Benin has a couple of large national parks in the north and the Parc Pendjari provided our last adventure in Benin. http://www.pendjari.net/english/
The drive up from Nattitingou was much further than we expected. There seems to be a commercial mafia in Nattingnou that works to give visitors the impression that Natti is the logical jumping off point for the park, which we learned is quite nonsensical. It is 50 km from Natti to Tanquieta on the main road, then another 30 km up a along a laterite road featuring some serious stretches of washboard to get to Batia, which is the actual Park entrance.
We were insulated from that because we had our own transportation and we were not in a hurry. We planned on going to the Park before looking for a guide and this worked perfectly. Batia is the place where visitors should plan to head for, not Natitingou. We arrived at Batia about 16:00, just in time to make arrangements with a guide to heinto the Park at 6:00 AM the next morning. We stayed that night at a great campement in Batia. Campement Numi is run by a German named Alfred who has been there for some 15 years. Set against a cliff he has a couple of rooms and a good campsite not far from a creek that also feeds his swimming pool. Numi was the first campement we have been in with hot water, and it was very hot, a real nice surprise. For overlanders is it s great place because he also has a mechanical shop. He also rents 4X4s. So, if you go to Pendjari, with or without a vehicle, don`t waste time in Natitingou, rather plan to arrive in Batia mid-to late afternoon, make arrangements for a guide there and with Campement Numi to rent a vehicle if you do not have one.
We got an early start the first day, were on the trail in the park before 7:00. We slowly cruised about 7o km into the park along a good laterite road.
Our visit to the park were two of the most languid days we have spent in a very long while. We set out at 7:30 and drove at a very leisurely safari pace (max 40K/hr) along 250 km of piste which varied from quite good
to quite challenging. Indeed the challenging bits let us have some fun with the Land Rover. We took some videos of the best parts. For example we had to drive through the bush to get around this fallen tree that blocked the road…..
The Park is quite large, it to0k us a good day to reach the northen part that borders Burkina, where an inaccessible river full of hippos discourages anyone, certainly us, from crossing the border there. We spent ne night camping within the Park itself, with our guide who we engaged for the first two days. There are no facilities as such, you just find a place that you like and set up. We picked a spot adjacent to the so-called Pendjri Lodge, which was closed for the season but gave us the option of retreating to covered picnic space in the event the threatening rain clouds ever arrived. They did not.
It is the rainy season which is not the best for wildlife viewing because of the abundance of water and concealing vegetation. Of course we knew this, and it is actually much prettier now than in the dry season when there are no leaves and the grass is brown.
In addition to the landscape the abundant bird life was also a highlight for us. We had a few great sightings of birds we had never seen before.
Of course we also saw a few of the regulars, like hippopotami, antelope cob and baboons.
From Pendjari we continued our trip north into Burkina Faso.