Zakouma National Park, Chad – Africa’s Northernmost Safari

For those seeking an adventure to one of the worlds most remote and unvisited countries, a unique destination that you aren’t supposed to visit, you need to check out Chad.

Where I hear you say?! Isn’t that just the name of an American actor, or soccer player? No, it’s a country in Africa that just happens to be one of the least-visited places in the world, this could be to do with it being surrounded by some of the most dangerous places including Libya, Nigeria and Central African Republic! Chad has never featured highly on many travellers must-see lists, but this is a shame as the country has been striving forward to drive out terrorism whilst attempting to modernise and encourage tourism.

N’Djamena wasn’t really worth visiting, it was difficult to walk around and take photos.
Bribes, bribes, bribes!

Chadian Facts

  • 21st biggest country in the world (496,000 square miles) and the largest landlocked in Africa
  • Chad ranks 186th of 188 countries in the Human Development Index highlighting how poor and corrupt the country is
  • In 2016, there was a grand total of only 75 flight arrivals in the whole year to N’Djamena – the only International airport in the country
  • In 2015, there were officially only 120,000 International arrivals, although most of these will have arrived only on business and because of this the tourist infrastructure in Chad is very much in its infancy
  • Lake Chad is Africa’s second largest wetland (although it is off-limits due to the security issues in the area)
Zakouma offered a wonderful array of animals, something I had not expected!

Zakouma National Park

After spending only one night in the capital city, N’Djamena, I sadly don’t recommend staying any longer as quite frankly there’s nothing there, and the promoted tourist sites just aren’t worth visiting. Thankfully though, Chad has more to see than its capital. Situated just south of the Sahara Desert but above the fertile rainforest regions, Zakouma National Park is promoting itself as a safe haven for Central and West African wildlife.

Why did I visit? Well, I’ve always wanted to do a safari and I thought by choosing the most unique was probably a good way to start my first one. Apprehensive doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt before arriving, after a gruelling 12 hour drive from N’Djamena, it was exhausting, dusty and dirty but when you arrive you’re welcomed by a surprisingly modern, yet traditional lodge with beautiful African decorations – just what the Dr ordered, oh and a Chadian beer!

Tinga Lodge, Zakouma National Park

You will be welcomed with open arms by the staff, from the incredibly knowledgable safari guide to the chef who will cook your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t expect 5* or what you’d typically receive on a Tanzanian/Kenyan safari but they make the best of what they have available, including producing many of their own vegetables on site in their own allotment (albeit gated to stop the animals eating the produce).

I absolutely love animals, just sitting back and watching them in their natural environment was incredible. If poachers would have had their way, elephants would have been wiped out by now in Chad. Thankfully for us, they are thriving and numbers are growing. This is one of Africa’s biggest conservation success stories and when I visited I was truly amazed by how many animals I actually saw and came close to.

Listening to other travellers, who were far better travelled than me (shocking I know!), they explained that it was different to other safari trips they had done. This included being far closer to the animals than in other destinations they’d travelled to.

For me personally, I will never ever forget watching a lion resting in the shade and avoiding the scorching sun, this might sound typical on a safari but when our driver started to reverse our jeep to turn it around and ended up heading, terrifyingly, towards the lion and being on the back seat I was thinking where do I escape?! Thankfully, the lion tentatively wandered off but not until I had stared deeply into its eyes and thinking will I be next, a memory that will stay with me forever.

Look into my eyes…
This was one of the most incredible experiences, watching this wild lion in its natural territory.

This was not the only lion encounter I had on my safari in Zakouma, I was incredibly lucky to witness a lioness with three cubs making the most of the early morning “cool” temperature getting a drink and lapping up the murky water. We sat there for an incredible thirty minutes, at first they were understandably nervous and weren’t sure whether to move but thankfully they hesitantly continued and we were able to watch the family as the intense African sun arose for another day of 45 degrees heat.

Lions, lions EVERYWHERE!

One of my favourite animals is the incredible elephant, I’ve had many encounters with these beautiful creatures throughout my journeys around the world but discovering that a wild one was wandering around outside your lodge brought home a mix of emotions; fear that it might charge, but excitement that I can finally see one up close without hordes of tourists trying to capture the best photo.

It’s just you and nature, at one in Zakouma.

After seeing far more wildlife than first anticipated, I highly recommend checking out this National Park in a remote part of Africa, make sure you purchase some of their merchandise as they need every little help that it can receive.

Make a mental note – never get in front of a horny elephant!!!

How to visit Chad?

A visit to Chad is not for the fainthearted, extreme doesn’t even begin to describe it but the unique experiences will outweigh any initial fears. Randomly, it’s quite expensive to visit including getting there and also during, this is highly likely to be because many things have to be imported but also due to the lack of tourists. Predominately the only people who visit are there on business, therefore this has increased the price of hotels and tour agencies.

Before I got my Chadian Visa I’d read that it was deemed one of the world’s most difficult to obtain visas, I actually found the process all rather easy. Sadly there’s no embassy/consulate in the U.K and therefore your only option is to hop on a train/plane to Paris or Brussels. The visa price is currently €70 and you must have confirmation of your yellow fever vaccination and an invitation letter from the agency you’re travelling with.

Although Chad will never be one of the top visited countries in the world, this adds to its charm.

Goodnight Africa, you are truly spectacular.

Further Information?

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

All images copyrighted, if you wish to use any images produced in this blog article please contact me.

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