Kitsafari

Paradise Regained – Parc National Zakouma Tchad

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@@Soukous Thanks Soukous for reading along - I do hope the readers here will take up your itinerary, as Zakouma is too precious to miss out on an African safarista's plans

 

 

@@Safaridude thank you for the lovely compliment. although I'd rather be reading yours and/or @@twaffle TR because they are always among my favourite authors, which also includes @@pault. and Paul, that is such an apt vivid image, and you certainly got that right!

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@@twaffle has a couple of pictures on the races and I hope she or @@Sangeeta will come by to give you some flavour of the town. They were very excited when they came back so N'djamena must have been very impressive.

 

getting ready for the races:

 

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while the rest of us were lounging in this posh and very comfortable Hilton Hotel

 

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Day 1 - Rigueik

 

We immediately kicked off our safari with a short drive from the airstrip to the camp. Camp could wait. But it was hot, and not a lot was happening. It was a tantalising portion to show what could be on offer - a waterbuck here, a couple of giraffes there, and then, boom - 3 roans under a tree! Mr Roan, oops sorry , Mr Antelope, argh sorry, @@Safaridude immediately picked up his bazooka camera, as did @@twaffle and Mr Twaffle. @@Sangeeta and I discreetly picked up our tiny cameras and followed their leads.

 

From then on, Roans become the main dish of the day. We stopped for every roan as the Dude sought the perfect picture. Who wouldn’t? Those jumbo ears, and enticing eyes on a well toned body with hot looking legs. The problem was the roans wouldn’t stay still. It was like chasing the elusive supermodel.

 

We also had animated discussions on which were the best looking antelopes, with Squack and I defending the sable and kudu most vigorously but Mr Antelope disputed that with the Roan, even though his profile picture clearly showed a sable. A very brave Mr Twaffle gave a strong defence for impala as the Number one antelope. But we decided, for World Peace, to agree to disagree.

 

Don’t let him know she liked them best,

For this must ever be

A secret, kept from all the rest,

Between yourself and me.

(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll)

 

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A one-horned waterbuck, which (sorry, buck) didn't make it into our top 3

 

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a Kordofan giraffe - a rare subspecies of giraffes found mainly in northern Cameroon, southern Chad, Central African Republic and possibly western Sudan.

 

 

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and then rounding the bend as we got closer to camp - a taste of what would be ahead of us for the rest of the stay - vibrant pans that were full of life and sounds.

 

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Once in camp, we had a quick wash-up and an equally quick cup of tea, which became a routine over the following days, and we were out quick on our first solid game drive as the hot day cooled and the light took on a soft tone.

 

Immediately, the first of my many firsts appeared - a Bohor reedbuck that is native to central Africa and also found in East Africa. The dainty head with the short sturdy horns, the reedbuck has a habit of lying still on the ground and hoping we would not see it. Fortunately for us, the ground is dry and the grass well shorn into the ground so we often saw them but played along with them by ignoring them. Which really was not hard to do, as there were so many of them that, sadly, they became as common as the impalas are in East Africa and we quickly stopped stopping for them. BTW, there are no impalas in Zakouma. In fact, impalas do not occur in northern Africa.

 

The reedbuck was just an introduction to what laid beyond. Behind the reedbuck were two Kordofan giraffes. a rare sub-species of giraffes. 50% of the Kordofan giraffes are found in Zakouma, and we were privileged to see these beautiful, graceful and curious creatures time and again.

 

Together the reedbuck and the kordofan giraffes provided the frame for the buzzing life behind them.

 

We had all read about how impressive the densities were of the wildlife in the park. Although intellectually we were prepared for it, we were still unprepared for the Sheer numbers of each species. In any one frame, you could count more than 5 species of mammals and birds. They were just crowding together, side by side – the lelwel hartebeests, the reedbuck, the waterbuck, the tiang. Throw into that mixture all types of bird life. It was one smorgasbord of wildlife.

 

Each time I saw the density over the next week, I was astonished anew. It was as if the park was pulsing with so much life - and thriving. A park is merely a backdrop for the living things to flourish on, and this park was alive.

 

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I'm enjoying your writing and photos very much @@Kitsafari, thanks again for sharing your memories.

 

Interlude - N'Djamena Races

 

With a day to spare in the capital of Chad, Sangeeta, Mr T and I decided to book a taxi and head out to explore a little. The races are held on Sundays and as horse racing photographers, my husband and I were quite keen to see what they were like. We entered the race course and headed towards the carpark bumping our way across the dusty ground towards quite a large crowd. On one side there were horses tethered and either standing quietly or picking at some sort of food. The horses looked well nourished with shiny, healthy coats. Not smart like you'd expect to see on a metropolitan racecourse at a major city, but in contrast to that later expectation, the crowds were certainly better than most you'd see on a normal race day.

 

Once we'd arrived we headed towards the track itself, weaving our way through the throngs of people who looked at us in some surprise. Sangeeta noticed that women didn't appear to be present at all, although we couldn't see beyond the first couple of rows on the other side of the track. In contrast to most racetracks, there wasn't a running rail. The viewing public constituted the barrier to the horses and security men dressed in blue overalls walked along moving people back.

 

The jockeys wore colourful silks but they weren't tucked in so looked a little casual, but they were wearing hard hats in a nod to safety. Most wore gum boots as I suppose leather riding boots would be beyond the means of most of them.

 

I only managed one photo of the horses before we were accosted rather fiercely by one of the security personnel … "do you have a permit?", "photography is not allowed", yada yada yada. I knew that it would be difficult getting away with taking photos, and by using a large DSLR I was always going to draw more attention to our little group but what the heck, it was worth trying. Everyone started to stare and we decided that watching one race was probably enough so decided to head off on our shopping trip. As we left I managed a snap shot of the makeshift motorbike grandstand which turned out better than I thought it would.

 

Funnily enough, our driver noted a number of people taking photos of us with their phone cameras. I hoped they turned out well!

 

Having Sangeeta with us was a real boon. Her fluent French came in handy more than once, especially arguing with a number of officious officials and negotiating with local craft shop owners. Now that was a real experience.

 

With agreed that we could easily have spent another day in N'djamena.

 

The evening finished off with a surprise eclipse of the sun. We celebrated finally getting to Chad after what had been a very long planning stage with a delightful dinner at the very good Hilton Hotel. Our group was more than just people travelling together, we felt like kindred spirits heading on an adventure of epic proportions.

 

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@@Kitsafari - The Tiang looks stunning!!!!

 

What is the height of the dry season in Zakouma? March? or even later than that?

 

Super report - Thank You!!!

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@@twaffle you said that perfectly. Alhough we came together as different people with similar interest in discovering what Zakouma had in store for us, we became kindred spirits in finding the adventure. We got along marvellously, at least I hope so becuase I didnt feel any tension among us.

 

 

i for one was very grateful to be able to journey on this special trip with all five of you.

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@@madaboutcheetah thanks and more tiang coming up over the next few days.

 

April is the peak of the dry season, (please correct me if I'm wrong) but the heat is quite intense and i think towards May there could be some rains. It was very hot furing the lunch hours when we were there and halfway theough our stay you could feel the mercury rising a signifcant notch. Even i needed the fan on in the night towards the end of our trip.

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We stopped at a pan and lo and behold in the far, far distance, a giraffe was trotting at full speed, and behind it a lioness making a half-hearted attempt to chase it. Cool! cats on our first full drive. And thereafter, almost on all our drives – I think it was only three or four out of, was it, 13 drives (?) over a seven-night period that the cats did not put in an appearance.

 

The lions looked smaller than those in East Africa – I’m not sure if I’m accurate in saying that since it was just an impression. The male lions had smaller manes, and they form smaller pride groups than their cousins do in east and south Africa. Although Paolo in his 2014 TR suggested these were not west African lions, AfricanParks describes them as such on their facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AfricanParks/posts/854277391374934:0)

 

The distribution of west and central African lions can be found here :

http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/features/192535/leos-star-sets-in-the-west

 

 

In any case, there are only about 14o of them in Zakouma as of end-October last year.

If these were really western/central lions, then we were looking at a critically endangered sub species (although the IUCN made no mention of the Zakouma lions).

 

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When we made our way back to whence we came, a lioness was sitting by the road. She was making soft calls, presumably to the pride we had left lounging under the trees.

 

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Posted (edited)

By that time the light was fading and dusk was setting in. The marabou stocks were roosting high on the trees, eE-7Qriqcmff2A1t07t9mhLoTLl_YoOQxDzdfmi0

 

with one as a sentinel heralding the end of a day, looking over a darkening land and the day animals which had begun to move to their safe places.

 

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Edited by Kitsafari
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Clouds of dust were shaken up and shards of the weakening sun rays pierced through to light up a herd of central African savannah buffaloes thundering across the road. As the light was low and they were enshrouded in clouds of dust we could not see the variations in their colours.

 

That night as we did a drive, I saw my first serval (I’m terrible at photos at night so no pix – sorry, hopefully the others have better photos and can share. ) so for my first game drive i Zakouma there were already first sightings - for me – of reedbuck, kordofan giraffe, west African lions, lelwel’s hartebeest, tiang, serval. I counted my blessings that I should be in the African bush at all.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

@@Kitsafari it's a national holiday in England today and what a great way to spend breakfast. If not in Zakouma, then surely the next best thing is reading this report. Your writing style is lovely and it's pushing Zakouma to the top spot for next destination after my return to Zim this year. I just haven't worked out yet how to tell my mum I'm off you Chad next 😱

Edited by ld1
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@@Kitsafari I'm really enjoying your report and getting even more excited about going there. Only ten months to go Thanks for posting the article about West and Central African lions. It's fascinating and good 'homework' for me. Looking forward to the next installment!

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Fantastic! A great, superbly written opening and looks like some good quality sightings so far. Sorry I'm late, but looking forward to more!

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@@ld1@@Galago@@Big_Dog thank you all for the lovely compliments. they really help a lot in encouraging me to put in more effort into the TR because after re-reading the previous TRs, I wonder what more I could possibly bring to hail the wonders of Zakouma!

 

@@ld1 hahaaa just bring her along! and don't wait - zakouma tours seem to be filling up rather fast these days.

 

@@Galago not too long more!

 

@@Big_Dog it's never too late....

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Posted (edited)

@Kitsafari Your report is much more interesting than teh previous TRs, because i already read them. I am sure most others feel the same. In any case, how many reports do we get involving the Mara? We're still some way from saturation and "ho hum" boredom on Zakouma :D

 

 

Edit: So get on with it!

Edited by pault
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@@pault hahaah, that's for sure. thanks for the sorta encouragement.

 

work gets in the way so I can't continue until it abates (i sneaked in an instalment on Monday 'cos it was a holiday everywhere else, well actually in HK, Aus and Lon). and until i strike a 100 million dollar lottery, work still pays for my safari addictions. sigh

 

Hold your horses! not that you literally have horses to hold....

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@@Kitsafari as you know buddy I'm finding your TR nothing less than inspiring let alone stimulating. I can't wait until next year when I visit Zakouma with Doug Macdonald. You outdo even yourself.

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@@optig Thank you, buddy! I know you will find Zakouma incredible.

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Wonderful, Kit! Thank you for this report, I really savour it. The info about the visa and assorted problems is also much appreciated, good to know what to expect. Eagerly awaiting more, more more! :)

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@@michael-ibk i can't find inspiration to do my work at this point although one deadline is looming in the afternoon. i'll sneak in another installment... and maybe I'll be inspired to start and finish the work deadline later today!

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Day 2 part 1: Dance of Dawn


A rustling of the bushes and the swishing of the grass woke me up well before Tim came with warm water for the morning wakeup call. A rash had developed on the back of my legs during the night and every morning I would have to spread steroidal cream to prevent the intense itch, an act that made me the last to reach the mess tent for breakfast (excuses excuses). The only time the rash abated was during fly camp which made me suspect my bed was the culprit.


But it was soon forgotten as the dull light of dawn fell on a group of waterbuck, making their way to Rigueik pans in front of my tent. I watched a little while, drinking in the slow cautious steps of the waterbuck, despite the clock ticking down the minutes to breakfast.


Each morning, in the tent and at breakfast, enraptured, I would gaze upon the pans in front of us - as the morning calls of birds gently awakened the sleeping souls, and the antelopes and grazers slowly gained their distinctive shapes as they lifted their dainty hooves towards the waters in the pans. just in front, perched on a dead tree branch, the fish eagle arched its head backwards and cried out its morning song and, in a far distance, another answered.


The songs of the bush accompanied by the rustling leaves of the mammals walking by were magical in the glowing golden morning light.


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This morning was extra special. We were staying in the camp for a little while more. The queleas had moved to roost near the pans, and every morning, without fail, they would fly past the camp over the Rigueik pans at around 10 minutes before 6am. I don't know what their trigger was but they sure didn't watch the hands of a clock.


I sat on the chair enjoying my oats when I realised that safaridude, twaffle and Mr T had already lined up their tripods and cameras and stools for the best angles. Lesson number 1 - be prepared! so i hastily chose a spot, set up my little monopod with my little camera, and continued with my breakfast. Of course, when the queleas came, I learned my second lesson - make sure your views are clear of obstructions. mine weren't.


And then they came silently and swiftly. as the thousands came in waves after waves from the horizons, dancing upwards and downwards, turning sharp angles as one, as each of the thousands dipped to the ground and swooped the freshest of seeds of the day in split seconds. They waltzed and twirled in front of us all as one fluid motion, to some music that they could only hear. But, in the silence of the morning, the flight of the thousands echoed to us like a gust of breeze swooshing and swishing over and past us.


And as fast as they came, they were gone - as silent as always. I had seen thousands of queleas dancing before in South Luangwa, and there were more of them there than what I saw here in Zakouma in February. but it was still so enthralling as the hypnotic dances drew you in, leaving you breathless, and wanting more.


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Beautiful! And I really like how you left the obstrcution in as a learning aid for others! You dound so lonely with your little camera and your late arrival to the party, but the results are great. :)

 

Depending on where the rash was, a chair could be a more likely culprrit. They tend to get cleaned much less frequently than bedding and you get all kinds of stuff transferred to them as they are shared and tend to be exposed - not that I am rash expert, but when I do get them it is usually padded chairs in hot weather tor sweat trapped bysynthetics in hot weather hat has been hte culprit.

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