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Ennedi, Ouadi-Rime & Zakouma National Park, Chad

Chad Megatour

£14,995 pp sharing

At a Glance

Dates: February 1st - February 23rd, 2024

Extension: No extensions currently available

Prices: £14,995 pp sharing (£500 single supplement)​, excluding international flights

In a sentence: Sensational and ultra-adventurous itinerary taking in Africa's most exciting destinations, from the deserts of Ennedi to the wetlands of Zakouma. 

Overview

Pictus Safaris are proud and delighted to be the operator offering the most complete wildlife-focussed itinerary visiting Chad today. Chad is a land brimming with sensational wildlife and is right at the very frontier of ecotourism on the continent. Be under no illusions, this is no tour for the faint-hearted, done in baking heat, with long drives and very basic accommodation. But for those willing to grin and bear it, the rewards are huge.

The tour starts in the vast Ennedi Massif, world-famous for its strikingly beautiful (and creatively named!) geological formations. Highlights include visits to the Aloba Arch, as well as the Elephant Arch and the Labyrinth, as well as visits to several ancient rock painting sites. The centrepiece of the reserve, though, are undoubtedly the 'gueltas', watering points used by local people to water their camels and donkeys - as rare area of greenery set against the sandstone backdrop, these are arguably some of the most beautiful sights in Africa. We visit Guelta di Bachikele and Guelta d'Archei during this tour. When it comes to wildlife, Ennedi is no 'game reserve', but it can offer great sightings. Our local team are able to offer short night drives, opening up the chance to view nocturnal wildlife including fennec fox, Rueppell's fox, desert hedgehog and even striped hyena. For the very lucky, glimpses of the elusive aoudad high on the cliffs above are never out of the question.

Unlike most other tours to Chad, this itinerary also stops in at Ouadi-Rime and the research base camp used by the wonderful Sahara Conservation Fund. This is a far cry from an ecotourism operation, but access to the camp and the researchers opens up the reserve to us. The highlights here are the extraordinary scimitar-horned oryx and addax that have been re-introduced here, rescuing them from extinction in the wild, as well as wild herds of the ultra-rare dama gazelle. By night, this is one of the best places in the world to spot caracal, wild cat and pale fox - fortunate visitors will also see honey badger and Libyan striped weasel.

Finally, we visit the inimitable Zakouma. What can we write about this park that hasn't already been written? It is the greatest savanna reserve on the continent today, regularly delivering sightings of serval, caracal, wild cat, striped hyena, pale fox, aardvark, plus the 'usual suspects' including lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant and giraffe. The masses of mammal life around Rigueik, including huge herds of buffalo and some of Africa's largest herds of elephants, plus waterfowl densities that are scarcely believable, all make Zakouma a wonderful place to end this tour before the long drive back to N'Djamena.

Itinerary

Day One

N'Djamena

On arrival into N'Djamena, you will be taken to a comfortable local hotel to rest before the trip ahead. Your passport will be taken by a Pictus Safaris representative to register with Chadian police - we understand surrendering you passport abroad can be alarming, but we assure you that your passport will be returned to you in good time. This evening, we will have dinner at our hotel. The food here is basic but passable, and if lucky we be able to tick off our first mammals of the trip if hippo can be seen in the nearby Chari River, or bats may be spotted above the hotel swimming pool.

Day Two

Ennedi

Today, our adventure begins in earnest! We return to the airport for our flight north-east across Chad to Fada - this flight in intself is incredibly scenic and hugely enjoyable. On arrival in Fada, we are met by our local team in our (rough and ready!) 4x4s, for a drive of around two hours deep into the Massif and our basic tented camp. On arrival, there will be a chance to settle in, before we chat through the agenda for the coming days over dinner. Our local team are still getting to grips with the expectations of ecotourists, and night drives - and even some diurnal activities - have to be negotiated and re-negotiated to ensure an enjoyable experience. For tonight, though, there is a chance to relax in camp under a stunning night's sky and look forward to an amazing odyssey to come.

Days Three to Six

Ennedi

The next four full days will be spent exploring the core area of the Ennedi Reserve. Days will begin at dawn, as we head out on drives to key sites, returning to camp as the heat of the day builds. We then head out again in the evening for a short drive, looping back to camp for dinner, before a relatively short (usually around ninety-minute) night drive. 

One of our first visits will be to the lovely Guelta di Bachikele, a watering point accessed through a narrow canyon. Here, camels are led through ankle-deep water against the deep-red backdrop of sandstone, making for sensational photos with permission from local people. Keep a keen eye out for chacma baboons and rock hyraxes high on the cliffs above. A real highlight is the hike to another guelta, the world-famous Guelta d'Archei where, each morning, dozens of camels are led to drink - a viewpoint from high above the water offers superb photographic opportunities. This is also the last refuge of the hyper-localised Saharan crocodile, perhaps the rarest of any creature we encounter on our safaris.

Also well worth a visit are the innumerable stunning rock formations close to camp. The Aloba Arch is particularly remarkable, famed for being one of the highest free-standing arches in the world. Other fan-favourites include the Table, the Elephant Arch and the Mushrooms, but perhaps most remarkable of all is the scale and diversity of the formations that remain nameless as we drive between areas. Many of these would merit their own national park in most countries, but here they simply blend into the background. Rock painting sites, including the 'big cow' and Manda Gueli, are also superb. Ennedi is awash with historic sites of great interest and importance, and the caves that are home to these paintings are often great spots to escape the oppressive heat!

When it comes to wildlife, the most commonly encountered species by day are Patas monkeys and, less often, fennec foxes resting outside their den. Recent re-introductions have seen addax and ostrich return to the park, and we often work with African Parks, who manage the park, to request access to spots where these species might be seen. Extremely rarely, visitors might spot the iconic and emblematic aoudad. By night, short drives can offer excellent sightings. Most commonly seen are pale fox and wild cat, with Rueppell's fox, fennec fox, gerbils, jerboas and even striped hyena often seen as well.

When not on drive, guests tend to relax in the shared communal area of camp and enjoying what basic amenities we can offer.

Day Seven

En route to Ouadi-Rime

A road-trip on a truly epic scale commences this morning, as we bid farewell to our tented camp on the long drive south. We leave behind the vast sandstone monoliths surprisingly quickly as they give way to arid scrubland. The roads here are little more than desert tracks, punctuated by occasional potholed attempts at bridges, and we tend to stop only for toilet breaks and lunch. Not long before sunset, we arrive at our campsite, comprised of small dome tents with stretcher beds and 'proper bedding', for dinner and some rest.

Day Eight

Ouadi-Rime

Another morning on the road, in addition to some time spent in town for a beer run, takes us west from any vestiges of cilivisation and the colossal faunal reserve of Ouadi-Rime. Dominating much of the interior of Chad, this vast area is home to the operational nerve centre of the Sahara Conservation Fund, a remarkable organisation that has worked tirelessly in recent years to restore Saharan wildlife to its native range.

Arriving at Oryx Base Camp by early afternoon, we will be met by the ever-friendly SCF team. There is no tourist infrastructure here, so we will stay in our rudimentary dome tents just outside the fenced compound. SCF do sometimes permit us access to their toilets/showers, charging facilities and even air-conditioned rooms, but this cannot be guaranteed in advance.

After an introduction to the work of SCF, an afternoon drive in closed 4x4 vehicles will focus on locating the populations of addax and scimitar-horned oryx near camp. These re-introduced populations of these startlingly beautiful antelope are monitored continuously by SCF, and sightings are near-guaranteed. We will also keep an eye out for the extremely rare dama gazelle, the largest of all gazelle species. Birding enthusiasts will no doubt be keeping a keen eye out for Arabian and Nubian bustards, as well as Sudan golden sparrow.

Night drives are hugely productive, subject to SCF permission, and we have often seen over a dozen wild cat and pale fox on each drive. Rarer species include Libyan striped weasel, caracal, striped hyena and honey badger, with a supporting cast of African wolf, jerboas and highly sought-after birds including golden nightjar.

Days Nine to Eleven

Ouadi-Rime

The next three full days are dedicated to exploring the vast open grasslands of Ouadi-Rime. With luck, SCF may grant us access to their flat-bed vehicles, which allow for unobstructed photography of the many species that call the reserve home. Otherwise, we will use our closed 4x4 vehicles, pausing often for the chance to view the stars of Ouadi-Rime, addax, scimitar-horned oryx and dama gazelle. Night drives, again subject to SCF permission, are some of the best in Africa - wild cat, pale fox, honey badger, striped hyena, caracal, Libyan striped weasel and crested porcupine are all possible, When not on drive, we spend most of our time sheltering from the impressive heat and learning more about the admirable conservation work done here.

Day Twelve

Mangalme

Our full day today is spent on the road, leaving Ouadi-Rime at the crack of dawn and heading east and then south to the town of Abeche. The roads are generally fairly good today, although it is undoubtedly a hot and long day today. We camp at our basic campsite near the town of Mangalme tonight.

Day Thirteen

Aboudeia

Today is almost spent on the road. We aim to reach the central town of Mongo before lunch, then moving on to the very poor road south to Aboudeia. Progress can be extremely slow on this section of our route, and we ask clients to be patient with us as we seek to get you to Aboudeia as promptly as possible. Look out for the first signs of wildlife as we get closer to Aboudeia - the localised red-fronted gazelle can be seen well here, as can Chacma baboon, tantalus monkey and secretary birds.

Day Fourteen

Zakouma National Park

Today, we complete our long journey to the incredible and inimitable Zakouma National Park. Depending on road conditions, this journey usually brings us to the unassuming entrance to Zakouma by early afternoon, though we aim to arrive earlier. Look out for our first huge swathes of waterfowl as we approach the park, including spur-winged goose and knob-billed duck.

Upon arriving at Tinga and completing entry formalities, we settle into our accommodation for the next seven nights. Around camp, we can expect to see our first savanna game proper of the trip, including Buffon's Kob, Bohor Reedbuck, Lelwel Hartebeest, Common Warthog and much more. 

On arrival at Tinga Camp, we will hold a briefing regarding safety, as well as the plan for the week ahead. After an opportunity to settle into your en-suite accommodation, dinner will be served in the main camp area. The food here is generally of a high standard, although not haute cuisine. Tinga Camp is more basic than the famous Camp Nomade but is in an excellent area for wildlife. Previous trips have encountered Leopard, Bush Elephant, Savanna Buffalo and Lion in camp, with the surrounding area regularly revealing Cheetah, Serval, Caracal and Pale Fox. The camp itself has a hide to which we are allowed access, and from which Bush Elephant and Kordofan Giraffe are regularly seen.

It will have been a long day, but for those keen to explore the area, a night drive will be offered in a private game viewer. Whilst we can never guarantee the wildlife will co-operate, night drives in this area often provide excellent sightings of Leopard, Serval, African Wild Cat, African Civet, Honey Badger, Caracal, Spotted Hyena and Pale Fox. Previous guests have seen 31 Serval in Zakouma during a ten-night stay, including young kittens.

Days Fifteen to Twenty

Zakouma National Park

Over the next six days, we are able to explore Zakouma National park in its entirety. Each day, we will have exclusive use of a private game viewer, with clients guaranteed a window seat for prime photographic opportunities. It is important to note that our movements are dependent on those of guests at Camp Nomade - these guests have exclusive access to the Rigueik area if they are in the area, so we will not be able to visit Rigueik at will. However, when these guests vacate this area, we will be able to traverse Rigueik freely.

Rigueik is an iconic area, home to an abudance of wildlife rarely seen in Africa. Vast herds of Tiang, Savanna Buffalo and Buffon's Kob dot the landscape, and it is here where sightings of the rare Kordofan Giraffe are most easily made. Lions are often seen here, as are Serval and African Wild Cat. The birdlife here is truly sensational, even for non-birders. Flocks of millions of Red-Billed Quelea descend on Rigueik to drink, sometimes in numbers sufficient to snap branches on the trees on which they perch. Black Crowned Cranes dance on the floodplains, as Spur-Winged Geese and White-Faced Whistling Duck wallow in the shallows. We hope to be able to visit this area 2-3 times during our stay.

We will also make a concerted effort to enjoy another highlight of Zakouma, the astonishingly large breeding herd of Bush Elephant for which the park is famed. Years of poaching pressure has led to this herd, sometimes up to c.550 animals strong, banding together for protection. Understandably, these Elephants can be shy but, if lucky, we may be able to catch a glimpse of them coming down to water to drink, an impressive sight - please note that this herd has fractured in recent seasons, and sightings of large groups are increasingly rare.

 

Zakouma is now also home to a small population of Black Rhino, following a re-introduction from South Africa. We will be sure to pay them a visit during our stay.

 

Each day we will have the option for a full-day game drive, or separate morning and evening game drives. We generally recommend the latter as temperatures soar here during the middle of the day. However, full-day game drives may be necessary to reach the populations of Bush Elephant and Black Rhino in the park. Each night we will also offer a night drive, aiming to catch some of Zakouma's nocturnal residents, with Serval, Caracal, Wild Cat, Pale Fox, Aardvark, Civet, Striped Hyena, Genet and more all seen regularly.

Day Twenty-One

Mongo

This morning we bid a sad farewell to Zakouma, as we return to Mongo by road.

Day Twenty-Two

N'Djamena

Today we complete our long journey, arriving back at our hotel in N'Djamena late this evening.

Day Twenty-Three

Tour End

Guests are transferred to the airport this morning, where this tour ends.

Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.

Dates and Prices

This tour will run in February 2024, aiming to take advantage of the end of the dry season when wildlife populations congregate around water sources. We will be running one tour in 2024, with the itinerary (N'Djamena to N'Djamena) running from February 1st to February 23rd.

The cost of this trip is £14,995 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals (except in N'Djamena), domestic flights, accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are not included, but water is. We regret that we must charge a single supplement of £500 per person for the entire trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £4,500 plus any single supplement must be paid.

Flights and Visas

Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. Please be sure to book flights leaving from N'Djamena no earlier than 14.00. If you wish to spend an additional night in N'Djamena at the end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost.

British nationals do require a visa to enter Chad. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Chad will be provided to you upon booking. The cost of a Chadian tourist visa for UK citizens is £130 - we recommend using a third-party visa provider such as Travcour, as visas will be issued by the nearest Chadian embassy, in Belgium. To acquire a tourist visa for Chad you will require a completed application form, a valid passport, a Yellow Fever certificate, a Letter of Invitation (provided by Pictus Safaris) and a copy of your itinerary and hotel reservations.

Please also note that you are required to register with Chadian police within 24 hours of arriving in Chad. A Pictus Safaris representative will assist you with this on arrival.

Weather and What to Bring

The weather in Chad in February is hot and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 36 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 18 degrees Celsius.

A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat. 

Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars, which can be exchanged in N'Djamena if necessary.

Safety and Security

We understand that for some potential visitors, the security situation in Chad is a concern. Pictus Safaris take the safety of clients extremely seriously and we are in constant communication with our ground operators to monitor the security situation in all of our destinations.

The security situation in Chad has greatly improved since the unrest of 2006 and 2008. N'Djamena and the main roads we use are protected by Chadian forces and incidents are very rare. Zakouma itself is heavily militarised by African Parks and is highly secure. As in all African countries, we recommend against photography in any urban area and to exercise sensible precautions when travelling.

All Pictus Safaris clients must have travel insurance to travel with us. As travel to Chad is advised against by national travel advisory bodies, most travel insurance policies will not be valid in Chad. We recommend High Risk Voyager insurance as it covers medial evacuation from remote areas.

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