Exploring Chad: An Extraordinary Adventure
GeoEx is breaking new ground this year with its highly anticipated Chad Explorer: Wildlife, Culture & Conservation journey. I caught up with our peripatetic safari savant, Starla Estrada, to get her behind-the-scenes perspective on this extraordinary trip.
Your excitement about this trip is palpable. What first inspired you to create this itinerary?
A few years ago, travelers could not get into Chad. Then, in 2010, African Parks began managing Zakouma National Park. Their conservation and protection efforts have resulted in a remarkable turnaround for the elephants and other wildlife in the park, which are now flourishing. African Parks has recently allowed a few private guides, and GeoEx, to have access to the park, so this is an exceptional opportunity. Recognizing that we must have community support and genuine interaction in order for wildlife conservation to succeed, I wanted to add something special to the trip, to even more deeply enhance the wilderness and wildlife conservation aspect. To that end, we asked the modern-day explorer Kingsley Holgate to join the GeoEx groups as a cultural liaison. A member of the Royal Geographical Society, Kingsley has spent more than three decades traveling through the remotest parts of Africa, meeting tribes across the continent, and he is a beloved and venerated figure.
What makes this journey so special?
First, exclusivity: Only a handful of private safari guides plus GeoEx have been granted access to the park for safari groups. Second, the experience and personality of our guides: I have already mentioned that our trips will be accompanied by the legendary Kingsley Holgate. In addition, we have enlisted Brad Hansen, one of the most sought-after professional safari guides in Africa, as our guide. Third, the extraordinary riches of the park itself: According to most experts, Zakouma has the largest herd of elephants on the continent; the park is also home to lions, red-fronted gazelles, Kordofan giraffes, and hundreds of bird species, among other wildlife.
For many travelers, Africa is a forbidding destination. Is it safe to travel in Chad now?
Yes, we monitor Africa very carefully for all our itineraries, and Zakouma is safe to visit.
How many journeys to Chad is GeoEx offering this year, and are spots still available on them?
For 2018, we have three small-group departures, each with a maximum of eight travelers; just a handful of spaces are left on these. Our 2019 departure is already sold out.
Do you have any other words for travelers who are contemplating taking this trip?
Take it now! While conditions are currently stable in Chad—and we very much hope this trend continues—we heartily encourage our travelers to take advantage of this window of opportunity for a Chad safari. And it’s hard to overstate the wonders of Zakouma. As our guide Brad Hansen has said, "Nowhere in the world can you find such a rich and unspoiled confluence of wildlife and culture. Simply put, travel here is absolutely exhilarating."
# # # # #
Starla Estrada is GeoEx's Managing Director for Africa and oversees a diverse roster of Africa trips (spanning 17 countries). She has been traveling in the region for more than 10 years and her deep connection to the continent and knowledge of Africa's varied topography, climate, and safari options make it second nature for her to arrange exceptional wildlife experiences and authentic cultural interactions for GeoEx travelers. To learn more about our Chad group trip, please visit our trip page or contact Starla at 888-570-7108.
Make sure to follow Starla on Instagram to keep up with her adventures across the globe!