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.