Saga Tours - Travel to Mali and West Africa
Bamako, Mali
West Africa
Tel +223.6673.1631
Tel +223.7641.7383

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Desert Festival Tours
January 2012

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Sahara Desert Tours —

Timbuktu and beyond, into the great Sahara Desert

tuareg guide in camp loading the camels

Photos courtesy of Halis (Timbuktu)

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Every tour is private, scheduled on dates of your choice; there are no fixed-date scheduled departures.
  • 7 days - travel by 4WD vehicle, to Araouane
  • 11 days - travel by 4WD vehicle, to Taoudenni
  • 11 days - travel by camel caravan, to desert oases
  • 22 days - travel by camel caravan, to desert oases and Araouane
Regretfully our Desert Tours are temporarily unavailable, due to insecurity in the desert.

Follow an ancient desert track across an ocean of sand and wind-sculpted dunes, as the Tuareg salt traders have done for centuries, and continue to this day — your caravan will likely encounter genuine azala├»s carrying salt from the mines of Taoudenni to Timbuktu.

Desert conditions are harsh and this expedition is only for the hardy — day time temperatures may reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 C). You will be in the care of desert pros and you will have everything necessary for this experience of a lifetime, but you must have stamina because these are extreme reality conditions.

We provide a suggested packing list on our Travel Tips page, but please also Click here for a desert-specific packing list.

Food served on desert expeditions generally consists of mutton in a sauce, served with rice or pasta, and canned vegetables — fresh food, fish, chicken and items requiring refrigeration are not on the menu; fresh fruit that is brought into Timbuktu seasonally is always included as available (e.g. citrus fruit, watermelons). Bread is baked daily in the desert sand, and dried dates provide a high-energy snack.

Note to Vegetarians: please be aware that prepared food will always include meat; in this environment and under expedition conditions, we cannot assure balanced nutrition for persons who adhere strictly to a vegetarian regimen; you would be well advised to bring along your own protein sources.

Water comes from deep desert wells (50 - 60 meters deep) and it is potable, but you should bring your own water purification tablets as an additional safeguard. Bottled mineral water can also be brought from Timbuktu for a trek by vehicle, but this is not practical on the camel caravans (unless additional camels are utilized). Well water is also available for bathing, when overnighting at an oasis.

The daily routine consists of rising around 7:00 AM, having breakfast, and departing (by vehicle or by camel) around 8:30. The mid-day halt comes around 11:30, to wait out the heat of the day; lunch is prepared, and socializing with the people encountered, or napping, is the order of business. Around 3:30 PM, depart once again, and the overnight stop is around 6:00 PM (shortly before sunset, to allow time for photos, and for the staff to set up camp).

The caravan staff consists of a Tuareg guide, a camp cook, and a groom for the camels. Small dome tents can be provided upon request, but most people prefer to simply sleep beneath the desert stars; ground mattresses are provided. The only artificial light comes from the campfire, so a good flashlight/torch can be very handy, if there is no full moon.

Desert expeditions can be scheduled at any time, but the "best" time is normally September through April. July through September are the rainy season and this is an excellent time also, but there can be delays because rain is often preceded by wind, making travel difficult to impossible for a few hours. August is the time when nomad gatherings in the desert frequently occur.

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