CHAD PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS WITH WILD IMAGES
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 the 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 yoghurt, 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 and 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 northeastern 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 of 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 and back (apart from one night in a very simple guesthouse), we will stay in very 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 and taking down their tents. 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Spend time with the spectacular Wodaabe (Mbororo) Fulani people at their annual festival of love, the Gerewol Festival
- Watch the men prepare their faces with ochre and dress up for the festival
- Attend the colourful Yaake dances where Wodaabe men try to attract a wife
- Wander through the colourful markets of Dourbali
- Explore the incredibly beautiful Ennedi Plateau
- Visit the world’s tallest and most spectacular rock arch
- Discover ancient petroglyphs hidden deep inside the rock formations of the Ennedi
- Walk to a hidden lookout point and watch the traffic of camel herders inside the spectacular Guelta d’Archei
- Numerous opportunities to stop and photograph the otherworldly rock formations of the Ennedi
- View pretty Toubou villages nestled between the various massifs in the Ennedi
- Wander through remote oases that are home to baboons, birds and livestock
- Visit some of the relic tanks and other armoured vehicles that date from the war between Libya and Chad
- Day 1: Afternoon tour start at N'Djamena.
- Day 2: Drive to Dourbali. Overnight camping.
- Days 3-7: Gerewol Festrival. Overnights camping.
- Day 8: Return to N'Djamena.
- Day 9: Morning tour end.
- ENNEDI EXTENSION
- Days 1-2: Drive to the Ennedi Mountains. Overnights camping.
- Days 3-6: Exploring the spectacular Ennedi Mountains. Overnights camping.
- Day 7: Return to Abeche. Overnight at guesthouse.
- Day 8: Return to N'Djamena.
- Day 9: Morning tour end.
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Wild Images Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.
Our tour prices also include all tips for local guides, drivers, camp staff, accommodation/restaurant staff. Also included are payments to local people who are willing to be photographed.
Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.
TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)
The single supplement includes a single occupancy tent while camping.
This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.
CHAD PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
The Wild Images Chad photography expedition begins this afternoon at the Hotel La Résidence in N’Djamena, the capital city of Chad. Over a welcome dinner, we will enjoy getting to know the group and our leader will brief our guests about the expedition in more detail.
An airport transfer will be provided.
Important: It will be necessary to carry out police registration this afternoon and the finalization of our travel permits. If your chosen air travel arrangements involve arriving in N’Djamena after midday, you will need to arrive in N’Djamena the previous day so that there is time today to complete the formalities. We can arrange a second hotel night for you in N’Djamena on request.
The Wild mages Chad photography expedition begins this morning in the lobby of the Hotel La Résidence in N’Djamena. We will pack up our four-wheel-drive vehicles and drive from N’Djamena to the area around Dourbali in the Chari-Baguirmi region of the country.
As we leave the city fringes, rural Chad will unfold before our eyes and the landscape will change to the open grasslands dotted with patches of shrubs 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.
Over the following five full days, we will explore the area around Dourbali, visiting marketplaces and observing traditions that have been practised by the Wodaabe for centuries. In this rich region of Chad, the 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 travelled 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 on 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 those with the brightest smiles and most elaborate dances that generally win the most beautiful girls.
We will spend our time 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 are unrivalled in the people of the Sahel and these extraordinary 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 town.
After our last few hours around the Wodaabe people, we will drive back to N’Djamena in time for a farewell dinner at the Hotel La Residence to celebrate our amazing Gerewol experience. Overnight at the Hotel La Residence.
The Gerewol section of our tour ends this morning at N’Djamena. Airport transfers will be arranged.
We will set out early today for the first day of the long drive to the Ennedi Mountains. Overnight camping.
Today we reach the Ennedi Plateau at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. Along the way, we will stop in Kalaït, the last town before the vast region of the Ennedi begins, to stock up on supplies before we spend our first night of camping on the spectacular Ennedi Plateau.
Over the course of these four days, we will explore the incredible sandstone features, oases, tribal villages, ancient petroglyphs and war relics of the beautiful Ennedi Plateau.
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 will meet some of these nomadic people in their villages or as they bring their camels to water in the oases of the Ennedi.
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 whatsoever and the Ennedi becomes an otherworldly destination to explore.
During our stay in the region, we will explore the Aloba Arch, the Tokou Massif, the Bamena Massif, Bechikele and Bechike Gorge, Katchabi and the breathtaking Guelta d’Archei, the Ennedi’s most famous oasis.
Our exploration will utilize our 4×4 vehicle as we travel between the various regions of the Ennedi, where we will stop and take short walks to do photography.
To enjoy the best view of Guelta d’Archei, a more strenuous trek is involved. This relatively straightforward trek takes about 1.5 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, smoothly-eroded, red-ochre cliffs surrounding the oasis of Guelta d’Archei are stunningly 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 one or two of the last Saharan Nile Crocodiles if we are lucky. Guelta d’Archei is truly a breathtaking high point of any visit to the Ennedi.
Our camps in the Ennedi are not fixed. We will determine good places to camp and make the most of the photographic aspects in each area as we travel through this extraordinary region.
After a last sunrise and early morning in the Ennedi region, we will start on our return journey to N’Djamena. Today we will reach Abeche, where we overnight at a simple guesthouse.
We will arrive back at N’Djamena in time for a farewell dinner at the Hotel La Residence to celebrate our amazing journey through Chad. Overnight at the Hotel La Residence.
Our tour ends this morning at N’Djamena. Airport transfers will be arranged.
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