If you are a travel freak and you have been in places than you may know what morocco is famous for and why so many people around the world comes to morocco. It is because they want to see the worlds largest hot desert. If you talk about its area than it is the third largest just behind Arctic and Antarctica. It covers the area of more than 3.4 million Square miles and spans across the 11 countries. If you have never been in Morocco or heard about Sahara Desert than you may think of Sahara Desert as barren or another ordinary Desert. But this is not the case with Sahara Desert. This Orange sand desert has so much to offer like wild life, variety of herbs, different species of plants and most importantly its habitant’s unique culture. There are some tribes in the Sahara Desert which follow some unique practices and by visiting the Sahara Desert you will explore their culture firsthand. Finally, if you are eager to visit Sahara than first you have to land in Morocco and we have written a detailed guide on Morocco for those who are planning to visit this beautiful country do check it out.
After reading this detailed guide on Sahara Desert you will come to know about the life of the desert? The temperature of the desert throughout the year and about from animals and plants you will also come to know how life in general survives in the hottest place of the world? And at the end we will shed some light on what you should pack for Sahara Desert? So, lets jump into the realm of Sahara Desert.
There is life in Sahara Desert and many people wonder how life survives in such a daunting Conditions. Let first see how wild life survives in this kind of environment.
Wild Life Of Sahara
Over the years the wild life of Sahara Desert is evolved and adopted the harsh conditions of the Sahara Desert. They survived the fierce temperature, winds, intense sand storms and it everchanging temperature swings. Mammals of the Sahara Desert are small and it helps them to minimize the water loss so it helps them to survive longer without the requirement of water. It’s a huge plus for them considering that water is very rare in the center of Sahara Desert. According to the recent reports every year there are less than 11 inches of rainfall and less than 6 inches of rainfall in the middle of the Sahara.Many animals of Sahara fulfil the need of water from their diet.
Most of the animal’s hunt in night because of the high temperature in day they usually come out at night when the conditions get favorable. Although there are some animals like some ants, birds and lizards do come out in the day but they also fetch their prays very quickly early in the morning or at the dusk. Lizards have hard skins you can find it during day time under the rocks.
If we talk about the species of animals in Sahara Desert then its more than 90 species of mammals, more than 100 of birds and more than 130 of reptiles. Jackals, oryx, sheep, hyenas, beetle’s ostrich, cobra, Ants, Crocodile, white and black finches, Lizards are some of the popular animals which can be found throughout the Sahara Desert. Surprisingly you will not find lions in Sahara but you will find some cheetah in the middle of that Sahara Desert and that too can only be found at night when they come out from their dens to hunt. You will also find some endangered species in Sahara like wild hogs which are now less than 4000 throughout the Sahara Desert and their number is also decreasing very rapidlyand the other endangered species is Addax antelope.
Finally let’s talk about the domestic and the most popular animal of not only Sahara but also of whole morocco which is Camel. Camel is highly suitable and adaptable to the harsh conditions of Desert. Its hump stores fat which helps them to walk for long hours and their rough and tough skin helps and protect them from the heat of sun. People use camels mainly as a transportation in the desert. Finally do you know how many gallons of water Camels and drink? The answer is more than 35 gallons. Yes, they can drink more than 35 gallons of water in less than 15 minutes and can store them which helps them to travel for days without the need of water. They heavy and wide foot pads helps them to walk on the hot desert and heavy nostrils allows them to break in sand storms. Now let’s see some wild plants and their species in the Sahara.
Plants Of Sahara Desert
Sahara is a home of different plants, trees and of herbs. But if we talk about pure wild plants than there are not that much of it because as you know that every desert has few plants and Sahara Desert is no different. Although you will find many plants near oases and drainages but if we compare it with the whole desert than it is very minimum. You will also find eatable plants and herbs like prickly Cactus which is very high in fiber and in protein and contains more than 80% water. The size of most of plants and trees in Sahara Desert is small because of less rain. The other edible shrub is chia Sage which is high in Caffeine and boost your energy just like coffee. Now it does not mean that you should go and start eating plants and shrubs because Sahara is also home to many poisonous shrub and herbs. The most poisonous one is Nerium oleander which is very dangerous. The Christmas cactus tree can also be found in the desert and these trees can grow up-to 4 feet and they produce red barriers which gives you the taste of strawberries.
Civilization Of Sahara Desert
There are less than million people live in Sahara Desert and they are known as nomads because they shift from one place to another throughout the year. You can find them near the river. Most of them have settled in Sahara from generations and they have Berber roots. Most of these also like other Moroccans speak Arabic because Berbers are mixed race of Arabic, French and of Spanish but the dominant one is of Arabs. Because of that most of them follow the religion Islam which is introduced there in early seventeenth century by Arabs.
If we dig into the history of Sahara Desert than you will find that major chunk of history of Sahara is full of hunting, wars and of colonization. In recent century Sahara is the victim of of European, French, Spanish and English colonization. It also suffers huge in the world war 2 by the Germans. But at the end the Muslims colonization prevails and still the most dominant in that area.
How To Reach Sahara Desert
The gate way to Sahara is Merzouga which is the small village near the desert and many tourists first comes there and spend a night over there before commencing their journey to Sahara. Now in order to reach Merzouga you first have to land in Marrakech or in Fes because you will find many tour operators over there who will book your 3- or 4-day tour in Sahara. Remember you can not see the whole Sahara Desert in a day so they will not offer you a day trip to Sahara. If you have short time than visit Zagora desert which is also a part of Sahara and can be seen in a day. You will need at least 3 days to enjoy your Sahara Desert experience.
Anyways if you are in Marrakech than you have to cover around 600 km in order to reach Merzouga and if you are in Fes than this distance would be around 500 km.
Activities In Sahara Desert
You can do multiple activities in Sahara Desert apart from seeing the orange sand and wild animals you can do Sand surfing because Sahara Desert is the home of largest sand dunes. You can also enjoy quad biking in the desert which is very popular in Sahara. Also, you can do camping and do star gazing all night because the sky in the desert is quite different, I know it sound absurd because sky is sky but in Sahara the color of sky is pure because there is no pollution and you can see thousands of stars very clearly in the night. Many tour operators would provide you the luxury desert camping with dinner, breakfast and attach bath in the desert but that would be expensive. You can do the camping on your own but be sure to have a local guide with you otherwise it can be dangerous at night. Finally, camel riding is must in Sahara Desert otherwise you cannot experience the desert culture in its full form.
Best Time To Visit Sahara
Well if you ask me or any pro traveler than they will tell you that you can visit Sahara throughout the year but there are certain times of the year which are consider best because of the temperature like from December to March it is consider as an ideal time to visit the Sahara but it does not mean that you can not visit it in other times. December to March is recommended for Europeans and Americans or for those who live in cold places because at that time of year the temperature of Sahara Desert is mild. If you are from Asia or from middle east than you can come at any time of the year. If you book your tour online or from some tour operator than you can not come in summers because many tour operators are closed in summers. You can book your tour to Sahara Desert in Advance but in my opinion, you will must book any tour by reading the comments and star ratings because many tour operators would not give you the facilities which they enlisted on their website. So, its best to book your tour with some entrusted tour operators. You will find many on trip advisor or on get your guide. Also, you will be given an option to do your own tour or guided tour means that you can drive all the way to Sahara from Marrakech or fes on your own risk. You just have to pay as you go like for car rent, food, for activities like camel riding or for quad biking and finally for desert camping. In guided tour the company will arrange a private bus, food, and arrange the luxury or ordinary desert camp for you. For the first timers it is always recommended to go with guided tour although morocco is safe for men and women but the western Sahara is still not safe. By booking your desert tour with some reputed travel agency will give you safety and security.
Packing For Your Desert Tour
You will find number of articles online on this topic but if you ask us then there are some essentials which you must have to pack like black sun glasses to protect your eyes from the scorching desert heat. Some sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun rays. Buy full sleeves trousers because at day you have to travel and that can not be done in Shorts. If you love shorts then wear long one but when it comes to women then it is advised that they wear full clothes and if possible, wear scarf also. Wear Some tough sandals and shoes would be very good idea because you will travel a lot in Sahara and for that you need some rough and tough shoes or sandals. Finally, do not forget to buy water bottles and water jugs if you are planning to visit Sahara on your own because there are very less shops in Sahara most of the people buy snacks and water bottles from Merzouga. A portable charger for your mobile or tab would also be a good idea.