Chad

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Chad

  Pioneering UK operators are among the first to open up a little known Central African nation that is attracting adventurous travellers.
  The young boys’ faces glisten with sweat as they dance under the Sahelian sun. They pogo in unison, chanting mesmerizing songs and pulling exaggerated faces to reveal the whites of both their teeth and eyeballs, the truest signs of classical male beauty in Wodaabe society. They are watched by gyrating young women with kohl edged eyes who have come to choose a man.
  Chad’s Gerewol celebration occurs every October. The Wodaabe nomadic  tribespeople congregate to watch the bachelor males sing and dance in the hope of being selected by the women for marriage or a night of passion.  
  I was among just 30 tourists camping amid the savannah grassland to watch this genuine cultural celebration.
  If you look at the travel advice on the Foreign and Commonwealth Offi ce website, it’s apparent why Chad, one of Africa’s largest countries, receives so few visitors.
  Over the decades it has battled with banditry, terrorism and poverty, keeping it off the tourist radar. Yet during two visits over the past year I never felt anything less than secure. Chad’s combination of Saharan landscapes and national parks is not going unnoticed as a handful of pioneering UK tour operators such as Native Eye and Undiscovered Destinations now off er a range of itineraries to this niche destination.
  The FCO still warns against all but essential travel for much of the country, so it should be recommended only to those with a real sense of adventure.
  Chad's capital, N’Djamena, has several international class hotels, such as a Hilton, but otherwise is a little dilapidated. However, every Sunday afternoon there is an unmissable spectacle of street horseracing when Arab thoroughbreds tearup an improvised circuit.
  The Gerewol itself lasts one week and most UK operators use the services of a long standing Italian DMC called Spazi d’Avventura, who have contacts with the Wodaabe and will drive guests by 4WD to where the gathering nomads congregate.
  Gerewol can be doubled up with one of Chad’s other two great highlights: a trip to the Ennedi Mountains or Zakouma National Park. Deemed the natural and cultural masterpiece of the Sahara Desert, Ennedi is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site famed for its ancient rock art.  
  Its rare wildlife includes barbary sheep and desert crocodiles that bury themselves away and hibernate without water for months waiting for the rains.
  Zakouma National Park is a two hour fl ight, in a small Cessna aircraft. Here I saw great knots of pelicans choking its main river, cheetahs with new cubs, over 50 lions in fi ve prides, a rare striped hyena at night, and was stared at by elegant nosey Kordofan giraff es, a rare sub species of the more familiar southern African variety.
  Chad may never become a fi xture like  Kenya yet for adventurous travellers this is off beat Africa in technicolour brilliance.

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