Chad - Soul of the Sahara
Chad - Soul of the Sahara
To put it simply, Chad is one of the most exciting countries in all of Africa, an utterly wild and untamed land brimming with opportunities for adventure. The most remote and least visited country in the Sahara, Chad is home to dramatic landscapes and people that rarely see western visitors – an intoxicating combination. Leaving the tarmac road almost as soon as we head out of the capital and driving on rough tracks past occasional villages, wells and nomad encampments, we head to the Ennedi Mountains, a region of bizarre rock formations, prehistoric rock paintings and Tubu nomads, a proud and resilient people that have carved out an existence for themselves in this unforgiving corner of the continent. We visit the awe-inspiring Guelta d’Archei – home to one of the last populations of Saharan crocodiles, which we hope to see, along with nomads bringing huge herds of camels to drink at the only permanent waterhole for miles around. We visit isolated communities making a living out of the trade in salt, and hope to encounter traditional camel caravans travelling between the few settlements here. Reaching our northernmost point at the Ounianga Lakes, fringed with palms and completely at odds with the desert around them, we return south to N’Djamena where the tour ends. The scenery throughout is diverse - the sandstone shapes of the Ennedi, never-ending dunes of the Mourdi Depression, dried up wadis – and there are good opportunities to spot wildlife as well. Nights are spent camping under the stars in some of the most striking scenery you can imagine. This is not an easy trip, and definitely not recommended for first time visitors to Africa, but for those seeking real adventure it is hard to beat.
Day 1 – N’Djamena
Arrive in N’Djamena and transfer to the hotel. Overnight Hotel du Chari or similar.
Chad’s capital sits on the Chari River, opposite the Cameroonian town of Kousseri on the western bank. It’s a relatively recent creation, having been founded in 1900 by the French and originally named Fort Lamy after an officer who had recently been killed ‘pacifying’ the region. It’s quite a spread out city, with wide boulevards which are unfortunately now mainly devoid of the trees that they once sported, these having been chopped down to remove cover for rebel forces during the city’s turbulent past. There are few specific sights in the city, but if you’re arriving early or staying on after the tour you might want to have a wander through the central market, which is quite interesting.
Days 2-4 - N’Djamena – Salal - Kalait
From N’Djamena, Chad’s capital city, we follow a track running into the alluvial plains of Lake Chad as far as Massaguet, where we begin to follow the track towards Moussoro, in the Kanem region. The landscape, between the savannah and the sahel, is criss-crossed by numerous temporary water-courses and flood plains and is characterized by varied and luxuriant vegetation, represented by several kinds of acacias and by small forests of doum palms. Ethnic groups found here are the Kanembou, Peul, Kanouri, Kereda and Daza.
The track follows and then skirts the depression of the Bahr el Ghazal, the gazelles' river, an ancient river from the Paleochad period. After the small villages of Salal and Koubba Oulanga, we continue eastward; the ground and the landscape become completely sahelian, but are characterised by a very wild landscape rich in animals (gazelles, bustards, hyenas and jackals). The environment is almost devoid of settlements, except for a few huts of Arab nomads. The track, that follows the natural course of the Oued Achim, ends in Oum Chalouba village. Overnight camping. (BLD)
Days 5-8 – Archei Region and Aloba
We continue northward, along the main north/south track which joins Abeché, in Ouaddai region, to Fada village, in the Ennedi. We are now in a desert region, at the southern borders of the Ennedi, inhabited by Gaeda and Tama populations and by Zagawa, a shepherd group composed of 100,000 people moving throughout this region following the grazing lands towards Sudan and the east. Continuing northward, on the way to Fada, the imposing Ennedi massif starts to become visible. One hundred kilometres after Kalaït, by an isolated peak named Ouaguif, we leave the track and enter into the massif, following the wide Archei oued, bordered by a beautiful succession of rock formations, eroded into weird and wonderful shapes by the sand. Amongst the most beautiful are those of Terkei and Toukou, which we will see in detail.
The oued winds for about thirty kilometres, before ending ends in a wide rocky and verdant amphitheatre which marks the start of the true gorges leading to the guelta, a permanent water source where it is easy to meet the nomadic Tubu population with their herds of camels. The Archeï gorges, situated in a landscape of unforgettable beauty, are home to many ancient rock paintings, and to the last living specimen of saharan crocodiles (crocodilus niloticus). Overnight camping. (BLD)
The Ennedi Mountains
The Ennedi are made up of red sandstone mountains, and have been eroded into weird and wonderful shapes over millennia by the winds, with a wide variety of rock formations. The second largest natural arch in the world is to be found here, but the landscape is also made up of cliffs, gorges, mountains, columns and much more, often with vast sand dunes backed up against them. There is much wildlife present here, although you have to be lucky to see it – leopard and cheetah still stalk some parts, and monkeys, antelopes and various bird species can be found. Local folklore has it that the Ennedi is home to a large cat, known as the Ennedi tiger, although no proof has ever been found. The Guelta d’Archei is home to one of the last groups of Saharan crocodiles –there is another population in Mauritania – which are far smaller than other species. At present there are around eight living in the guelta but no young have been seen for some time, prompting speculation that the population is either entirely male or female.
The Tubu live in Chad and Niger, in some of the most inhospitable parts of the Sahara desert, and on this trip we will meet many Tubu villagers and nomads. With dark skin but almost European features, their origins are rather a mystery to researchers, with the current best guess being that they descend from a mixture of Berbers and Bantu Africans. The Tubu are made up of two main groups, the Teda of the Tibesti and the Daza further south, and within that are comprised of numerous clans. There are around 200,000 Tubu today. Up until relatively recently they had had little contact with outsiders and even now are rather wary of strangers – this particularly manifests itself in an aversion to photography and we ask that you follow your tour leader’s guidelines on this to avoid any problems.
Days 9-10 – Fada – Mourdi - Derbili
We reach the track joining Monou to Fada, and follow it northward as far as Fada, prefecture of the Ennedi and a characteristic saharan village with houses made of banco, clustered around the old French colonial fort and the small but busy market. The main ethnic groups of this region are the Gaeda, Bideyat and Zagawa. Once we’ve completed the bureaucratic formalities, which can sometimes take a long time, we start the crossing of the massif, and we will drive along a slow sandy and stony track that will lead us to the Mourdi, a wide region of dunes and isolated groups of mountains. We continue in a north/north-east direction, overcoming some difficult dunes, following the ancient caravan route that connected the salt-pits of the Ounianga region (Demi, Teguedei and Ounianga) to the southern Chadian villages and the northern Libyan oases. Overnight camping. (BLD)
Days 11-14 Demi – Teguedei – Ounianga Lakes – Kora – Bichagara and surrounding region
We continue northward until we reach the Eyo Demi, a reddish sandy formation; at its foot rises a village, comprised of a few palms and houses made of sand. This settlement, situated amidst a wild and inhospitable landscape, lives off the trade in “red salt”, obtained by very rudimentary methods and then taken to the southern oases by the caravans, and, then exchanged for millet and sorghum. All along this track it is easy to meet one of these caravans. From Demi we turn to the west, to the Ounianga Serir, passing through Teguedei, a palm-grove inhabited seasonally for the date harvest, as the small silos made of sand and stones, show. In Teguedei we see the first lake of the Ounianga region, situated in a sandy basin surrounded by palms and multicoloured sandstone formations.
Skirting the Nabar falaise we reach the first lakes of the Ounianga Serir oasis. The landscape is incredible: lakes surrounded by palm-groves that spring up from the sand, rocky formations of multicoloured sandstone from white to red and golden dunes that descend to the water. This is some of the most spectacular scenery in the whole Sahara desert. The water is fresh and comes out from the sand but, because of the salty soil, the lakes are very salty and different colours, from blue to green, respectively more and less salty. We make excursions on foot along the sandy banks and the palm-groves with the opportunity of a bath in the lakes.
After leaving Ounianga Kebir we lead southward passing through an area of dunes where the going can sometimes be difficult. We travel through regions which saw fighting during the conflict with Chad, and it is possible to see old abandoned tanks and other military hardware scattered around the desert. We hope to camp tonight on the edge of the Ennedi, our final night in this majestic region. Overnight camping. (BLD)
Days 15-16 – Kalait – Arada – Abeche – Mongo
Leaving the Ennedi behind, we head first to Kalait where we spend time stocking up on a few essentials for the return journey. From Kalait we follow a different route, leaving the homelands of the Tubu and entering in a more populated area, encountering Arab nomads and settled villagers. On Day 14 we should reach Abeche, Chad’s fourth largest city and the only place of any real size that we encounter since leaving N’Djamena. We have now left the Sahara behind and are in a Sahelian landscape, with acacia trees and large herds of cattle. Overnight camping. (BLD)
Day 17 – N’Djamena
A long drive (400km) back to N’Djamena. On arrival back in N’Djamena transfer to the hotel if you are staying extra nights or to the airport for your onward flight. You will need to have a late evening flight out of N’Djamena today. (BL)
Please note: While every effort will be made to adhere to this itinerary, it may be necessary to make amendments depending upon the local conditions when we travel.
Tour style: Pioneer
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation on twin share basis
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Any airport taxes
Please note that you should also read the Country Notes in association with this itinerary for practical information about your trip and the destination you will be visiting.
The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and Undiscovered Destinations.