Last Word: Off the beaten track

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Which reserve is further away than the traditional Timbuktu? Is it Garamba, Zakouma or Odzala, or maybe Pendjari? Otch Otto tells us more about some of the most remote reserves on the African continent

When I consulted in the area earlier this year, I thought the most remote reserve was W National Park in Benin. But then I went to Zakouma for work. While there I brushed the growth of Siniaka Minia Wildlife Reserve and was carted off to Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve to understand the remoteness after
a visit to Aouk National Park.

I’m aware that I’m forcing you to research and read, and encourage Safari News readers to do so, as lovers of nature, bold bush travellers and those concerned with conservation. It is absolutely amazing to witness what is out there – relatively unseen and unexperienced. I serviced over 50 parks and reserves during my counter-poaching consultancy career. But allow me to present some inspiring material…

Zakouma National Park (Chad)

Having had access to Kruger National Park since grade three, being the chief of security in the early 1990s and the mission area manager for three years until 2016, I have had access to Kruger in all its glory.
I found Zakouma to be heaven, even after the magnificence of Kruger. The indescribable masses of game and birds, the seasonal explosion and the pristineness are humbling.

Aouk National Park (Chad)

This massive strip of Sahel, with its rich grazing that serves millions of nomadic cattle for a few months a year, was the prize hunting concession in Africa. It produced the two heaviest tuskers every year during the 1980s.

The brave initiative of the European Union and African Parks to recover this magnificence is remarkable, especially after a recent overflight confirmed that the base population required for recovery was absent. A google search will bring little or no insight into Aouk – and you thought Timbuktu was remote.

Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve (Chad)

The Ennedi Massif is a massive experience, the most humbling and the best to have on your bucket list after you’ve tried everything else. It is a place where you can hear your hair grow while being taken in by the art of God.

I never thought these features could have so much impact on someone who has practically owned every access road, day and night in the majestic Kruger Park. The Kruger is a quarter of the size of Ennedi – and Kruger is two million hectares!

The dire truth in conservation is that passionate funding (in the right place) is survival for these parks. Understandably, substantial donors seek to participate more and more in how funds are spent these days.
Lesser donors need not be insignificant or blind contributors. There are places that desperately need donations and allow you to see your results. Visit Pendjari, Zakouma, Ennedi, Chinko, Garamba, Karingani, or explore W, Aouk or Odzala. Experience remoteness and see how far a little bit of funding can go. Go and see the success in Akagera (Rwanda), Garamba (DRC) or Liwonde (Malawi) and find your pioneering space. All these places are long haul trips, which is why they are pristine and worth a visit.

You won’t queue for a wildebeest crossing, supper, or a photograph of a kill, or hear anything other than the chirp and flutter of millions of red-billed quelea streaming to the grasslands as the sun rises over the buffalo, geese, cranes and reedbuck in the floodplain.

And if you seek silence and isolation, try to capture a sighting of Barbary sheep on a precipice in the Ennedi Massif.

Read more from Otch Otto here

Written by Otch Otto

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