Welcome to Birdquest
Tuesday 5th December —
Saturday 30th December 2017
Leader: Mark Beaman
Group Size Limit: 7
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and simple camping much of the time
THIS 'ONE-OFF' EXPEDITION IS NOW A GUARANTEED DEPARTURE!
Chad is a very little known birding destination (indeed there has never been a bird tour to the country!) but offers some great birds as well as some extraordinary scenery, especially in the north of the country, which is truly Saharan in nature. Travel around this often beautiful but remote and little-visited country is still a real adventure, but very rewarding.
Our prime targets will be a suite of special birds, some of which are Birdquest Lifers. These include the superb Nubian Bustard, Golden Nightjar, the lovely Black-breasted Barbet, African Dunn's Lark, Heuglin's Wheatear and Kordofan (Rufous) Sparrow. More localized specialities include Niam-Niam Parrot (only definitely recorded from the south-west; its listing for Zakouma National Park appears to be an error), Kordofan Lark and Rusty Bush Lark (both only known from the Abéché area in the east of Chad) and the nomadic Rufous-rumped Lark (which could turn up almost anywhere in the south at this time of year).
A superb supporting cast includes Scissor-tailed Kite (or African Swallow-tailed Kite), Beaudouin's Snake Eagle, Fox Kestrel, Clapperton's Francolin, Stone Partridge, Savile's Bustard, Arabian Bustard, the splendid Black Crowned Crane, the marvellous Egyptian Plover (a monotypic bird family), Cream-coloured Courser, Crowned Sandgrouse, Four-banded Sandgrouse, African Collared Dove, Pharaoh (or Desert) Eagle Owl, Blue-naped Mousebird, Abyssinian Roller, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Little Grey Woodpecker, Bar-tailed Lark, Desert Lark, Greater Hoopoe Lark, Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Blackstart, Brown-tailed Rock Chat, Black Scrub Robin, Rufous Scrub Robin (both Palearctic migrants and the resident form, minor, which may be split in the future), White-crowned Wheatear, River Prinia, Cricket Warbler, Fulvous Babbler, Sennar Penduline Tit, Pygmy Sunbird, Brown-necked Raven, Fan-tailed Raven, Chestnut-bellied Starling, Desert Sparrow, Trumpeter Finch, Sudan Golden Sparrow, Bush Petronia, Sahel Paradise Whydah and White-rumped Seedeater. There must also be a chance of encountering the strange Quail-Plover, a species that has sometimes been treated as a monotypic family, but which is currently included with the buttonquails. A good number of these specialities are restricted to the northern Sahel.
We will be visiting a variety of areas in Chad, including the remarkable Zakouma National Park, the Abéché area, the extraordinary Ennedi mountains and the huge Ouadi Rimé & Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve.
Zakouma National Park in southeastern Chad is an undiscovered gem, being the last great wildlife wilderness area in Western Africa. Here, a vast 'super-herd' of over 500 African (Savanna) Elephants still roams, as do huge herds of African Buffalo. The rich mammalian mega-fauna also includes Lions, Leopards and other predators, Roan Antelope, Tiang, Buffon's Kob, Lelwel Hartebeest and Kordofan Giraffe. Special birds here include Black-breasted Barbet and flocks of Black Crowned Cranes that sometimes number in the thousands!
The arid, partly hilly Abéché region should turn up Kordofan (Rufous) Sparrow and it is here we will be searching for the poorly-known Kordofan Lark and Rusty Bush Lark.
The huge Ouadi Rimé & Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve in eastern Chad (situated well to the west and northwest of Abéché) is the site of a major reintroduction programme for the Scimitar-horned Oryx organized by the Sahara Conservation Fund. This beautiful animal was rendered extinct in the wild by hunting by the 1980s. Ouadi Rimé & Ouadi Achim is a marvellous area, but is as yet barely under any protection. It holds some notable birds, including Nubian Bustard, Arabian Bustard, Scissor-tailed Kite, Clapperton's Francolin, Golden Nightjar, the African form of Dunn's Lark, Cricket Warbler and Sudan Golden Sparrow.
The Ennedi massif in northeastern Chad is one of the scenic marvels of the Sahara and includes the extraordinarily dramatic and unexpected Guelta d'Archei, where the last Nile Crocodiles in the Sahara still survive. Good birds here include Crowned Sandgrouse, Pharaoh Eagle-Owl, Bar-tailed Lark, Blackstart, Brown-tailed Rock Chat and Desert Sparrow. (If we have enough time, we will head deeper into the desert to the Ouinanga Lakes, a place of such unique beauty and such ecological significance that it is Chad's only UNESCO World Heritage site for the natural environment.)
In the southwest of Chad we will be looking for the restricted-range Niam-Niam Parrot (never seen on a birding trip of any kind, so far as we are aware), while the region northeast of N'Djamena holds Heuglin's Wheatear.
We will mostly be camping in simple style in the wilds (hotels are largely non-existent or just too basic away from the capital), with arrangements made by our very experienced local (Italian-Chadian) outfitters, who have taken overseas visitors to every corner of this amazing country.
We do not consider that there are real security concerns in the specific areas we will be visiting outside the N'Djamena area, which suffered several 'revenge' bomb attacks in 2015 by Boko Haram infiltrators from Nigeria. Their organization has suffered greatly from cross-border operations by the powerful Chad army. Risks elsewhere in the country, as mentioned, for example, in the UK Foreign Office travel advisory, appear to be purely hypothetical and have so far never materialised. A steady flow of foreign visitors are nowadays exploring Zakouma National Park, the Ennedi, Ouinanga and even the Tibesti. Note that conventional travel insurance will not cover you in Chad and you are advised to find a specialist provider if you wish to take out insurance.
Day 1 The expedition will start this morning at N'Djamena, from where we head off in our 4x4 vehicles for our great adventure.
Days 2-25 Exploring Chad. The itinerary will be flexible, to the extent that the amount of time in each area can be altered according to need, but we plan to visit all of the areas outlined above.
Day 26 The expedition ends this evening at N'Djamena.
Accommodations & Road Transport: There will be some nights in simple hotels/lodges, but otherwise we will be camping, with our local outfitters in charge. Road transport will be by 4x4 vehicles (SUVs) and roads are mostly poor.
Walking: The walking effort is easy for the most part, sometimes moderate.
Climate: Typically it will range from warm to hot, dry and sunny during the day, but it will be fairly cool or even (further north) distinctly cool from the evening to the early morning. Rain is very unlikely.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are good.
Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike most UK bird tour operators who are still showing prices based on hugely higher and very outdated pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assurred that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is a recovery by the Pound you will receive the full benefit of the cost-saving made by way of a price reduction at the time of invoicing.
Expedition Price: £5990, €7070, $7850 N'Djamena/N'Djamena.
Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Base prices for this tour are determined in Euros, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = €1.180 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in Euros, prices may be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a change in the exchange rate. See booking information.
Single Room/Tent Supplement: £375, €443, $492.
Deposit: £650, €850, $1000.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
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