Luxury Camping in the Sahara Desert
Camping in the Sahara – Another one ticked off the bucket list!
Camping in the Sahara desert has always been something we’ve fancied doing and having booked a trip to Marrakech, to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, there was no better time to tick this off our list. We had booked a three day trip from Marrakech to the Sahara desert and the second night included camping in the Erg Chebbi dunes.
Arriving at the Nomad Palace in Merzouga, we were advised to bring only a small rucksack with us for the night. Luckily Ian and I only had small rucksacks with all our necessities for the 3 day trip and as we had left the rest at our riad. If it had been left to me I could have quite easily brought the kitchen sink. As we left the hotel we could see the camels lined up outside, with our Berber guides, to take us to the camp. We had a complimentary upgrade to a luxury camp so were separated from our small group and joined another couple after about 15 minutes into our journey.
Camel Ride to Erg Chebbi dunes
From the camel line up, I was allocated the baby camel. Now, there’s a technique to mounting the camel. One thing to remember is … DON’T LEAN FORWARD. The last thing you want is to slide off head first and face plant into the sand! The easy bit is getting your leg over and getting onto the camel’s back. I would recommend wearing trousers or leggings for the ride and flip flops. Here’s the tricky part – when the camel starts to stand up, this is when you lean back and hold onto the bar in front of you to be more secure (a bit like how the cowboys ride a bucking bronco in the rodeos). Once the camel has stood up, hey presto you’ve done it!
The camel ride to the camp was to take about an hour and a half. So, off we went slowly. Being on the baby camel, it seemed he wanted to wander off on his own little journey. He wanted to go left, then right – thank god he was tethered to the camel in front. The ride was slightly bumpy and trying to take a picture proved somewhat difficult. Half way through the camel ride, we stopped and dismounted off our camels to wait for the sunset. Silly me had my trainers on and guess what happened. Sand went into my trainers through my socks and I was left with my toes swimming in it. So off they came leaving the softest sand running between my toes! Big tip – wear flip flops!
It was so surreal that we were camel riding on the sand dunes of the Sahara desert. The bright orange sand dunes going on for miles and miles. No doubt I could easily get lost out there. So finally this was what I had been waiting for … the perfect picture of the sun setting behind the dunes. Just our luck, there was so much cloud cover that evening the sunset was nowhere to be seen. No worries, there’s always the sunrise picture to look forward to!
On our way to the camp, we passed other tour groups and noticed quite a few other camps dotted within the dunes. At one point I heard a girl scream. Her camel tether had broken off and she had fallen off the camel. This made me hold onto the bar even tighter!
Finally, I could see our camp in the distance and we made it there safely without a hiccup.
Luxury camp in Erg Chebbi
As we arrived at the luxury camp, we were greeted by two Berbers, Hassan and Saeid with a tray of fresh mint tea in hand. During our trip to Morocco, Ian and I had taken a great liking to Moroccan fresh mint tea. We were led to a small comfortable seating area between the rows of tents to relax and were told that other people would be arriving soon. Sipping on our tea, we could see that that camp was quite small and made up of 8 separate white tents, well spaced out from each other. Ornate moroccan style lamps dimly lit the path which divided the tents on either side. As we eagerly waited for our tent, there was a power cut! The berbers started rushing around frantically trying to fix the electricity and finally … there was light! Perfect timing as the other guests had just arrived.
Our tent was the one nearest to the seating area. As we pushed open the door of the tent we were seriously amazed at how spacious, homely and furnished it was inside. A large king size bed on one side of the room with a two seater sofa and table in the corner and the bathroom on the other side. Fresh white towels were provided and placed on the bed.
The bathroom had a basic shower, a flushable toilet, a vanity unit with a sink, mirror, shaver point and hot running water too. If you had forgotten your toiletries, soap was also provided. This is truly posh camping!
We quickly showered and freshened up before dinner – there was plenty of hot running water and we were told that there’d be enough till midnight and it would be switched back on again first thing in the morning.
Walking into the tent where dinner was served, we were the first to arrive. There was a long table for the large group tour and smaller tables for couples on the other side of the tent. Choices, choices where to sit. I’m the worst to make a decision by the way. Ian chose the table nearest the food!
To start we had a salad plate to share; a mix of cucumber, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, sweetcorn.
Next up was a chicken tajine with fresh bread to soak up the sauce. And to end the meal there was a plate of fresh fruit. A large bottle of mineral water each was included with the meal.
Once everyone had finished their meal, the guests gathered round the open fire outside to watch the live entertainment from the Berbers. The beat of the drum and the singing from the Berbers was great entertainment. They even made a birthday cake for one of the guests and we all had a piece each – Yum!
All of a sudden, I felt water drop onto my face. I realised it had started to rain in the desert. I heard that it only rained 10 days a year in the Sahara and who would have thought it would happen whilst we were there. As we had a long day, we called it a night and headed back to our tent.
During the night, it was so windy and all I could hear was the wind beating down on the tent. Seriously it felt like the tent was going to be blow away – but luckily it didn’t.
Sunset over the sand dunes
Ding ding! There goes my alarm and I leapt out of bed ready to watch the sunrise. We climbed up the sand dune waiting for the sun to rise. More and more guests wandered out of their tents for the chance to see it too. We waited and waited, but no sunrise. There were too many clouds again and it just wasn’t meant to be. How disappointed were we …
Finally we headed back to our tent to shower and pack our things for our journey back to Merzouga. Breakfast was served at 8am in the tent with a wide selection of warm and cold dishes, which included, boiled eggs, pancakes, yogurt, bread and various jams and many sweet pastries. What a breakfast feast!
There was a choice for the return journey either by 4WD or the camel ride. So 10 mins by 4WD or 20 mins by camel. We opted for the camel ride back, by now we were pros at riding camels. It seemed we were the only ones choosing this option as everyone else sped past in 4WD’s as we made our way along the dunes.
We enjoyed a relaxing camel trek back to the hotel to be met by our driver Aziz, who was patiently waiting for us. All in all, it was a great experience with riding camels and staying overnight in the Sahara desert. However just our luck we didn’t get to capture the sunset or sunrise pictures which we had hoped for. Never mind, c’est la vie. Maybe in the future we might book this trip again but to a different part.
What to bring
- Light jacket
- Small rucksack
- Long scarf / hat / headscarf to protect your head from the sun and dust
- Change of clothes
- Bottles of water
- Travel adaptor and chargers
Have you stayed overnight in the Sahara desert? What did you think of the experience?
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