Kitsafari

Paradise Regained – Parc National Zakouma Tchad

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@@Kitsafari

A great start - I am really enjoying your photos, and as I expected, your writing. It looks like a wonderful trip with wonderful company.

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@Kitsafari I thought I’d wait until you’d got a little further with your report before I jumped in with a comment, and that I ought to write something rather than just post a whole lot of smiley faces. :):):):)

 

Because I have to say that just seeing this report appear even before I clicked on it put a huge smile on my face. :D

 

After I visited Gabon some years ago I left hopeful that the country had a bright future as a wildlife destination and wanted to do what little I could to help, so I wrote a few bits and pieces that I posted on Tripadvisor and uploaded a few photos. Then I discovered Safaritalk and thought that this would be the perfect place to find people who might be willing to visit Gabon so I decided to join and write my first trip report, however when I went to Gabon it appeared as if they were really opening their door to tourism but after I left they had all but closed it again. My report may have generated a little interest in Gabon but I doubt it generated any tourists as it was no longer possible to do all the things I was able to do there. However writing that report was my reason for joining Safaritalk and had I not done so, I would not have had the opportunity to visit Zakouma the first time way that I did and likely wouldn't have got there at all as yet.

 

Writing about Zakouma I was mildly concerned that something could go terribly wrong in Chad given the country’s history but didn't think that was very likely and I knew that as long as that didn't happen Zakouma wasn’t going to close to tourists. I have to confess though that after my last visit we were all a tiny bit sceptical as to whether ST was really the right place to promote Camp Nomade, purely because the cost of visiting might prove too high and put people off. However Zakouma is such a special place and the wildlife so spectacular that I knew we would generate plenty of interest and I was confident that while I’d probably failed to persuade anyone to visit Gabon I would succeed in helping to persuade at least someone to splash out on a Chadian adventure of their own. I really don’t think there’s anywhere else that can currently offer a safari experience quite like Zakouma, I was confident that putting a bit of effort into my reports would pay off, safe in the knowledge the no one visiting the park could possibly leave disappointed. It seems I was right; it also gives me some satisfaction that thanks to our collective efforts ST is the go to place for information about visiting Zakouma. I love the fact that here you can fill your reports with photos whereas on other travel forums (apparently such things do exist so I have heard ;)) you can't post photos and that's a major disadvantage for somewhere as special as Zakouma where seeing is believing.

 

Although I knew when I got there that Camp Nomade would be success, it is I would say almost the definition of a word of mouth destination, in that because it’s in Chad and in a park that very few have heard of or know much about, I feel people just need that little extra push from those of us who have been, to overcome their scepticism. Once people have been, they will I hope share their experiences if not here online, then around the campfires and dining tables of safari camps in other more familiar countries as well as with their friends at home. As the success of Camp Nomade and Zakouma continues I hope that it will prove a shining example to other countries of how the fortunes of a park can be turned around and tourism established.

 

I think since my last report, this is the first Zakouma report that’s not written by a guide on an educational, which is another reason why I'm so happy to see it. I have to say thanks for all of the compliments regarding my reports I'm very glad that you found some of my advice like how get the visa helpful. Putting your passport in the post is always a bit nerve-racking especially when sending it abroad, but there’s really no way around it for Chad and CIBT does seem very reliable. You’re own experience should prove very useful to subsequent travellers; it seems that there will be at least a few more ST members heading off to Zakouma soon.

 

It’s great to see some more shots of the roofs of N’Djamena it was for me at least quite unlike arriving anywhere else I've been, I think the flight in over NDJ gives you a real sense that you are about to set off on a great adventure. It’s also good to see that the Hilton is now open although I think maybe it has been for a bit longer than I think but it certainly wasn't finished at the time of our last visit there just some artist’s impressions online. I assume it’s a better hotel than the Kempinski now Ledger Plaza where I stayed as it seems most of the Zakouma safaris I've seen advertised stay at the Hilton.

 

@twaffle Interesting about the photography at the races, I think Chad is still pretty touchy about people taking photos, I'm not sure if this has come up before but I think when AP first took over Zakouma, they had to get the government to change the law so that visitors to the park could take photos, otherwise technically no of us would have been allowed to take any photos there.

 

You saw a common crane wow; I know that Demoiselle crane is on the list but it’s a migrant species that would have left by the time of my two visits, scoring a new bird for the park list is always good. There should many more Eurasian migrants in the park in February, normally our first barn swallows in the UK arrive back late March-April time, so I would tend to think that most of the migrant species in Zakouma should be starting to head north by early to mid March but there are still a few around in April. I certainly saw northern shovellers both times and garganey as well I recall. Great to hear you saw the black-breasted barbet; there are a lot of serious birders who will never have seen this bird and even if you’re not much of a birder it’s a special bird.

 

Your photos particularly of the camp along with your descriptions bring back happy memories of my time at Rigueik

 

@madaboutcheetah The height of the dry season is really late March-April the rains should come around the beginning of May and carry on until the end of October beginning of November. Camp Nomade closes in mid April to avoid the risk that the rains could come early and opens in December to give the roads a bit more time to dry out, Tinga opens mid November and stays open a bit longer they can take a bit more of a risk with it being wet than Camp Nomade can.

 

I’ll be interested as you report continues to see how February in the park compares with April, certainly in your photos NDJ looks rather greener I think than in my shots, from what I can see so far you saw plenty of wildlife in the park.

 

I am so glad you all had a great time I hope to see a few more Zakouma reports appearing in the near future. :)

 

I await whatever follows with considerable interest. :)

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@@Kitsafari - I've been hooked from the start - a wonderful atmosphere through your words and pictures.

 

@twaffle - the N'Djamena Races with the motorbike grandstand would have been a fascinating and colourful experience and what a contrast with the wilderness and wildlife to follow.

 

Your Dance of Dawn is lyrical @@Kitsafari

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@@pault my camera is still okay, i'm just wondering when it will give way - hopefully not during a safari!!

 

I thought it was the bed as the itch was worse when I was on the bed. but from the 3rd night onwards i covered the bed with the kokoi cloth and slept on top of it, and it was much better. but i had meds and creams ready, and they came in really useful. it surprised me too because I am sure the sheets were all cleaned. I think It's just me - my skin is hyperly sensitive.

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@@TonyQ the company was great. it made the experience that much more fun and pleasant.

 

 

@@Caracal I'm glad you enjoyed the dance of dawn. it was quite special when all was silent and the birds were floating and swaying in the skies.

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@@inyathi thanks for taking the time to pen your thoughts. I too hope the Chad government will continue to support the park and its support I felt was one of a few critical aspects to the success of Zakouma. Its willingness and foresight to develop the park further as a tourism revenue earner and keep the park unencroached, its appointment of African Parks with the latter's proactive and hard-nosed approach, and its ability to keep the political situation stable. With African politics, stability is such a fragile thing in the countries that can be just be damaged in a split second.

 

I too hope this report will be a first in a string of TRs on zakouma with a number of people planned to head there next year. WHile I hope Zakouma can become more popular with the tourist, I also hope selfishly that it will not become too popular. Not for me, but for the wildlife. At the moment, they appear comfortable with one vehicle with quiet almost reverent visitors. I dread the day when too many vehicles with overly excited and loud visitors start harassing or scaring them away.

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Day 2 part 2: Rigueik/Machtour
“Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now.”
Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
We were back on the truck again. it was a very comfortable one. the gap between the rows were sufficient for my short legs, though the last row could be tight for tall humans. The seats were of soft well worn leather, and the feet were comfortably flat on the matted floor. looking up, I saw a unique cover made of rattan ( i think) - it was very cool. plenty of pockets for one to put your stuff and a few bean bags to go around. the cooler box for drinks also provides cool water to soak your kokoi (did i spell that right?) in too.
a brand new plastic bottle of chilled water in a tailored cloth cover (all were made by the camp's tailor as were the dressing gown and plate mats) and would be ready in the truck pockets for each morning and afternoon drives - I was queasy using up so many plastic bottles as it didn't seem so environmentally friendly, but Mahamat told me that the unfinished water in the bottles was used for other things in the camp so the leftover water would not be wasted. I sometimes brought back the unfinished bottle for the night to drink and brush my teeth, so it wasn't exactly a waste of water.
But I do wish the camp will invest in reusable aluminium bottles to further reduce its carbon footprint (it does with solar panels for electricity while the compost toilet uses neem tree sawdust which is perfect as it absorbs odours but the neem tree supplies will last only as long as the batch of neem trees planted at the HQ are taken down). I never knew I could drink so much water - i drink about 1.5 litre of water back home but I consumed double that in a day in zakouma. But drank I did I to avoid dehydration and the resultant problems.
As we made our way to Machtour, we edged along the fringe of Rigueik. All the by-now familiar inhabitants were in the pans or on the way. I caught my breath again - the wide expanse once again covered with antelopes and birds. I didn't know where to look - the birds converging in the far distance, the tiang and hartebeests walking past us to the pans, the handsome waterbuck warming himself in the sun, the roller in the tree?
All I knew was that I was in the here and now, soaking in the amazing sight of the vibrant life in the park. each time I was just stunned not by the variety of species but just the astounding number of each. We often saw not one or 10 of one species, but sometimes 50, even hundreds of antelopes and birds. I gave up counting very early in the trip.
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a very shy male bushbuck - they were hard to see as they were always in the bushes and scattered very quickly when we stopped
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a beautiful abysinnian roller - as ubiquious as the LBR in Zakouma
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Buffalo with his flighty companions - see the orangey red hind quarters
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@@Kitsafari I think that one shouldn't worry about Chad becoming overly popular with tourists for quite a while if ever. How many Americans have ever heard of Chad? The current system that African Parks has established that one has to travel there in a group means that so few tourists can visit there. I was fortunate that @@Sangeeta told me that Doug had 3 spaces available for next year. Another thing which has to be considered is that as you know Zakouma has a short season which lasts only 5 months, and in March it becomes unbearably hot. I've been told that it reaches 45 celsius .

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We had celebrated the evening before with @@Safaridude for completing his Topi Slam when he saw the tiang. In case i get this wrong - i hope he will correct me! There are five sub species of topis usually recgonised - Korrigum, tiang, coastal topi, Topi and Tsessebe. for me, tsessebe is the dullest of the lot but tiang looked like a handsome brown version of the mor purplish-toned topis. I'd only seen topi and tsessebe prior to this. But for the dude, he was beaming with the knowledge he had completed the slam. we cheered his Grand Slam - with a lot of ribbing, of course.


The antelopes today were in a state of highly charged testorone and put on entertaining shows of sparring but it looked like it was all in good fun. Squack stopped at a respective distance from them, and undisturbed, the antelopes started testing each other's strengths and maybe put in more practice with their skills.


lelwel hartebeest sparring


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with no care for the pelicans , maribou storks,egrets, herons, the reedbuck and waterbuck far behind, the hartebeests were only interested in testing how strong their horns were


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a young urn testing his skills


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Posted (edited)

And then it was the TWE - Tiang Wrestling Entertainment and it was real cool to watch how the tiang would fall on their knees before making contact. And it struck me how the rattling of the cameras matched the rattling of the horns in the following video .

 

first - Tiang on the Mound

 

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Tiang round 1

 

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Tiang wrestle - round 2 with a referee in tow

 

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Tiang on the mound 2

 

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Edited by Kitsafari
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@@Kitsafari needless to say I just love your series of photos of tiang facing off. I had no idea that they were so beautiful. When I see your trip report I realize just how lucky I am to be going to Zakouma next year because I'll be seeing an astonishing number of new species of not only of birds,but of mammals as well. I have no doubt that Zakouma will become one of my favorite safari destinations. It is without a doubt one of the favorites of everyone who visits.

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@@Kitsafari - the Tiang segment is a gem! especially the video ........

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You caught the essence of that morning perfectly. Those cameras are very loud, I hope the noise wasn't too intrusive although we did have moments of just sitting quietly and observing. Such memories.

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@@twaffle it's strange but I really didn't hear the rattle of the cameras during those moments so you weren't intruding in our reverie. we were all so quiet and so absorbed in what was before us. all i remembered was the sound of the tiang's horns crashing and the bird noise around us. It was only when I viewed the videos that the rattling became evident.

 

there were so many of such moments and all i remember is the quiet reverent moments we shared in the sightings.

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@@Kitsafari

 

There is one more: Bangweulu tsessebe

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The Tiangs really put on a great show for you - great video!

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@Micheal-ibk You are very fortunate that @@Kitsafari and @Atravelynne will be accompanying you to Kafue later this year. Since I know both of them personally I can say that in all honesty that you couldn't have 2 better safari companions in every way,shape and form. I can hardly wait to go to Kafue myself next year

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@@Kitsafari Just loving your reports. The video was fascinating but, oh, those camera shutters. It's happened to me too, a lovely video ruined by the machine gun fire of cameras. I only use a bridge camera, but it's silent, so can't these big fancy jobs costing ten times the cost of my camera manage a silence option? It's so intrusive! Also, following on from @@optig's comment, where are you going in the Kafue?

 

@@Safaridude Fascinated by the Topi Slam. I didn't know there were that many species, having only seen topi in Kenya. Are they all separate species or are some of them ssp?

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Great sightings of the hartebeest and then the Tiangs wrestling.

 

I keep returning to those waterbuck though as I'm curious about them. Don't know if it's the lighting but they seem to me to be quite a rich reddish brown colour compared with the grey that I'm used to seeing.

 

Can you or @@Safaridude clarify whether this is so? - I'd love to know.

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@@Galago... :) It is because they have a mechanical shutter that has to lift up and then close the mirror each time a shot is taken .... and then loud or very loud depends on the size of the chamber around the mirror I guess and how much (if any) dampening there is. Just not possible to make them even close to silent, although i wish designers would make a bit more of an effort sometimes. If we use the slow speed setting it will normally be a bit quieter, but it would still spoil a video. Video and still photography unfortunately don't always go well together, I guess.

 

Your camera has no mirror and so no sound. High-end mirrorless cameras are now becoming available but there still unfortunately isn't a real mirrorless alternative for serious wildlife and bird photographers. There may at least one in a year or two though.

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@@pault Thanks for this. Sometimes when I'm in a bird hide it sounds like I'm in the middle of machine gun fire. Serious design fault!

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This thread is outstanding, the photography is of an exceptional quality and the text to say the least highly informative. As I am due to visit Zakouma in early 2018, it is certainly giving me a very real feel of what I might hope to experience and observe.

As a wild cat enthusiast I was particularly interested in postings 34 & 35 which covered the lion population found in the park and have subsequently spent some time researching the current taxonomic status of the lions found in Zakouma.

Lion taxonomy in recent months has undergone a significant amount of revision, based on sound extensive scientific research, the findings of which have been accepted by The Cat Specialist Group (IUCN). A brief précis of the main points which impact on our understanding of the lion population of Zakouma are:

1. Until recently the lions of Zakouma were of the subspecies, Panthera leo senegalensis. THE WEST/CENTRAL AFRICAN LION.

2. All 9 previous lion subspecies are not now recognised.

3. Only 2 subspecies of lion are now described. Panthera leo leo (Northern subspecies - West Africa, Central Africa, North Africa* and India.) and P. l. melanochaita (Southern subspecies - N.E.Africa, E. Southern Africa and S.W. Africa.). *preserved specimens.

4. The lions found in Zakouma are of the subspecies P. l. leo.

5. The lions found in Southern and Eastern Africa are of the subspecies P. l. melanochaita.

Hope these points help to clarify the current taxonomic status of the lions in Zakouma N.P. Chad, and elsewhere.

Thanks to Dr. Hans Bauer, WildCRU (Oxford), for answering my questions, providing me with several relevant papers and confirming that my conclusions are valid.

@@Kitsafari looking forward to more reports from Chad soon.

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@@johnweir. Thank you for that!

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@@johnweir Thanks very interesting I wasn't even sure which subspecies they were supposed to be, before this recent revision. I presume in that case that the Nile River would have formed the boundary between the lions of East Africa and those of Central Africa as it once did between the East African black rhino and the extinct western black rhino. If this was the case it would be interesting to know if the Nile acted as a sufficient barrier to prevent hybridisation between the two subspecies. I guess it might have done, given how many crocs there are in the river I certainly wouldn't want to swim across it and even without this danger lions aren't enthusiastic swimmers, although they're not entirely averse to taking a cooling dip as I discovered on my first Zakouma trip, when one cooled of in a waterhole.

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@@Kitsafari

 

I am savoring every last drop of this beautifully written report. The lyrical nature of your narrative is a joy. Your photos are lovely, but it is the use of language through which you are conveying the emotions and sense of being in this pristine wilderness that compels.

 

I want to say more, more, but, at the same time, I don't want it to end any time soon. So take all the time you want!

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