Welcome to Zakouma National Park. Half of Africa’s Kordofan giraffe population lives here. Up to 1,000 orange-tinted buffalo make up a herd. Thousands of roan antelopes graze along the plains. The number of African elephants is increasing, not decreasing, for the first time in decades. While the western black rhino, last seen here in 1972, is being reintroduced to the park.
Chad receives very few visitors. The landlocked Central African country is known for its poverty, violent coups, and corruption. Its roads are poorly maintained. Hotels and restaurants are nonexistent. The heat is oppressive. While only extremely determined globetrotters have explored the rugged landscape. At least until Zakouma started making positive headlines.
Zakouma National Park was established in 1963. Chad’s first national park, which is surrounded by Bahr Salamat Faunal Reserve in the southern part of the country, sits where the Sahara desert meets the fertile rainforest. Shortly after the park was created, the country fell into a civil war. The park was neglected. Poachers, in search of elephants’ ivory tusks, ruled the land. While no one’s safety could be guaranteed. It took years for Chad and Zakouma to start to recover.
You know an African park is doing well when a luxury camp is created. Camp Nomade was first built in 2015 along the banks of the Salamat River. The tented camp is constructed during the dry season—usually in December—each year. When the rains return in April, the camp is taken apart. Despite its nomadic existence, Camp Nomade is comfortable. Very comfortable. Eight black mosquito-net boxes have 360-views and stretch canvas to provide shade. Each has a bathroom, featuring a bucket shower and hot water, enclosed by a grass fence. Plus there are brightly colored carpets and oversized pillows in the communal tent.
Land Cruisers are ready to whisk you off for morning, afternoon, and evening drives, as well. You’ll find sleeping West African lions, grunting Lelwel hartebeests, and thousands of water birds along the floodplains. Soon all five of the big five will be here, too. Chad finally has a success story.