’t mix AF and ET flights I certainly thought this was a bad idea when I was booking flights for my last Zakouma safari.

 

To refresh my memory with regard to flight times I used the flight search website Momondo   

 

The Native Eye tour is the most expensive at £2,299 not including flights, the Spazid’Aventurra tour is slightly cheaper at roughly £2,203 I assume that this does not include flights but they don’t actually say that it doesn’t which I find a bit strange. Assuming that the latter tour does not include flights then maybe Lupine’s tour is ridiculously cheap comparing it to these two budget tours.  

 

I hadn’t come across Native Eye until today, I know no more about their reputation than I know about Lupine’s so I would try and find out as much as you can about them, because I think if you can afford to pay the extra money you should forget Lupine and choose between Native and Spazi. If nothing else both have websites that are far more informative, although Spazi’s doesn’t have an itinerary it does have a good selection of photos taken in Zakouma and a short video on the park, Native Eye only has a couple of photos but does have a detailed and informative itinerary. Lupine’s information isn’t accurate as already mentioned and I don’t think the photo of elephants they've put in the background was even taken in Zakouma. If you knew nothing about Zakouma you would at least learn a bit about the park from Native and Spazi’s websites but not from Lupines. Purely on Chad experience Spazi would win hands down as they have been operating there for a long time and they’re definitely the go to guys if you want to visit Ennedi, all the reviews I have read in the past of Spazi’s Ennedi trips have been very positive. My concern regarding Native Eye is that they are a new company and there’s very little info about them online, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go with them just try to see what you can find out first. At the moment Spazi don’t have any Zakouma tour dates for 2018 but I’m sure they will have tours going then.

 

There may be other budget Zakouma safaris out there that I haven’t seen but I rather doubt it due in part to the fact that Chad is still subject to lots of travel warnings, however a little while ago I posted the following in another thread

 

I’ve just comes across this tour with a company called Out of Bounds – Pioneering Travel to New Frontiers.

 

Chad Uncovered: The Ennedi Region & Zakouma National Park

 

For €4,975 which is roughly about US$ 5,249.12 or £4,252.43 per person for a 19 day trip that might be a bit long and might not appeal if you don’t want to be part of group of up to 12 but with Zakouma and Ennedi you’d get a double helping of serious wilderness. It is in Feb/March which it's not far away. 

 

This company is a sister company of the South African birdwatching company Rockjumper which is how I came across them, I’ve never actually used Rockjumper but I would very happily do so; I think their reputation is pretty good. This particular trip is clearly an overland type tour albeit entirely within Chad, from the much more detailed itinerary I see you would only in fact have two days in Zakouma that’s certainly not ideal, but for me the rest of the trip would make up for that quite a bit. Obviously this particular trip is next month but I presume they will be offering future Chad tours.

 

Also if you are a birder then BirdQuest are doing an expedition for 7 people to Chad in December it’s not really in your budget as they give the expedition price as £5990, €7070, $7850 N'Djamena/N'Djamena but then it is 26 days. They don’t give a detailed itinerary at present just an outline of the places they will visit so I don’t how long you get in Zakouma and December is very much the start of the season so not ideal for game viewing, but I assume it must be good a good time for birds. The trip includes visiting Ouadi rime Ouadi Achim which appeals a lot to me as I imagine it might be possible to see some of the scimitar-horned oryx that were reintroduced there last year; I don’t actually know if you would be allowed to look for them, even if not it would still be an amazing place to go

 

BirdQuest Chad Expedition

 

Even if 3 days in Zakouma is somewhat short, if a budget safari is your only option, then I hope you do go for it and do one of these tours or even find another better one that I haven't and do make it to Zakouma. :) 


Edited by inyathi, 11 January 2017 - 01:19 AM.

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#6 Atravelynn

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:01 AM

Helpful info from you all!  Thanks


When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#7 Geoff

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:21 AM

@inyathi  Great response. I don't know where you find the time and inclination to type up such detailed replies. I was worn out reading all of your above post.


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Geoff.

#8 AKR1

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:55 AM

@inyathi

Just a quick compliment on an excellent response to the OP. Very few are as passionate as you in promoting a relatively obscure and logistically expensive park, but even more impressive, for detail provided for someone looking for an affordable safari in an otherwise very pricey location. Your thoughtful response will be invaluable to anyone eager to experience a park as remote as Zakouma, who cannot afford the usual, very expensive options. Great job.
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#9 pault

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 02:23 AM

What @inyathi and @Paolo said, but without the detail; :rolleyes: (riding on coattails). Getting there is the really exp[ensive thing and there are some other considerations of course - including that 3 days is way too short a time to stay there surely (work out your daily rate including flights there and it won;t be so cheap any more I guess) and that 12 hours is doubtless optimistic (these times nearly always are) and that the information is sketchy and really does not inspire confidence. But other than that I din't think it is by any means too good to be true. There are a few tours there now - just they will be varying degrees of rough and ready and the availability of actual reports of people coming back from these tours seems to be limited to nil, meaning it is hard to know what they are actually like.


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Waiting again... for the next time again


#10 pault

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 02:29 AM

@inyathi  You shame us other respondents. That's another 10 people at least you have got going to Zakouma now, I am sure - and maybe 100 if a couple of them write something oinline.


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Waiting again... for the next time again


#11 Paolo

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 10:27 AM

. I have to confess that I didn’t do any sightseeing, I only really saw NDJ from the air, but as far as I know I didn’t miss much, the consensus well okay the 2 accounts I’ve read online is that there is nothing really worth seeing at all in NDJ. You could see what few sights there are mostly monuments/statues that sort of thing and maybe the Chari River quite easily in an afternoon with a taxi. The only thing you wouldn’t be able to see on a Sunday, as far as I know is the National Museum because it’s only open on week days, it’s a very small museum not one of the world’s greatest and from what I know it mostly has a small selection of anthropological exhibits. Perhaps its star exhibit is a fossil hominid skull named Toumai that was dug up in northern Chad somewhere and could be a human ancestor, unless you particularly want to see this I see little reason in going to the museum.    

 

Here’s an account of a day Exploring N’Djamena which has photos of the museum and the Place de la Nation monument, the latter looks quite interesting I’d happily go and look at it if I had nothing else to do,  but as they explain their driver told them they couldn’t take photos of it. I would think if you wanted to see this monument you could just ask if it’s possible to be driven past it on the way to or from the airport or just get a taxi to take you there which would presumably take very little time at all, You don’t as I say need a whole day to go sightseeing, as this account suggests if you do go sightseeing because of the high levels of security you may struggle to find anything you’re allowed to photograph. 

 

 

Re wasting a full day in N'Djamena.

 

It is what - due to international flight schedules - I and @Anita will have to do in April, before heading for a couple of weeks at Camp Nomade with Michael Lorentz.

 

I also have not spent any significant time there (and I did not find any potential reason to visit during said time), but apparentlt the horse races on Saturday are really worthwhile. Everyone I know who watched them - be it Michael, or a couple of friends of mine - was quite impressed.

 

https://www.safariou.../en/posts/15802

 

I am thus not overly worried to die of boredom (de-hydratation is probably something to be more careful about)


Edited by Paolo, 11 January 2017 - 10:32 AM.

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#12 pault

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 11:08 AM

What about the cuisine guys? The N'Djamena club scene perhaps?

Look forward to hearing all about it from you @Pqolo and @Anita now you have to make the best of it.

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#13 Paolo

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:43 PM

 

 the horse races on Saturday are really worthwhile. Everyone I know who watched them - be it Michael, or a couple of friends of mine - was quite impressed.

 

Actually the N'Djamena's horse races are on Sundays (which suits us just fine)


Edited by Paolo, 11 January 2017 - 12:54 PM.

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#14 inyathi

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 12:40 AM

Time for another post that's ended up 3 times longer than I'd anticipated. :rolleyes:

 

@Paolo That horse racing looks like something definitely worth seeing; I have to say I don’t go to the races at home but while in NDJ I would go to see that.

 

Having suggested that the museum isn’t great I’m interested to see that it’s actually been reviewed on Tripadvisor 16 few times and gets reasonably good reviews, so perhaps I’m wrong and it is worth seeing. Although that it gets quite positive reviews may be in part because there isn’t anything else to do if you have got spare time in NDJ, if I was there and the museum was open I’d be very happy to go and see, it’s more interesting than sitting by the pool or looking at the inside of a hotel room. When I say that s free day in NDJ is a complete waste of time I mean it is if you’re only on a 6 day trip, if you are doing a two week trip such as Paolo and Anita are doing then it’s fine or doing this fantastic 16 day Chad safari which has for me about the perfect Chad itinerary. 

 

Africa’s Remotest Safari

 

Starting from the US then you would likely want time to recover from your flights, so having free day at the start does make sense and with 16 days in the country it doesn’t really cut down on your time in either Zakouma or Ennedi. Cox & Kings USA who offer the same exact tour state

 

 

Enjoy a day at leisure to relax after your long journey. If you like, visit the city's large and sprawling central market, as well as the National Museum with its collection of prehistoric artifacts.

 

Yet the dates for the tour indicate that you arrive in NDJ on a Saturday so unless I’ve misunderstood the free day in NDJ would be a Sunday but one of the Tripadvisor reviews of the museum clearly states that it’s only open Mon-Fri.

 

My purpose really with my last post was to say to anyone who really wants to visit Zakouma but can’t afford Camp Nomade’s prices that I don’t believe that visiting the park is impossible and that you can do a satisfactory low cost safari. Provided of course you recognise that such a safari can never be a substitute for a Camp Nomade safari and that you will miss out on a fair bit of what Zakouma has to offer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be able to have an amazing safari, you should still see things that you won't have seen elsewhere. The last thing I would want though is for someone to book what at best proves to be an unsatisfactory safari or at worst a bit of a disastrous one. If by spending a small amount of my time doing some research I can offer an opinion that will help @Sitatunga95 or anyone else choose the best option for a low cost Zakouma safari and avoid going on a bad safari, I’m happy to do so. Besides even if I’m not in the market for a low cost Zakouma safari myself any safari to Zakouma interests me and having some knowledge of visiting Chad, I find it interesting trying to understand how an itinerary works and if it makes sense when they haven’t given you a lot of information.

 

Having had another look at the Native Eye tour it looks like I made a mistake and mistyped the cost because it is actually £2,499 and not £2,299 as I stated, if you add on the cost of the international flights to this you’re probably looking at an overall cost of somewhere just over £3,000.

 

There’s still at present relatively little information online about visiting Chad especially Zakouma at least if you’re not in the market for a Camp Nomade safari, so I feel that if can provide any useful information I should try to do so. I’m a very inactive member of the Lonely Planet’s Thorntree forum which I joined to respond to a question about Gabon, my only recent posts since then have been about Chad, if someone asks about Chad I’ll answer if I can because I know they likely won’t get any answer at all if I don’t. That’s just a consequence of the fact that so few people go to Chad, my advice isn’t necessarily that much help because questions are either about N’Djamena or Ennedi not about Zakouma. If other people on Thorntree have been it was to visit Ennedi or just NDJ most of the people who are likely to do a Camp Nomade safari probably aren’t very likely to join Thorntree. I think actually in my case, what led me to start posting on Chad there, is that in order persuade LP to change their wholly inaccurate information about Zakouma (and its imaginary wildebeest) on their Chad pages, I posted a comment on Thorntree because submitting a correction had no effect. For that reason I get notifications when questions on Chad come up, I probably wouldn’t pay attention to their Chad forum otherwise. Tripadvisor does have some information about Zakouma and other bits of Chad, Michael Lorentz posted a review of Zakouma, and I added some photos but haven’t actually written anything, but a few other people have posted brief reviews and more photos. Mind you I’m a bit disappointed that in one of the most recent reviews by a guest of Camp Nomade, she states that on their safari they saw wildebeest and water buffalos. :rolleyes: If I look at other forums like Fodor’s or any other travel forums I can find, searching for Zakouma or even Chad produces no results at all. Other than here on Safaritalk and on Safarious and to a limited degree Tripadvisor there isn’t really anywhere to go to find information about visiting Zakouma, that makes it very difficult for someone like @Sitatunga95 to judge whether what Lupine Travel are offering makes sense or not.

 

I’ve never driven to Zakouma but I have done a few long drives in my time and would do this drive if I had to, so I’m curious to see how the drive to the park really works and whether it would in fact be much more interesting than I think. When flying to Zakouma save for one point when you go over some small mountains and certainly when you fly into Chad most of the time if you look out of the window it looks like you’re flying over nothing but just very arid looking emptiness and it’s hard to understand how anyone could live down there. Since none of the itineraries I’ve looked at are very informative, I thought I’d look at my map of Chad and try to fill in some of the gaps from what little some of them do say

 

On the map there appear to be a number of potential routes you could take from NDJ to the park, I’m not absolutely sure therefore if the Lupine tour will take the same route as the other tours, but I would assume that they all go the same way. I don’t know for 100% certain from the map which route is the one that the Native Eye and Spazi tours take but I believe they go via a village called Bitkine and I know that they stop at a much bigger village called Mongo which is where they camp for the night, there’s obviously a campsite of some sort at Mongo certainly Native Eye mention Mongo in their itinerary. Purely for my own amusement I plotted what I guess is the probable route that they take on Google Earth to get an idea of the distance however not all of the roads that are on my map show up on Google Earth. As far I can see assuming that they follow the route that I’ve marked then it’s in the region of 820kms or 510miles but I may not necessarily have followed exactly the right roads though I assume the bigger and presumably better roads are the ones that show up on Google Earth.

 

gallery_6520_1031_503803.jpg

Probable route from NDJ to Tinga 

 

There is a mountain called Guedi just next to Mongo so I guess this area may be quite scenic I also assume from what I gather that they stop at various villages along the route.  

 

While looking at the Native Eye website I was looking at their tour to Tibesti which would be an amazing place to go and I noticed that a car in one of the photos has a logo on the door which when I zoomed I could see says ‘SVS’. When I had earlier looked for other tours I came across a French outfit called Societe de Voyage Saharien, I didn’t include a link because although they list Zakouma under tours after a brief intro about the park they only give dates for this year’s tours and no other info. The photo from Tibesti would seem to indicate that maybe Native Eye’s Chad tours are actually conducted by SVS certainly the other Chad tours they offer look pretty similar to the ones on the SVS website. I can’t say that I know anything about the Societe de Voyage Saharien but just looking at their website gives me more confidence in the Native Eye tour, if their tour is in fact organised by SVS.

 

SVS tours    

 

The fact that Lupine Travel had never done their Chad tour before was a bit of a cause for concern but then I assume that Native Eye have never actually done their tour either, but if it’s operated by SVS who I assume have plenty of Chad experience then I wouldn’t be worried about that.

 

The one thing that I don’t much like about any of these low cost tours is that you only get 3 days in Zakouma; but it’s not just low budget safaris that only give you 3 days in the park or that stay entirely at Tinga. I happened to look at the Steppes Travel website the other day to see what they were saying about their Zakouma safaris under their suggestions for Chad 2 options came up, an Ennedi safari as expected but then instead of a Camp Nomade safari I was surprised to see this ultimate elephant conservation safari come up. This has to be just about the most amazing safari that I have seen anyone advertising, if you love elephants and who amongst safari goers doesn’t, this would be a truly extraordinary trip, if in my view slightly mad travel wise. You start off visiting Odzala in Congo Rep, then Zakouma, then Samburu (Elephant Watch Camp), then Kunene in Namibia and finally Abu Camp in the Okavango in Botswana. The idea of course isn’t just to visit these places to see their elephants, you would along the way get to meet and spend time with many of the conservationists who are studying and looking after them. This is a 31 day trip which is somewhat longer than the average safari and of course there’s no way that this could ever be cheap the price is from £29,995pp but that does include all of the flights plus a £3,000 donation to Save the Elephants. Fantastic though this safari would be, the travel is pretty crazy in that to get from Odzala to Zakouma you have to fly from Brazzaville north east up to Addis and then back west to NDJ and obviously after your 3 days in Zakouma back to Addis again to go on to NBO. The price might not appeal @optig but I thought the intinerary might be slightly up your street. 

 

Ultimate African Elephant Conservation Journey

 

When I said I want more people to visit I wouldn’t have course want too many people to go. When I first went to Ruaha NP in Tanzania I stayed in a private mobile tented camp and there was no one else there, apart from I presume the TANAPA bandas, the only accommodation was Ruaha River Lodge and what had been their fly camp at Mwagusi which was just being turned into a permanent camp. Now I’m not even sure off the top of my head how many camps there are, while on the one hand I’m happy that more people are seeing Ruaha I am also sad that it’s no longer the wild empty wilderness it once was and may end up getting too crowded. I don’t however fear that Zakouma will suffer this fate certainly not in the foreseeable future, the logistics and cost of getting to the park coupled with the travel warnings will see to that. Even if there isn’t really any serious danger in visiting the park problems in neighbouring countries which do affect Chad will deter quite a few people from visiting the country. I don’t worry that if I try and encourage more people to visit that I might live to regret this, that I might return to Camp Nomade in future and find myself thinking where on earth did all these 100's of tourists come from. There is as I’ve said a limit to how far people can drive from Tinga so one shouldn’t meet Tinga vehicles too often. Of course I could find that I can’t return to Camp Nomade when I want, but I think the point at which I might have been able to claim any credit for people going to Camp Nomade has passed. Provided nothing goes wrong in Chad then I can see that maybe a couple more companies might start offering low cost trips to Tinga and if people are confident about visiting other parts of the country, there could be a few more of the overland type tours offered by Out of Bounds that I linked to earlier. However given the neighbourhood Zakouma no matter how amazing it is never going to end up on one of these multi-country overland tour routes. I just want people who are desperate to visit the park to try and do so if they can and for more of the right people to go. Although perhaps there should be a test to establish if you are the right sort of person to visit Zakouma, this would involve testing your antelope identification skills, to see if you can distinguish a hartebeest from a wildebeest. :lol:  

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by inyathi, 19 January 2017 - 12:56 AM.

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#15 pault

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 01:49 AM

The wildebeestt spotter didn't enjoy Zakouma then? Maybe it was a case of "Oh that's expensive, let's buy one and show it to our freinds."? 

 

Good research @inyathi  I  almost had a vision of you sitting in a dark room in striped pyjamas and a fez you picked up somewhere or other in the mid-90s, drawing maps by the light of your computer screen  while waiting for the next notification from Thoirntree, and explaining each revelation in detail to your Persian cat! But your post is too practical and informative for that, and while it's not brief it's all good stuff.... so I decided to write a thank you post instead. :)


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#16 Paolo

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 06:42 AM

@inyathi

SVS is not a French outfit. It is basically owned by the same Italian family (from here in Milan) who owns Spazi d'Avventura, and who has operated in the Sahara and Sahel region for - I think - the past 30 years.

It is definitely a good company, and it is used by a few Camp Nomade guides to outfit the Ennedi portion of those trips of theirs that combine Zakouma with Ennedi. Someone whom I know that did this Camp Nomade-Ennedi combo last year was pretty pleased with their service and absolutely loved camping in Ennedi.

I have spoken to the main SVS people myself a few times, and indeed they know what they are doing.
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#17 Paolo

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 03:10 PM

The wildebeestt spotter didn't enjoy Zakouma then? Maybe it was a case of "Oh that's expensive, let's buy one and show it to our freinds."? 
 


It is certainly disappointing that the lady in question could not distinguish a hartebeest from a wildebeest and as an "antelope freak" it makes me cringe; thus, intimately I would be very much in favour on an "admission test" to be allowed to visit Zakouma as @inyathi suggests, so that the "right people" are granted access to that marvellous wilderness but....are we sure who the "right people" are?

Two days ago I received the final figures of the revenues for Zakouma generated by tourism in 2016:

Tinga: 638 visitors generated 78k USD

Camp Nomade: 80 visitors generated 330k USD

(Please note that the above revenues are sums gone to the park's coffin, after all costs. I am unsure whether the number of 80 visitors to Camp Nomade also includes guides leading guests or participating to recce trips and AP donors taking part to dedicated trips - if that (as I suspect) is the case, the number of fully paying guests might be somewhat lower)

Hence, we may laugh as much as we want at that lady's tentative knowledge, but she has actually done her part. She might have even enjoyed Zakouma so much that she has now become a donor to African Parks. Who knows?

I just feel that we should be careful in risking to be too much condescending towards people we do not know and who might have contribute to conservation in a much more effective way than just typing on a keyboard.

Edited by Paolo, 19 January 2017 - 03:36 PM.

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#18 inyathi

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Posted 20 January 2017 - 01:40 AM

@Paolo I’d should've guessed that there was a connection between Spazid’aventurra and SVS because SVS have a link to the Spazid’aventurra website on theirs which would be a little odd if they were rival companies.

 

After everything I’ve written previously about the nonsense floating around the web about how Zakouma was restocked and that wildebeest had been introduced, to then have someone who’s actually been there claim to have seen them was quite amusing to me. It’s suspect that she does know the difference, but was just being absent minded when she wrote the review and typed the wrong thing. I don’t actually really care, what matters to me is that Camp Nomade is a success as long as people are going that’s a good thing and if they give money to AP so much the better. I also don’t really think most people thinking of going to Camp Nomade would really be consulting Tripadvisor anyway to see what people have said about the place. I think most people will go to Camp Nomade because of word of mouth from friends who’ve been, or because a guide they’ve travelled with a few times is now taking people there, or a travel agent that they use for booking African safaris is offering Zakouma safaris and recommended it. If you said to the travel agent that you had concerns about visiting Chad, I’m sure they would likely put you in touch with clients who’ve already been and who can reassure you that there’s nothing to worry about. I also wouldn’t imagine that anyone would go if they hadn’t already been to other parts of Africa; this is why I’m confident that Camp Nomade should go from strength to strength because everyone who goes should have a great time and they will spread the word, just not necessarily on internet travel forums. People who've travelled in Africa a lot are I would think less likely to say “go to Chad are you mad?” when presented with the idea of a Zakouma safari. Although saying that the advert for Origins Safaris that appears in the BBC Wildlife Magazine just says “Zakouma Africa’s Remotest Safari, millions of birds can’t be wrong” over a silhouette of black crowned cranes against the sunset it doesn’t mention Chad at all, whether it was intentional to leave out the name Chad I wouldn’t know. It might prompt people who aren’t aware of Zakouma to look it up online and then hopefully they’ll be so impressed by what they read and the photos they see that they’ll want to go before they've really taken in that it’s in Chad.

 

Actually in terms the wrong people going, I would be more concerned about someone signing up to that Lupine Travel's tour just because they’re looking for an adventure somewhere different, only because they won’t really appreciate what they’re seeing and just how special Zakouma is. But in truth though, I’m not really being serious when I talk about the wrong people, it’s just with somewhere so special that could so easily have been lost, one hopes that the people who go there will appreciate it and really how lucky they are and wouldn’t have been just as happy going to Amboseli or somewhere. Does it really matter who goes no, as long as Zakouma is making some money out of them, even if not so much from the budget travellers.

 

Having said all of that, I might add that my test should include spotted cat identification as well antelopes, I’ve just come across an article about Zakouma on a website called AFKTravel by someone called Susan McKee, who was on one of Michael Lorentz’s invitational safaris. The article doesn’t say a lot, but does have a good selection of photos taken either by her or by Michael, it includes a shot of one Zakoumas rare cheetahs, this would have come as a surprise if I didn’t know that several cheetahs had been seen last year. What is surprising is that underneath it says “Leopards aren’t usually on the prowl in daytime”

 

On Safari In Zakouma: Chad’s Tourism And Conservation Success Story

 

It’s a bit of shame that the article doesn’t say anything about how you should go about visiting the park because the photos are a good advert for Zakouma. I’ll forgive her for the silly mistake just because it’s nice to see a photo of a cheetah in Zakouma.

 

Because that article wasn’t very informative I looked to see if she written any others and found this rather more informative one, it comes as no surprise that she says that most of the other guests had been on 10 or more safaris.  

 

Chad: Touring Animal Parks Where Hope Blooms

 

Given what I said about flights and flight times in my first post I was slightly concerned to read this part.

 

Choices for flights are Air France (via Paris) or Ethiopian Airlines (via Addis Ababa). Both my inbound and outbound flights on Air France were delayed by (literally) hours, and Ethiopian has a habit of cancelling flights that are “underbooked”. My fellow travelers had to spend an unexpected extra night in N’Djamena because their return flight was scrubbed.

 

 

For my last trip I would have happily booked to fly on AF but there was no return flight on the day I was departing so I couldn’t, it had crossed my mind that the convenience of being able to fly to N’Djamena all in one day could easily be cancelled out if the flight was badly delayed, and instead of landing at 20:50 I ended up arriving in NDJ at closer to midnight or later. With departure at 23:55 it wouldn’t exactly be great if that flight was delayed by a few hours either. An extra night in NDJ and therefore a whole extra day would also be a serious bore especially if you really needed to get home on time. I wonder if such delays on AF are a regular occurrence, and having been very happy to fly Ethiopian, the thought that my flight could end up being cancelled because it was underbooked might make me a little nervous about flying with them in future. Maybe this is why you need to have a free day in NDJ at the start of your trip because there's no guarantee you'll arrive on schedule.  


Edited by inyathi, 20 January 2017 - 01:41 AM.

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#19 Paolo

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Posted 20 January 2017 - 09:36 AM

What is surprising is that underneath it says “Leopards aren’t usually on the prowl in daytime

 

I guess this might a bit of lazy editing since the previous photos is of a leopard? Anyway, I got more irked by the mention of "Cape buffalos"....

 

Re international flights to/from Chad - I have not followed that closely, but I think that last year they have been fairly bad. Also Vija's party (that travelled with Michael a fortnight before the invitational attended by Susan McKee) had their outbound flight from N'Djamena on Ethiopian cancelled, and had to spend an extra night at the Hilton.


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#20 douglaswise

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Posted 20 January 2017 - 10:48 AM

@Paulo and @inyathi:

 

As travellers to remote wildlife areas, I was wondering whether you had ever visited South Sudan or have considered doing so.  Boma National Park sounds appealing but for the security situation.  Sorry if this is off topic.







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