Pendjari National Park is generally considered to be the best wildlife reserve in West Africa. While most of the continent’s great animal parks are to be found in the south and east, West Africa does have a few as well. Pendjari is one of the best refuges in the west for big game, and is an excellent place to see elephants. It is the most popular visitor destination in Benin.
West Africa has been densely populated for over a thousand years, and was ground zero during the colonial era for the slave trade. Because of this much of the West African coastal region has been devastated, with heavy damage to the local wildlife though overhunting. However, further inland, closer to the desert, animal populations survived in better shape. One such area is Pendjari, which covers the northern border of Benin as well as parts of Niger and Burkina Faso. The Benin portion is protected as a national park, and as of 2009 has been considered for inclusion as a world heritage site.
Pendjari is home to some of the largest surviving animal populations in West Africa, and boasts species of Buffalo, Hippopotamus and Antelope, as well as numerous primates. At most recent count the park was home to over eight hundred elephants. Big cats include the rare West African Lion, Northwest African Cheetah and Leopard.
Pendjari National Park covers just under 2,800 square km at the northern end of Benin, approximately 400 miles away from Cotonou. It is open year round. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.pendjari.net (official website).