Kitsafari

Paradise Regained – Parc National Zakouma Tchad

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Posted (edited)

Of all the alluring qualities of Zakouma, who would suspect that piquing your interest in wider Francophone Afrique for more than nature would be among them? The wonders of travel!

 

Your photos bring home the concept of ABUNDANCE!

Edited by Atravelynn
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Glad to see you back at "work" Kit. They'd got as far off topic as Errol Flynn there It hink.. :o

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Excuse my ignorance. There are incredible numbers of birds in Zakouma. Do cranes, pelicans, yellow-billed stork and marabou storks breed in the park too?

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Excuse my ignorance. There are incredible numbers of birds in Zakouma. Do cranes, pelicans, yellow-billed stork and marabou storks breed in the park too?

 

no need to pardon you on ignorance @@egilio - because I'm guilty of that. that's a good question which I didn't think to ask when I was there. I tried to google but got no result. So I have to defer to the far more superior knowledge of @@inyathi. if there's someone who knows the answer, it will be him. :)

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Posted (edited)

Squack stopped the truck, and stayed quiet. He didn’t need to say a word. He simply let the scene unfold, and speak to us. In front was yet another pan – the Am Doloulou pans. As the roan exited left, the black crowned cranes grabbed our attention. Where should we look first? The cranes honking under the rising sun, and the glint of the white rays on their wings as they took flight? The kob lying in their midst, drawing comfort from their numbers? The egret trying to hunt for its brunch? Or the tall elegant giraffes walking away after quenching their morning thirst?

 

 

Perhaps the baboons making their way to the pans? or the hartebeests besting each other for the right to drink at one particular spot?

 

It was a long long pan, providing one scene after another. It was the peace of the moments that struck me – as the fantastic ordinary beasts walked among each other, seeking solace from the retreating waters, taking their time, looking at us with curiousity rather than with alarm, and not fleeing away from us.

 

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Edited by Kitsafari
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While we watched the numerous crowned cranes, Squack scored a coup.

 

“A common crane!”, as he looked through his binos. A rather curious name for an uncommon bird. Although the common crane, or the Eurasian crane as it is also called, is increasing in numbers to an estimated 500,000 worldwide, it has never been seen in Zakouma, so Squack rightfully claimed first sighting (see http://www.wabdab.org/db/viewblogentry?id=1520 or http://www.wabdab.org/db/viewobservations?request_locale=en&d-49653-s=2&locationId=859549&pid=viewobservations&pid=viewobservations&rnd=creVQf&d-49653-o=2&type=location_observations&d-49653-p=1)

 

There it was, parading among a flock of black crowned cranes – a beautiful bird with a grey slender neck, light greyish of feathers that ended with a fluff of dark grey bits at its tail. It blended in beautifully among the crowned cranes, but stood out with its slightly larger size.

 

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Then it was onto lunch. I always looked forward to lunch as I was constantly hungry in the morning (it’s the holidays!). But Jamie’s amazing menus and recipes usually fed my hunger well, without my waist growing too wide. Salads and light breads for lunches, salads and protein-rich meat for the dinners. But it was today’s view in front of us that was just as appetising. This was the Sauron pans. There was no menacing eye to watch us, nor any threat for one ring to rule us all.

 

 

There was only the idyllic scenery ahead of us. As the black crowned cranes, the geese and the herons, among others, pecked at the grasses, the kobs were practising their fighting skills. All this time, a large flock of grasshopper buzzards rode the thermals high above us, while other predator birds darted from tree to tree, watching for potential prey. the sun was high in the sky, it was hot and I was wilting. It was too much for me to snap any pictures of the birds in the skies or the trees.

 

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i've never seen so many waterbuck in one spot as in Zakouma

 

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Lunch parked ahead of us under that tree.....

 

and, boom, the Sauron pans (below) to delight us with the view...

 

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"But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

We whiled the time away (after lunch of course), lying on mats placed for us to lounge. An animated discussion on whether war or peace would rule the world (J) raged while I stole some time away for a satellite call to home.

 

 

After we decided it was not easy to make a call on a potential third world war and everyone declared love for each other, we went in search of the jumbos.

 

And along the way bumped into the Mamba team – the unsung heros who work to fight a more terrifying and unpredictable war to protect elephants against the criminals who seek to kill the animals to fund their terrorising ways. They are the ones who face dangers every day, and because of them, peace in Zakouma has returned. Peace for the elephants and stability for their foreseeable future. We were excited to see them, and in return, they indulged our requests and posed as the famous anti-poaching elite rangers that they truly are.

 

It had to be a good omen.

 

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As the sun moved towards the west, preparing to sink into the horizons, we stopped along the river. I can’t remember what triggered the stop but Squack thought he had heard the elephants. We clambered onto the banks, very quietly, trying to avoid the myriads of dried twigs and branches that threatened to snap and sound the alarm to the elephants. We reached the river bank, and across the river, some grey giants were scattered around. Some had just emerged from thick foliage and were moving into another area of dense woods.

 

 

 

 

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A breeding group broke free into the open, but the matriarch raised her trunk, somehow sensing our presence. She made a decision and the others followed her back into the woods.

 

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@@Kitsafari as always I love all your photos especially of the Lelwel hartebeests. I sincerely admire the Mambas because without them Zakouma simply wouldn't be a viable option for any tourists.

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Posted (edited)

Squack whispered to us, and we followed him a short distance, and once more quietly walked down a bank and settled in. I think we moved a couple of times along the banks, trying to catch up with the elephants. At one point, some elephants were crossing further up, just after a bend in the river. In the distance, dust was kicked up as the jumbos silently moved. The first group we saw was fairly small. There was a lull, as we sat down to make ourselves comfortable.

 

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And then, the magic began and a hush fell on us. Ahead of us, grey ghosts of various sizes crossed the river, some shaded in the midst of a thick shroud of dust. A couple of teenagers tested each other’s will.

 

Babies – plenty of them looking tiny and fragile against the huge adults – staggered alongside the adults and gladdened our hearts. Babies meant that the past stress of being poached constantly had been so reduced that the elephants were finally relaxed to produce the next generation. The next generation that will make Zakouma great once again. It is amazing how elephants are so resilient, to be able to rebound from years of being attacked, killed, harassed and stressed, and then learn to trust humans again. That is testimony to the efforts of African Parks, the former managers Rian and Lorna, to the mamba teams, to the Tchad government for the intense protection of such an incredible species.

 

As the elephants wound their way up the banks, the light became even lower as dusk wrapped around us. we had seen probably a small portion of the total herd, but we had to go.

 

we made our way back to the vehicle, and from the dense woods, the elephants trumpeted. I smiled, as they said their goodbyes to us, or perhaps they were chatting and gossiping among each other, or grumbling at one another, or playing or prodding each one to get a move on. They were just like us. I was comforted by the thought that they were safe.

 

 

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two videos below. apologies for the shakes and if you noticed the filming had gone out of focus, that was because I took my eye off the viewfinder to watch the elephants. :)

 

 

 

 

Edited by Kitsafari
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It was the last night of our fly camp. We stayed up a little later, reluctant to leave the place we had so much fun in.

 

The faint glow from our solar lamp bottle lights flicked out one by one as we climbed into our respective beds. Only the small camp fire was flickering next to my tent – how long would it last till the flames shrank into the embers?

I looked up to the stars, and thought how only 5 months before I was also in a fly camp – my first ever - down south in Gonarezhou, also looking up at the African night sky. As it was then, the skies were now aglow with the stars, and I tried to keep awake as long as I could to admire the wide starry skies that are absent where I live.

 

The cries of the hyenas began, growing louder and I excitedly turned on my belly, peering past the flickering fire, past the shadowy outline of the other tents and into the dark bushes around us, hoping for the shape of the hyena to appear. Perhaps it smelt our food and wanted to explore? I eagerly awaited. We hadn’t seen a hyena at all and I was keen to see one in Zakouma. their whoops define African nights for me.

 

But after a few more whoops, the calls started to fade and swung to the other end of the camp. An anti-climax. Feeling rather disappointed, I comforted myself – how many people in the world could spend a night on a comfortable bed, in a mosquito mesh dome pup tent, with the stars to bathe you with their brightness and the hyenas to sing you a lullaby to sleep? Perhaps the majority of those people would think I was nuts in the first place to even think about doing it.

But I’ll always be among the few fortunate ones to enjoy the last pieces of planet earth’s joyful gifts. So there I would be, being here and now, being in the moment, absorbing the quietness of the night with the burning logs tumbling as the fire devoured them and the cries of the hyenas softened and the stars above became smaller till they faded as my eyes began to shut.

 

Like my fellow travellers, I savoured every bit of it, well before the rest of the world would even realise these gifts would be no more in the future.

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Posted (edited)

Day 5 : Tinga-Rigueik Pans

 

The conundrum of Tinga

 

Today we were heading to Tinga to suss out Zakouma’s alternate accommodation to CN.

 

Having read what has been written in other threads in the forum, I’ve become quite disheartened about my stay in CN. A burden of guilt rests on my shoulders now, clouding my time in CN. Since those who have the ears of African Parks have disclosed the real reason that AP hosts the rich and famous at CN is for its target to convert them into sponsors, and the suggestion that us tourists should not just enjoy the fruits without contributing to the seedlings and harvests, I feel a mixture of emotions.

 

Guilt that I’ve become one of those who enjoyed the fruits but with no thought of repaying CN; a sense of huge disquiet that while I was at CN, I was being appraised for my value as a sponsor (they must have been bitterly disappointed with their valuation of me!); disappointment that AP expected payback while all the time I naively thought they had done a superb job (no argument of this) of restoring Zakouma for wildlife enthusiasts to applaud and appreciate.

 

I have no argument that AP has every right to decide how they want to promote a park that they have devoted their resources to preserve and protect. They have every right to ban tourists from spoiling the pristine environment or restrict the type of tourists. But if they want to convert tourists with deep pockets to sponsors, wouldn’t they run out of that list one day? How many of these really do care for wildlife or sustaining natural safari parks? After a couple of years, you can see that the Zakouma’s list of select private guides is beginning to promote publicly their tours which suggest that they have exhausted their list of the rich. And when the rich safari goers have been once or twice, what percentage of these will return year after year to CN, but for the handful of diehard safaristas? Will AP also start to rely on tourist revenues to fund their operating expenses and if so, will they need to come out with more sustaining plans?

 

I can't speak for the rest of my fellow travellers but I don’t profess to be an expert on this and don’t have the answers, sadly. Unlike some others, and by AP sponsor standards, I’m just part of the riffraff motley group, who has no right to be at CN (according to what has been said), and as such I’m neither rich enough nor clever enough to provide answers to such issues, except to accept with appreciation such pristine and beautiful places that others such as AP protect. And maybe, probably, possibly, perhaps promise (fingers crossed behind me) not to sully CN again.

 

Having said that and gotten that out of the way, it has not taken anything away from my fabulous stay in Zakouma and all credit and kudos to Jamie and her marvellous CN team (including Tim and her mum Kate) for making our stay a most memorable and comfortable one.

 

So, when and if I return to Zakouma, Tinga could be my next stop of stay since I would not want to be seen in dollar terms at CN.

 

And hey, it’s seriously a good alternative. What are the negatives? Ok, you can’t go to Rigueik Pans but there are dozens of other pans where wildlife is in abundance. Ok, you may not be able to fly camp although there are suggestions that this could happen to alternate with CN guests. Well, you aren’t supposed to bump into CN guests, but who wants to keep bumping into other vehicles? Right, you have to bring your own guide, or use the camp guides, but if Mahamat is any measure of the abilities of the guides there, you’re in for a great time. Ok, there is the limited supply of vehicles – that I have no answer for....

 

And the positives? I was impressed by the dining hall, surrounded by mature trees that cool down the place. It looked like a place I could just sit on the parapet walls, read a book in the cool and quiet space, watch the pata monkeys, or fall asleep in that comfortable space. I didn’t take any photos as @@Sangeeta was given a personal tour of the rooms so hopefully she can share her thoughts on this accommodation.

 

What’s very noteworthy however is the incredibly productive waterhole that is within walking distance of Tinga. I’ll come to this in a short while....

 

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tantulus monkeys at Tinga - sadly I failed to get a clear shot of the monkeys.

 

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Edited by Kitsafari
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Posted (edited)

#163 was very informative and insightful.

 

You had some exciting ele activity.

 

Along with your eloquent words, I really liked this quote:

 

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”
William Blake in a Letter to Rev Dr Trusler 23 August 1799

Edited by Atravelynn
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Back at fly camp, we were all packed up and eager to go.

 

Tinga camp wasn't that far but we would take a circuitous route to see what wildlife would welcome us to this part of the park.

 

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a clear sky with the sun greeting us at 7.10am - promising another scorching day. buffaloes with many hues of orange, brown and grey greeted us on the dusty road. being residents here, they had the right of way. One by one the animals came out to play.

 

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@@Kitsafari I think that your arguments about AP's philosophy are quite right and logical. I do feel that AP is going to have to eventually drop them if they want to see more tourists come to Zakouma. I have to say that part of the reason why I decided to go to Camp Nomade is because of the flight in plane with no doors. You haven't mentioned it yet in your trip report. I loved

fly camping so much at Gonorezhou that I did it again for two nights at Sarara Camp. I love fly camping and that is a big advantage of staying at Camp Nomade.

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And hey, it’s seriously a good alternative. What are the negatives? Ok, you can’t go to Rigueik Pans but there are dozens of other pans where wildlife is in abundance. Ok, you may not be able to fly camp although there are suggestions that this could happen to alternate with CN guests. Well, you aren’t supposed to bump into CN guests, but who wants to keep bumping into other vehicles? Right, you have to bring your own guide, or use the camp guides, but if Mahamat is any measure of the abilities of the guides there, you’re in for a great time. Ok, there is the limited supply of vehicles – that I have no answer for....

 

 

@@Kitsafari Thanks so much for another nice report on Zakouma. In the moment I'm very much attracted by the idea of going one day by myself to Chad (Zakouma and Ennedi) and see all this beauty with my own eyes. Tinga plus camping would be my preferred option for Zakouma. I hope there will be a way to do it like this in the future.

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Baboons barked in the near distance. and barked, and barked. Squack stopped the truck to hear. the barking continued. He decided to get down on foot to investigate. not 5 mins later, he ran back, shouted something (which my hearing deficiency didn't catch) and jumped into the driving seat. I gathered there was a predator in sight.

 

we drove onto dry river banks, which would be full when the heavy rains came. But today, only a stream was visible. everyone was on their binos, and then onto their cameras. My eyesight decided it was a good time to go blur on me, and it took me a long time - probably more than 10 mins till Mr T was too tired to show me where, then, I realised the predator was on the opposite bank.

 

Two adult lionesses, and in their wake - four boisterous lion cubs, looking many months old. following them very closely was a bunch of baboons, shouting abuse at them at every minute. the adult cats completely ignored the primates but the cubs wanted to have a bit of fun with them, or was it the other way round, that the baboons were having fun harassing the cubs? it made for a great show with that taunts going both ways as the sunlight beams peeked through breaks in the dense foliage of the tall trees, sometimes lighting up the tawny coats of the cubs. The cats were also playing peekaboo with us as they walked through the trees, allowing us glimpses of them. One adult came down the bank, looking far into the distance. I didn't see any prey other than a yellow billed stork, but don't put stock on my sight since my eyes were temporarily blinded by old age.

 

Sorry to bombard your senses with photos and videos. but cubs are always cute, especially when they are so entertaining as these....

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Finally our patience was rewarded as all the lions came down the banks to cross the stream. I was quite upset I missed the cubs jumping across the stream as I thought I had press the video recorder but obviously I hadn’t as I have no record of that. but @@Safaridude had a great capture of that in the link that madaboutcheetah provided in post #138

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once the cats were on our side of the river, we followed them for a short distance, as they walked through bushes. we stopped for a better viewing at a gap between bushes. and one cub was so curious about us, that she (at least I think it was a she) came forward for a clearer look of us. another cub just as curious joined her. their looks were both serious, curious and unafraid. it was a really charming time watching them watching us. once they had satisfied their curiousity about us, they stood up and then they were gone. The next generation of the lions of Zakouma.

 

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Thank you Kit for your fabulous writing and photos that are bringing back such wonderful memories. I agree, some of the sentiments expressed recently about the future plans of AP in Zakouma are not designed to leave a positive impression but then we are reading a lot of supposition and opinion.

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@Kitsafari I am enjoying your reports so much, both your writing and the photos. I am rather mystified by your comments about sponsors and being assessed as a potential sponsor. I've looked through a lot of forums here but I must be putting the wrong key words in because I can't find any of the comments that you and others have referred to. It's got me a bit worried because, although I'm going next year, I am neither rich nor famous - quite the reverse on both counts! Can you please tell me where I can find the thread you've referred to? Thanks.

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Lovely photos, Kit! You managed to take all kinds of wonderful shots with your trusty little camera - some of them are really, really excellent.

 

About my little tour of Tinga. Sadly I could not see the newly refurbed rooms as they were occupied during our visit, but I'll put up a few of the old rooms that l did manage to get. I pottered about in the mess/verandah area at the end of breakfast hour, and the food set up looked quite nice to me.

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@@Kitsafari I am FINALLY caught up on your fabulous trip report - wonderful writing and you got some really great photos too! I especially love the eles and the lions. Look forward to the rest!

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Posted (edited)

@Kitsafari@@Sangeeta Are the tsetse flies the problem that they are supposed to be? I want to know if I should bring the fly suit which I bought thanks to @@Sangeeta. I continue to marvel at the photos of the lions and of course birds.

Edited by optig

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