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Words from West Africa: Pendjari, The Other Safari

When people talk about African safari, 99.99% of the time they are talking about the parks in Kenya and Tanzania or the ones in South Africa and Namibia. The remaining 0.01% of the time, people are talking about the 3rd park – Pendjari National Park which spans across Burkina Faso, Benin, and Niger.

Our Expedition’s last stop was Pendjari National Park. We spent about 36 hours at the park, including couple of game drives. It is clear why Pendjari doesn’t get as much love as the parks in eastern and southern Africa:

  1. Lack of diversity. Pendjari doesn’t have very diverse wildlife, unlike the safari in Kenya and Tanzania. That is a big initial hurdle that Pendjari has to overcome.
  2. Park services are not well developed. While the accommodations inside the park were great, the guide was below par, as was the vehicle we were using. We were delayed by more than an hour for our sunrise drive because our vehicle would not start.
  3. Animals are really difficult to spot. We were able to easily see elephants, buffaloes, hippos, and antelopes. However, the cats were to be really hard to find. Our guide didn’t seem very knowledgeable about locating the different animals. We did hear a lion growl, but the guide seemed unsure which direction we should head.
  4. Lack of coordination. One of the cool features in East Africa is that the different safari vehicles would communicate with each other if they spot a rear animal. This kind of communication was missing in Pendjari. While I appreciate the desire to provide an adventure feel in trying to find animals, Pendjari does need to make it easier to find the wildlife.

Pendjari might never become as big as the Serengeti or the Kruger National Park, but it has the potential of being lot more engaging than it is today. If the administrators of the park can address some of the issues I mentioned above, I believe Pendjari will be part of most West Africa tourist itineraries.

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