Zakouma and a canoe
Anderson Expeditions specialist guide Mark McKenzie returned to Zakouma National Park in Chad and shared his experiences of the recent addition of a canoeing adventure…
“Zakouma’s wetland systems and the diversity and abundance around the pans have become legendary. Created by the seasonal flooding of the Salamat and its tributaries, the receding waters leave fertile silt to replenish the grassland and pan systems that hold water late into the dry season. Mammals and birds attracted to the water, the grass or the fish congregate in impressive numbers.
“Aaah, look at that!” someone generally exclaims when arriving at yet another classically Zakouma view. A magnificent species filled vista, a panorama literally teeming with wildlife, every species in their hundreds or thousands. This snapshot, this image which one encounters time and again in Zakouma, most often from the vehicle, occasionally on foot and daily from your tent, is a view so iconic and is so instantly recognisable to anyone who has been there before and stood and marvelled at it.
Of course there is the added bonus in the knowledge that by being at Zakouma you are part of the project, a piece in the African Parks strategy to continue to conserve and grow this important system. This is an adventure for conservationists, for those who are seeking experiences and places that are worthy of giving back to and supporting to ensure their ongoing existence and success.
If you get to visit Zakouma whilst there is still sufficient water in the rivers a canoe trip on the Dikere may turn out to be the highlight of your week.
The plan was simple and it worked; get into the boats, paddle along for an hour and a half marvelling at everything and then pull up to a convenient bank in time to prepare for the evening quelea show, drinks and cameras at hand!
Sliding the canoe into the Dikere River I took note that this was the only mode of transport I had not yet used to explore Zakouma. Flights, walks and drives are all fantastic but I found a new sense of wonder as we pushed into the languid waters and a thousand pelicans took to the air to mark the occasion.
What a fantastic river to explore from a canoe! The open grassy banks make for excellent unobscured wildlife viewing and there are sandbanks and shallows aplenty for the myriad of geese, duck, herons, storks and smaller waders. Clare, Julia and Haruyo all took up front positions in the boats, lenses pointing forward. There is no shortage of photographic subjects on the Dikere and we paddled past groups of Kordofan giraffe, buffalo herds and bohor reedbuck on the lawn-like banks. The birdlife is the real spectacle however and we were constantly accompanied by the swish and throb of heavy wingbeats as we disturbed flocks of spur-winged geese, pelicans, yellow-billed storks and black crowned cranes. Rounding a bend in the river a characteristic grunt alerted us to two lionesses. They had been spending their afternoon on the riverbank and had now been rudely interrupted. The first one gave us a piercing, yellow-eyed gaze before following her companion into the thickets, startled but somehow managing to maintain feline grace in every movement.
There didn’t seem to be enough space for us and all the fish in the water. I lost count of how many paddle strokes knocked something large and slippery and the surface of the water was literally moving with them. A huge catfish nearly started a water fight as Haruyo was convinced it was me splashing her with my paddle rather than the fish with its tail!
The convenient bank materialised, the drinks were there to meet us and the queleas arrived en masse to complete the show. The canoes are a fantastic addition to the Zakouma adventure.”