Camel trekking in the Erg Chebbi Dunes Camel trekking in the Erg Chebbi Dunes

The Erg Chebbi Dunes

The Erg Chebbi Dunes are certainly one of the greatest sights of Morocco. These giant hills of smooth sand line the Algerian border and are a must see for everyone. Famous for their great height and size, Erg Chebbi Dunes are twenty-two kilometers long, five kilometers wide and can rise up to one hundred fifty meters high in some places.
The Erg Chebbi Dunes are located forty kilometers from Erfoud, near the town of Merzouga. Historically, getting to the dunes was a hardship on Moroccans and other traders passing through Erg Chebbi, as they followed the Saharan Caravan Route to carry gold,  salts, spices and slaves to Timbuktu. To arrive near the Erg Chebbi Dunes, travelers had to pass through some of the flattest and barest areas imaginable. If they traveled during the summer, the sun burned against their skin and clothes.
In comparison to decades prior, today, arriving to the Erg Chebbi Dunes of Merzouga is a breeze.; there are many options to take you there:
  • Bus - supratours run bus services from Marrakech to Merzouga (12 1/2 hours) and also Fes to Merzouga (11 hours) and Meknes to Merzouga (9 hours);
  • Hire Car – those have chosen to travel independently by hire car should note that there are plenty of guesthouses along the way and petrol stations in most sizeable towns. Nevertheless, tourists must be careful because the stretches between towns are long;
  • Guided Tours – many people choose to explore the Sahara in organized, guided tours from Marrakech, where groups depart for the desert in 4 x 4 land cruiser, this is the easiest way.  These trips often incorporate stops along the way to the Unesco World Heritage site of Todra Gorges and Ait Benhaddou and the Dades.
Tourist who have chosen to travel by their selves, should arrange Erg Chebbi trip locally. The first thing they should do is to book a hotel in Merzouga.

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The Erg Chebbi tours all follow roughly the same format.  From Merzouga, you will head to a Kasbah on the edge of the dunes, where you will meet with your guide and camels. You will start your camel trekking in the afternoon, not before decanting your belongings into a smaller backpack and alighting your camel. You will trek on the camel for around 1 - 2 hours to reach the desert camp.  If the timing works out, you will be able to stop along the way to sit on the dunes and watch the sunset.  Once you arrive at your camp, you will take dinner under the stars. After dinner, some camps offer additional entertainment, such as drumming and Berber. Depending on your timings the next day, you may head back out on your camel before sunrise, so that you can reach a good vantage point for the sunrise on your way back to the Kasbah. Time permitting, you may also have a chance to do some hiking in the dunes or go sand sledging.  Some of the larger camps also have quad bikes for rent. You will arrive back at your Kasbah in the morning, where you can have breakfast and freshen up before your onward journey.
Who have time to explore the Sahara, there are longer tours – three, four and even seven day guided tour to the Erg Chebbi Dunes.
Rregardless of the tour you've selected, you will have an equal opportunity to observe the desert flora and fauna. Desert plants are a bit rare as the rainfall in this area is very brief and uncommon. In the springtime, if it rains, can be found mauve statice and pink asphodels. A lot of reptiles can be spotted by their tracks. The nighttime is the best opportunity to catch desert hedgehog, glimpses of the jerboa, desert fox or fennec. But birds are the most spectacular. Bird lovers will enjoy looking for blue-cheeked bee-eaters, desert sparrows, fulvous babblers, desert wablers and Egyptian nightjars. Again, if the spring brings rain and creates a small lake northwest of Merzouga, can be spotted pink flamingos and many other water birds.
Don’t forget to look around, during the trekking. Look back at the clear trail of foot prints you leave behind; never in your life will you see something so intriguing. Journeying through the Erg Chebbi Dunes is a surreal and mystical experience. Sleeping under the stars in a Berber tent, camel trekking and the silence only the desert can offer, all contribute to making the Erg Chebbi tours a must-see on everyone's travel list.
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