The unique itinerary in Mauritania with all the nights in comfortable hotels.
A new mild but intense expedition through Mauritania, a vanguard safe itinerary that joins real adventure during the day and cozy hotels in the evening. The itinerary starts in Nouakchott, the capital, with a five-star hotel and continues to Banc d’Arguin, one of the three major ornithological migratory sanctuaries on the earth, with two million of birds is the largest in Africa. On a shallow and calm Atlantic Ocean, sheltered by large sand banks, we will sail silently on a wooden local Felucca to the bird sites.
From the ocean to the desert. Crossing, out of any track, the Erg Amatlich, an ocean of dunes, to encounter remote nomadic camps of camel herders, bringing them traditional gifts and enjoying a Mauritanian tea under their large tends, sitting on carpets with elderly women and children.
Spend a whole day experiencing Chinguetti magical atmosphere, one of the best conserved oases in the whole Sahara. The ancient stone village date to the XIII century, when Chinguetti was the seventh holiest city of Islam and main caravan centre. In the ancient quarter, the Ksar, stands a white stone minaret considered the second ancient, still operating, in the whole Islamic world, a remarkable example of Arab-Berber architecture. We will stroll in traditional alleys between tone buildings to pay a visit at two main collections of manuscripts. We will leave our convoy of 4×4 vehicles for a more traditional transport: riding camels, as the locals do, the perfect way to enjoy the sunset from the top of the dunes where other tourists don’t arrive. After dinner in our cosy guest-house, we will be invited to a local celebration: at dusk, around the fire, the silence of the desert will be interrupted by the rhythm of drums, women singing and dancing.
Crossing virgin sands to reach Ouadane. Founded in 1147, Ouadane is the remotest oasis in Mauritania, the last outpost before the total emptiness…
Beyond Ouadane, to discover the Guelb er Richât an enormous natural structure, called for his shape, the “Eye of Africa”. Composed by a dome surrounded by three concentrical rock rings, the largest with a diameter of 40 Km is a geological mystery. Recent theories explain it as the remains of a giant volcano.
The immensity of the Adrar mountains will welcome us to “Fort Saganne”: an ideal movie set, not by chance chosen for the making of the homonymous film (Fort Saganne with Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu and Philippe Noiret, 1984). In the same area caves hide prehistoric rock art from peoples living in these regions thousands of years ago, before the desertification. Hidden in the sand we discover the ruins of Azougui a town that in 1150 AC was consider the capital of the Almoravid empire that extended from Mauritania to Morocco and to Spain.
In the shade of a narrow canyon, we will follow a stream crossing a palm grove to discover Tergit, the oasis par excellence. Natural small pools filled by the slow and constant water dripping in caves covered with moss, the “green miracle” of a protected humid microclimate surrounded by the desert. In the Adrar region, we will discover: tiny oases hidden in canyons, gardens shaded by palm groves and typical conical grass-roof adobe villages.
The expedition will end with Nouakchott visiting the interesting national museum and the fishing harbour: a spot of colourful black Africa at the southern edge of the Sahara with hundreds of wooden pirogues ready to defy the Ocean, brave fishermen selling the catch of the day at the market …
Day 1: Nouakchott, the capital – MAURITANIA
Arrival in Nouakchott and transfer to the hotel.
Day 2: Sailing and bird-watching, from Nouakchott to Banc d’ Arguin (270 km – driving time 5 hrs)
Early departure. Left Nouakchott along a spectacular road through the dunes.
We will leave the asphalt to find the tracks leading to the Banc d’Arguin.
Banc d’Arguin National Park is a World Heritage Site. Two million birds make this bird and wildlife sanctuary one of the three most important breeding sites for migratory birds on the planet. Pelicans, flamingos and broad-billed sandpipers are common…
Thanks to the mild climate, to a scarce human presence and to the rich fishy ocean, migratory birds winter here from Greenland, Siberia, Ireland, Scotland… making the largest water bird colony in the African continent.
Most of the afternoon will be spent in an exciting sailing. On a wooden local felucca, between sand banks in the shallow water of the ocean, we discover a multitude of birds. Return to our base.
Day 3: Roads and tracks, from Banc d’ Arguin to Akjoujt (off-road and on-road in the Sahara. Driving time 6 hrs).
After leaving the Banc d’Arguin along a path through the sands and visiting the interesting “Orientation Centre” that explain the different flora and fauna of the region, we will find a new paved road that we will leave again for a track and again for a road. We arrive to the small mining town of Akjoujt and visit of the local market
Day 4: Erg Amatlich, ocean of dunes, from Akjoujt to Chinguetti (total off road in the Sahara – driving time 10 hrs)
Early departure for a long and intense day dedicated to crossing one of the Mauritania’s most spectacular landscapes.
Erg Amatlich is a vast dune basin trapped between the Adrar mountains. In addition to endless dunes, the region gathers a great variety of Saharan landscapes such as canyons, tiny cultivable oasis and palm groves. Discover prehistoric stone arrowheads, earthenware shards, silent witness of people who lived in these sites thousands of years ago, when this region was a green land crossed by large rivers. Arrival at the nomadic camps, Moorish camel herders that will invite us in their tents as guests to the tea ceremony to experience the legendary hospitality of the desert tribes. Tifoujar Pass dominates a vast and steep gorge, remain of an ancient river ending in the Oued el Abiod or White Valley.
Mountains, dark brown and red rock peaks and hidden clay villages will follow, voices, joyful cries of women and children welcome us into remote settlements to experience intense human encounters after the silence of the Sahara.
Evening arrival in Chinguetti at the cozy guest-house that will be our base for two nights.
Day 5: Chinguetti, the oasis
Full day at the oasis, short walks, drives and camel ride.
Chinguetti was an ancient caravan terminal and major trading point between north and sub-Saharan Africa. We will discover the remains of the French colonial times as the former Foreign Legion fort, the tribunal and a tall water tower: interesting samples of Neo-Sudanese architecture.
The old village date back to the XIII century. Whole morning in the magical atmosphere of this stone citadel, considered the jewel of Mauritanian oases, and one of the best preserved in the whole Sahara. Visit of two manuscript collections, including Ould Habott, the largest in Mauritania. The minaret of the white stone mosque is supposed to be the second oldest still in use in the whole Muslim world.
In the afternoon we join the oasis: the palm grove shades the vegetable, this is the right place to start a camel ride in the desert, the best way to enjoy the sunset from the dunes where other tourists don’t arrive.
After dinner we will be guest at a festive celebration in a local courtyard. By the light of the fire, the atmosphere will become vibrant: drum rolls, women’s songs and cadenced dances…
Return to our cozy guest house.
Day 6: Ouadane, the remotest, from Chinguetti to Ouadane (drive on virgin sands 100 km).
Departure to Ouadane in an absolute “out of any track” itinerary that follows the Ouadi (dry creek).
We reach the tiny oasis of Tanouchert: verdant vegetable gardens, Bedouin tents spread over sand dunes, palm trees… Ouadane, built on a rocky hill, is the remotest oasis of Mauritania, an outpost facing the immensity of the desert, it was founded in 1147. Partially in ruins, the stone houses on the top of the hill are still inhabited. In the ancient days, Ouadane was an active caravan crossroad.
Visit of the ancient quarters and the recently restored original mosque. Arrive at the comfortable hotel that will be our base for two nights.
After dinner we will be guest at a festive celebration in a local courtyard. At the fire light, the atmosphere will become vibrant: roll of drums, songs of women and cadenced dances.
Day 7: The “Eye of Africa”, from Ouadane to Guelb es Richat and back (desert off-road drive, 100 Km).
Trade in the Ouadane region was so flourishing that in 1487 the Portuguese built a fortified trading post there. Today we visit what is believed to be the remains of this trade point, called Agueidir.
We continue to Guelb er Richât, the “Eye of Africa”: the site, with its prominent circular shape has questioned scientists. Forty kilometres (25 mi) is the circumference of the largest of three concentric circles, with a dome in the centre. Most recent theory believes that it was a giant volcano collapsed and eroded. We will turn our gaze as far as our eyes can reach, feeling small facing this mysterious geological giant, that becomes a landscape reference for the astronauts that call it the Eye of Africa.
Return to our comfortable hotel in Ouadane.
Day 8: Green oasis, from Ouadane to Atar (220 km, laterite track and paved road. Driving time 6 hrs)
Early departure for an intense day. The landscape never ceases to amaze us. Leaving the main track, we will reach a region of spectacular mountains, gorges and canyons. Infinite space dominated by the ochre of the earth and the blue sky. At the horizon we will see the ruins of Fort Saganne, built to set the namesake film: Fort Saganne with Depardieu et Catherine Deneuve. The site of Agrour, located at the top of the Amogjar Pass, hides some ancien Rock Art. Azougui has ben considered the first capital of the Almoravid, a radical islamic brotherhold of Berber tribes that moving from these regions to north, in the 11th centoury founded Marrakech and create a large empire that included Morocco, western part of Algeria, and Andalussia in Spain.
Day 9 Adrar: desert, mountains and oasis, (Dunes and roads 230 Km, driving time 6 hours)
Adrar, in the local Arabic language Hassania, the name of the region we are about to explore means mountains. It is a unique landscape: sun-scorched rocky plateaus, wadis with white and ochre sands, steep canyons and green palm groves. Terjit, is one of the most particular and lush oases of Mauritania. After walking through a dense palm grove protected by a gorge and following a tiny stream, We discover a vast rock shelter where spring water gushes out. An unexpected atmosphere disconnected from time and from the harshness of the desert.
The leading expert of the Sahara, the French scholar Théodore Monod, said of El Berbara, “It is difficult to imagine a more secluded place, more unspeakably distant from what we call the world.” The special feature of this site is a vertical escarpment that hides a water basin and palm grove.
Evening arrival at Akjoujt.
Day 10: Back to Nouakchott, from Akjoujt to Nouakchott (280 km paved road, driving time 4 hrs).
Visit to the interesting National Museum that displays archaeology, artifacts, costumes and textiles from prehistory to the present day. Unique images taken during excavations at Aoudaghost, the northern trading city and best-preserved site of the legendary Ghanaian Empire. Ghana was the oldest known empire and kingdom in Black Africa. Dating back to the 6th century, the empire was located in what is now southeastern Mauritania. At that time, the caravan that transported gold to North Africa departed from Aoudaghost.
Lunch in a restaurant managed by women from Ivory Coast, the best occasion to enjoy specialities from Africa.
Hundreds of colorful pirogues on Nouakchott beach will leave us amazed. Our eyes, accustomed to sand and dunes, will be mirrored in tumultuous waters where wind, waves, brightly painted pirogues and sub-Saharan (mostly Senegalese) fishermen sell their abundant catch at the market. Mauritania processes more than 1,800,000 tons of fish each year.
Air-conditioned day-use rooms available before the transfer to the airport.
End of our services.