Sudan - The Nubian Desert and the Red Sea

Sudan - The Nubian Desert and the Red Sea

Style: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 14 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


This unique tour offers you the chance to visit amazing archaeological sites of northern Sudan, as well as experiencing the isolation of the desert and the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea. We shall visit the incredible Royal Necropolis at Meroe with its stunning pyramids before crossing foreboding desert landscapes where we hope to meet families of local nomads en route and see ancient petroglyphs. After camping wild in the Bayuda and Nubian deserts we will cross the Red Sea hills arriving at the coast where we join a leisurely cruise on a beautiful two-masted schooner to explore the pristine reefs, beaches and lagoons of this little visited stretch of coast ending in Port Sudan.

Tour Rating

Fitness ●●○○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●○○ | History ●●●●● | Wildlife ●●●○○

Tour Pace


Tour Highlights

  • See some of the most prominent archaeological wonders of Sudan
  • Marvel at the incredible pyramids of Meroe
  • Meet nomadic tribes in the desert
  • Experience the isolation of the Bayuda and Nubian desert
  • Wild camping in the desert
  • Explore stunning reefs, beaches and lagoons cruising on the Sudanese Red Sea coast

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Comfortable hotel in Khartoum, permanent comfortable tented camp in Meroe, wild camping in the desert and comfortable cabins on-board the Red Sea cruise.
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum 14
Start Point: Khartoum
End Point: Khartoum although you can also finish the tour in Port Sudan on evening of Day 13
Transport: 4WD and private vessel on the Red Sea
Countries: Sudan

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. On this tour, your guide may be local or European but they will be based in the region. We may also you specialist guides local to their specific region. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.

Day 1, 23rd March 2019: Khartoum – Meroe

Arrive in Khartoum on an early morning flight (usually between 02:00 and 03:00) and transfer to the hotel Grand Holiday Villa or similar. A room at the hotel is booked for you so you are able to check-in and go straight to your room for rest. Breakfast at the hotel and later in the morning we visit the Archaeological Museum which contains two beautiful temples rescued by UNESCO and moved from the Lake Nasser area, when it was flooded by the water. Later we depart Khartoum and head north for about 200km to the Royal Necropolis of Meroe. Overnight Meroe Permanent Tented Camp (BLD)


Strategically situated at the confluence of the Blue and White branches of the Nile, Khartoum has a relatively short history. It was first established as a military outpost of Egypt in 1821, and then grew rapidly in prosperity due to the slave trade, becoming as important in the trade as Zanzibar. In 1834 it became the capital of the Sudan, with many European expeditions into the ‘interior’ using it as a base. Khartoum achieved notoriety in Victorian Britain in the 1880s. A Mahdist rebellion to the west was gathering pace, and General Gordon was despatched to Khartoum to assist the beleaguered Egyptian forces.

Gordon refused to evacuate the capital, and a long siege led to it eventually being overrun by rebels, with Gordon’s head being severed and presented to the Mahdi. Later, Kitchener reclaimed Khartoum for Britain and Egypt and began the rebuilding of the city, using the shape of the British flag to design its streets, believing that this would make it easier to defend. Today Khartoum is a quiet, unremarkable city. It has peaceful, tree-lined streets, and in some ways still bears the unmistakable mark of an outpost of the British Empire.

Days 2 and 3, 24th and 25th March: Meroe – Bayuda Desert – Abu Hamed

The Royal Necropolis of Meroe stands on a hill, with more than 40 pyramids, some of them in perfectly preserved condition. We spend the early part of the day visiting the Necropolis, giving us a fascinating insight into a culture and civilisation long since passed. The Royal Necropolis of Meroe is located about 3 kms from the Nile on some hills covered with yellow sand dunes. We will enjoy sunrise at the spectacular pyramids and explore this incredible archaeological wonder. Later we cross the Nile and enter the Bayuda Desert. We visit the Atrun Crater where it is common to see nomads gathering salt. We will explore this desert environment and then continue to El Mogrut Island where we cross the Nile by ferry to Abu Hamed. From here we enter the Nubian Desert. Overnight wild camping (BLD)


Meroe was the capital of the kingdom of Kush, becoming more important when the Royal Cemetery was moved there from its previous position at Napata. Its significance and power within the region was based on the skill of its metalworkers, iron being a product that was in great demand in the ancient world, and it was also an important trading power with links to both India and China. During its prominence, from around the 8th century BC to the 3rd century AD, the Kushite or Meroitic Empire held sway over large swathes of the surrounding area, including as far away as Lake Chad. Its rich civilisation has left numerous pyramids, very different from their better-known cousins in Egypt and with far fewer tourists, making them an absolute pleasure to explore. Each one has its own funerary chapel with the walls fully decorated with bas-reliefs depicting numerous scenes. In the afternoon we move along the Nile to visit the ruins of the royal city. The excavations confirm that the town of Meroe used to cover a large area and the royal city was located in a central position, surrounded by suburbs and a boundary wall. Most of the area where the city is located, formed by many small hills covered by red clay fragments, has still to be excavated by the archaeologists

Bayuda Desert

The Bayuda Desert is characterised by sharp black basalt mountains, most of them volcanic and typically cone-shaped. They alternate with level pebble stretches and large valleys with dry wadis passing through areas where only a little vegetation can be seen, together with some gazelles. It is very likely we will meet an isolated camel and donkey caravan of the Bishariyyin nomads. They live in family groups in small huts made of intertwined branches close to the rare water wells, in areas where surviving seems almost impossible.

Days 4 and 5, 26th and 27th March: Nubia Mountains – Bir Nurayet

We continue our journey towards the Red Sea hills which run parallel to the Red Sea. Amongst the wadis and desert areas we may come across some people seeking gold. We should also have an opportunity to meet the nomadic Beja people of the Bisharin and Hadendowa tribes. Overnights wild camping (BLD)

Day 6, 28th March: Bir Nurayet Petroglyphs  

Visit Jebel Magardi, an unusual shaped mountain near Bir Nurayet. Here only recently, a Polish archaeological mission has discovered a large number of rock carvings proving that this area was inhabited thousands of years ago. We can also find in the area many pre-Islamic tombs of the Kerma period. Overnight wild camping (BLD)

Day 7, 29th March: Nubian Desert – Red Sea

We cross the valleys of the Red Sea hills surrounded by peaks of up to 2000m. We finally reach the Red Sea near the small village of Mohammed Qol which takes the name from an Arabian fisherman who moved here to start trading in the region. Here we will board the M/Y Elegante schooner, our home for a spectacular journey on a little visited part of the Red Sea. Overnight on-board (BLD)

M/Y Elegante - schooner

The Elegnate is a stunning 30-metre-long schooner, and completely renovated in 2009. The vessel is a classic two-masted schooner with tow fore-and-aft rigs, a jib, and a foresail. Built entirely from wood, she features 7 double cabins. All cabins have air conditioning and en suite bathrooms. The ship features a wide sundeck area at the bow as well as a comfortable and spacious veranda astern with tables, couches and cushions. In the main part of the ship is a living area with a bar area, couches and tables where board games can be played. The crew is a professional team including a chef producing high quality cuisine.

Day 8, 30th March: Mohammed Qol - Mesherifa Island – Mayetib Island

We begin the cruise this morning with a visit to Mesherifa Island and this will be our first opportunity to swim in the crystal-clear waters. At Manta Point we may be able to see large groups of rays. We then reach Mayetib Island, also called the island of snakes, where an endemic species of not poisonous snake lives. We have here the possibility to do some snorkelling along the reef and have a rest on a gorgeous empty sandy beach. Overnight on-board (BLD)

Sudan - Red Sea

The warm waters of the Red Sea and the comparative isolation of this stretch of coast has resulted in a spectacular array of marine life. Soft and stony corals thrive to produce a wondrous ecosystem, providing home to innumerable crustaceans, molluscs, echinoderms and fish. Along the Sudanese coast, the water temperatures average 27 degrees centigrade. This is warm enough to reduce the planktonic and algal blooms that are more common further North. As a result, the sea is generally beautifully clear with visibility up to 30 metres.

Day 9, 31st March: Inkeifal Khor

We spend today exploring natural fjords as well as lagoons with pristine sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. We also have the possibility to walk on land, taking breathtaking views over the desert and the sea. Overnight on-board (BLD)

Day 10, 1st April: Taila Islands

Today we reach the Taila Islands located ou of Shambaya. The three small islands have white-pinkish sandy beaches. The first two islands are connected by a sandy isthmus at low tide, while the third island is situated further east. Acacia trees are found on this island where ospreys nest. On the island we may also find coquina clams which our cook can then make into a delicious dish back on-board. Overnight on-board (BLD)

Day 11, 2nd April: Gurna Reef

Spend the morning in the Taila Islands. After lunch we reach Gurna Reef, a wonderful reef that reaches the surface of the water in corals and fish where we can enjoy some snorkelling. Overnight on-board (BLD)

Day 12, 3rd April: Sha’ab Rumi – Sanganeb Lighthouse

The reef in Sha’ab Rumi is considered to be one of the best in the world. A lagoon behind the reef contains the remnants of Jacques Cousteau’s Conshelf 2, where the famous oceanographer created an environment in which men could live and work at the bottom of the sea. We will enjoy some snorkelling and then reach the beautiful Sanganeb lighthouse, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we will enjoy breathtaking views from the top. Overnight on-board (BLD)  

Day 13, 4th April: Umbria shipwreck – Port Sudan – Suakin

En route to Port Sudan we will stop at Wingate Reef where the Italian ship ‘Umbria’ sank here in 1940 and lies on its side at a depth of around 30 metres. The shallowest point can be explored by snorkelers. This afternoon we arrive at Port Sudan and drive to the ancient port of Suakin known in its glorious past as the Red Sea Pearl. It is now a crumbling ghost town although there are plans for restoration. Later we return to Port Sudan and our final night on-board (BLD)

Day 14, 5th April: Port Sudan – Khartoum – Departure from Sudan 

This morning we say goodbye to our boat and the crew. We take a tour of Port Sudan, the second largest city in the country and the most important port. The city has some colonial style architecture and a busy souk. This afternoon we fly back to Khartoum and on arrival you will have the use of a hotel room as flights out of the country tend to be late at night. Depending on the arrival time in Khartoum we might also enjoy the traditional ceremony of the Dervishes which takes place only on Fridays. (BL)



Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation and camping equipment
Transport throughout the tour with a driver (3 passengers maximum and driver per vehicle)
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Domestic flight from Port Sudan to Khartoum
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner) and services of a cook
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Visa support documents (letter of invitation)


Compulsory Archaeological fees, permits, passport registration – currently USD 260 payable locally in USD cash
International flights
Travel Insurance
Sleeping bag, pillow and towel for the desert part
Snorkeling equipment (fins, mask and snorkel – can be rent and paid locally)
Items of a personal nature
Tips (discretionary)
Video camera fees at the archaeological sites (USD 20 per site at the moment)

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