ZAKOUMA - An Inescapable Example of Hope
The true essence of Safari rotates around one single thing, the connection and re-connection we ignite with our old home, the Great Outdoors. This is the reason so many hundreds of thousands of people each year make the pilgrimage to Africa on Safari to immerse within the freedom and simplicity it offers in great open wild spaces.
So, it is VITAL then ...
... After spending a lot of time and money that your expectations are crushed, completely torn apart, thrown to the side and then redesigned, kindled, nurtured and metamorphosized into something beyond expectation. Camp selection, destination selection, timing and empathetic knowledge from people who are willing to design itineraries with precision to create unique non 'milk-run' experiences are the most important ingredients. Easily, Zakouma has it all!
Her conservation story is even more spectacular ...
Zakouma has become an incredible poster child for successful conservation across Africa thanks to the tireless, selfless team in Zakouma under African Parks. I find it truly hard to believe that a few short years ago, no-one had heard about this reserve in the heart of the forbidden Sahel. Today, the conservation-centric tourism model is thriving and all of the funds generated through Camp Nomade and donations goes straight back into the operations on the ground. Zakouma too straddles the pages of New York Times, Time Magazine, Conde Nast and Net Geo Travel all of which have featured images I have collected there over the years.
It truly is an inescapable example of Hope ...
And then there is Camp Nomade ...
The mobile camp is truly Chadian, a bold exoskeleton encased with so much warmth and colour. Perched on the edge of Rigeuk, an ancient floodplain with a name that over the recent years has deserved a reputation of something synonymous with the unthinkable accounts read in old African Safari journals, this camp adds to the melodrama by being open for a short 12-14 week season. It therefore is no surprise that access has become incredibly tight.
I have been fortunate to have traveled to Zakouma for the last 6 years, every time with a similar feeling of disbelief and a great sense of inspiration. There is nowhere else left on the continent to witness such abundance, not so much in number when in comparison to the East African mammalian migrations, but in the abundance of diversity.
In the face of the current global challenge, Its an honour to have spent one of the last 2020 safaris in a place like Zakouma. On the 16th March, my 30th birthday, we spent several hours on call, on whatsapp, on email readying the last and very hasty logistics to get out of the country. After an afternoon of continuous logistical challenge, booking 3 international flights and cancelling almost all before confirming the last, we managed to get out of Chad on what we learnt to be the last commercial flight before the travel bans took place. What a way to spend a safari, if not for the most relaxing, certainly for the most adventurous.
I look forward to returning next year for a fully booked Ennedi and Zakouma combination, a safari that without doubt offers a perception changing experience in 2 of the last truly wild places in Africa. Its no joke!
Until then, stay safe, rest well and make the most of this global reset.