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Zakouma National Park, Chad

The Greatest Show on Earth

£3,195 pp sharing

At a Glance

Dates: March 11th - March 22nd, 2024

Extension: No extensions currently available

Prices: £3,195 pp sharing (£450 single supplement)​, excluding international flights

In a sentence: Quite simply the finest savanna destination in Africa, there is nowhere quite like Zakouma, and this itinerary access the park by road, foregoing expensive charter flights.

Overview

Chad is arguably home to the most exciting safari destinations in Africa. With much of the country covered in inhospitable desert, isolated oases attract incredible densities of wildlife. In the north, Ennedi and the Ouadi-Rime Faunal Reserve are home to a number of rare desert species including Dama Gazelle and Scimitar-Horned Oryx.  

Pictus Safaris is proud to offer an itinerary visiting the spectacular Zakouma National Park in south-eastern Chad. Ravaged by instability for decades, this park has now emerged as one of the greatest safari destinations on the continent. In recent years, visits to Zakouma have been limited to the wealthiest of safari enthusiasts. However, we are excited to offer a six-night visit to Zakouma at a far more affordable price point, opening up this incredible destination to a new group of safari-goers.

Zakouma National Park needs to be seen to be believed. The iconic Rigueik Pan attracts wildlife densities unparalleled elsewhere in Central Africa, including vast herds of Tiang, Savanna Buffalo, Lelwel Hartebeest and Buffon's Kob. The predator population in the park is also remarkable, and increasing under the careful management of African Parks. Lion, Leopard and Cheetah are all seen regularly in the park, and African Wild Dogs are known to use the area as a corridor. Lengthy night drives reveal the astonishing diversity of nightlife in Zakouma - it is not uncommon to see more than a dozen Serval per visit, as well as Caracal, African Wild Cat, African Civet, Honey Badger and Pale Fox. The park is now also a Big Five reserve, with its huge resident herd of Bush Elephant and a small population of Black Rhino adding to Zakouma's spectacle. Perhaps most special of all is the birdlife, both in terms of volume and splendour. Red-Billed Quelea flock to the Rigueik area in their millions, in turn attracting hundreds of Yellow-Billed Kites. The plains are dotted with vast numbers of Black Crowned Cranes and the concentration of waders here is exceptional.


In short, Zakouma has something to offer even the most hardened safari enthusiast - we can't wait to take you there!  

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

Mongo

Today, our adventure begins in earnest! The vast majority of itineraries, including many of ours, opt to fly the long distance east across Chad to avoid this long and uncomfortable journey, but there is certainly something to be said for experiencing Chad in all its glory by crossing the country by road. Our route takes us out of the capital on fair roads, initially through extremely arid scrubland towards the inselbergs that mark Chad's interior. The name of the game today is progress, and we hope to reach the town of Mongo by nightfall, so that we can camp just beyond the town tonight. We are wild camping with very basic equipment, and guests should be prepared for an uncomfortable night after a long day on the road.

Day Three

Zakouma National Park

Today, we complete our long journey to the incredible and inimitable Zakouma National Park. Depending on road conditions (often extremely poor between Mongo and Aboudeia), this journey can take a full day, though we aim to arrive by mid-afternoon. Look out for our first wildlife as we approach the park, including impressive densities of waterfowl, as well as red-fronted gazelle and olive baboons.

Upon arriving at Zakouma and completing entry formalities, we will transfer to Tinga Camp, our accommodation for the next seven nights. En route to camp, we can expect to see our first 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 Four to Nine

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 Ten

Mongo

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

Day Eleven

N'Djamena

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

Day Twelve

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 March 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 March 11th to March 22nd.

The cost of this trip is £3,195 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 £450 per person for the entire trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £1,000 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 March is hot and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 22 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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