AFRICAN PARKS EXCLUSIVE
Riguek, Zakouma, Chad
In his role as a partner in African Parks' Conservation Travel Initiative, Rob is in the unique position to offer unmatched access to the inner workings of the variety of parks managed by this highly effective conservation organisation.
African Parks is a non-profit conservation organisation that takes on direct responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of protected areas in partnership with governments and local communities. They currently manage 19 national parks and protected areas in 11 countries covering over 14.2 million hectares in: Angola, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Zambia & Zimbabwe. For more information on the successful African Parks' model, please click the logo below...
Below Rob reviews one of his now annual trips to Zakouma National Park in Chad - one of his favourite current safari destinations in Africa...
Behind-the-scenes experience of the great conservation story at Zakouma, Chad
7 days in Zakouma, based out of the fantastic Camp Nomade with a couple of nights fly-camping in between
- Patching up an injured lioness with the local vet
- Walking safaris around the vibrant wetlands
- Sweeping herds of Central African buffalo, tiang, Kordofan giraffe & roan antelope
- Flying over the park with the Park Manager
- Joining an anti-poaching patrol
- Collaring an elephant bull
- Visiting the nomads' weekly market
ROB JANISCH | FEBRUARY 2019
I can clearly remember the look of curiosity (mixed with a little bemusement) on the face of one of my well-travelled, more adventurous guests as I mentioned the idea of taking her & her family on safari in Chad, North Africa, as we sat around a campfire in Botswana one evening. It is fair to say that Chad (or Tchad more correctly) is not your usual travel destination. But then when did we ever do anything usual?
The adventure starts in the buzzy little capital, N'djamena, where - if you're brave enough - motor bike taxis will get you around from artisanal market to the museum (amazing old hominid finds in the deserts of Chad) & back to the hotel. If you're lucky enough to be in the capital on a Sunday afternoon, you can head into town for the weekly horse races (think: Ascot on a dusty track surrounded by whooping men in white thawbs.) Top three cultural travel experiences I have witnessed.
A flight the following morning on a private charter takes the group south-east as the next seven days are given to exploring the emergent Zakouma National Park. Part wetland, part Acacia sahel thickets, part savannah - Zakouma is like no place on earth. Tens of thousands of birds & beasts of every shape, size & sort fill the park to such an extent, it is sometimes necessary to pinch yourself and remind yourself you're in Chad. We are based in the super-cool, yet laid-back Camp Nomade, exclusively ours for the week, so it feels like we have this part of paradise all to ourselves. Of course this is not entirely true, as the good people on the ground working for the African Parks' Zakouma team are a big part of the story here and we get some exclusive access to interact with them & learn more first-hand about the wonderfully remote place they call home.
We break the week for a night or two of fly-camping along one of the remoter sections of the Salamat River, to explore a little further afield. We join the local vet & conservation unit on a collaring exercise to better understand the movement of the park's elephants during the wet season. We head up into the skies in the park plane with the operations manager as pilot, to get an eagle-eye perspective on things. We have dinner with the park manager, and accompany the community development officer to one of the nearby schools set up for local kids (especially girls!) to attend. We visit a weekly market in a neighbouring village which attracts the region's wandering nomads. On our drives, walks & night sessions, we see lions, central African savannah buffalo, elephants, leopards (yes, multiple), honey badgers, porcupines, cheetah, Kordofan giraffe, Bufon's kob, Patas monkeys, birds of every feather imaginable (Zakouma is a birding hotspot... did I say hot, I mean HOT), and much much more.
One morning we sat up in a temporary tented hide to watch the comings & goings on the floodplains of the Riguek wetland around sunrise. Coffee & rusks in hand, we watched as hundreds, possibly thousands of great white pelicans flew in over the backs of well over two-thousand buffalo wading into the water for a morning drink. There are very few places left in Africa, or the world, where one talks daily about the thousands of species seen... and it is no exaggeration.
The work that African Parks & the Chadian authorities have achieved since taking over the park in 2010 is nothing short of phenomenal. This is truly one of the world's big conservation success stories of the moment... but don't take my word for it - come see it for yourself.