Group self-driving tour by 4×4

Group self-driving tour by 4×4

Embark on a Thrilling Adventure – group self-driving tour

Discover the excitement of group self-driving through the enchanting landscapes of Morocco led by our experienced guide. Join a small group of fellow adventurers and journey through the southern parts of Morocco to unique destinations, including exhilarating desert drives.

If you’ve hesitated about doing this kind of trip independently, our group self-driving option is perfect for you. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery, rugged terrain, and vibrant culture of this North African gem. Explore remote dunes, charming valleys, and ancient gorges while indulging in the ultimate off-road experience in the Sahara Desert.

self-driving in Morocco

Ten Nights of Unforgettable Exploration

Experience a mix of camping under the stars and staying in cosy guesthouses at each stop. Our carefully selected guesthouses are nestled in rural Morocco, offering you the best of each location and its surroundings.

Begin your group self-driving journey with a night at a convenient hotel in Marrakech before venturing into the wilderness for the next 9 nights, returning the vehicles to Marrakech airport.

Spend a night camping in a mobile camp at the Draa Valley and the following two nights at a fixed desert camp at Erg Chigaga dunes. Get ready to navigate through Morocco’s stunning landscapes in your own 4×4 vehicle.

Our overnight stops during the group self-driving tour will be –

Ait Ben Haddou, Dades Valley, Tagounite, Erg Chigaga dunes (2 nights), Tissint, Tafraoute (2 nights), Taroudant.

Self-driving in Morocco

4×4 driving in Morocco

We limit the group self-driving tour to 5 guest vehicles (two passengers per car). The group trip is not suitable for children. Should you wish to travel with children, please contact us for a bespoke trip offer.

The group travels in convoy behind our lead guide vehicle, and remains in contact through radio (which we provide). Your guide will schedule regular stops.

Self-driving in Morocco

We provide Toyota Prado (TX) vehicles which are automatic. You do not need any previous experience of off-road driving for the group self-driving tour.

The off-road element through the desert is approx. 200km (split across 3 travel days through the Iriqui National Park). Your guide will be on hand to provide tips on handling the desert terrain (which in fact is less than 20% sand driving).

Self-driving in Morocco

Visit Morocco in October or February

Please contact us for dates of our next scheduled departures. We plan for 11 October (2024), and 21 February (2025).

Pricing starts from Eur €2600 per person (based on two people per vehicle and per room/tent).

We travel in Autumn and early Spring when conditions are most comfortable to travel.

Self-driving in Morocco

 

For further images of the South of Morocco please refer to our Instagram feed.

FAQ on desert camps

FAQ on desert camps

Where are the desert camps located?

The desert camps are located at Erg Chigaga dunes, at the heart of the Iriqui National Park (see below). The Erg Chigaga is the longest erg, ‘sand sea’, in Morocco at approx. 40 km length. Being 60 km from the nearest village/road (at Mhamid) makes it an opportune location for star-gazing and immersion in nature.

Camp Al Koutban, see image above, is ideally-placed for the tallest dune in the entire Erg (and some wildlife spotting), but all desert camps offer plenty of viewpoints from dunes closer to camp.

*NB: if you are taking the short 4 days tour between Marrakech and Fes, we offer alternative camping at Erg Chebbi dunes, to minimise driving hours. However, on the 5 days tour between Marrakech and Fes we offer desert camps at Erg Chigaga dunes.

How do we travel to the desert camps?

The Erg Chigaga dunes are approx. 20 hours round-trip from Marrakech (or on the Fes-Marrakech route, approx. 26 hours trip).
We arrange the stays at the desert camps as part of a complete package round-trip from Marrakech, or a through-trip between Marrakech and Fes. The packages include private driver-transport and hotel accommodation either side of the camping stay.

We can also arrange to collect you from Ouarzazate, or from the coast (Agadir, Taghazout, Essaouira).

Please look over our 4×4 tours page for various options with the desert camps. The most comfortable minimum round-trip is 4 days/3 nights (with 1 night camping). We recommend you spare an extra night to allow yourself a full day in the Sahara to really switch off.

Alternatively, we can put together a self-drive package for you, and arrange for a desert guide to join you in your vehicle at the village of Mhamid. Or you may finish a multi-day desert hike with a night in comfort at one of the desert camps.

What is the Iriqui National Park?

Iriqui National Park was established 30 years ago to protect the biodiversity, flora and fauna across 123,000 hectares of south-eastern Morocco, and in particular to preserve the temporary wetlands of Lake Iriqui, at the heart of the desert. The lake bed is normally a dried salt flat, which you will drive across.

Iriqui National Park is the largest park in Morocco (re: surface area) and is unique in that it is Saharan. The dunes of Erg Chigaga are simply a small part of the Park.

How big are the desert camps?

We offer desert camps with no more than 14 tents.
At the heart of each camp is the campfire, and the restaurant tent (*and bar at the luxury camp).
If you want to camp in privacy away from others, we recommend staying at the private nomadic camp (but with your own staff).

What should I pack/bring to the desert camps?

Please bring good sun protection, including lightweight long sleeves and hat – even in Winter, the sun remains very strong.
Please bring clothing you can layer easily as temperatures will fluctuate greatly day to night. You will certainly need a down/warm jacket, hat and warm sleepwear in the months from late November through to mid-February.
For footwear, trekking sandals (with socks) are ideal. Running shoes/trainers will be suitable for hard terrain, and note that sand/dust will get underneath your insoles.
Please bring a personal travel kit (e.g. immodium, antihistamine, painkiller, rehydration powders, support bandage, band-aids, antiseptic wipes, dressing, hand gel, eye drops).
Please protect cameras/phones/tablets from desert dust, even with a sealable plastic bag.
Lastly, please pack a book or two if you plan to disconnect.

What is there to do in the desert?

You can be as relaxed or as active as you like. Key times of day are sunrise/sunset, and meal times.

The stays at the desert camps include a camel trek before sunset (or walk if you don’t wish to ride). The round-hike (or camel trek) from Camp Al Koutban to the tallest dune in the Erg Chigaga is approx. 90 minutes.
Other hiking options are possible if you request a guide at time of booking. Without a guide, you can walk out from camp, but ensure to keep the camp in sight at all times.
The camps have shared sand-boards.
There are outdoor relaxation areas and hammocks.

Lastly, you may want to find a quiet vantage point and practise some yoga against the backdrop of the dunes.

Do you cater for a vegetarian/gluten-free/vegan diet at the desert camps?

Dietary requirements are catered for at the desert camps. Please mention your dietary restrictions/allergies at time of booking.
The emphasis is on fresh vegetables and fruit, tagines, couscous, soup, salads, bread/pancakes.
We provide bottled drinking water, which you should also use for brushing teeth.

What is the bathroom situation?

The desert camps source water from a natural spring, several kilometres from Erg Chigaga dunes.
We encourage you to use water sparingly in the desert, especially in light of recent drought conditions in the south of Morocco.
The tap water in the bathrooms is not drinkable.
Towels are provided (*and toiletries at the luxury camp).
The luxury and private nomadic camps have private bathrooms adjoining the sleeping tents (bucket shower, Western toilet).
Camp Al Koutban has a shared bathroom block (Western toilets/showers).

Will there be electricity at camp?

The electricity supply at the desert camps is generated by solar panels.
At Camp Al Koutban, should you need to charge your phone, camera battery, or other kit, please ask the team and they will use one of the sockets at the kitchen.
At the luxury camp/private nomadic camp, the sockets may be used in the tent.
However, you may want to bring an external power bank if you need to charge equipment while you’re travelling.

What sort of weather can we expect?

For queries about Morocco weather, we find the ‘meteoblue’ forecasts reliable. Search for Mhamid or el Gouera for the Sahara desert – www.meteoblue.com
The best times of year to visit the desert are from the end of September through to early May.

It’s not unusual to have windy conditions in the desert. These tend mostly to occur around the change of seasons/temperature changes (i.e. early Spring). Conditions can change quickly, it is a fact of life in the Sahara.
Winters see cold overnight temperatures (even as low as freezing by dawn) with warm daytimes. However, climate change has affected what were once seasonal patterns and Winters are shorter/drier than before.

Will we see animals near the desert camps?

There is abundant desert wildlife to be found in the Iriqui National Park.

For an overview of what to expect, please click here.

 

Please also visit our Instagram feed.

 

Desert wildlife

Desert wildlife

Desert wildlife near camp

We love encountering wildlife on our travels, and our part of the desert, in the Iriqui National Park, is teeming with animal and birdlife. Despite first impressions, there is abundant desert wildlife to be seen if you know what to look for.

Sometimes all you need is a little patience or luck to stumble upon some of our local species and migratory visitors. Some of the species are nocturnal (staying active in cooler temperatures), while some are endangered and, naturally, elusive.

Endangered Dorcas gazelle - desert wildlife in Morocco

Dorcas gazelle

Below is a glimpse of the desert wildlife we’ve been fortunate to spot out from our camp, Camp Al Koutban. We’d be keen to know if you’ve seen any other species.

Our camp is ideally-placed at the heart of the Erg Chigaga dunes for the tallest dune in the Erg, and we also have plenty of other viewpoints nearby. When we say we want to bring you close to nature, we mean it.

One way to know we’re surrounded by desert wildlife, look down at all the tracks in the sand when you’re out walking, especially early morning.

White-crowned black wheatear - desert wildlife in Morocco

White-crowned black wheatear

If you want to get even closer to nature, then join us for a desert hike and camp wild across several days.

Desert wildlife – animal life

Desert wildlife in Morocco - The small rodent Jerboa (hunted by the fennec)

Jerboa

Dorcas gazelle (pictured at top) endangered, but numbers in the Iriqui National Park have increased over recent years (NB: the village of Mhamid El Ghizlane is named for ‘the plain of the gazelles’)
Jerboa, pictured
Hare
Fennec fox, pictured

The Fennec fox - desert wildlife Morocco

Fennec fox

Hedgehog
Berber skink (aka ‘sand-fish’, pictured)
Dab lizard
Saharan striped polecat (rare)
Addax antelope (endangered, re-introduced to the Iriqui National Park recently)
Jackal

Desert wildlife in Morocco - The Berber skink (or 'sand fish') which seemingly swims through the sand

Skink, which seemingly ‘swims’ through sand

Desert wildlife – birdlife

Desert wildlife in Morocco - desert birdlife

Blue-cheeked bee eater (migratory)

Sand-grouse, pictured below (distinctive call in flight, groups fly in V formation, and you may see them at ground level amidst small shrubs)
Wheatears, pictured (both the white-crowned, and the desert wheatear)
Desert sparrow

Desert wildlife in Morocco - wheatear

Desert wheatear

Lark
Bee-eater, pictured (typically February/March – look for birds in/above the calotropis trees)
Houbara bustard, pictured (endangered)

Desert wildlife in Morocco - Houbara Bustard

Houbara Bustard

Stork (group, in flight in circular motion)
Egyptian Vulture (rare, alone or pair)
Brown-necked raven (common)
Little owl (common, palmeraie)

Desert wildlife in Morocco - sand grouse

Sand grouse

For further images of desert wildlife in Morocco and camping in the Iriqui National Park, please follow us on Instagram.

Prehistoric rock art in Morocco

Prehistoric rock art in Morocco

Cataloguing Rock Art in Morocco

Rock art is found throughout the Sahara, principally in the desert mountain and hill ranges, where stone ‘canvas’ is abundant: including the highlands of Adrar in Mauritania and Adrar des Ifoghas in Mali, the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and Algeria, the Tassili n’Ajjer and Ahaggar Mountains in Algeria, the mountainous areas of Tadrart Acacus and Messak in Libya, etc, as well as the length of the Nile Valley.

Explorations in the early twentieth century by celebrated travellers, ethnographers and archaeologists brought the rock art of the Sahara, and rock art in Morocco and northern Africa, to the awareness of a European public.

Rock art in Morocco (Ait Ouazik gazelle)

Since 2013, the British Museum has engaged in a project to study and catalogue the rock art images of Africa, including rock art in Morocco in both the Atlas mountains and the Sahara, digitally preserving African rock art, ensuring global open access well into the future. Their research provides new information and perspectives on the collection and the ancient and modern cultures it represents.

Please visit the British Museum’s website for more information, click here.

Rock Art in Morocco – the site of Ait Ouazik

More than 300 rock art sites have been documented in Morocco, mainly located in two areas: the High Atlas Mountains, and the Sahara desert region to the south and east. They comprise mainly engravings (as opposed to paintings), which could be up to 5,000 years old, and include domestic and wild animals, warriors, weapons and scenes of battles and hunting. Antelope and cattle are the most represented animals in Moroccan rock art, although elephants and rhinoceros are common. 921 images have been catalogued across the various sites.

Rock art in Morocco at Ait Ouazik (antelope)

One of the most renowned and well-preserved sites of rock art in Morocco is that at Ait Ouazik near Tazzarine/Zagora. Getting there involves at least a half day’s round-trip out of Zagora and some of that on piste (unsurfaced tracks). This can be combined with one of our longer tours to the desert.

Being in such a remote location you may find the site at Ait Ouazik to yourselves. There is a local guardian/caretaker who has taken a special interest in the rock art and shows visitors around. Over the years some stones have already been removed to use in construction down at the village and the guardian is ensuring no more are taken.

Rock art in Morocco (wheel)

We were captivated by the images carved on the stones and representation of animal life on the continent thousands of years ago (the Sahara desert is, after all, relatively young). The site lies in a broad, dry valley with occasional palm trees and Acacia trees providing verdant relief. It is easy to picture a greener landscape of savanna in this part of Morocco.

We hope you enjoy some of the images we took. If you’re at all interested in extending your tour in the south to visit the Ait Ouazik rock art site near Tazzarine/Zagora please let us know.

Rock art in Morocco at Ait Ouazik

Further images are on our highlights reel (rock art in Morocco) on Instagram.

 

Tea has a special place in Morocco

Tea has a special place in Morocco

Tea-drinking is a big deal in most corners of the globe, from the Far East, Russia, India, to the United Kingdom, the Middle East, and North and East Africa, to say the least. Each nation has its own tea customs and rituals, and not everyone drinks the same blend of tea. Morocco is a nation of tea-drinkers (apparently it was the English who introduced tea here in the 19th Century!) and the preparation and serving of tea is not to be taken lightly. You can’t just “put the kettle on”, you need to savour the process and take time over it.
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Our Top 5 Things to Do in Morocco

Our Top 5 Things to Do in Morocco

You can’t possibly do and see everything that Morocco has to offer in one trip. If you can experience our top 5 things to do in Morocco that will be eye-opening enough (and, hopefully, inspire you to visit us again).
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The Iriqui National Park

The Iriqui National Park

Iriqui National Park

Created in 1994, Iriqui National Park was established to protect the biodiversity, flora and fauna across 123,000 hectares of south-eastern Morocco, and in particular to preserve the temporary wetlands of Lake Iriqui, at the heart of the desert.
(more…)

The Moroccan ergs – Erg Chigaga and Erg Chebbi

The Moroccan ergs – Erg Chigaga and Erg Chebbi

We are often asked the question about the Moroccan Sahara – Erg Chigaga and Erg Chebbi, which one should I visit?

It’s difficult to answer that one on an impartial level, as Yahya hails from the desert region closest to Erg Chigaga. However, we do always give practical advice, depending on your proposed travel schedule in Morocco. Sometimes, it’s just too far to reach one erg (‘sand sea’) when the other would allow for a far more comfortable and sensible journey. You should also consider whether you’d like to spend more than 1 night under canvas in the desert, and which time of year are you travelling in Morocco.

Erg Chigaga and Erg Chebbi each have their merits. Both dune fields are 10 hours+ from Marrakech, we advise you break the journey, with lots of overnight options before and after the desert; Fes to Erg Chebbi is feasible in one day (7 hours), or take 2 nights from Fes to comfortably reach Erg Chigaga. If you’re travelling over from the Coast, opt for Erg Chigaga, which is part of a neat loop through the Anti-Atlas mountains, the Sahara desert and the Draa Valley.
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Self-driving in Morocco – a few of our tips

Self-driving in Morocco – a few of our tips

Self-driving in Morocco

Having your own driver and 4×4 vehicle is by far the most relaxing and comfortable proposition to navigating the open roads and desert here. I endorse it, but I myself enjoy driving and love nothing more than a road-trip. What I find challenging is trying to concentrate on the road and enjoy the magnificent scenery simultaneously – well, it’s difficult – and evidently the driver can’t relax and enjoy the views as his/her passengers can. Concentration is key to self-driving in Morocco.
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