MOROCCO, WESTERN SAHARA PROVENCES, RIO DE ORO
A great expedition that crosses part of the Sahara from north to south. Starting in Marrakech and ending in the Rio de Oro region. The itinerary is the outcome of many years of field research and cross the former Western Sahara, now Moroccan Sahara Provinces that was closed to travels for decades due to a long “sands war” between Polisario Front and Moroccan army. We are proud to be the firsts to operate expeditions in this unknown region.
TIME TRAVEL: FROM PREHISTORY TO RECENT TIME.
Marrakech, traditional “caravan terminal” is the right starting point for our “modern caravan”. Thousand year old fossils, prehistorical Rock Art, historical sites as Dakhla the former headquarters of Spanish Rio de Oro colony are part of a travel experience in space and time.
Western Sahara sands are home to the Moorish camel herders and the best place to encounter the legendary Reguibat nomads. Fishermen lives on the edge, between the desert and the ocean.
Experience travelling along the “uncertain border” between land and water, dunes and Ocean. Following a “flyway” in the time of bird migration, will be a constant reference along the whole itinerary, in the time when millions of birds leave Northern Europe and Russia to Africa during their winter season. Travelling North to South, or vice versa, is a continuous change of latitude, climate, flora and fauna: from the green side of the Atlas Mountains to the rare or absent vegetation of the Sahara to the green miracle of the oasis. Some unexpected micro-climates are created by the moist winds from the ocean on the dry desert environment: a multitude of “spontaneous gardens” with flowers, succulents and lichens formations.
Day 1: MARRAKECH Morocco
Meeting at 8 PM .
Day 2: HIGH ATLAS Morocco
We will leave the main road to discover the least frequented Berber villages in the High Atlas Range and join the gem diggers in quest of Amethyst, Tourmaline…. With their help we will be able to find our own gems. Our itinerary crosses Tizi n’Tichka pass at 7460 ft. on the southern side of the Atlas.
Arrival in Ouarzazate.
Day 3: ROCK ART OF OUADI DRAA Morocco
Our way will follow the first part of the Ouadi (river) Draa. This important river and its floods have created a long strip of vegetation with a continuous of palm grove hiding vegetables gardens that goes south following the river for hundreds of miles in the desert, a long unique oasis with millions of date palm trees.
Visit of a site with hundreds of graffiti depicting hunters, warriors, horse raiders and wildlife; silent witness of peoples living in these regions thousands of years ago, before the desertification.
Lunch in a restaurant at the charming oasis of Zagora, our itinerary will continue along the Draa valley to Mhamid. South east of Mhamid the water of the river will vanish in the desert.
Day 4: DUNES, FOSSILES AND ANTELOPES Morocco
From Mhamid, the Sahara adventure starts; our 4×4 driving out of any tracks will cross a region of high dunes the Erg Chegaga that we will be able to cross in the middle.
Here with a bit of luck we may encounter some rare and endangered white addax antelope… The addax is a critically endangered desert antelope that lives in some isolated regions of the Sahara
After we reach Iriki dry Salt Lake and a site where each of us will be able to find their own fossils.
Day 5 THE OASIS TRAIL Morocco
On the road again, to cross a region of spectacular scenery, rocks, mountains and large oasis.
Walk in the oasis to discover this green miracle surrounded by an arid environment.
Lunch in a local restaurant, evening arrival at the best hotel in the region.
Day 6: CARAVAN TERMINALS & STONE ARCHITECTTURE ANCIENT FORTS Morocco
In the rarely visited region of Assa we will have discovered an ancient Arabo-Berber stone architecture that we will see again thousands of miles south, on the other side of the Sahara in Chinguetti and Ouadane oasis of Mauritania, that in the ancient time were linked with Assa by a caravan route that we will partially try to retrace.
The small town of Guelmim, is an ancient caravan terminal. Here we will search for the remains of the Trans-Sahara trade…
From this point onward, the itinerary will follow the “fling route” of the paleo-artic birds that migrate from Northen Europe and Russia to Africa every year during their winter season. The migratory birds travelling like us from north to south will be a discrete reference our itinerary as far as to the Bijagos archipelago in Guinea Bissau.
A spectacular ghost military fort still “guards” the former borders between the French protectorate of Morocco and the Spanish Sahara, the scouting of the fort will make us feel like we were on the set of an old French Foreign Legion movie.
Day 7: ESTUARIES AND DESERT Morocco
Once left Tafnidilt, we cross a steep range of dunes to reach the Dra estuary region, visited only by brave travellers who dare to find their way on the sandy tracks between the cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean. Here, we will discover tiny temporary settlements of fishermen, ghost colonial military posts, dunes and camels in a virgin landscape, and if lucky, we will drive for miles on a wild beach where the high dunes meet the ocean.
We live the coastline, following a riverbed (Ouadi) in a large canyon: the only possible path between the high dunes, cliffs and ocean.
Day 8: DUNES AND LAGOONS Morocco
From Tan-Tan, the road follows an exciting itinerary through a crag on the edge between the Sahara and the Ocean…. The Naila salt lagoon, separated from the ocean by rows of dunes, with an estuary on the sea, is the largest Salt Lake in Morocco (100 square Km). A protected area of great natural beauty is an important resting point on the birds’ migratory journey, it can host up to 20,000 individuals as flamingos, cormorants, gulls, herons and more.
We will board local fishing boats to explore the emerald water enclosed in a wide frame of yellow dunes and brown escarpments.
Late afternoon arrival at the tiny town of Tarfaya on the Juby Cape, less than 100 km away from the Canary Islands. Tarfaya is a former “Aeropostale” base, pioneered airmail from Europe to Africa and Latin America. Interesting museum and the remains of colonial Spanish architecture. In Tarfaya, Saint Exupéry the famous aviator and writer, author of “Le petit prince” was familiar.
Days 9 & 10: WESTERN SAHARA: THE FORBIDDEN TRACK Morocco
In Laayoune we will meet our local guide, a nomad from a Sahrawi tribe who will lead us through a three-day off-road expedition crossing the Western Sahara from north to south. The former Spanish Sahara colony has been the site of a long war between the Polisario Armed Front and the Moroccan army. Nowadays, it is part of Morocco. Since the second half of the seventies, due to this long “sand war,” this region has been off-limits to travellers. Until today no peace treaty has been signed, but it’a been decades since any fighting has occurred in the region which we cross. We are proud to be the “first” to bring intrepid travellers to the vast, sandy regions of Saguia El Hamra, Tiris Zemmour and to the spectacular Rio de Oro sea-look. In this Saharan expedition, we will cross large dunes to discover wells frequented by long lines of camels belonging to the legendary Reguibat nomads.
Day 11: FROM THE DESERT TO THE OCEAN Morocco
Morning continuation of our Trans-Saharan expedition, through a region of dunes, wells and nomadic camps. In the afternoon, a road will bring us to the ocean.
Day 12 RIO DE ORO Morocco
The astonishing beauty of Dakhla peninsula landscape makes it a unique place. The Rio de Oro is a 25 mile long sea loch between cliffs and dunes. Pastel colors paint the scenery: the blue ocean, yellow sand, emerald seaweed fields and dark rocks. Experience a unique event: during the high tide the ocean will flood the desert: a white dune and rook hills will become temporary islands. The small town of Dakhla was founded by Spanish navigators in 1502 as “Villa Cisneros.” Visit to the colorful fishing harbour, lunch in an oyster farm.
Driving along the shore to discover where the waves lap the sand dunes. Day rooms and transfer to the airport.
UNIQUE DEPARTURES: This itinerary is part of the Trans-Sahara and West Africa Grand Expedition from Marrakech to Dakar and Cotonou.
EXPEDITION LEADERS: With long experience of the desert and of the visited areas.
EXPLORATORY ITINERARY: The journey is an expedition; participants must be flexible and ready to enjoy the unique encounters but also some unexpected situations that are part of the “African Experience”.
TRANSPORTS: On land: roads, tracks and virgin sand dunes our main choice will be four-wheel-drive air-conditioned vehicles.
On water: to explore the lagoon will charter local fishermen’s boats.
VACCINATIONS: No vaccination request
Morocco, visa not required for most nationalities. Please check.
Lunches: Cold meals (picnics) or restaurants.
Dinners: In the hotels, we will enjoy a great variety of fish specialties among other possibilities, vegetarian or different meals available on request, please mention on booking.
Mobile Camps: Simple dinners made of local fresh products; bottled water included. Wine included, except in Mauritania.
HOTELS: Carefully chosen, due to a possible lack of rooms availability in some hotels, the tour leader may have to replace hotels with others as similar as possible.
CAMPS: In the remote areas of the Western Sahara, two nights at our mobile camp. Modern tents, installed over mats, equipped with mosquito nets, portable beds, mattresses and chairs. A large restaurant-tent will be set for dinner. A tent will be dedicated to “facilities”. Please bring your own light sleeping-bag or sleeping-sheet or let the guide know at the beginning of the tour.
LUGGAGE: Due to the natured of the itinerary including boat rides and camps, please limit your personal luggage in 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 damage during or in consequence of the tour. Discover an insurance policy proposal: https://transafrica.biz/en/travel-insurance-en/;
NOTICE: The itinerary is designed to experience fascinating places where the visit of a foreigner remains an exceptional event. We need to be tolerant and flexible to fully enjoy and truly appreciate the unique nature and wild life, the spontaneous hospitality of the local populations, African magic and mystery.
Itineraries, visits, overnights and accommodations are subject to changes, improvements and adaptation due to: tides time, recent experiences and news from the fields, force majeure. The changes are decided by the organizer. We are not responsible for any delay and cancellation due to external conditions.