Deux Balés National Park, Burkina Faso

Photo: I, Profberger [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Could your next African safari be in Burkina Faso? Roch Marc Christian Kaboré hopes so. He’s been the president of the West African nation since 2015. He’s spent the last three years trying to boost the economy and thwart terrorism. He’s determined to bolster democracy. He’s even trying to revise the constitution so that presidents can only be elected for two five-year terms and the judiciary is more independent. The referendum is scheduled for March 2019.

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country surrounded by six other countries. Mali to the north. Niger to the east. Benin to the southeast. Ghana and Togo to the south. The Ivory Coast to the southwest. There’s a lot of outside pressure. Burkina Faso was known as Upper Volta by its French colonizers. The small country gained its independence in 1960, but its name wasn’t changed until 1984 when one word from each of the country’s two major native languages was combined to create Burkina Faso. Though not a wealthy country, it’s one of the most stable places in the region.

So what’s on your Burkina Faso wish list? National parks. There are only four of them, but they’ve yet to be overrun by tourists. African buffalos, roan antelopes, hippos, and Nile crocodiles still rule the land. In 2001, the country was home to the largest number of African elephants in West Africa. Four hundred of them lived in Deux Balés National Park.

Deux Balés National Park lies in between Ouagadougou (the artsy capital) and Bobo-Dioulasso (the charming, second-largest city). The park’s first distinction, as a classified forest, was in 1937 when it was part of French West Africa. Its status was upgraded to a national park in 1967 after Upper Volta gained its independence. Poaching remained an issue, though.

So that, too, is changing. The process may be slow, but it could ultimately help the poor country like so many of the other proposed changes could. Deux Balés National Park’s land is already covered with Sudano-Zambezian savanna, ancient baobab trees, and rocky outcrops. Herds of elephants already cross the park’s dusty trails. Now it just needs a few lodges, a handful of expert guides, and some adventurous visitors. Eventually, the rest of us will catch on.

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