– Zakouma: Where the Unbridled Spirit of Wild Africa Prevails –

The word is out. Chad’s Zakouma National Park has breached the hallowed halls of Africa’s safari icons. The natural wealth of this undiluted wilderness, a proclaimed reserve for more than 50 years, has long been under siege. It is only now, under the custodianship of African Parks that the full potential of this extraordinary area is being realized. The ‘impossible’ abundance and variety of mammals and birds has set the safari world alight.

Yes there is heat. Yes there is dust. But the rewards are immeasurable. This is a destination for those passionate about Africa, her wild spaces and her wild spectacles.

A Sanctuary of Sanctuaries

Only an aerial view can do justice to Zakouma’s vast spread and multi-faceted environs. The striking granite outcrops of the south-west rise above the predominantly flat terrain that follows the shallow contours of the underlying Chad Basin. Two diverse vegetation zones merge in a mix of grasslands and woodlands. In the east, seasonal rivers birth pockets of gallery forest, alongside the life-sustaining pans, pools, marshes and fertile floodplains of the dry season. All in all, a protected haven for the rich biodiversity of West and Central African wildlife.

A Safari Extravaganza

The prolonged deluge of rain in the wet season transforms the Park into a vast body of water that prompts an outward migration by many species. The dry season sees their return en masse to join the mesmerizing throngs of flocks and herds congregated around water sources and rich feeding grounds. With the re-introduction of the black rhino in 2016, this will once again be a Big 5 safari destination. The viewing season is short: late December to early April. Camp Nomade hosts just 14 private groups each season.

A Mandate to Conserve

The non-profit organization of African Parks is synonymous with transformational protected area management. Time and again, their proven methods have stabilized and restored African eco-systems on the brink of collapse. Long term partnerships with local governments and communities, together with their direct involvement in every aspect of the National Park’s management, are integral to their approach. In 2010, African Parks was contracted by the Chadian government to manage Zakouma National Park. Another conservation success story is being written.

A Second Chance

In 2006, the Central African elephant population of Zakouma tallied a magnificent 4000. When African Parks took over management, just 454 remained. There were no younger elephants – they had stopped breeding. Their conditioned response to relentless stress was to gather together in a close and desperately vulnerable group. This behaviour can still be observed.

A set of stringent protective measures is now in place to monitor the elephants both within and outside the Park when they migrate in the wet season. These include patrols of highly skilled, U.S. Marine-trained rangers; extensive aerial patrols bolstered by 12 airstrips at key points throughout the park together with an all-weather airstrip adjacent to the Park; horse patrols for swift, close-contact response; round the clock monitoring of the tracking collars fitted to several elephants.

The elephant population of Zakouma has stabilized, and has begun to breed again.

Quick Facts

Population: 12.83 million

Area: 1,284,000 km²

Preferred Properties: 1

There are certain archetypal images that have immediate association with Africa’s safari “Greats”.

Those linked to Zakouma National Park highlight two defining aspects of this reserve:

  • Zakouma’s astounding wildlife abundance
  • Numerous conservation-threatened species

In these protected surrounds, the numbers of Zakouma elephants is at last on the rise; orange-toned Central African buffalo mass in staggering numbers.

The sheer scale and dynamism of Zakouma’s birding spectacles rival those to be found anywhere else in Africa.

In these images, a Mexican-wave of queleas spark a feeding frenzy while a gregarious, multitude of ducks arrive at dawn; a flock of black-crowned cranes, earmarked as an avian conservation priority, grace the sunset-sky; catch the sapphire-sparkle of an Abyssinian roller; follow the Egyptian plover’s clockwork gait along the sandbanks which are also home to red showers of Northern carmine bee-eaters. Did we mention the wish list of rarities?

Local communities are essentially nomadic pastoralists of Arabic descent. While some tribes have settled into a sedentary lifestyle, the Baggara (livestock herders) continue to travel, returning to the area during the dry season.

This transient lifestyle is reflected in the their temporary camp structures of poles and grass. The weekly Kach-Kacha traditional market showcases local produce and crafts, including much-prized items such as the binding additive gum-arabic and salt; the livestock division is a men-only domain. Community initiatives are pivotal to the success of the Park.

The essence of nomadic life is captured in this luxury-to-go expedition camp positioned in a prime-viewing locality.

Fly camping is a further option should you wish to experience a range of sites. Private groups of between 6 and 10 people will have the exclusive use of the camp for a full week. Secluded tents, with netted sides, offer views from every angle, adjoined by thatch-walled bathrooms open to a canopy of sky. The communal mess tent, where all meals are served, is an airy shaded space of soft rugs and an assortment of inviting cushions.