A new expedition through Mauritania, an itinerary which is the outcome of many years of research in the Sahara. The itinerary starts in Nouakchott, the capital of the country and continues to Banc d’Arguin, one of the major migratory birds sanctuary on earth. The Atlantic Ocean is calm sheltered by large banks, sailing on a wooden local Felucca to the birds sites.
From the Ocean to the mountains finding our way through spectacular dunes chains. In the Adrar massif, surrounded by yellow sand, we will be guest, for lunch, in a nomadic camp. In an absolute arid universe, we will discover lush oases hidden in canyons with gardens shaded by palm trees and typical adobe villages where the huts have conical grass roofs.
We will spend a whole day experiencing Chinguetti magical atmosphere, one of the most well conserved oases in the whole Sahara. The ancient stone village dates back to the XIII century, when Chinguetti was the seventh holiest city of Islam and the main caravan centre in the western regions of the Sahara. In the town’s ancient quarter, the Ksar, stands a white stone mosque considered the second ancient, still operating in the world, a remarkable example of Arab-Berber architecture. We will pay a visit to two collections of ancient manuscripts in the traditional stone buildings. After an “out of any track” exploration to try to spot Aouelloul crater, created by the impact of large meteorite more than tree millions years ago, we drive to Ouadane, founded “just” in 1147 of our era. It is the remotest oasis in Mauritania, the western outpost before the total emptiness… Where we will continue.
Guelb er Richat is called by the geologist the “eye of Africa”: a geological mystery, is series of three concentric rock circles, the largest has a diameter of 40 kilometres (25 mi). The rarely visited El Ghallaouiya canyon hosts more than six hundred graffiti figures, depiction of warriors, chariots, hunters, wild animals, and more, a unique “open sky gallery” going back thousands of years at the time before the desertification, when the desert was a green savannah. From El Ghallaouiya canyon landmark starts the more intense exploration: beyond the horizon, hundreds of kilometres of virgin sand and dunes ranges. We will “navigate” Erg Ouarane immensity . For days the only human traces that we could find will be prehistorical stone tools. We will search for a pass between Aoukar mountain chain to try to explore the Aoukar depression that was, before the desert era, a large lake with populated shores. South of the prehistorical lake we will search for Aoudaghost archaeological site with miles of ruins hidden by the mountains. Aoudaghost has been the northern town of the Ghana (Gana) Empire, the oldest known Empire in Black Africa, dating back to the VI century. Aoudaghost was a rich trading centre, where gold dust was traded. In the ancient manuscripts it was described, by the Arab chroniclers, as a town like Mecca. We will explore paved alleys, remains of stone building in the surrounding deep caves hiding large jars, and… skeletons. Only few sites of Aoudaghost have been studied by the French archaeologists in the early ’60, the traces of the excavation have disappeared, covered by the sand and we will have the impression to be the first. Finally, we reach the town of Kiffa, renowned for the traditional glass beads produced by Moorish women. If lucky we will be invited in a large tent to view the process of smelting glass. Before returning to Nouakchott
OR JOIN FOR A LEG OF THE EXPEDITION:
15 days THE EXPLORATION. Chinguetti oasis, meteorite crater, Ouadane, graffiti, Sahara exploration, Aoudaghost. From day 9 to day 21 of the total itinerary.
Departure from Nouakchott 13th January 2021.
9 days MAURITANIA CLASSIC. Banc d’Arguin ornithologic sailing, Adrar mountains, dunes and nomadic camps, Chinguetti and Ouadane Oases. From day 1 to day 8 of the total itinerary.
Departure from Nouakchott 7th January 2021.
Day 1: ARRIVAL IN MAURITANIA
Nouakchott IN. Overnight at hotel Azalai, international standards.
Day 2: HEAD NORTH
Drive north on a spectacular road between the dunes.
We will leave the road to find the tracks leading to the Banc d’Arguin.
Dinner and Overnight in a Mauritanian style permanent camp that will be our base for two nights. Located in a scenic environment facing the ocean, the camp is managed by a local woman cooperative.
Day 3: SAILING AND BIRDING
Banc d’Arguin National Park is a World Heritage Site.
Two million migratory birds make of Banc d’Arguin one of the most important breeding site. Pelicans, flamingos, broad-billed sandpipers are common… Thanks to the mild climate, to a scarce human presence and to the rich fishing Ocean, migratory birds winter here from Greenland, Siberia, Ireland, Scotland… making the largest water birds colony in this part of African continent.
After an exciting sailing on a wooden local felucca on the shallow ocean water, between sand banks, to discover the birds, return to our fix camp.
Day 4: SAHARA EXPERIENCE
Early morning departure. Thanks to the experience of our drivers we will make our own itinerary tracing an unmarked path in the sand of Inchiri region, a less known part of Mauritanian desert. To cross long ranges of dunes we will reduce the tire pressure. Gps, maps, compass will assist our land-navigation in an untouched geological universe. Our direction will be in the first part north-east and in the second part south-east to be able to run in the corridors between the dunes lines. Evening arrival and overnight in Akjoujt, at the, new and comfortable Sahara hotel, all rooms with A/C and en-suite.
Day 5 & 6: ADRAR, DUNES AND MOUNTAINS
The even more scenic landscape of Mauritania: valleys, high mountains, yellow sand dunes with peaks of dark brown and red rock, lost adobe villages. Amatlich Erg is one of the most beautiful dune range in the region. Discover prehistoric stone arrows point an earthenware shard, silent witness of people living on these sites long time ago, before the desertification. We will visit remote nomadic encampments, oases and hidden adobe villages. These human encounters after the immense silence of the Sahara are intense.
Day 5 camp in the dunes.
Day 6 Arrival to Chinguetti that will be our base for the next 4 nights. Dinner and overnight in a cozy guest house built in traditional Mauritanian style, (or private residence).
Day 7: CHINGUETTI, THE OASIS
Chinguetti is an ancient caravan terminal and important trading point between north and Black Africa.
The stone village dates back to the XIII century at a cross point of caravan routes crossing the Sahara.
We will spend the whole day in the magical atmosphere of this citadel, considered the jewel of Mauritanian oasis: discovering palm grove that shade vegetable gardens, a green miracle. In the old stone quarters, we will be invited to visit two ancient manuscript collections, including Ould Habott, the largest one in Mauritania. The white stone mosque considered the second ancient, still operating in the world: Remains of the colonial era will be the former French Foreign Legion fortress and a tall water tower. The day will end up on the high dunes for sunset over Chinguetti.
Return to our cozy guest house. Dinner and overnight La Gueila Guest House
Day 8: OUADANE, THE REMOTEST
Drive to Ouadane by an absolute “out of any track” itinerary that follows the Ouadi (dry creek). Ouadane built on a rocky hill is the remotest oasis in Mauritania, an outpost facing the immensity of the desert was founded in 1147. Mainly in ruin, some of his stone houses are still inhabited. In the ancient days this Ouadane was a caravan trading point between Maghreb and black Africa.
Commerce was so flourishing that in 1487 Portuguese built a fortified trading counter in the region.
Return to our cozy base in Chinguetti.
Dinner and overnight at “La Gueila” (or private residence)
Day 9: ABOVE AND BEYOND
Out of any track a discovery itinerary to Aouelloul meteorite crater. With a diameter of 250 m. (833ft.) this roughly round shape crater dates back to the Pliocene (+/– 3 million years ago) was originated by the crash of a large rock from the interplanetary space. Samples of silica glass were found nearby. Return to our base in Chinguetty. Dinner and overnight at La Gueila guest house.
Day 10: THE EYE OF AFRICA
Guelb er Richat is a geological mystery, called by the geologist the “eye of Africa” is a landmark for the astronauts. Three concentric rock rings with an interior depression, the largest ring has a diameter of 40 kilometres (25 ml). Geologist had formulated different hypothesis on his origins: the oldest was that the phenomena was caused by an enormous meteorite that fell on earth. The more recent theory believes that is the result of erosion on a large dome. Camp in the desert.
Day 11: ROCK ART, OPEN SKY RETROSPECTIVE
Off-road itinerary between spectacular rocks chains with an astonishing view on the desert and possible encounter with remote groups of nomads.
The well of El Beyyed is on an ancient paleo-soil rich in stone tools like harrow heads, axels, millstones; from the people that live these lands 700.000 years ago. The abandoned fort of El Ghallaouiya built by the French colonial “camel battalions” has the typical atmosphere of the foreign legion. The canyon of Trig Chauail is an impressive spectacle: any flat surface of rock is covered of petroglyphs. We can discover more than 220 panels with 600 subjects, a real “open sky” gallery, a retrospective exhibition on the last 6000 years of Rock Art, from the time before the desertification displaying with wildlife, horse riders, chariots… Camp in the graffiti canyon.
Days 12, 13, 14: IMMENSITY
Departure for the total empty. Out of any track through the immensity. Erg Ouarane is a more than 800 Kilometres of continue dunes and virgin sands over the horizon a pure Sahara experience.
GPS, compass and years of experience, will help us to navigate one of the less known part of Sahara, the largest and desert on Earth, in its more perfect form, as only imagination can represent it. Camp between the dunes.
Days 15 and 16: AOUKAR
The arrival to Aoukar rocky chain is memorable. Aoukar mountains chain is as difficult as spectacular. It was the shore of a lake, now vanished in the desert, and remains of prehistorical villages are hidden between rocks and sand.
Days 17 and 18: AOUDAGHOST
We will start to drive through a unique landscape crossing sand dune, lakes, acacia forests and nomadic encampments. The highlight of the itinerary is the archaeological site of Aoudaghost with its miles of ruins hidden in the mountains. Aoudaghost is believed to have been the northern town of the Ghana Empire, the oldest known kingdom in Black Africa dating from the 6th century.
Aoudaghost was a rich caravan town, its main trade being gold. In ancient Islamic manuscripts it was described as like Mecca. In those days the whole region was inhabited. Exploring deep caves using the light of torches we will find ancient clay granaries that are hidden there, the cave entrances are fortified by stonewalls. Only a few areas of Aoudaghost have been studied by French archaeologist in the early ’60. Today the sand has covered any trace of the research. Thanks to the remoteness these sites are rarely visited.
Day 19: KIFFA
Our destination will be Kiffa, renowned for its traditional glass beads produced by Moorish women.
If lucky we will be invited in a large tent to view the production process that starts by smashing up glass.
Day 20: THE ROAD OF HOPE
This asphalt road, known as “la route de l’espoir” (the road of hope), links south western Mauritania with the coast and the capital.
Day 21: BACK TO NOUAKCHOTT
Expected arrival in Nouakchott during the evening of the 27 January 2021. Day room available. On request, transfer to the airport. End of our services.
EXPEDITION LEADER: Alberto Nicheli, TransAfrica founder, has been travelling in West Africa since 1975. He has led more than a hundred expeditions in West Africa and sixty-four Sahara expeditions, including a solo crossing of the desert, ethnological research on Tuareg and rocky painting. He has organized the logistics of a documentary about the caravans of the Niger for Discovery Channel and has assisted Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith from National Geographic and in numerous research projects and television programs on West Africa. Alberto has an expertise in tribal art.
EXPLORATORY ITINERARY: This travel program is an exploratory expedition. Scheduled itinerary, visits, and stages are given just as an indication and could be changed at the solo decision of the Expedition Leader.
Wind , visibility, land conditions, local authorities decisions, events of “force majeure”, technical, mechanical or other unexpected events may delay or change our schedule. TransAfrica can’t be considered liable for any changes and delays.
Participants must be flexible to full enjoy the unique encounters, as much as some unexpected situations that are part of the “African experience”.
TRANSPORTS: 4WD, air-conditioned vehicles .
MEDICAL and VACCINATIONS: Malaria prophylaxis: absolutely recommended for the first and last part of the itinerary (From Nouakchott to Chinguetty and from the Aoukar to Nouakchott).
Due to the Covid 19 crisis, in the mutual interest of each participant, bring a recent (-72 hours) test that grant your negativity.
Now (October 2020), Mauritanian authorities does not request a Covid test, but could be requested at the time of our arrival.
VISA: required. Visas at the airport (55 Euro).
MEALS: vegetarian or different meals available on request, please mention it at the time of booking
Lunches: cold meals, mainly picnics or in local restaurants.
Hotels: touristic menu.
Mobile camps: simple dinners made of preserved and fresh local products, bottled or purified water included.
CAMPS: camping in the immensity of Sahara is an unforgettable experience. Igloo tents fitted for tropical climate; camping mattress included. Please bring your own sleeping-bag . Nights in the Sahara are cold and could be windy.
LUGGAGE: due to the nature of the itinerary, please limit your personal luggage to 45lb (20 kg), soft sacs are recommended.
INSURANCE: mandatory for medical assistance (health care), repatriation, physical and material damages. TransAfrica will not be held responsible for any material and physical damages during or in consequence of the tour. Discover our insurance policy proposal: https://transafrica.biz/en/travel-insurance-en/;
NOTICE: The itinerary is designed to experience fascinating places where foreigners hardly arrive. We need to be tolerant and flexible to fully enjoy and truly appreciate the unique nature and wildlife, the spontaneous hospitality of the local populations, the African magic and mystery, the metaphysics, ceremonies, life philosophies and religious beliefs that people are willing to share with us.
Itineraries, visits, overnights and accommodations are subject to changes, improvements and adaptations due to : more recent experiences and news from the fields, force majeure. The changes are decided by the organizer. We are not responsible for any delays and cancellation due to external conditions.