Get Out of your Comfort Zone in Chad
Chad is not one for the faint hearted. This central African country is rife with terrorism and violence, putting a block on visiting many areas. Travel is tough, with broken roads, few decent hotels, bureaucracy and corruption, inflated travel costs and security issues. But… what an adventure?? A visit to Chad will throw any intrepid traveller way out of their comfort zone and will be sure to provide many memories and entertaining stories.
The best city: N’djamena
The capital is growing fast due to war and strife in the countryside. Within a decade the city is expected to be the home of two million people. Despite this, the city still feels more like a village with mud houses galore, and farmers working on the banks of the Chari River.
At night N’djamena comes alive, with the sound of some of Central Africa’s most vibrant bars. There are some top class hotels, restaurants, including foreign food, musical venues and local dancers. Visit the Chari River, the Grande Mosquee, the Grand Marche, and the cathedral and National Museum.
The best National Park: Zakouma
Civil war-torn and a depleted animal population due to poaching, Zakouma National Park was in trouble in the 1980s. In 1989 the EU funded €20 million to manage the park, and the animal population has been steadily increasing ever since.
Now visitors can see herds of buffalo, roan antelope and Lelwel’s hartebeest. Cheetah, leopard and spotted hyena, and 50% of Africa’s Kordofan giraffe call the park home. The elephant population was in decline until 2009, when increased efforts stabilised the numbers. 373 species of bird may be spotted here. Come in March or April.
The best lakeside town: Bol
Lake Chad used to be one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, but it is now drying up. Its disappearance is creating conflicts between fishermen and farmers.
Part of the lake reaches the town of Bol, year round. Bol is relatively prosperous, as it trades with Nigeria. Hire a boat at the port and get out on the lake between November and February to see floating islands, huge numbers of bird and some hippos.
The best scenery: Ennedi
The Ennedi desert is a strange and surreal landscape. Go and see prehistoric cave paintings, slot canyons, desert lakes and bizarre rock formations. Once upon a time Lake Chad stretched out here, so underwater sea arches, now surrounded by sand dunes, still can be seen.
Wildlife abounds here too, the Nile crocodile still calls the area home, as did the last ever Saharan Lion. About 25 miles east you will find the Lakes of Ounianga, the blue contrasting sharply with the surrounding desert.
The best for history: Abeche
The city of Aeche, in the East of Chad bordering Sudan, was once the capital of the Ouaddai Kingdom. It was once one of the strongholds of the Arabic slave trade route, and is known today from its Tata Fortress, mosques, church, main square, and the Sultan’s Palace.
The area is well known for its leather artisan shops and markets. Be prepared though: it is the hottest city in Chad, with 336 days a year above 32 degrees Celsius.