Zakouma National Park in Chad has been off-limits for the last three decades - tantalizingly however it is possible to visit this important wilderness once again.
Zakouma is, in parts, strongly reminiscent of some of its better-known peers – the Bahr Salamat looks like the Luangwa with its sand-bars and nesting (in this case Northern) Carmine Bee-eaters, while its concentrations of enormous crocodile are comparable to the Katuma in Katavi - but on the whole this amazing National Park is quite unique, providing an eccentric mix of the familiar with the unusual.
Herds of hundreds of buffalo are everywhere and preyed upon by lion, but these are Central African Savannah Buffalo which resemble a cross between Cape and Forest, being jet-black to orange and every shade in between. Roan are unusually common and the realistic opportunity to see Tiang, Buffon's Kob, Lelwel Hartebeest, Kordofan Giraffe, Red-fronted Gazelle, Pattas Monkey and Pale Fox among a myriad of more widespread species such as leopard, baboon, hyena, bushbuck, serval, jackal, honey-badger, various mongooses, waterbuck and oribi is something that few, if any, other Parks can boast.
Zakouma was left mercifully unscathed through the country's recent troubles, but sadly the elephant have taken a hammering and in the last decade and their numbers spiralled down from an estimated 4,000 in 2005 to around 450 in 2012, however with the intervention of the laudable conservation-NGO African Parks, who now manage Zakouma, this trend has been reversed, not a single elephant has been poached in the last three years and numbers are once again rising. Extraordinarily these elephants all live in one single super-herd.
Arguably even more spectacular than the richness and variety of Zakouma's mammal mega-fauna is its birdlife. Sandwiched between desert and rain forest and providing the first suitable habitat after the Sahara, startling numbers of water birds and wildfowl crowd the Park's pans.
Storks, herons, egrets, ibis, duck and Black Crowned Crane flock to these regional oases, feeding off the boiling mass of catfish and insects as the water recedes. The near-mythical Egyptian Plover – a wader unlike any other and he who, in legend at least picks the meat from the crocodiles teeth is realistic prospect here, as are Red-throated and Little-green Bee-eaters, Abyssinian Roller and Ground Hornbill, Piapiac and Black-capped Gonolek which would likely be new ticks on the list for anyone more accustomed to peering trough their Swarovskis in East or Southern Africa.
The habitat is varied, from inselbergs to riverine forest, grassland plains to large drying pans - and to get the most out of the Park it is imperative to spend time in different locations. To this end "Camp Nomade" is being pioneered by the good people of African Parks – nomadic in style and function but beautifully decorated with Chadian flair, each tent will simply be a large mosquito net with a canvas roof for shade, providing a 360° view of the wilds.
From early 2016 African Parks will provide all the equipment and logistical support for small groups (minimum 5 maximum 8) being escorted by an Africas Park's approved guide. Natural High's Rod Tether is amongst this small team and will be leading several week-long expeditions spending seven days in Zakouma NP after the initial night in N'djamena. Contact Rod to find out more about these trips
Posted by: Alex