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2022 Chad Expedition

Key Information

Date: Monday, September 19, 2022
Duration: 18 days (9 days main tour plus 9 days extension)
Cost: provisional £2690, $3590, €2990, AUD4950. N’Djamena/N’Djamena. Ennedi Extension: £2910, $3890, €3240, AUD5360. N’Djamena/N’Djamena. Single Supplement: 2022: £150, $200, €160, AUD270. Ennedi Extension: £130, $180, €150, AUD240.
Places: 6

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HIGHLIGHTS

Camels are herded to the spectacular oasis of Guelta D’Archei to drink

CHAD

The vast and rarely-visited country of Chad is home to some of the Sahara’s most spectacular geography and tribal people. Completely landlocked, Chad lies at the very geographical centre of the African continent and is the 21st largest country in the world.

Roaming the entire country are tribes of Chadian people, including the Sara and Ngambaye people who are instantly recognisable by their elaborate facial scars, the Toubou nomads of the Ennedi region and the beautiful Wodaabe or Mbororo people, a statuesque sub-culture of the Fulani people, one of the largest nomadic tribes in the world.

The Wodaabe speak a dialect of Fulani language that has never been written down. They roam the desert expanses of the Sahel and Sahara with their large herds of Zebu cattle, following the rains, which bring much-needed grazing grasses to life in this remote, arid part of Africa. Groups of several dozen relatives, typically several brothers with their wives, children and elders, travel on foot, donkey or camel, and stay at each grazing spot for a few days. A large wooden bed is the most important possession of each family. The women also carry calabashes as a status symbol. These calabashes are passed down through the generations, and often provoke rivalry between women. The Wodaabe mostly live on milk and ground millet, as well as yogurt, sweet tea and occasionally the meat of a goat or sheep.

Each year at the end of the rainy season, these remarkable people meet in the grasslands of central Chad to hold the spectacular Gerewol Festival. The Wodaabe clans come together for the Gerewol, a festival of no fixed dates and indeed a celebration that, in Chad, lasts for a period of 5-6 weeks or more, centred around the month of September.

During the Gerewol, there are a series of barters over marriage and contests where each young man’s beauty and skills are judged by the young women. Here the young Wodaabe men, with elaborate make-up, feathers and other adornments, perform the Yaake dance, other dances and sing songs to impress marriageable women. The male beauty ideal of the Wodaabe stresses tallness, white eyes and teeth, so the men will often roll their eyes and show their teeth to emphasise these characteristics.

During this unique photography expedition to Chad we visit the Gerewol Festival and photograph its participants before venturing out to explore the remote Ennedi Plateau.

Over the course of the first seven days of the expedition, we will visit numerous festival events to photograph the participants of the festival, both in their camps as they wait for each event to happen and during the events. We may also be able to photograph the festival participants preparing their costumes and make up for these unique and spectacular celebrations.

Returning from the Gerewol Festival to N’Djamena, we will have a night to rest at a comfortable hotel before we travel to the remote Ennedi Plateau in the north-eastern part of Chad.

Assailed by the Sahara on all sides, the mesmerizingly beautiful landscapes of the Ennedi are characterised by sand dunes, rugged sandstone spires, pinnacles, caves, arches and pillars. The plateau rises to 1450m (about 4460ft) above sea level. It is so remote that the journey to reach it from N’Djamena takes three days.

Hidden among the many extraordinary rock formations is the world’s largest natural stone arch at Aloba (120m, or 393ft, high), some extremely elaborate rock art galleries, war relics from the long-ago Chad-Libya War and camps of the Toubou people, whose whimsical grass-roofed dwellings pierce the skies in a similar way to the pointed rock formations surrounding them.

During our exploration of the Ennedi, we will walk through hidden gorges in search of wildlife, drive over the dunes to various rock formations, photograph some of its petroglyph galleries and visit some of the tribal Toubou nomads that call the Ennedi home.

The high point of this part of the tour will be a visit to the spectacular oasis of Guelta d’Archei where nomadic camel herders bring huge numbers of camels to drink each day. Lying in one of the steepest gorges of the Ennedi, Guelta d’Archei is one of the most beautiful and dramatic geographical features in all Africa. From our camp we will take a walk to the upper reaches of the oasis in order to photograph it from above. Watching the sunlight up the sheer walls of the oasis and observing the traffic of camels in Guelta d’Archei is surely one of the most magnificent sights you can experience in the world.

After our five day exploration of the Ennedi we will head back to N’Djamena as our Saharan adventure draws to a close.

 

Accommodation & Road Transport

The hotel we use in N’Djamena is a good standard. In both the Dourbali and Ennedi regions, including the journey between N’Djamena and the Ennedi, we will stay in simple camps. There will be 2-man tents (but each person can have their own tent: couples may prefer to use one tent for luggage) and a dining table with chairs. All meals will be provided and cooked by our support staff. Washing facilities are a bowl of warm water, taken behind a tree or rock and toilet facilities are a lone walk into the wilds! Participants are expected to assist with erecting ands taking down their tent. This is very simple.

 The transport for the Chad expedition will be by 4×4 vehicles. Roads in Chad are only reasonable in the cities, the few tarred highways are usually dotted with potholes. For much of our journey we will be on dirt roads or tracks.

Accommodation in N’Djamena is very good. En route to the Ennedi Plateau we will stay at very basic guest houses, often with shared facilities.

In both the Dourbali and Ennedi regions we will be in very basic camps (2 man tents) with no running water or shower facilities. Toilets will be behind bushes or stones and our showers will be limited to a bucket of cold water during the day. All meals will be provided and cooked by our support staff.

WALKING

The walking effort during our Chad photography expedition is relatively easy almost throughout. The only more strenuous excursion is the walk to the viewpoint at Guelta d’Archei, which may take 1.5 hours in each direction. This walk is mostly on solid rock in the desert with only occasional light scrambling.

The Ennedi Plateau is home to many intricate and ancient rock petroglyphs

CLIMATE

Typically it will be warm to hot, dry and sunny (early mornings are sometimes cool) in the parts of Chad being visited. During the night in the Ennedi the temperatures can drop to below 10C.

PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT

This trip is mainly a combination of people and landscape photography. We will also be looking out for wildlife like Rock Hyraxes, Dorcas Gazelles, Olive Baboons and birds in the Ennedi.

For photography with the people of Chad we recommend a travel lens such as a 24-105mm on a DSLR or mirrorless camera, or a point and shoot camera, or even iphones and ipads. On occasion you may wish to use a telephoto lens of the order of 200-300mm.

For landscape and night photography we suggest you bring a wide angle lens plus a tripod.

If you use a DSLR or an equivalent mirror-less camera for wildlife photography on this trip you should aim to cover focal lengths of between 400-600mm, with or without converters. (If your budget does not run to prime lenses, a high quality 100-400mm or similar zoom with or without a 1.4x converter can be a great alternative.)

Alternatively, you can get wonderful results in Chad with a high quality digital bridge camera with an 18-20x or higher optical zoom.

If you have questions about what equipment you ought to bring, please contact our office.

ITINERARY

DAY 1

Our Chad expedition begins with the arrival of our guests in the capital of Chad, N’Djamena.

DAY 2

In the morning we will pack up our four wheel drive vehicles and drive from N’Djamena to the area around Dourbali in the Baguirmi Chari region of the country.

As we leave the city fringes, rural Chad will unfold before our eyes and the landscape will change to open grasslands where the Wodaabe people have settled with their livestock to celebrate the annual Gerewol festival.

It is here we will set up camp before going to meet the Wodaabe for the first time.

DAYS 3 to 5

Over the following three full days we will explore the Baguirmi region around Dourbali visiting market places and observing the traditions that have been practiced by the Wodaabe for centuries. In this rich region of Chad, the salted grazing grounds provide valuable nutrition for livestock. A higher than average salt content also aids in the treatment of parasites in cattle.

The Wodaabe settle here to organize important tribal gatherings, feasts and markets in the annual celebration of the Gerewol Festival. This important feast is important to the Wodaabe, many of whom have ridden huge distances to gather here.

This carefully planned event is complex and fascinating. At the top levels of organisation are the elders, who have lost their ability to sing and dance. Instead they are the ones who urge and advise younger participants in the ways to celebrate and attract a mate.

Wodaabe men use this important celebration to exchange news, make friends and have love affairs. Some of these affairs may lead to marriage but this is never an obligation. Participants are free to choose. Women may choose to spend a night with a man, or select a husband at the festival. For the men, it is the one with the brightest smile and most elaborate dance that generally wins the most beautiful girls.

We will spend five days camped amongst the Wodaabe people, joining them for spontaneous parties, watching them prepare for dances and learning about their cult of beauty which is a cornerstone of Wodaabe life. Their joyful creativity and knack for disguise is unrivalled in the people of the Sahel and these five days will allow us to be completely immersed in their nomadic world.

During our time in this incredible region we will also visit the lively, colourful local market in Dourbali

DAY 6

After our last few hours around the Wodaabe people, we will drive back to N’Djamena for an overnight stay.

DAYS 7 to 9

Today we start the three day, two night journey to reach Kalait from N’Djamena. The nature of the road driving and distances to cover in Chad means that we will need to spend two nights in Mongo and Abeche before we drive north towards the trading town of Kalait, the geographical last stop before the vast region of the Ennedi begins. We will stop in Kalait to stock up on supplies before we drive north to spend our first night in the spectacular Ennedi Plateau.

The beautiful adobe style villages of Saharan Chad

DAYS 10 to 13

Over the course of the next four days we will explore the incredible sandstone features, oases, tribal villages, ancient petroglyphs and war relics of the beautiful Ennedi Plateau.

Portrait of Tana, a Toubou girl in the Ennedi

This otherworldly region of Chad is home to the Toubou people who move through this area on the backs of their camels. If we are lucky we may meet some of these nomadic people in their villages or as they bring their camels to water in the oases of the Ennedi.

The incredible scene at Guelta D’Archei – one of the most spectacular locations in Africa, if not the world

The beauty of the Ennedi is difficult to express in words. If you tried to imagine a wild landscape dotted with sand dunes, jagged massifs, hidden rock arches and grottoes, you would be starting at the right point.   Now imagine such an incredible place with virtually no tourism and the Ennedi becomes an otherworldly destination to explore.

During our stay in the region we will explore the Aloba Arch (the world’s tallest rock arch), Tokou Massif, Bamena Massif, Bechikele and Bechike Gorge, Areminga, Katchabi and the breathtaking Guelta D’Archei, the Ennedi’s most famous oasis.

The Aloba Arch in the Ennedi is the tallest natural rock arch in the world

Most of our exploration will be by vehicle where we will stop and take short walks.

To enjoy the best view of Guelta D’Archei, a slightly more strenuous trek is involved. This relatively straightforward trek takes between 1 and 2 hours in each direction. At the end of it we are rewarded with a view that is perhaps one of the most extraordinary in all of Africa. The sheer cliffs surrounding the oasis of Guelta D’Archei are beautiful in the early morning and we will enjoy watching them change colour as the morning light illuminates different parts of the oasis with time. On the trek we may also see a variety of birds, rock hyraxes and even Nile Crocodiles if we are lucky. Guelta D’Archei is truly a breathtaking high point of any visit to the Ennedi.

DAYS 14 to 16

After a last sunrise in the Ennedi region we will start on our return journey to N’Djamena.

Silhouettes of camels at sunset in the Ennedi

DAY 17

Today we will arrive back in N’Djamena in the late afternoon, in time for a farewell dinner to celebrate our journey through Chad.

DAY 18

Depart N’Djamena. End of Tour.

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