Pendjari National Park and safari were the true highlights of my trip to Benin. Park is beautiful. Peaceful and green. The Biosphere Reserve lies in the north-western part of the country on the border with Burkina Faso. Where it adjoins Arli National Park.
The park is a part of WAP (W-Arli-Pendjari). A very important region in West Africa that has been created to protect some of the last populations of big game. Like elephants, buffalo, hippopotamuses and West African lions. Other tenants of the park are cheetahs, crocodiles, various antelopes and many different birds.
When I mentioned at the hotel that I would like to visit for safari they all told me not to do it. The rainy season was approaching. The grass was high and it would be very difficult to spot an animal. Plus, it was far away. About 800 km from Cotonou, and most probably the park would be closed at that time of the year anyway. But I didn’t give up. I called the park. Found out everything, and told them to expect me for a safari.
You can use public transport to go almost all the way up to the park. But I hired a private driver for three days. I was a bit afraid to rely on public transport. Flights to Europe from Cotonou are not as frequent as one would like to think. And I was really looking forward to joining my friends in Mallorca for some jet-set activities.
I decided to stay in the Pendjari Lodge. Set up in the heart of the park. About 100 km from its border. The hills and cliffs of the Atakora Range create scenic backgrounds. The view which starts to please your eyes from the first moment you wake up accompanies you during breakfast and ends the day is simply breathtaking. It is an amazing. Eco-friendly place run by a family from France. There is only solar energy and no network. An ideal place to relax and stop for a moment to immerse oneself in the surroundings.
The safari was what I had on my mind when coming here. But I had a special interest in seeing my beloved elephants. Pendjari is known for having a relatively large population of them. All together there are 3,800 elephants in the WAP area. I was hoping to spot one or two.
When I told that to the French lady from the Pendjari Lodge she told me it would be close to impossible! I really didn’t understand why everybody was so pessimistic! I knew it was gonna be great safari. Ok, I hoped.
Anyway it was my first safari ever so I had nothing to compare it with. And I was going be happy to even see the antelopes and birds.
But we all know that I’m the most lucky person ever when it comes to travelling and experiences on the road. So, naturally, I had a spectacular safari even though the weather was so-so.
I was really surprised with the variety of flora in the park. Large parts of the park are made up of savannah, savannah grassland and woodlands, a gallery forest, an open forest.
Apparently the Sudanese biome is very characteristic of this region. I always say you learn all your life. Now I know the difference between shrub-lands and arborous savannah and can explain to you where you can find a gallery forest. But when it comes to plants I’m into tress. And Africa is all about the trees. From baobabs and acacias to beautiful palm trees like the Ronier Palm.
I had a great guide who was very knowledgeable about the park and animals. He had a great eye. He was able to spot animals from very far away. And that is an important skill in Pendjari, as following animals is strictly forbidden.
I didn’t see any cats. They could have been a few meters away from me but were impossible to spot in two-meter-high grass. So no cheetah, leopards or lion. But many birds, monkey vervets and baboons. Thousands of antelopes, Kobs, Impalas and Waterbruck. Always cool buffalos and my lovely elephants.
Four different times and locations. Not too many. Only six in total. More than enough for me! Especially that we spotted the first one in the first five minutes of the safari and from then on it only got better. My guide said that elephants are lucky animals and that I must be a very lucky person. I know!