At the intersection of Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon lies Lake Chad. Once one of the world’s largest lakes, it is now a shadow of its former self. It is still economically important however, providing water to the more than 20 million people who live in the countries surrounding it. Lake Chad is believed to be a remnant of a former inland sea. This body of water has expanded and contracted with climate changes over 13,000 years. Around 4000 BC, Lake Chad would have been at its largest at around 400 000 km2. Since 1966 Lake Chad has shrunk from 30,000 km2 to just 3,000 km2. The region has experienced a significant decline in rainfall over this period while demand on the water from the local population has accelerated significantly.
Up to one million water birds flock to the lake in the palearctic winter. The many floating islands are home to a wide variety of wildlife including crocodiles, hippopotamus, fish, waterfowl and shore birds. In April 2008 the Lake Chad Wetlands in Nigeria was added to the Ramsar List, a List of Wetlands of International importance.
4WD and a guide are required when traveling in this area. Abandoned once thriving fishing villages can be seen dotted along the route, the closest shores of the lake now some 10km away. A fishing industry does still exist, with some fishing villages having sprung up in the middle of the drying lake.
The Lake Chad Game Reserve is currently the only protected area on Lake Chad. It occupies 150km along the western shore which constitutes more than half of the Nigerian shoreline of the lake and covers 7,044 km2.