Trip to Chad: Land of Nomads by Austerio Alonso
After years of travelling throughout Chad and after acquiring a deep knowledge of the country, we propose an exclusive itinerary designed by Austerio Alonso (expedition leader) in which we will focus on what for many travellers is the most fascinating aspect of the country next to the desert landscapes: the nomadic cultures. This trip, which we could call “author’s”, will also serve to document and gather information on the main transhumant groups and movements that roam the country.
Unlike the classic Ennedi and Ounianga journey, where rock formations, canyons and lakes remain totally static and a more or less reliable travel plan can be developed, this will be a living trip, subject to change and continuous search. As travellers will be aware, nomads live for and by their herds and may remain in totally inaccessible or untraceable areas during our journey. That is part of this unique journey, which will be a real expedition.
Nomadic cultures in Chad
We believe that there is no country in the world that can compare with Chad in terms of nomadic culture. Neither for the enormous diversity of ethnic groups that graze in Chad, nor for the number of livestock owned by these groups, nor for the enormous distances of transhumance that they undertake.
Most nomadic groups in Chad continue nomadism all year round and with the whole family. The lack of a state law obliging children to attend obligatory school makes this still possible in Chad. Only the Toubous groups (with the exception of the Kreda) and some Ouled Rachid Arabs are currently semi-nomadic and only the men and young men of the family herd.
Approaching these cultures will be fascinating for the traveller, a world that disappears and a great number of human stories with names and surnames will be presented before us. And with it, a world of conflicts with neighbouring nomads and farmers, always over the control of water and the right to use the land. Conflicts that spread all over Africa.
Highlights of the trip to Chad: Land of Nomads
- To learn more about the main nomadic cultures of the country: Boudoumas, Toubous, Fulani, Arabs, Zagawa…
- Explore Lake Chad and its basin. We will spend two days on the islands of Lake Chad with nomadic shepherds.
- Possible encounter with the “Last elephant herd of Lake Chad”.
- The route of the wells. Doza, Anakassa and Arab shepherds share the territory and the water.
- Caravan oasis on the edge of Ennedi, meeting point for Zagawa semi-nomads.
- Remnants of the Bir Kora war
- We will visit two of the best places in the Ennedi Massif (Guelta de Archei and Hubaike).
- One day safari in Zakouma
- Lake Iro, hippos, crocodiles, nomads and fishermen share a fascinating place. We will explore it
Nomads of Chad, Sahel, steppe, desert and savanna
On this trip through Chad we are going to try to find, visit and spend time with different nomadic groups that move around the country, often dividing up the territory. These are the different groups that we will try to locate and visit: Boudouma, Kredas, Doza, Anakassa, Zagawa, Gorane, Fulanis Yai-Yai or Weilas, Wodaabe and different Arab clans such as Ouled Rachid, Missirah and Salamat, the latter being the most traditional.
Lake Chad. Nomads Kreda, Boudouma and Fulanis
We will spend 4 days in Lake Chad and its basin. We will start our journey in the southern part of the lake where we will try to locate nomadic Kreda shepherds. These shepherds, with strong Islamic beliefs and almost always shy of contact with visitors, only graze with dark cows. They are also the only group belonging to the Toubou who continue to transhumance all year round and with the whole family.
In the central part of Lake Chad we will leave our 4×4 vehicles to continue by boat to the islands where we will spend two nights with Boudouma shepherds, originally from Lake Chad and herders of the endemic Kouri cows, which have their characteristic thick horns that allow them to swim in the waters of the lake, passing from island to island in search of better pastures.
Neither Kredas, Arabs nor Fulanis have a historical “right” to graze in the interior of Lake Chad. Only Boudoumas, Kanouri and Kanembous. In the East Lake Basin, we will go in search of Arab and Fulani groups and also the last great herd of Lake Chad elephants.
Route of the wells
The fast track from Moussouro to Kalait through the Chadian steppe passes a number of traditional wells. The different Doza, Anakassa and Arab nomadic groups share these wells. We will learn about the history and past conflicts of some of them.
The last salt caravans
Once a year, Zagawa and Gorane shepherds make a two to four-week trek from the east of Ennedi to the Demi and Ouadi Dum salt flats in search of natron. This salt will serve as a food supplement for their camels for a year. These caravans involve only the men of the family and male dromedaries, which are more resistant to the heavy loads of salt. We will spend two days in a small oasis village where these caravans stop to recharge their batteries. It is January, which together with December are the best months to be able to have these meetings, as the shepherds make this journey in winter, taking advantage of the absence of strong harmattan and the cold days. If we are lucky, we may be able to share a day’s walk with them.
Ennedi, the dream landscape and the famous Guelta of Archei
On this trip we could not miss the Guelta de Archei, with its permanent waters flowing between its vertical walls. Although it is not always easy to find camel drivers here, we will try to meet some Gorane shepherds and their camels.
In addition to the Guelta de Archei we will visit one or two spectacular sites on the Ennedi so that passengers who are not already visiting can get an idea of its marvellous rock formations.
Zakouma National Park
Just south of the Sahara, Zakouma stands as the most northerly of the great African national parks. With one of the last examples of the Sudanese-Sahelian ecosystem, Zakouma’s landscapes are unique, mixing open spaces with scrub, savannah woodland and wetlands. These wetlands attract a large number of birds, making the park a birding paradise. Giraffes, buffalo, elephants, reptiles, lions, antelopes and other mammals are also easy to spot.
Although Zakouma is not the Leit Motiv of the trip, we could not miss it, even if it was only for one day, during which we will do a couple of safaris. We will continue to Lake Iro, through Zakouma or via Am Timan.
Lake Iro, fishing communities in the Chadian hinterland
We travel through a Sudanese-Guinean region, a territory very rich in water. Several rivers flow through the Moyen-Chari region, with the Bahr Salamat River feeding Lake Iro. Lake Iro is a circular lake 13 kilometres in diameter, believed to have been formed by the impact of a meteorite.
Located in south-eastern Chad, just over 100 kilometres from the border with the Central African Republic, Lake Iro is home to several different communities, including the Goula, who have lived around it since time immemorial, fishing with spears and traps and then drying fish. More than 20 species of fish are recorded in Lake Iro. There are also crocodiles and hippos. Along the flooded areas of the lake there are many seasonal Arab nomadic camps. You can learn more about this part of Chad in this post.
Arab nomads in southern Chad
Nothing prepares the traveller for the breathtaking panorama of the vast seasonal Arab camps in southern Chad. Nor will the traveller ever forget the sight of old nomadic men, spears over their shoulders, leading the transhumance of Arab families. The women and children travel on beautiful, finely decorated platforms, perched on the humps of the camels. An incredible spectacle. We will try to spend two days with these nomadic families.
Wodaabe nomads in Chad
We will travel through southern Chad in search of the Wodaabe camps. We don’t know whether the Ndjapto or the Soudousoukaia will be more accessible, as at this time of year they are scattered throughout the south-central part of the country. We will get to know the interesting culture of the Wodaabe and also learn more about their origins.
Other Fulani nomadic groups
On our way back to Ndjamena or on our journey along Lake Chad, we may meet other Fulani groups such as Alidjan, Yai-Yai, Weilas, Kanoumoudji or Hontorbes. Each herds a different type of cattle and carries different tattoos and scarifications.