Trans-Sahara Grand Expedition, Marrakech - Dakar
23 Days: Morocco, Western Sahara Provence, Mauritania, Senegal
Leaded by Alberto Nicheli
Duration: 23 days
Area: Morocco, Western Sahara Provence, Mauritania, Senegal
Style: adventurous expedition, cultural tour
Trans-Sahara Grand Expedition
Marrakech - Dakar
23 Days: Morocco, Western Sahara Provence, Mauritania, Senegal
Leaded by Alberto Nicheli
- 2020: Start from Marrakech November 13th. End in Dakar December 5th, 2020.
- 2021: Start in Dakar April 1st, 2021. End in Marrakech April 23rd, 2021, Reverse Itinerary.
Prices from 5,888 Euro
Or join us for part of the Expedition: itineraries from 12 to 19 days
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) and the high dunes of Mauritania. From the Sahara to the Sahelian savannah of northern Senegal to Dakar, modern African metropolis. Crossing these different ecosystems, we will experience some of the main natural, cultural and religious environments of the African continent.
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.
|Day 1 - 13||Morocco and its less travelled paths|
|Day 14 - 19||Mauritania, pure Sahara exploration combined with the visit of historic jewels|
|Day 20 - 23||Senegal, from northern savannah to southern sacred forests|
Day 1: Marrakech
Overnight at the comfortable Novotel **** international standard, in the heart of 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…
Evening arrival at Ouarzazate, large Oasis at the edge of the desert. Dinner and overnight in an international hotel.
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, dinner and overnight in hotel, comfortable rooms.
Day 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 4x4 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; Air-conditioned bungalows and tents with beds, private facilities, restaurant, swimming pool.
Day 6: Caravan Route & Ancien Fort
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. Evening return to our comfortable base: Ksar Tafnidilt hotel.
(Low Tide 11:40)
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.
Hotel Casamar, rooms with private facilities.
Day 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. Hotel Doumss, air-conditioned rooms.
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. Return to our hotel in Dakhla, dinner in a typical restaurant. Hotel Doumss, air -conditioned rooms. (Hight tide 9:31 (10) coef. 52).
Day13 : Border: a Line in the Sand
Our route continues following the cliff between the desert and the ocean. We follow the only open road going south.
A signboard indicate that we are passing the “Tropic of Cancer”, at Guerguerat military post we will cross the southern border of Morocco, the only open frontier between Maghreb and Black Africa. After the formalities, we cross a few miles of “no-man land” where different traffickers have made their base in new and old cars and trucks apparently abandoned. The no-man land is the unmarked border, a theoretical line in the desert that “divides nothing from nothing”. On the other side, the military post of Mauritania. Evening arrival to Nouadhibou. Comfortable **** hotel.
Day 14 & 15: Sahara Exploration
Early morning departure for two days of pure exploration. Thanks to the experience of our staff we will make or own itinerary tracing an unmarked path in the sand ocean of Inchiri region, one of the les 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 follow in parallel the dunes lines. The real desert gives the feeling to be on earth before the down of time. “Sahara experience”: what makes unique the desert are the endless empty spaces, the untamed sand. Discover traces of ancient human presence: stone tools, remains of potteries, silent witness of people that lived there long time ago, before the desertification. We will find the nomadic isolated settlements when the landscape will become less dramatic and some rare graze will appear. These human encounters after the immense silence of the Sahara are intense, the nomads living in the Inchiri are not used to tourist.
Two nights of mobile camp.
Day 16: Adrar: Dunes And Mountains
The even more scenic landscape of Mauritania: valleys, high mountains, yellow sand dunes with peaks of dark and red rock, lost adobe villages. Amatlich Erg (large dune basin) is one of the most beautiful dune ranges in the region. We will visit remotes oasis and hidden adobe villages.
Evening arrival to Chinguetti where we will spend three nights. Dinner and overnight in a cosy guest house built in traditional Mauritanian style, (or private comfortable residence).
Day 17: Chinguetti, the Oasis
Chinguetti is an ancient caravan terminal and important trading point between north and Black Africa.
The actual citadel dated from 13th century and is a cross-point of different trans-Saharan routes. The atmosphere of the old stone town, the architecture, the visit of some ancient manuscript collections dating from the middle-age and the oasis with is green miracles of palm trees and gardens surrounded by the immensity of the Sahara are the special highlights of Chinguetti. Large chains of yellow dunes are the western boundary of the town that “fight” to don’t be submerged by the send.
Interesting buildings the main Mosque, an ancient stone building. And the old French foreign legion fort.
We will spend the whole day in the magical atmosphere of this village, which is considered the jewel of Mauritanian oasis, discovering two ancient manuscript collection, including Ould Habott, the largest in Mauritania. Return to our cozy guest house.
Day 18: Ouadane, the Remotest
We will drive to Ouadane in an absolute “out of any track” itinerary that follows the Ouadi (dry creek) discovering remote tiny oasis hidden in the high dunes. Entire day dedicated to discovering Ouadane and his region, the remotest oasis in Mauritania, an outpost in the emptiest of the desert. Ouadane was founded in 1147. Mainly in ruin, some of his stone houses perched on a rocky hill surrounded by the immensity of Sahara are still inhabited. In the ancient days this town was an important caravan trading point between Maghreb and black Africa.
Trading was so flourishing that in 1487 Portuguese built a fortified trading counter in the region.
Return to our comfortable base in Chinguetti.
Dinner and overnight at “La Gueila” (or private residence).
Day 19: Noukchott
Day driving on a panoramic road in the Sahara. Evening arrival to Nouakchott the capital of Mauritania, a newer town surrounded by the desert. Dinner and overnight in the comfortable Halima hotel.
Day 20: Djoudj National Park
Early morning departure for the small border post with Senegal. The natural border between Mauritania and Senegal is the Senegal River; we will cross the river on a mobile bridge, and we will move into a wet area isolated between Sahara and Ferlo desert.
The Djoudj National Park, declared a World Heritage Site, is a natural oasis formed by hundreds of miles of partially flooded lands. This “humid paradise” is the best habitat and nesting site of over a million migratory and sedentary birds.
The protected wetland habitats attract migratory birds, more than 400 species live temporarily in this unique bird sanctuary. We will enjoy a boat excursion to visit an island with an astonishing concentration of pelicans.
Arrival in the evening to Saint Louis. Dinner and overnight at “Hotel de la Poste”, a historical hotel built in 1850 used as the base of the “Aeropostale” (airmail pioneer operation) pilots. Totally restored, it has conserved the best “hold colonial atmosphere” in town.
Day 21: Saint Louis, African and Colonial Citadels
Morning visit of Saint Louis first capital of all French colonies in West Africa, a charming old town, situated on two islands between Senegal River and the ocean. The best way to get around the narrow streets of Saint Louis will be on board of the calash, like the locals do! A walk will complete the discovery of the fisherman quarters. We will live to reach Lampoul dunes. Dinner and overnight in fancy fix camp, en-suite tents. Dinner at the restaurant on the high part of the dunes. (Low tide 17:24)
Day 22: From Fisherman Village to Contemporary Artists
Spectacular drive to discover the largest fisherman village in Senegal, more than 4500 wooden pirogues came to the shore with the catch of the day… We will live our vehicles for a less intrusive, but fun, donkey chariot to approach the fisherman selling to the local market women, to meet the artisans craving the large pirogues, the painters decorating them with bright colours and the “local saint” for final magical blessing before sailing…. Lac Rose, also known as Lac Retba, is a shallow saltwater lake surrounded by dunes. Due to the high concentration of salt the lake often shimmers in pink; swimming in the lake gives the sensation of floating. More than 600 people work collecting salt from the lake, in the traditional way.
Arrival to Dakar, “Village des Arts” is composed by more of fifty workshops of contemporary artists. The Senegalese artistic scene has attracted artist from al the continent. We will meet the artist in their production site and discover their works that range from painting and sculpture and pottery to photography and filming. Ferry to Gorée Island: The right times to enjoy Gorée is at sunset when all tourists are gone or in the morning before the crowd arrival.
Dinner in a typical restaurant and overnight at “Maison Municipal” or similar. A comfortable Guest house in an ancient, restored building.
Day 23: Dakar, African Metropolis
In Gorée island slaves were crammed, waiting to be shipped to the Americas. Totally restored remain to bear witness of those times. Today its breezy climate, history and ancient architecture, together with nice restaurants and boutiques, make Gorée an interesting and trendy destination for local and foreign visitors. Ferry to Dakar and visit of the town.
Dakar became an important centre of political, artistic and intellectual “renouveau” during the independence, and is still a lively African metropolis. Visit of the “Plateau” district, the Presidential Palace and a typical market. Day Rooms and transfer to the airport.
EURO Rates per person in sharing double
Full Trans-Sahara Expedition, from the desert to the Savannah:
23 Days Marrakech - Dakar
Start in Dakar April 1st, 2021. End in Marrakech April 23rd, 2021. REVERSE ITINERARY
Start in Marrakech November 20th, 2021. End in Dakar December 12th, 2021.
Start in Dakar April 8th, 2022. End in Marrakech April 30th, 2022. REVERSE ITINERARY
Start in Marrakech November 19th, 2022. End in Dakar December 11th, 2022.
Group of 6 or more participants: € 5.888
Group of 4 to 5 participants: € 7.665
Single Room Supplement: 727 €
Or join for part of the expedition:
- Transfer airport/ hotel and hotel/ airport at arrival and departure, EXCEPT for the first day from the airport to the hotel In Marrakech. The fixed price for a taxi from the airport to any hotels in Marrakech is 200 Dirhams or 20 Euro.
- Full board during the expedition. Lunch on the last day.
- Drinks at meals during the nights in the mobile camp. No alcohol in Mauritania
- Transfers and tour in 4WD vehicles, minibus, speadboats
- Tour Leader (languages spoken: English, French and Italian)
- Tours and visits as per the program
- Participation cost to events, as scheduled
- Accommodation as per the program
- First aid box
- All services included in the program
Prices do not include:
- International flights
- Transfer from Marrakech airport to the hotel in Marrakech on day 1.
- Dinner on the arrival and departure day
- Drinks and mineral water at meals, except for those at the nights in the mobile camps
- Fees for personal photos and videos
- Personal insurance (compulsory)
- Tips for drivers, guides and hotel staff
- Any item of personal nature such as phone calls, laundry, etc.
- Whatever is not mentioned as included