Safaris in Chad

Exploring Zakouma National Park

After a dramatic turn around in Zakouma National Park, Chad is fast becoming the destination of choice for safari connoisseurs

Virtually unvisited for three decades due to a series of civil wars, the last of which ended in 2010, the country has finally reached a level of stability and is opening up to travellers, albiet under certain conditions which the traveller would do well to understand.

By definition, choice is limited in Chad. Currently, despite rumours of Enedi in the north opening up, Chad remains complicated at time of writing and Zakouma is the only place you can realistically expect to visit on a pre-arranged safari. However, the resounding success story in terms of conservation is Zakouma National Park, brought back from the brink by Africa Parks, this rich and diverse park is well worth a visit. 

Zakouma has been off-limits for the last three decades - tantalizingly however it's 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 River with its sand-bars and nesting Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, while its concentrations of enormous crocodile are comparable to the Katuma in Katavi.

It provides an eccentric mix of the familiar with the unusual. The most remarkable thing about Zakouma is the work of Africa Parks on the conservation front; it has been hauled back from basket-case status to that of a viable national park and those who will gain most from visiting (and be most welcomed) are those looking to be involved as serious donors with the project. Conservation and rarity value aside - it is worth taking a clear-eyed look at the safari experience in Zakouma and asking all but the most committed whether the additional cost is justified by the experience on offer. 

Natural High expert guide,  Rod Tether, is an accredited private guide for Zakouma and will be happy to discuss the options with you.

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Camp Nomade - tented simplicity in the heart of the wild

There are a couple of options of where to stay in Zakouma; Tinga Camp and Camp Nomade, however for all intents and purposes the latter is the only option on a pre-arranged safari.

This little tented camp is in the tradition of the best tented camps to be found elsewhere in Africa and the approach will be familiar to those who have visited such places as Chada in Katavi. Tents are simple, but well thought through - expect bucket showers and small but comfortable tents. The main mess area is beautifully decorated with colourful north african rugs and sits under a bedouin style canvas which provides shade and a breeze in the heat of the day. Camp Nomade only takes one group at a time so you can expect a highly personalised service, good food and ringside seats for the action on the Riguek Floodplain.

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When to visit Zakouma National Park

The best time to visit Zakouma in Chad is the the dry season between November and May. Zakouma is completely inundated in the rains so getting around is virtually impossible and it closed in all but name. The Park becomes progressively drier and hotter as the dry season goes on. Game is fairly dispersed in November and December and it's relatively cool. By January and February the outlying water dries up and the congregation of mammals and birds increases, but average temperatures remain tolerable at 25 to 30 degrees. The end of the season (March and April) sees the highest concentration of game, but with temperatures rising above 40°C with a chance of rain.

Sample trip

Chad: Exploring Zakouma's little visited wilderness


No other tourists, exotic Sahalian species, beautiful tented camp

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It’s a place few outsiders ever see, where lonely inselbergs emerge on the horizon like forbidden lands in a fairy tale; where bowing fig trees bloom in empty desert dust and where the air is filled with the thunderous din of pelicans taking flight. ”

- Financial Times

Heading to Zakouma feels like stepping off the map. What you'll find there is a mixture of familiar African species blended with a pleasing number of exotic ones

Much "classic" big game occurs here, from buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah and elephant to giraffe, roan, hartebeest and more. Some, such as Lelwel Hartebeest, Buffon's Kob, Kordofan Giraffe will be specific to the region, so many of will likely be new if you haven't ventured in to the Sahelian region before.

On a safari to Zakouma you're likely to see in the region of 35 species of large mammals, but as with any safari you won't see everything – such is the nature of the game. However, one of the many interesting things about Zakouma is how some species that occur in low densities elsewhere are remarkably common here, good examples of this are Roan and Honey-badger.

The Elephant of Zakouma almost exclusively live in one humongous super-herd, this is a mixed blessing in terms of sightings as if seen it is an awesome sight but it's worth being aware that unlike places like Lake Itsezhi-tezhi in Zambia's Kafue, they aren't an omni-present part of the horizon. The best and possibly only way to see the herd is from the air.

The bird life is both prolific and varied – a conservative estimate for a competent birder not fixating on finding new species would be at total of 125 species in a week – roughly a fifth of which would be new. The numbers of waterbirds are probably as much of a draw as the specials - aside from Flamingoes there is no other concentration like it in Africa.

While Zakouma is in places like other parks it has its own unique landscapes and the desert influenced culture of the people is more akin to North Africa than the East or South. Part of the attraction of visiting Chad is undoubtedly the fact that you are very unlikely to see any other tourists.

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Our experienced travellers include:

Andrea Hulme
Andrea Hulme
Alex Edwards
Alex Edwards
Rod Tether
Rod Tether

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