Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Morocco Series (Part 6) - How To Plan Your Own Desert Excursion


Hello folks,

Today's post is a little 'text-heavy' so apologies for that. I spoke to a few people on Twitter who mentioned that they'd like to know more about the desert adventure that we went on in Morocco. I appreciate that my holiday to Morocco feels like a lifetime ago now, however blogging and working isn't the easiest to keep on top of (as fellow bloggers will appreciate) so yes, apologies for the lateness of this post! Anyway, I've decided to write quite a detailed post on how to go about organising your own excursion if you fly into Fes and want to head across to Marrakech via the beautiful desert. It's definitely worth a read if you're interested in that kind of thing!

CAMPING IN THE DESERT

When we booked our holiday to Morocco, we read about various desert excursions online and were quite drawn to the idea. There are a plethora of excursions that are available to book online through companies such as Rough Tours and Sahara Desert Trips however these can be quite expensive, particularly if you want to do a four-day excursion which includes the camel ride into the desert, a stop at the gorges and visiting Ait Ben Haddou. We were eyeing up the three / four day excursions from Fes, however because Fes is less touristy it would've cost us about £350-£400 each for the excursion (as we wouldn't be travelling as part of a group). If you do it the other way and travel from Marrakech, you can join a group and the price per person will decrease. We decided not to go with the pre-organised tours so that we could have more freedom. By doing our own thing the trip worked out to be slightly cheaper, less rushed and more of an adventure... (Brace yourselves for information overload!)

To begin with, we caught an overnight Supratours coach from Fes to a place called Merzouga (which is where the desert is). The coach journey was 11 hours overnight, cost about £13 each and left from the Supratours bureau outside Fes train station at 9pm. We arrived in Merzouga at 8.40am the next day. Despite the coach breaking down for a couple of hours en route, it was a fairly stress-free journey! 

We'd organised with a local guesthouse called Riad Madu to pick us up from the Supratours coach stop in Merzouga in the morning. Our driver, Mohammed was waiting for us on arrival. He helped us with our bags and drove us in his 4x4 to the Riad where we had breakfast, a nap and then embarked on our excursion which included:
  1. A jeep excursion during the day - which to be honest, I probably wouldn't bother with as it consisted of visiting a lake, looking at some local irrigation systems and visiting a 'Berber village' which was essentially a large tourist shop.
  2. A camel ride into the desert.
  3. An overnight stay in a luxury camp (the tent includes a proper double bed with a plumbed in toilet, shower, sink, etc. - click here to see a pic of the room) with a four course meal and entertainment. We were the only ones there so we had four people waiting on us and the whole camp to ourselves which was pretty funky. 
  4. A huge breakfast the following morning overlooking the sand dunes. 
  5. Transfer via jeep back to Riad Madu. 
Altogether this cost us 1450DH each (approximately £103), which isn't too bad considering how much you manage to cram in!



SLEEPING IN A CAVE

After our desert trip, we moved on to a place close by called Guest House Merzouga (again, another great place to stay) in order to utilise their swimming pool and then the following morning we got up early to hop on yet another Supratours coach to a place called Tinghir. Again, the coach was cheap (about £5 each) and took about three hours in total. 

Once we got to Tinghir we headed in a taxi to our hotel, Auberge Le Festival, which is a 30 minute drive away in a place called Todra Gorge. I would definitely recommend staying there as it's incredible. We stayed in a cave room (which is essentially a man-made cave built into the rock) and it was pretty niche to say the least. They also have castle rooms if you would prefer something a touch more regal. That day, we went on a big walk around the gorge and managed to take some interesting snaps. In the evening, we had a three-course meal (they seem to be the done thing in Morocco) and sat under the stars for a while. I have to admit, as a bit of a star fanatic, it was amazing to be able to see every single star in the night's sky - particularly as there is no light pollution in the gorges. It was beautiful. Altogether, our stay cost 500DH per person (about £35 each) including a three course meal and a large breakfast the following morning.


AIT BEN HADDOU

The following morning we got up early as we were going to be getting a taxi to Ouarzazate, which is about two hours drive from Tinghir (the main town near to Todra Gorge). We had our breakfast, settled up and then hitched a ride to Tinghir taxi rank. There we managed to catch a taxi to Ouarzazate with some other locals, which cost about 100DH each (approx £7, which for a two hour taxi journey is a good price!). 
Once at Ouazazate, we got another taxi to Ait Ben Haddou which is an ancient, holy city built into the mountain. Game of Thrones and Gladiator were filmed there, plus it's a UNESCO world heritage site, so all-in-all it's a pretty interesting place to visit. We asked our taxi driver to take us there, wait for us for a few hours, and bring us back to Ouarzazate in time to get our 4pm bus to Marrakech. For this, he charged us 300DH (£21). It was definitely worth making the effort to go and visit this place - the views are incredible and it's nice to see traditional Moroccan cities which were built hundreds of years ago and are still standing. It's a real 'Indiana Jones' kinda place.



After our trip to Ait Ben Haddou, we ventured back to Ouarzazate and hopped on a Supratours bus to Marrakech. The four hour journey was a little hair-raising as it went through the Atlas mountains and there were some seriously sheer drops, plus the coach driver seemed to be taking the corners a little too fast! However we got to Marrakech in one piece - and for just 80DH each, which is just over a tenner for the both of us. Bargain!

Instead of costing us about £350-£400 each and having zero control over the hotels and riads we were staying in, our own excursion cost just shy of £200 each and was a true adventure! If you're looking to do a similar thing and you have the patience to travel via coach and organise accommodation yourself then I'd definitely recommend a DIY tour! And if you need help or have any questions relating to this kind of trip then feel free to just drop me an email or a comment below and I'll be sure to reply!
Useful links for your DIY tour:

Supratour / rail timetables and prices can be found here: http://www.marrakechtraintickets.com/morocco-rail-timetables/
Riad Madu (the luxury desert camp) website: http://www.riadmadu.com/en/luxury-camp/
Auberge Le Festival (the cave room) website: http://www.aubergelefestival-todragorge.com
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11 comments:

  1. Wow this trip sounds so interesting! I would've never thought to have a Moroccan desert excursion but it sounds affordable and the pictures are gorgeous.

    Jamie | PetitePanoply.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cameltrekking-Excursions.com Is a small company based in MERZOUGA run by Mohamed, offering private tailored guided cultural tours for singles, couples, families and small groups all around Morocco highlighting the very best of it’s imperial cities, ancient Medinas, Atlas Mountains, Kasbahs and Sahara desert.
    Mohamed found his passion for culture and language amongst the most majestic sand dunes of Morocco called Erg Chebbi, located in Merzouga village. There he led a nomadic childhood with his parents, wandering through the desert with his family and camels possessing only a tent for shelter.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Dear
    First Of all We Hope all is great with you There ?

    Thanks so much for adding a beautiful pic and nice words of our Sahara Desert and Nice to Know That you enjoy your experience and we will be glad to welcome you back to your second Home and To Show you the Rest of the Sahara and Moroccan Culture and views Iam Hakim From Merzouga Desert i use To Be Guiding Tourist with camel crossing the beautiful dunes and i create a small local company www.MoroccanDesertTrips.com I Organise Tour all around Morocco and camel trekking in Erg Chebbi dunes From 1 hour untell Two weeks as Nomad Experience
    you can Read reviews The people we Meet Long way :
    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g304017-d3428353-Reviews-Moroccan_Desert_Trips_Private_Day_Tours-Merzouga_Meknes_Tafilalet_Region.html

    I will be lucky person To answer any quistions you ask

    Greating From Desert
    Hakim

    ReplyDelete
  4. http://berber-tours-morocco.com is small professional tour operator based in Marrakech. We believe the best way to explore and experience Morocco is through the eyes of the local people. Founded on the Berber tradition of welcoming and hospitality, we provide custom itineraries with impeccable service at competitive prices.
    Our team of drivers and guides consists of highly qualified locals with a vast knowledge of the labyrinth streets of Marrakech, the coastal cities of Essaouira and Agadir, the villages and scenery of the Atlas Mountains and the never-ending dunes of the desert.
    Our drivers and guides are all licensed to work with tourists in Morocco, and speak English, French and Spanish.
    We offer a selection of itineraries of varying lengths and destinations to explore and discover a Morocco full of hospitality, everchanging scenery and starlit nights.
    Search our website for inspiration and tell us, what you want to discover and we will make your custom itinerary. Whether it is an individual tour or a larger group event, we carefully plan and check each detail to ensure that you will have an enjoyable and memorable experience.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for sharing this article and amazing pictures. I think it gives very good idea to travelers about desert experience. One cool thing about traveling in Morocco is not only the stunning sceneries but some very traditional accommodation, not the classic hotels. Auberge Le Festival - the cave room auberge is one of our favorite hidden treasures and we love to use it on our itineraries. The others are Desert Luxury camp (www.desertluxurycamp.com). For luxury camp it is well located, deep in the dunes and away from the crowds. The tents are sew by hands and are white and super huge with of course ensuite shower that is yet another tent attached to the sleeping tent.
    Night with local family would be another beautiful hidden secret to experience at first hand the culture and its people.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I arranged a tour to erg chebbi desert, pretty much last minute, for me and some other people I met in a hostel in Fes. Our group went from two to three to five, and there were no problems – Hassan from Morocco Excursions company (www.Morocco-Excursion.com) met me where the overnight bus dropped us off and was totally fine with our expanded group.

    Since we arrived at 6:30 am, we had to wait until the late afternoon to head out into the desert. We were allowed for free to rest all day at Le Petit Prince in rooms and shower, which was great. We were later joined by several other groups and we set off on our camel safari as a group of 15.

    The tent camp was wonderful! Comfortable, great dinner, and music into the night. Hassan (the boss), Moustafa, and co. are so enthusiastic and they pulled a bunch of us into the moonlit dunes around 2 am just to chat (in a bunch of languages, as we were a very multinational group), learn a bit of Berber, and dance. It’s refreshing to see considering how often they must do this. All of us enjoyed the hours of chatting and fooling around, and were pulled up to see the sunrise a few short hours later. Very memorable.

    After the ride back to the auberge, they gave us a nice breakfast, let us all clean up, then sent us on our way. They were also able to recommend accommodation and transportation for me to the Todra Gorges, both of which worked out wonderfully.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Marrakech Camel Trips"offers the best moroccan costum tours for singles..friends..families...If you are planning a vacation, Morocco is the best place to spend an unforgettable experience. Be sure your trip to Morocco will include a touch of guidance from Marrakech Camel Trips. If you have a dream of discovering exotic horizons, don’t hesitate to contact us. We will very happy to plan your next travel to Morocco as simple or as luxurious as you desire, suited to your budget and interests.

    "Marrakech Camel Trips" has a great experience in organizing trips in accordance with the budget of each person, as much individual as of groups, Join us o live and to share moments with nomad families in desert…



    With"Marrakech Camel trips"you can explore and enjoy all that Morocco has to offer, visiting the beautiful Atlantic coast, exploring the historic imperial cities,hiking the high Atlas mountains or camel trekking the sand dunes of the sahara and sleeping in the desert beneath a stunning canopy of stars in our traditional nomad bivouac camp.

    www.marrakech-camel-trips.com

    marrakechcameltrips@gmail.com

    +212 630 747 082

    ReplyDelete
  8. "Marrakech Camel Trips"offers the best moroccan costum tours for singles..friends..families...If you are planning a vacation, Morocco is the best place to spend an unforgettable experience. Be sure your trip to Morocco will include a touch of guidance from Marrakech Camel Trips. If you have a dream of discovering exotic horizons, don’t hesitate to contact us. We will very happy to plan your next travel to Morocco as simple or as luxurious as you desire, suited to your budget and interests.

    "Marrakech Camel Trips" has a great experience in organizing trips in accordance with the budget of each person, as much individual as of groups, Join us o live and to share moments with nomad families in desert…



    With"Marrakech Camel trips"you can explore and enjoy all that Morocco has to offer, visiting the beautiful Atlantic coast, exploring the historic imperial cities,hiking the high Atlas mountains or camel trekking the sand dunes of the sahara and sleeping in the desert beneath a stunning canopy of stars in our traditional nomad bivouac camp.

    www.marrakech-camel-trips.com

    marrakechcameltrips@gmail.com

    +212 630 747 082

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm Said i welcome to the beautiful moroccan land and quiet magic desert , we will be happy to share with you all great moments of your holidays in morocco,We are berber people born and raised in the desert with our family in southern Morocco, Our childhood was with nomadic life, traveling around the desert with the family, Every month we change the home to nother home looking for a green place for our animales as camels and goats ,Our experience started with guiding the guests from a several hotels in merzouga desert, We learned many langues as English, Spanish, French, Portugues , with the parents we learned our mother langues Berber and Arabic as my second language from the same religion of Islam ,Now after nine years of guiding the travelers from around the world in morocco,We started from few years ago to organize Camel trekking in erg chebbi desert for spent one night in desert by camels ,and more nights like nomade people in their old life ,Trekking in merzouga desert,Yoga meditation with all necessary , Rent 4x4 to explore the area of merzouga , but we avoid the sand dunes to respect the value of the nature, to discover the environment and to teach you about our culture .
    http://www.visit-ergchebbi-desert.com/index.html

    ReplyDelete
  10. 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!
    http://visit-ergchebbi-desert.com/

    ReplyDelete
  11. Berber Tours Of Morocco is a small professional tour operator based in Marrakech – the capital of tourism in Morocco. We have 12 years experience and believe the best way to explore Morocco is through the eyes of the local people. Founded on the Berber tradition of welcoming and hospitality, we provide custom itineraries with impeccable service at competitive prices.

    Our team of drivers and guides consists of highly qualified locals with a vast knowledge of the labyrinth streets of Marrakech, the coastal cities of Essaouira and Agadir, the villages and scenery of the Atlas Mountains and the never-ending dunes of the desert.

    Our drivers and guides are all licensed to work with tourists in Morocco, and speak English, French and Spanish.

    We offer a selection of itineraries of varying lengths and destinations to explore, discover and enjoy the magic of Morocco with its hospitality, everchanging scenery and starlit nights.

    Search our website for inspiration and tell us, what you want to discover and we will make your custom itinerary. We carefully plan and check each detail to ensure that you will have an enjoyable and memorable experience,

    Whether you are travelling as a large family, group of friends, a couple on your honeymoon or by yourself, we will organise the perfect tour for you.

    To provide an exclusive and authentic experience we arrange for our clients to stay in traditional Kasbahs and Riads. In the desert we arrange for our clients to spend an unforgettable night in nomadic bivouacs after an enjoyable camel ride across the dunes.

    We can accommodate travellers on a budget, as well as travellers looking for luxury.

    http://berber-tours-morocco.com
    berbertoursofmorocco@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete

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