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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.

 

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