Camel Trekking through the Sahara Desert

While I have always had the impossible lust of visiting every destination in the world, there are a few places that always linger in my mind just a little bit longer than the others. They are the places that I have dreamed of visiting since I was a child. They are the places that I almost can’t imagine actually setting foot in. They are the places that just don’t seem palpable.

A prime example of one of these places, for me, was the Sahara Desert. Could these beautiful curvaceous piles of sand truly exist in the world? Do people really travel through them for days at a time? And, why would they ever leave?

Fortunately, with one of the most memorable experiences of my entire life, I was able to answer these questions for myself. Last week I found myself in Morocco, on the edge of the Sahara Desert. We had been driving for days, making stops along the way—but we were finally here.

Leaving the High Atlas Mountains, the ground started to level out. As miles passed, rocks became pebbles, pebbles became grains and grains eventually smoothed out into a fine pale coloured sand. Then I saw it.

Wavering above the sweltering heat of the desert horizon rose the red peaks of the dunes in the distance. I couldn’t believe that I was genuinely seeing them with my own eyes, and found it difficult to break contact with them. We pulled off the main road and followed a faint trail through the desert sands. The dunes grew closer and closer until finally we had reached their edge.

Disembarking the bus, everyone prepared themselves for our next mode of transportation; camels.

Our camel train was lined up and ready to go, the camels themselves perched on the ground waiting for us to climb aboard and begin the journey. One by one we hopped up onto the seats and the camels and the camels rose high into the air.

Woah.

It looked like the camels bony emaciated legs were going to break in twelve different places, and felt like I was going to go flying off into the sand in front of me. As if he were laughing at my ridiculous thoughts, my camel made a scoffing noise as he took his place in the line up.

I would name him Ozwald.

The camel train started off into the first dune. Ozwald and I followed; the second to last in the entire train.

We made our way to the summit of the first dune and the landscape opened up in front of me. Bright red sand dunes stretched out as far as I could see in every direction. It was all sand, except for the odd tuft of whispy green grass, and nothing but an alluring pattern of dark shadows and brilliant highlights.

I couldn’t help but watch the shadows casted to the east by our train, rather than the physical train in front of me.

The shadow-camels were much more interesting than the real ones as they stretched and bent, almost dancing along the sloping hills, creating curious shapes and inconceivable limbs. When their legs became impossible stilts in the sand, I was reminded of many of the unconventional paintings by Salvador Dali.

From this point I could see the Moroccan-Algerian border in the distance, as it was less than 50km away, and there was nothing but decumbent ground on that side of the sand dunes.

Our guide joked that we should be sure to bring our passports, just in case our camels decided to make a break for the border.

As the dunes rose and fell our camels continued onward without restraint or any seeming desire to run off to Algeria.

Surprisingly, there was a lot of traffic going on in the desert. Nearby camel trains (although much smaller than our own) passed by and there was quite a flurry of quads and motor bikes.

For the first 20 minutes of the ride, everyone was high with the adrenaline of a new adventure and it felt like a sort of party camel train.

People were dancing around on their camels and waving their hands in the air. After the initial group excitement of being on the camels (many for the first time), things started to calm down. Forty minutes into the trek, it actually became peaceful.

There was a soft warm breeze in the air, creating the perfect temperature. The sun was beginning to set behind the dunes and the light was just right on the sand in front of us. There was no sound but the quiet padding of camel feet on the ground below, and the quiet murmur of individual conversations ahead.

I had mastered the skill of riding with no hands but continued to bounce along as we climbed up and down the hills. From the back of the train I could see everyone riding in different styles.

Some were riding them like horses; sitting at the front of the saddle and gripping on to the handle bars for their lives. Some were riding casually; leaning back and enjoying the view. While others were going side saddle and likely saving their “backsides” from the imminent pain that we would all be feeling the next day.

After an hour of trekking through the dunes, we had finally arrived at our Berber camp for the night.

The sun took its final bow behind the tallest dune as we entered the camp and we readied ourselves for the night ahead after hopping back down off of our camels.

The next morning was much the same. Our camels followed the very same trails that we had trekked in on and made their way back to the desert’s edge. This time we watched the sun rise over the dunes, creating an even richer hue of red across the dark orange sands and lighting up the sky above us.

It had been an incredible trek and we finished it off with a delicious Moroccan breakfast on the outskirts of Erg Chebbi.

 —

Check out a post about spending the night beneath the stars
at a Berber camp in the Sahara Desert

 —

This trip was made possible by Busabout.
All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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18 Responses to “Camel Trekking through the Sahara Desert”

  1. Caroline Eubanks
    October 24, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    Lovely pictures! I love BusAbout and hope to travel with them again soon!
    Caroline Eubanks recently posted..A Time of Transition

    • Seattle
      October 24, 2012 at 10:50 am #

      Thanks! Yeah–I’m definitely going to do another one next year 😀

  2. Nomadic Samuel
    October 24, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    Awesome photos! It reminds me of my camel safari in Northern India. Most definitely I’ll have to try one in the Sahara sometime as well.
    Nomadic Samuel recently posted..Go Bohemian in Stockholm, Sweden

    • Seattle
      October 25, 2012 at 5:41 am #

      Ooh, I’d love to do that one too. Let’s trade!

  3. Danielle
    October 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    That looks like so much fun! I hope I can do something like that one day! Beautiful pictures also!
    Danielle recently posted..Fridays Letters!

    • Seattle
      October 30, 2012 at 9:01 am #

      It really was and I hope you can too! Thanks 😀

  4. Lauren
    November 6, 2012 at 2:07 am #

    So many memories! This was the best thing I’ve ever done 🙂 Amazing photos!

    • Seattle
      November 7, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

      Thanks! It was definitely one of my favourite experiences 😀

  5. Matías
    July 16, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Hey!

    Incredible pics!

    I’m planning to travel Africa on January/Feb 2014, and I want to make the same expedition you did (in those pics).

    Could you let me know the name of the company or people encharged of this expedition?

    Thanks!

    Matías

  6. Annie@GreenGlobalTravel
    September 30, 2013 at 4:59 am #

    Ozwald, what a fantastic name 😀
    Thanks for sharing your experiences, I really want to do this now!

    • Seattle Dredge
      October 1, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      Haha, I tend to name all my camels Ozwald. You need to do it, it’s definitely one of my top 3 experiences, if not #1.

  7. Michael
    October 12, 2013 at 6:16 am #

    I travelled with a girlfriend of mine for 9 days in Morocco, starting in Essaouira and ending in Tangier. While we wanted to mainly backpack on our own through the Country, we were very happy to have made the decision book a 3-day tour with Morocco Excursions in the middle of it.

    Having made a lot of research, I found that Morocco-Excursions were the most receptive to my emails. They required a 100Euro deposit through Western Union (Most companies in Morocco don’t accept credit cards) and the transfer went without problem.

    Rashid (our driver) picked us up promptly at 8am in Marrakesh and made all the stops promised (and more) along the way. Because he is at our full disposition, we were able to ask him to make specific stops (such as stopping in non-touristy super market to stock up on drinks, or stopping for a special picture, etc). Rashid was very friendly, kind and knowledgeable. He answered all our questions and talked about his life, his childhood as well as Moroccan culture and history in general.

    Hassan met us in the desert and took us in the desert. The camels were wonderful and the desert guides were very nice. We sand-surfed, had tea, dinner and they even played music for us. We proceeded to sleep under the stars in the middle of the desert (the tents were there, but the weather was nice and fresh, so we slept outside). We woke up before the sunrise and walked up the biggest dune to see the sunrise before returning to our hotel to get our bags and take a shower.

    All the meals included were great; and the ones that weren’t included (lunches), we could ask our driver to stop somewhere else, if we didn’t like what they had.

    Rachid is an excellent, careful, good driver with lots of charisma. We did Essaouira, Marrkesh, Fes and Tagier on our own but saw so much more and learnt so much more than we could have seen those 3 days in the desert.

    It includes A LOT of driving but it is absolutely worth every penny and the car is new and comfortable. I would recommend this tour to anyone. Feel free to ask me questions, if you want

  8. sandra
    March 12, 2015 at 5:34 am #

    My husband and I have travelled extensively and always independently but decided to book a desert tour during our honeymoon. we Started our tour Marrakech and Ended it in Marrakech, The things we saw were amazing too. The snow covered High Atlas and Middle Atlas mountains, we visited several Kasbahs such as Kasbah Taourirt \ Kasbah Amridelt the best being Aït Benhaddou and Oasis, and some impressive valleys like Dades Valley where we spent our first night in a beautiful hotel as well as Todra Valley & Draa Valley.

    The highlight of the trip was a camel trek out into the Sahara, with a berber camel guide to sleep in a berber camp. Riding a camel is a bit of an adventure, but you really need to do it! The camp is very basic & authentic, drum players came to our camp to sing and entertain – and sunrise was awesome.

    We would recommend Marvelous Morocco Tours to anybody thinking of arranging a tour in Morocco. From the initial tentative communications by email to arranging the detail of the tour to the actual tour itself everything has been faultless. All correspondence has been prompt, informative and clear and the physical tour was of a high standard, exceeding our expectations. We often didn’t notice we were on a tour, we just felt like we were trekking independently with some new friends who didn’t mind carrying bags, setting-up camp, cooking, cleaning and having a chat – That was priceless to us. We are sure we will return to Morocco at some point in the future and we will not hesitate to book another tour with MMT

  9. Catherine
    September 4, 2015 at 10:36 am #

    Amazing photos! What camera and lens did you use to take these images? Was it your Nikon D7200?

  10. Catherine
    September 4, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    Amazing photos! What camera and lens did you use? Was it your D7200?
    Catherine recently posted..Record-breaking 0% interest credit cards rated

  11. Carlos
    November 29, 2015 at 7:58 am #

    Amaing day/night in the desert

    Said was such an amazing tour guide! Everyone on the trip was so friendly and accommodating, and just as he had described. The night in the desert was one of the most amazing things i have ever experienced. One filled with good food, music, friends, stories, and dancing under the stars. I am so glad i booked this trip! Everyone going to Morocco should do this!

  12. jack
    August 4, 2016 at 6:10 pm #

    Very beautiful picture
    jack recently posted..Chinese World Heritage-Potala Palace

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