A conservation adventure in Chad

Unexplored Africa

Chad is a vast nation in the heart of northern Africa. The landscape transitions from tropical savanna in the south, across the Sahel into the endless sands of the Sahara, with the fluctuating waters of Lake Chad in its centre. About as far from the ocean or sea as it is possible to be on the continent, it is remarkably unexplored and the perfect setting for a Cookson adventure.

On this unique trip, covering the Ennedi Plateau, Tibesti Mountains and Zakouma National Park, you will overcome vast distances and nonexistent infrastructure by exploring with helicopters, light aircraft and stays in private expedition camps.

Helicopter borne expedition – Travelling in northern Chad by overland by 4×4 or camel is arduous, making huge swathes of the country off-limits to all but the most hardened adventurers and nomads with generations of experience. Helicopters are the best and most exciting way to explore, so for this adventure we’ve partnered with East Africa’s most respected operator who have 25 years of experience across the region with seasoned pilots and a state-of-the-art fleet of Airbus aircraft.

Canyons & arches – The Ennedi Massif (known as the Eden of the Sahara) is a natural sandstone masterpiece spanning 60,000 km2 of sculpted desert – huge rock archways, surreal pillars, cracked massifs and deep canyons. Get a privileged aerial view of this part Dali, part Martian landscape, flying through its most spectacular valleys and landing in shaded gorges home to a surprising amount of life.

Gueltas, crocodiles & lush oases – In a seemingly inhospitable wilderness, snaking canyons shade rare sources of freshwater known as guelta. At Guelta d’Archei, nomads bring their camels to drink, braving the West African crocodiles that cling on in the desert, isolated remnants from a time when the Sahara was much wetter. Join African Parks on their pioneering program to safeguard these ancient survivors and their precious water. Palm-encircled oases are welcome respite from the heat and great spots for a refreshing swim.

Discover ancient artwork – The incredible rock formations are just part of the reason why the Ennedi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it is also littered with rock art and intricate engravings dating back between 8,000 and 12,000 years. They depict a time when the region was far more hospitable and home to African wildlife now only seen further south, as well as figurative art of the pastoralists and hunters who once lived here.

Soar over Saharan volcanos – The Tibesti Mountains sit at the extreme north of Chad, dominated by five crater-topped shield volcanoes. Emi Koussi is the highest peak of the Sahara at 3,415m, with a 15km wide caldera said to be one of the most recognisable landmarks on the earth by astronauts.

Stay in private tented camps – Throughout the adventure, stay in private camps set up just for you under the shade of oasis palm groves or in cool canyons. In Zakouma National Park, stay at one of the most exclusive camps in Africa. Set up for just a few days at a time in the best game viewing spots, it is romantically simple and inspired by the nomadic tents of the Sahel.

Inspirational conservation in Zakouma – We have partnered with African Parks for this adventure, allowing unrivalled access to their inspirational conservation work in both Ennedi and Zakouma which the NGO manages in partnership with Chad’s government. Zakouma, after a decade of heavy poaching, was close to losing all its elephants having once been the setting for herds numbering in the thousands. In the decade since African Parks took over, only a handful of elephants have been poached and numbers have bounced back. Meet the rangers and the ‘Mambas’ anti-poaching teams who protect the park and learn about the community outreach work that has seen the local population invest in Zakouma’s future.

Northern Savanna safari – Zakouma is a precious ecosystem and rare northern outpost for savannah wildlife that few people get to see. As well as elephants, the park is home to buffalo, lion and leopard; black rhino were recently reintroduced making it a genuine ‘Big Five’ park. Other specialities include Kordofan giraffe, Lelwel hartebeest and roan antelope, which you can see on game drives and walking safaris. Birding is also prolific, with Zakouma’s waters a major pitstop before or after their strenuous Saharan migrations and some 250 species recorded within its boundaries.

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