The vast arid landscapes of North-Western Africa have been largely off-limits to us for many decades and so the very special wildlife adapted to the rigorous climes of the Sahara are little-known to us. There is though one now very safe area to experience the amazing and unusual fauna that eke out a living in the incredibly arid and evocatively beautiful landscapes – the Western Sahara.
The gateway is Dakhla, reached by a flight from Casablanca. The town lies on a long narrow spit of land that separates the Bahia de Dakhla from the Atlantic Ocean. Inland lies the Sahara. The landscape is one vast sandy, desert interrupted here and there by rocky outcrops, that stretches unchanged into neighbouring Mauritania. The rocky outcrops provide daytime refuge for animals such as the African Golden Wolf and the Sand Cat but to see them we need to go out at night. Two areas near Aousserd have been yielding almost nightly sightings of Sand Cat. This beautiful feline is perhaps as easy to see here as anywhere and though elusive it is reasonably common in the area. Just to add a little spice though there are a reasonable number of African Wild Cats around too just to check we are getting our identification right.
Fenec Foxes are also quite common and we’ll have no trouble at all catching up with these delicate little canids. African Golden Wolf (is it a jackal? Is if a wolf?) are scarcer but careful searching during the course of the week should give positive results and we’ll also see Rueppell’s Fox too. Other desert mammals we should encounter include Desert Hedgehog, Lesser Egyptian Jerboas which are both common and rather tame, and Lesser Gerbil. The area is rich in reptiles and we’ve a decent chance of coming across two rather spectacular ones in the shape of the Saharan Horned Viper and the Desert Monitor. There are a number of rather beautiful little gecko species and Uromastyx dispar, the local spiny-tailed lizard, is common. We can hope to see the Western Sandfish too, a skink that literally swims through the sand!
Perhaps the rarest mammal in global terms in the Western Sahara resides not in the great sandy deserts but in the sea, specifically in the bay between Dakhla and the mainland. We’ll take a catamaran out in these rich waters to get a look at Atlantic Humpback Dolphins (Sousa teuszii), a dolphin that is critically endangered but locally not uncommon. There are also Bottle-nosed Dolphins here and Orcas sometimes put in an appearance.
We will concentrate or efforts on this tour on seeing mammals and so there will be lots of spot-lighting and of course early mornings and evenings, nevertheless there’s plenty of excellent birds we might encounter during our visit. Greater Flamingos are common in the Bay as are Royal Tern, Caspian Tern, and Slender billed Gull, whilst in the desert avian highlights might be Thick-billed Lark, Cricket Warbler and Cream-colored Courser.
Mammals. Also Reptiles and Birds.
Easy for the most part, though on uneven rocky or sandy ground. Note that we do spend quite a bit of time driving the tracks at night (and daytime) and so we don’t expect to cover many miles in a day, however it is the timing of the excursions that you need to be aware of – we’ll be spending quite a part of the hours of darkness in the field and so sleep may be at less than usual times!
Included in the Price
All flights. Accommodation, transport and meals in Western Sahara. Services of your leaders. Please note; items of a personal nature including travel insurance, visas, drinks and tips are not included.
Minimum group size is 3 and the maximum is 5.
Our first night is at the Boutique Hotel Albaraka which is a comfortable modern hotel right by the airport, perfect for our late night arrival. Then we move to the desert camp for a two-night stay. This is very much camping, though the tents are large and airy with thick mattresses on the floor and sleeping bags provided. There are no toilet or shower facilities here – just the desert! Next we move to a basic guesthouse in Aousserd for a three-night stay. Rooms here are simple and there’s two toilets and one shower available for the whole group. After five nights of such basic accommodation we’ll return to the coast and what will seem the amazingly luxurious Vagabond Lagoon Ecolodge, a lovely and very comfortable lodge fantastically sited on the edge of Bahia de Dakhla. The Vagabond has very pleasant well-equipped rooms with en suite facilities and an excellent restaurant. The last two nights of the tour will be here. Single accommodation is guaranteed only for the first and last two nights, and en suite facilities too.
UK flights are from London Heathrow via Casablanca to Dakhla. Indirect routes from other regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Warm, even occasionally hot, and of course sunny. Daytime temperatures regularly reach around 30°C whilst at night it is 23°C in Dakhla but cooler inland, indeed very pleasant, and the clear atmosphere means the stars are simply sensational.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. Mammal and bird checklists are available.