At a Glance
Dates: April 21st - April 29th, 2023
Extension: We currently do not offer an extension, but may operate a four-night extension to Nouadhibou in Mauritania from 2023 onwards.
Prices: £1,895 per person, with a £300 single supplement.
In a sentence: Africa has so much to offer before you even reach the Sahel; this is perhaps the only trip in the world with a good chance of delivering Sand Cat, Fennec Fox and Atlantic Humpback Dolphin.
When one thinks of African wildlife, one could be forgiven for not having the Sahara cross your mind. In the main, the biodiversity of this vast desert is low, and what wildlife does exist is kept at low levels by low-quality habitat and unfettered poaching and pastoralism in the fringes of the Sahara. In recent years, this perception has begun to change, driven in part by the re-wilding of the desert reserves of Chad, but also by the emergence of the Western Sahara as an exciting and novel safari destination.
Flanked on one side by the dunes of the Sahara and on the other by the wild Atlantic Ocean, Dakhla finds itself at a crossroads between the desert and the sea. The shallow waters of Dakhla Bay are amongst the most reliable places on the continent to find the enigmatic Atlantic Humpback Dolphin. Inland, things only get more exciting as the desert plays host to rarities including Desert Hedgehog, Saharan Striped Polecat and African Golden Wolf. The highlights, though, must surely be the trifecta of nocturnal felids and canids; Rueppell's Fox, Fennec Fox and Sand Cat. Long night drives into the depths of the Sahara will focus on delivering sightings of all these creatures and much more - this itinerary is exhausting but exhilarating, and a can't-miss for serious safari enthusiasts.
On arrival into Dakhla you will be met by your Pictus Safaris representative and transferred to your accommodation. Your flight is likely to arrive into Dakhla late in the evening and we recommend we use tonight to rest ahead of several long nights to come.
Today we will head to the centrepiece of Dakhla - the bay. Dakhla is something of a resort town for many Moroccans, with watersports becoming increasingly commonplace. Water-skiing will have to wait, however, as we are heading out into the bay in a catamaran for the early afternoon, with our focus being on sighting the reclusive population of Atlantic Humpback Dolphins known to reside here. Our chances of success are highly dependent on tide and wind conditions, though we will regardless stand a good chance of spotting the much more obliging Bottlenose Dolphins, and there is always the possibility of rarities such as False Killer Whales popping up, although we are likely to stick to shallow water for most of the trip.
After the three-hour trip on the catamaran, we will transfer into the Sahara to a Saharawi campsite, which we will use as a base for the next two nights. We will set out tonight in search of Sand Cat and the many other desert specials we stand a chance of encountering. Sand Cats have been recorded using abandoned nests in trees as excellent spots for cat-naps, so keep your eyes peeled both at ground level and above! There is also the chance of encountering rarities including Rueppel's Fox, Fennec Fox, Desert Hedgehog and Saharan Striped Weasel - all charismatic and elusive species that are a pleasure to encounter in this beautiful, remote area. We should expect our drive tonight to last into the early hours of the morning but we are sure our first drive into the Sahara will be worth it. Returning to camp, we will settle into our basic tented accommodation for some well-earned rest.
Our days in the Sahara will start late, to ensure we get enough rest between drives. Brunch will be served at 11.30am, giving us time to soak in our surroundings. Our campsite is basic, with twin tents containing inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags and water reservoirs (but no toilets or showers). As darkness sets in, we will again head out deep into the Sahara desert. These drives are exhilarating - nothing beats the anticipations when one spots eyeshine reflected in a beam of a spotlight! We can be highly adaptable when it comes to targeting specific species and, although Sand Cats are often a highlight, we can put a concerted effort into locating several other species.
After a customary late start, we will today head south to the town of Aousserd. Both the sand road from our camp, and the main tarred road to Aousserd, are well-known haunts for Sand Cat (even during daylight hours) amongst other species, and our drive today may reveal some great sights. If lucky, we may be able to stop at a few local caves and overhangs where bats are sometimes seen. On arrival into Aousserd, we will settle into our basic homestay, our home for the next three nights. Our accommodation consists of single or double rooms with shared bathrooms and hot shower facilities.
Days Five to Six
Over the next two days we have ample opportunity to explore the sand pistes and tarred road around Aousserd, one of the finest areas for both Fennec Fox and Sand Cat in all of Africa. It is even possible to, with a hefty dose of luck, come across Sand Cat kittens, one of the cutest sights you can imagine! Our vehicles will always be equipped with multiple spotlights to maximise our chances of a special encounter with these rare felines. On our return to the house each night, a snack will be provided to replenish energy levels after these lengthy but rewarding night drive.
This afternoon we transfer back to Dakhla and our hotel accommodation. There will be plenty of opportunities for stops and photo opportunities en route and we may even be able to locate some of the local Sand Cats who have taken to snoozing in empty nests during the day.
Today we have a second opportunity to scour the bay around Dakhla for the vanishingly elusive Atlantic Humpback Dolphin. Particularly after so many long night drives, this is a great opportunity to rest and relax and let the crew do the spotting for you! Should tidal and weather conditions align, our chances of seeing local marine life is good and we may become amongst the very few lucky visitors to encounter Humpback Dolphins in this part of the world. Once the tides shift, we will return to land and to our hotel for one final night in the Western Sahara.
This morning you will be transferred to Dakhla Airport, where the tour will end.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in April 2023, aiming to take advantage of the cool April weather, when nocturnal animals will be most likely to be active in the late evening. The tour will run from April 21st to April 29th 2023, and will cost £1,895 per person with a £300 single supplement. To secure a place on this tour a deposit of £800 plus any single supplement must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise.
British nationals do not require a visa to enter the Western Sahara. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in the Western Sahara in April is mild and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 21 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 16 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars or Euros.
Safety and Security
We understand that for some potential visitors, the security situation in this region is a concern. Pictus Safaris take the safety of clients extremely seriously and we are in constant communication with our ground operators to monitor the security situation in all of our destinations.
The security situation in the Western Sahara is stable in much of the country. We advise clients to take sensible precautions when travelling to the country, including avoiding photography near sensitive areas (e.g. police stations or airports).
All Pictus Safaris clients must have travel insurance to travel with us. As travel to parts of the Western Sahara is advised against by national travel advisory bodies, most travel insurance policies will not be valid here. We recommend High Risk Voyager insurance as it covers medial evacuation from remote areas.
To secure a booking on this fantastic holiday, please fill out the details below.