Chad – Soul of the Sahara Tour – an 17 day Small Group Tour.
Deserts are evocative places. Perhaps it’s their apparent emptiness that appeals. A distant horizon that allows us to relax our eyes and absorb a wild and unforgiving vision. However, deserts are rarely truly empty, and if your life has been attuned to their subtle cycles, neither need they be unforgiving.
The raw and beautiful Ennedi Massif melds landscapes and people in a spare and loose synergy. For some, to travel here satisfies a natural human curiosity. For others, it poses a host of new questions. See it for yourself.
Travel through the wilds of Chad, spending time in the amazing Ennedi Mountains with their stunning rock formations, meeting Tubu nomads, passing traditional camel caravans and stopping at remote communities before reaching the Ounianga Lakes.
This is a small group adventure like no other.
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.
Days 2-3 - N’Djamena – Abeche
From N’Djamena we drive to the important oasis town of Faya-Largeau and continue to the large village of Massaguet, centre for the Hadjer-Lamis region. Continuing east, our route is punctuated by numerous small villages, many possessing surprisingly rich markets. We pass through the Guera region and the settlements of Ab Toyour, Bitkine, Mongo and Oum Hadjer. Here, the landscape is characterised by immense isolated granite peaks known as inselbergs. In late afternoon we arrive in Abeche, once an ancient capital of Chad, and now an important administrative centre for the Ouaddi region. Overnights camping. (BLD)
Days 4-8 – Abeche – Kalait – Aloba – Archei Region
We continue northwards to the village of Biltine, passing dunes and low-lying vegetation before reaching Kalait, a crossroads for Saharan trade. Pressing further north, we now enter a true desert region at the southern borders of the Ennedi Massif. Though the environment is harsh, nomadic Gaeda, Tama and Zagawa peoples, a population of almost 100,000, traverse the region herding their sheep and cattle, following grazing towards Sudan and the east. Eventually, approaching Fada, the imposing Ennedi Massif becomes visible. 100km beyond Kalat, close by the peak of Ouaguif, we leave the track and enter the massif. We follow the wide Archei wadi, bordered by a the Ennedi’s characteristic tassilli – wind-eroded sandstone formations. Some of the best tassilli are near Terkei and Toukou, and we explore these in detail. The wadi winds for about 30km before ending in a wide, rocky and verdant amphitheatre. This is the beginning of the gorges leading to Guelta d’Archei, an important permanent water source for nomadic Tubu and their camel herds. Among the Archei gorges, if you know where to look, are many ancient examples of rock art. Here too, are the few remaining Saharan crocodiles – careful where you swim. Overnights camping. (BLD)
Days 9-11 – Archei - Fada – Mourdi – Derbili – Demi – Teguedei – Ounianga Serir
Today we follow the track northwards as far as Fada, a characteristic Saharan village comprising a busy market and houses made of banco (mud) clustered around the old French colonial fort. The main ethnic groups of this region are the Gaeda, Bideyat and Zagawa. Once we’ve completed bureaucratic formalities, which can take a while, we’ll commence crossing the massif. Driving along a slow, sandy and stony track leads us to the Mourdi, a wide region of dunes and isolated groups of mountains. We continue north by north-east, overcoming some challenging dunes, following an ancient caravan route that connected the salt-pits of the Ounianga region (Demi, Teguedei and Ounianga) to southern Chadian villages and northern Libyan oases. We continue northwards to the Eyo Demi, a reddish sandy formation. At its foot rises a modest village, comprised of a few palms and banco houses. This settlement, situated amid a wild and inhospitable landscape, still survives by the trade in ‘red salt’, obtained by very rudimentary methods and transported to southern oases in camel caravans where it’s exchanged for millet and sorghum. Along the track we usually meet one of the caravans. From Demi, we turn west, to Ounianga Serir, passing through Teguedei, a palm-grove inhabited seasonally during the date harvest. In Teguedei we see the first lake of the Ounianga region, situated in a sandy basin surrounded by palms and eroded rock pillars. Skirting the Nabar Falaise, we reach the Ounianga Serir oasis. The landscape is incredible. Lakes fringed by palm-groves spring up from the sand. Rocky formations of multicoloured sandstone abound, joined by golden dunes that pour down to the water. This is some of the Sahara’s most spectacular scenery. Water here is fresh as it emerges from the sand but because of the salty soil, the lakes themselves are brackish, the mineralised water varying from blue to green. We explore on foot through palm groves and along sandy lakeshores, with the opportunity to bathe in some of the lakes. Overnights wild camping. (BLD)
Days 12-17 - Ounianga Kebir – Kora – Bichagara – Kalait – Bahr El Ghaal – N’Djamena
After leaving Ounianga Kebir we head southwards, passing an area of dunes where the going can be difficult. We travel through regions that have seen historical conflict. Abandoned tanks and other military hardware are scattered across the desert. Leaving the Ennedi behind, we call in at Kalait to stock up on essentials for the return journey. From Kalait, we follow a different route, the natural course of the Wadi Achim, and we find ourselves in an area rich in wildlife, including gazelles, bustards, hyenas and jackals. Continuing across the desert plateaux, we reach the depression of Bahr el Ghazal (‘The Gazelles’ River’) a dry wadi that rarely sees running water. Travelling south to the Kanem region, we should in N’Djamena early evening. Day use hotel rooms are available to freshen-up prior to late evening airport transfers. (BL)
Dates & Price.
Minimum Group Size
This group tour operates subject to a minimum group size of 4 travellers.
Please note that this tour operates on the basis of a maximum of 3 passengers per vehicle, plus the driver. Therefore, only 2 passengers will sit on the back seat, which allows for more space and comfort.
Single supplement from £225.
Flights from London to N’Djamena return start from around £550. Please contact us for a quotation.
Airport transfers are included if you are booking pre and/or post tour accommodation at the hotel mentioned in our tour dossier.
Extra night accommodation pre and/or post tour in N’Djamena costs from £105 per person, per night sharing a twin/double room and £190 per person in a solo occupancy room.
Please note that the prices quoted above are for the category of accommodation and hotel used for this particular tour. Depending on the hotel eventually confirmed there may be some difference in the rate advertised by the hotel, and the prices available through Undiscovered Destinations. It should be noted we will not apply a surcharge should more expensive accommodation be used. At the same time in the event that a lower rate is available for the confirmed hotel we are unable to offer a refund.
Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?
Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.
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+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
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- Arrival and departure transfers
- All accommodation and equipment for camping except sleeping bag/sheet
- 4WD transportation
- Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
- Support expedition crew
- Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
- Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
- Visa support documents
- International flights
- Travel Insurance
- Items of a personal nature
- Tips (discretionary)