Desert Camping in Sahara desert would count among few of the most incredible traveling experiences. Camping activities for more adventurous travelers is a way to experience nature much more closely than say available via a sightseeing trip. And camping in world’s largest desert, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature’s marvels is sure to leave you exhilarated.
Sahara desert besides being the biggest desert in the world also happens to be the hottest place. This together with the extremely fluctuating temperature, hot days and sometimes below freezing temperatures at night, make it a destination for travelers looking for a different and more demanding traveling experience. But all the extra effort is totally worth it, as the desert specifically in nights, but even during days, leaves you with much to marvel and meditate on.
With Atlas Mountains on the North, lined by Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean from different sides, and touching Nile on the east, Sahara is a magnificent destination. Sahara which derives from the Arabic root word ‘Sahar’ (meaning desert) spreads across many countries. Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Niger, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia all these countries provide entry points into the desert. Though the most common starting point for tourists is Morocco, as the Marrakech airport lies nearby. Desert safaris from Timbuktu and Quarzazata are popular and easily available.
Many different kinds of desert safaris and camping options are made available to tourists. Depending on the time one wants to spend in the desert, group sizes one wants to travel in and the kind of accommodations one wants, these tours can be easily availed. Most of the hotels in Morocco organize these trips for their guests, or can easily recommend you a good agency which organizes desert camping trips.
Undertaking one of these trips usually takes you to tents located nearby glorious dunes and places that provide splendid panoramas of desert. Some of the popular camping sites include Kasbah Mohayut, Kasbah du Toubka’s Neltner Hut, Dar Azawad’s Ch’gaga Dunes, Dar Azawad’s Hommes Bleus Dunes, Kasbah Derkaoua’s Merzouga Dunes to name a few.
A usual expedition undertaken for the purpose of desert camping and beginning from Morocco, would require one to pass the Atlas Mountains and hence a drive over these mountains. If you want you can also stop at Quarzazata, this has served as a set for various sections of the ‘Mummy’ movie franchise. The way to the endless deserts is equally scenic and enjoyable. After crossing Draa valley, one reaches Merzougo. This town is important as the sand dunes are close from here and so easily accessible. The real Sahara experience begins from here.
Based on your selected trip, you can be conveyed to the tents through a 4×4 vehicle. Or if you want a more authentic desert experience, opt for a camel ride. The camel rides are scheduled such that you reach near your camps during the sunset. The experience of standing in the middle of a desert, and seeing only sand in all directions as far as eyes can see is a typical and humbling experience. If one is camping at the time of sunset, one can see dimming sunlight over the sand dunes, mirage created due to this and seeing the sea of sand reflecting back different colors.
There are different kinds of camps offered according to your choice and budget. Camps with up to 15 people, or more exclusive ones, the most visited camps, or the lesser exploited ones, camps with sleeping bags etc, or ones with luxurious sleeping and other arrangements, various kinds of desert camps are made available. If you want more luxurious experience stay in Bivouacs, with proper toilets, king size beds, Moroccan Carpets, dining halls among other facilities.
Berber nomads are present in these camps, and their hospitality is renowned. To enjoy the native Moroccan Cuisine near the open fire while seeing the nomadic artists performing is a charming way to spend time amid the vast desert.
Climbing the sand dunes is another popular activity you can engage while camping. Sand dunes in some parts of Sahara can be as high as 500 feet or more. Depending on your camp’s location and your guide’s knowledge of the desert and the terrain, you can find sand dunes as high as 300 feet even on Moroccan expeditions. Climbing atop the dunes can be a difficult task, but the view from the top is totally priceless. To see different formations of sands, the vastness and majesty of deserts, to observe the sunset from this vantage point, are all memorable activities.
Even after the sunset, the views from sand dunes are spectacular. To see the moonlight bathing the desert in its light and creating an almost surreal sight are also worth the climb. Sleeping under this sky, full of stars, to observe the twinkling and clearly visible constellations, to feel the peace and silence that pervades the desert, to be away from active signs of civilization, to get in touch with nature are some things that only visiting deserts and staying or camping here can provide.
Camping amid the sand dunes, unending tracts of sand, resting under shades of palms around an oases, seeing the sun going down and hiding behind the dunes amid a tangerine sunset, night sky full of dazzling stars, eating around a fire, the hospitality of nomadic people, learning local customs and listening to folk songs, all these together create a thrilling experience that will be treasured.