Zakouma National Park
Safari’s Holy Grail
By Michael Lorentz
Guests often ask me what my favorite destination in Africa is. A hard question to answer, considering the vast array of extraordinary experiences the continent has to offer. However, over the last five years, one place has captured my heart more than any other – Zakouma National Park in Chad.
When I first heard of Zakouma in 2007, spectacular as it sounded, it seemed like a place that “was” and sadly had no hope of being on any African traveler’s realistic agenda. The regional conflict and a seemingly unstoppable wave of elephant poaching were overwhelming. Then came African Parks (AP) who took over the park in 2010 and have subsequently done an extraordinary job of stemming the tide of poaching, and carving out a real future for this little-known corner of Africa.
AP is a non-profit organization that takes on direct responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks and protected areas in partnership with governments and local communities. Leveraging protected areas for tourism and other industries means that, over time, a conservation-led economy can be established where previously there was almost no economic activity.
AP now manages a combined area of over six million hectares across some of the most challenging countries in Africa and both the US Government and European Commission have held it up as the benchmark of protected area management success in Africa.
I have the highest regard for AP and consider them to be one of the most effective conservation organizations operating on the continent today. As Royal African Safaris we are privileged to have an increasingly close relationship with AP and are partnering with them on a number of projects that innovatively combine travel, conservation, and philanthropy.
The success story that has turned Zakouma from a place of despair to one of hope is arguably one of the most significant recent conservation achievements in Africa. When I first traveled there, my impression was that it was “like going on safari 30 years ago” and this inspired me to work closely with AP in developing a tourism product that is truly unique.
Camp Nomade is stylishly simple, with everything you need and nothing you don’t, and offers a truly authentic and intimate safari experience. Hosting a maximum of 8 guests on only 16 safaris a year, this is fast becoming the “must go to” place for the safari cognoscenti. Zakouma delivers the freedom to explore in ways that very few parks can in today’s increasingly regulated Africa. Using the camp as a base, we explore remote pans and corners of the Salamat River, often sleeping in the perfect fly camp – essentially just a mosquito net under the stars.
Zakouma is a place of real abundance, and it is perhaps this that makes it so remarkable. Flocks of 5,000 plus black crowned cranes; swarms of ten million Red-billed Quelea; waterfowl too numerous to count and plains teeming with wildlife, much of it unusual. Large herds of orange-tinted buffalo fringe the pans, Kordofan giraffe, roan antelope, tiang and hosts of other species speckle the plains. Lion are numerous and represent the single largest population of the highly endangered West African subspecies.
This is what safari Africa is meant to be.
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