Our little team of three (that’s Roger, Pat and myself) is preparing for our next foray into Africa, and this is one of the toughies. I’ve been travelling in Africa for a long time, and Chad remains one of the hardest trips I’ve done. It’s a tough country in every respect. But it does have one thing, or place, that is extra special and worth the heat, dust and agonising travel arrangements to get to – Zakouma wetland and national park.
We’ll be hosted there by African Parks, in our opinion the champions of nature conservation on the continent. The organisation is funded largely by European donors, and what they do is go out and find the real basket cases of conservation, then virtually resurrect them from the dead. The places they are now custodians of include Garamba in the DRC, Liuwa Plains in Zambia, Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the other Congo (Brazzaville, or French Congo), and several others that are scant survivors of war, pestilence, poaching and general neglect.
Zakouma lies between the terrible Sahel and verdant Cameroon. If you flipped Africa upside down, it would mirror South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. Hardly anyone outside the place knows about it, which makes it all the more alluring for our ‘African Icons’ project. Our current issue is, just a short time before our departure, that if the rains come between now and then, the place becomes totally inundated and we have to call it off … or delay the book for several months till we can visit when it all dries up again. So we’re on standby.
For the record, the icons we are working hard to include are (more or less from south to north): Cape Town and Table Mountain, The San (Bushmen, or “first people”) of the Kalahari, Namib Desert, desert-adapted black rhinos in Namibia, Okavango Delta, Mozambique coast, Zanzibar archipelago, lions of Ruaha National Park, the Serengeti, Kilimanjaro and elephants of Amboseli, the “jungle” of Odzala, Zakouma in Chad, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, stone-hewn churches of Lalibela and the Bale Highlands of Ethiopia, the Atlas mountains and Marrakech*, The Nile, and Gabon (another little-known place).
Some might have to change, depending on the vagaries of travelling in Africa, and the course the crazy politics of this beautiful but often frustrating continent.
So our question to you is, if you were in charge of the project, what would be your top icons?
Which places or things (key species), do you think we have missed. Given that there are more than 50 World Heritage Sites in Africa, and innumerable great game areas, we are sure you’ll have plenty of good ideas.