Some, may have you believe, that all that is in Sudan is dust, dust and sand. However if you venture off the beaten track (just a little bit) you may be quite surprised!
It would appear that not may people have been to Dinder, especially Sudanese, nobody we have met has been there. Our Bradt guide didn’t make us overly hopeful saying that most of the animals had been killed in conflict. Dinder national park is situated south of Kassala on the Ethiopian border.
We didn’t have much information on the camp our map made it look like there where roads, but our guide book said that they where mostly very muddy and impassible by 4×4 (locals used tractors!). Oh well we will go and have a look we thought – what is the worst that can happen?!
We turned off the road at Gedaref aiming to get into the park at Rumeila, we followed the old disused railway line through Matna eventually finding a dried up river to camp in.
The next day and after a few more villages we were told by the very friendly police in Qala en Nahl (13*46’5″N 35*2’56″E) that we could not just drive into the park, but that we had to go to Dinder town to get permissions! Yah nice bit of a detour.
In Dinder we picked up our body guard with AK47. According to the local police chief the are was very safe, there were no problems at all (so why do we need a guard then?!) Off we drove down the ever worsening road. In Africa there are grades of track some raised tracks look like they might be quite fast – they are until a bit of water washes very deep holes in them. Rather than bouncing along it is usually easier and safer to use the smaller track on the side. We were not going to reach the national park this day either so stopped for camp.
They next day we arrive at Galegu, it appears that there used to be a tourist company that had built some huts! The company went bust last year and the police / national park wardens use it as a base. In true Sudanese style we were able to stay in the huts all for free! They were so apologetic that they couldn’t offer us any food, but we had plenty so it was fine.
Obviously by the time we had reach Galegu it was the wrong time of day to see much in the park. Driving around however we got a feel for the place! I have been to the Masai Mara in Kenya – Dinder was completely different, mostly overgrown wooded areas (yes wooded areas in Sudan – it isn’t just desert!) with a few watering areas, no real savanah like the Masai. There were however no tourists!
If you don’t expect it to be like the game parks of East Africa you will be impressed with Dinder. The birds are amazing and the really wild feel of the place makes it special. Hearing lions roaring, very close to the hut in the middle of the night is such an impressive sound!
The roads where fine to drive on in a 4×4, and only saw one broken tractor. This is probably because the water level is so low here, by two of the watering holes they were actually pumping water into it in order to try and attracted more wildlife. If the water situation improves and universities and wardens continue to take care of the park hopefully more wildlife will return. It is certainly worth the two days of bumpy roads to get to it! There were no fees what so ever associated with visiting Dinder – potentially a bit odd, but if the Government is rich, it is better they spend the money here than on weapons!
Water should be up to the line on the white post this time of year!