Waza National Park
Waza National Park and U.N. Biosphere Reserve is one of Cameroon’s finest and most accessible— 656 square miles (1,700 km2) of acacia forest and open yaéré savannah in the Chad Depression (once covered by Lake Chad), known for enormous numbers of elephants and lions. Ostriches run across the plain at 30 miles per hour (50 kph), reaching 45 miles per hour (70 kph) for short sprints. Arabian bustards stride along at more moderate speeds, flying only if they have to.
Scissor-tailed kites whistle and hover over grasslands, dropping straight down on small rodents. Hippos snooze in waterways. Herons and storks fish at the edges. Exquisite Abyssinian rollers snatch grasshoppers in midair. Hornbills pluck ripe fruit.
Elephants may congregate in the hundreds at Mare aux Éléphants, famous watering hole. Others come for a drink, too—giraffes, hartebeest, tsessebes, lyre-horned kob antelopes, olive baboons, patas and vervet monkeys, warthogs, leopards, cheetahs, even a few shy, burrowing, nocturnal aardvarks, seen mostly by their footprints.
Best times are March–May, hottest but that’s when animals are visible coming to water, also masses of waterbirds. Park entrance is on the northwestern edge, not far from village of Waza, where guides (compulsory) are available. Park is open November–June (this changes, check ahead).
Water can be a major problem, especially since construction of the Maga Dam 15.5 miles (25 km) to the south and irrigation dykes along the Logone River, which have reduced grasslands and in some places collapsed fisheries. A Waza Logone Floodplain Restoration Program has been created to address this. There’s also poaching, particularly from Nigeria and Chad.
Waza is just off the paved road to Chad, 75 miles (122 km) north of Maroua. A variety of lodging is available and guided trips can be arranged both at Maroua and, nearer the park, the village of Waza, which has camping as well.
ALSO OF INTEREST
Bénoué National Park and Biosphere Reserve in the Guinea savannah belt and Bouba Ndjida National Park to the east, are large reserves in the Guinea savannah belt about 93 miles (150km) north of Ngaondéré with good cross-section of the country’s outstanding wildlife, including magnificent giant elands. Also Faro National Park, to the west, 1,287 square miles/(3,300 km2) acres (330,000 ha) with threatened cheetahs, black rhinoceros and elephants, known for its hippo colonies.
Banyang Mbo Forest Reserve ,148 square miles (385 km2), east of Ejaghem, coastal Biafran forest with forest elephants, buffalo, red-eared guenons, tusked water chevrotains (tiny, deerlike, most primitive living ruminants) and armored giant pangolins. Rich faunal list includes 325 bird species, 63 reptiles, 71 amphibians (perhaps densest and most diverse frog population in the world), 33 large mammals.
Lobéké National Park is newly designated, more than 770 square miles (2,000 km2) bounded on three sides by the Lobéké, Longue, Sangha, and Djombe Rivers, with rich faunal species including high densities of forest elephants, western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, bongos, but seriously threatened by poaching, unsustainable logging in immediate vicinity by international timber companies. Contiguous with NOUABALÉ-NDOKI NATIONAL PARK in Congo and DZANGA-SANGHA FOREST RESERVE, Central African Republic.
International visitors may fly either to Yaoundé, the capital, or Douala. Local airlines connect the two as well as other larger towns. There’s a fairly good modern train and bus network and bush taxis are often available. Rental cars are not always in top condition, however, nor are some of the roads.
Best times generally are dry-season December–March. Lowlands are usually hot and humid, but highlands can be cold at night.