MOROCCO, WESTERN SAHARA PROVENCES, RIO DE ORO
A great expedition crossing part of the the Sahara from north to south. Starting in Marrakech and ending in the Rio de Oro Sahara Provence. The itinerary is the outcome of many years of field research.
– On virgin sands, tracks and roads, the itinerary will be in airconditioned 4WD vehicles.
– On the water ride on fishing boats in a calm sea loch between the dunes.
Experience a “peaceful raid” from north to south in a continuous changing landscape. From Marrakech, crossing the remote Djebel Sarhro mountains, to the undiscovered Western Sahara (now Moroccan Sahara Provinces) to end in the former Rio de Oro region.
TIME TRAVEL: FROM PREHISTORY TO CONTEPORANEITY. Marrakech, trendy city and traditional “caravans terminal” to Black Africa, will be the right starting point for our “modern caravan”. Prehistorical Roc Art in the Sahara, Historical sites, Dakhla the former headquarters of Spanish Rio de Oro.
TRIBAL CULTURES. The last cave-dwelling families live in the most isolated Berber mountains. The Saharan sands are inhabited by Moorish nomads and camel herders, fishermen lives on the edge between the desert and the ocean. Encounter the legendary Reguibat and Sahrawi nomads of the untamed Western Sahara, currently annexed to Morocco.
NATURE. Travelling along the “uncertain border” between land and water, dunes and Ocean. Following the “flyway” in the time of bird migration, a constant and discreet presence along the whole itinerary, when millions of birds leave Europe and Russia heading to Africa to winter.
Traveling North to South, or vice versa, is a continuous change of latitude that leads to a continuous change climate, fauna and flora: from absent to rare vegetation of the south Sahara to the green miracle of the oasis. We will discover some unexpected micro-climates created by the moist winds from the ocean on the dry desert environment: a multitude of “spontaneous gardens” with flowers, succulents and lichens.
COMFORT the best available comfort is a must to fully enjoy a travel experience out of the beaten tracks. Modern and comfortable air-conditioned 4×4 vehicles will be the transportation. Overnights: mostly in hotels and fixed camps with large tents, beds, facilities and restaurants. The accommodations have been chosen according to the criteria of comfort, typical architectural style, restaurant quality, friendly service and scenic locations. Two nights will be spent at a mobile camp in the more remote areas of the desert. Our modern tents are provided with mattresses and are totally equipped with mosquito nets at the windows. Tents are placed on a large mat that further isolates them from the soil. The staff will install the camp with the cooperation of the participants. Warm dinner will be prepared by the cooks and served at tables. Camping under the stars is a must of the “Sahara experience”.
SAFETY is our main concern. The itinerary is based on a long experience in the area and is led by the best experts. The expedition is safe and constantly monitored from our local connections with direct information from the field.
CLIMATE. Autumn and spring are the best seasons in the Sahara; climate is mild and pleasant; nights are cool but not cold and days are warm but not hot.
Day 1 – MARRAKECH
Day 2 – HIGH ATLAS
We will live the main road to discover the les frequented Berber villages in the High Atlas Range and joint the local gems diggers in quest of Amethyst, Tourmaline…. With their help we will be able to find our own gems… Our itinerary cross Tizi-n- Tichka pass at 7460 ft. In the southern side of the Atlas we will stop at Ait Benhaddou a beautiful adobe Ksar (fortified village) still partially inhabited and one of the great examples of Adobe Architecture in Morocco. Ait Benhaddou is on the ancient caravan route linking Marrakech with the Sahara. In the modern time in this Ksar has been shot many famous movies including Lawrence of Arabia, Sodom and Gomorrah, Oedipus Rex, The Sheltering Sky, The Jewels of the Nile, Jesus of Nazareth, Alexander, Gladiator, and more…
Day 3 – REMOTE VALLEYS, CAVERN DEWELERS AND ROCK ART
Early morning departure. Following a steep track from valley to valley will bring us to remote shepherd families still living permanently in caves. A highland itinerary (often at more than 6000 Ft. ) to explore the les visited region of the Djebel (mountains) Sarhro. Following a tiny track that climbs rocky valleys through a breathtakingly landscape of mountains and desert our itinerary cross an arid spectacular mountain landscape: picks, tabular rocks, rare nomad tends and tiny Berber villages. Visit of an ancient rock art site. Hundreds of fine graffiti dating thousands of years ago, silent witnes of peoples living in these regions before the desertification.
Arrival in the evening at Zagora Oasis.
Days – 4 & 5 – DUNES
We will live Zagora to visit the oasis in the Dra riverbed, a large continuous strep of luxuriant vegetation surrounded by the ochre and yellow colours of the desert. In the shade of 2.200.000 palm trees, small gardens are a green miracle in the desert. In Mhamid the Sahara adventure starts; our 4×4 will enter a region of high dunes, the Erg Chegaga. Dinner and overnight in a comfortable fix camp, with beds, restaurant and facilities.
We will start the day driving out of any track finding our way, crossing ranges of dunes to reach Iriki dry Salt Lake. Late afternoon arrival at Icht, a comfortable fixed-tended camp in the desert;
Day 6 – CARAVAN ROUTE & ANCIEN FORTS
The road will bring us to Guelmim, an ancient caravan terminal. Here we will search for the remains of the ancient Trans-Sahara trade…
From this point onward, we will often travel along one of the fishiest coasts on earth. We will follow the “migration route” of the paleo-artic birds that migrate to winter in Africa every year during this season. Visit to a spectacular ghost military fort, which still “guards” the former borders between the French protectorate of Morocco and the Spanish Sahara. Feeling like we are on the set of an old French Foreign Legion movie. Afternoon arrival at the charming and comfortable Ksar Tafnidilt hotel, built using local material in a beautiful Saharan architecture. The hotel is managed by our friends, Guy and Magali, a French couple. Magali is a desert expert; she won the “Rally des Gazelle,” the most challenging off-road competition reserved for female teams. Ksar Tafnidilt is a meeting point for passionate Sahara travelers; the hotel will be our base for two nights.
Day 7 – ESTUARIES AND DESERT
We will leave Tafnidilt crossing a steep range of dunes. The Dra estuary region is visited only by brave travelers. Between the cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean there are only tracks vanishing in the sand. We will discover tiny temporary settlements of fishermen, ghost colonial military posts, dunes, and camels in a virgin landscape, and if lucky with the drive for miles on a wild beach like a strep between dunes and ocean … We live the coastline finding our way along a dry riverbed (Ouadi) in a large canyon the only possible path between desert, cliffs and the ocean.
Day 8 – DUNES AND LAGOONS
From Tan-Tan, the road follows an exciting itinerary through a crag on the edge between Sahara and 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). Protected area of great natural beauty is an important resting point on the bird’s migratory way, can host up to 20.000 individuals as flamingos, cormorants, gulls, herons…
We will board a local fisherman boat to explore this 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 architetture. In Tarfaya, Saint Exupéry the famous aviator and writer, author of “The little prince” was familiar.
Days 9 & 10 – WESTERN SAHARA: THE FORBIDDEN TRACK
In Laayoune we will meet our local guide, a nomad from a Sahrawi tribe who will lead us through three days of a total of-road desert expedition crossing from north to south the Western Sahara.
The former Spanish Sahara colony has been the site of a long war between the Polisario Armed Front and the Moroccan army. Presently, 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 travelers. Until today no peace treaty has been signed, but a cease-fire is respected. We are proud to be the “first” to bring intrepid travelers to the vast, sandy regions of Saguia El Hamra, Tiris Zemmour and Rio de Oro. In this real Saharan expedition, we will cross large dunes to discover wells frequented by long lines of camels belonging to the legendary Reguibat nomads. Days 9 and 10 camping under the stars of the desert.
Day 11 – FROM THE DESERT TO THE OCEAN
Morning continuation of our Trans-Saharan expedition. In the afternoon, a road will bring us to the ocean. Evening arrival at an hotel in Dakhla that will be our “base” for two nights.
Day 12 – RIO DE ORO
The exceptional beauty of this landscape makes the Dakhla peninsula a special place. The Rio de Oro is a 25-mile long sea loch situated between cliffs and dunes. Different pastel colours paint the scenery: the blue ocean, yellow sand, green seaweed fields and dark rocks. Experience a unique scenery: during the high tide the ocean will flood the desert and a white dune will become a temporary island.
The small town of Dakhla was founded by Spanish navigators in 1502 and was called “Villa Cisneros.”
Visit of the colourful fishing harbour, lunch in an oyster farm, drive along the shore where the waves lap the sand dunes. Day room available and late afternoon transfer to the airport.
UNIQUE DEPARTURES: This itinerary is part of Sahara & West Africa Grand Expedition from Marrakech to Dakar and Cotonou.
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 solo crossing of the desert, ethnological research on Tuareg and rock art. He has organized the logistics of a documentary film for Discovery Channel on the Caravans of the Niger and has assisted in numerous research projects on West Africa with Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith from National Geographic, as well as in different television programs on West Africa. He has an expertise in Tribal Art and security in West Africa.
EXPLORATORY ITINERARY: This itinerary 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”.
On land: roads, tracks and virgin sand dunes our main choice will be four-wheel-drive air-conditioned vehicles, as well as brief but funny rides on: colourful local bush Taxi, traditional calash and donkey chariot.
On water: to explore lagoon will charter local fishing boats.
VACCINATIONS: No vaccination request
Morocco, visa not required for most nationalities. Please check.
MEALS: Lunches: Cold meals (picnics) or restaurants.
Diners: In the hotels, 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.
HOTELS are 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: two nights camping, in the remotest part of Western Sahara. Camping in immensity of Sahara is an unforgettable experience. Igloo tents fitted for tropical climate, camping mattress included. Please bring your own light sleeping-bag or sleeping-sheet.
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.
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.