How has Zakouma in Chad become a 'sustainable travel' success story?


Safaris to Africa have just become even more exciting! As an experienced safari goer myself, who is always on the lookout for something new and interesting in Africa, I recently had the privilege of going on Safari to Chad which would offer the most amazing all encompassing safari for the more intrepid traveller, seeking the finest experience in exclusivity and private guiding in a pristine wilderness.

As the world starts to feel smaller, travellers are starting to push the envelope in a desire to get off the beaten track. I have found that even in Africa where I have lived and travelled extensively, this is becoming increasingly difficult to do as previously known remote areas have become completely accessible with ease – removing the mysticism and beauty and increasing tourist numbers.

Whilst in Chad I was introduced to a most worthy non-profit organisation called African Parks who were formed to help protect and rehabilitate some of the largest reserves in Africa and to spearhead the cause for sustainable tourism . In 2010 they become involved in Zakouma National Park in Chad, which now serves as one of their greatest success stories. This region is probably the last stronghold for wildlife in the Central African region.

Zakouma National Park is home to three thousand square miles of pristine wilderness supporting a wonderful array of wildlife. The elephants are being fiercely protected after a heavy bout of poaching up until 2009 and as the population gently increases, it is now possible to see here large herds of up to 500.

Since 2011 no elephants have been poached in the park and over Christmas 2013, 21 new elephant calves were seen, marking a turning point for Zakouma’s elephant population.  

One can also see enormous herds of buffalo up to a thousand strong.  They also have an excellent resident pride of lion, good numbers of the Kordofan giraffe, zebra, Defassa’s waterbuck, Lelwel’s hartebeest and the beautiful and fairly rare Roan antelope together with a wonderful array of birdlife (over 373 species recorded) – and if you time it right, as I fortunately did, you can see the beautiful and vividly marked carmine bee eaters which return to Zakouma in March. 

The joy too is that for regular safari goers, it will shake you out of your comfort zone as one is seeing entirely new species of antelope and giraffe not encountered on safari anywhere else in southern or East Africa. A safari here is reminiscent of Africa 100 years ago.  

Safaris are conducted by open vehicle and on foot, where you can learn so much more and feels at one with nature.  There is also a fabulous cultural aspect where you can see villages which are entirely untouched and unused to tourists. While you are there be sure to visit the vibrant cattle markets where jewellery and trinkets can also be found. Chad is relatively easily accessible from Paris or Addis Ababa and it made a wonderful combination with my visit to Ethiopia.

Safaris to Chad depart in February and March and can either be taken on a private basis (but you have to be prepared to pay for eight people as you take over the camp exclusively), or you can join a group of a maximum of eight guests – led by one of the top private guides in Africa.

The safari element lasts for a week, with three nights being spent in one camp, a night fly camping en-route and then a further three nights being spent further north in the Park.

Another fantastic option that is now available combines the Sahara desert with a safari to Chad at Ennedi. It’s a four hour flight where you land at a characterful Saharan village formed by houses made of banco, gathered around the old French colonial fort. The inhabited centre is situated in a verdant oasis with numerous date-palms.

Here you can discover beautiful tassilian sand formations, taking odd shapes of castles and cathedrals grazed by winding tongues of sand. The landscape is incredible. Lakes surrounded by palm-groves that spring up from the sand, rocky formations of multi coloured sandstone from white to red and golden dunes that descend to the water.

If you would like any further insights about my very special safari to Chad or share with you my experiences on other recent remote safaris to Zambia, Uganda, Ethiopia, the Congo, Sudan or the DRC, I would be very pleased to talk to you about them!