We just got back from one of the most incredible adventures we’ve ever had, camping in the Sahara desert in Morocco, Africa. It was unique, it was crazy, it was something we’ll never ever forget. After tons of research, we chose to do a private tour with Kam Kam Dunes. We really loved our experience with them and can wholeheartedly recommend them.
I will share why we loved Kam Kam, but also more on our planning process and why we chose to book ahead and go private. I know a trip to the Sahara is on the list for many, and I also know the planning can be daunting. So, I hope this helps with the questions that pop up when trying to make it happen.
Always Plan Ahead
I’ve read many posts and was even told by the hotel (riad) host in Fes that I could’ve saved a lot of money by booking my desert tour when I arrived in Morocco. This is not the type of traveler I am. I don’t plan every last minute, but I like doing my research, checking reviews, and knowing where I’m spending my money. I’m not going to trust some guy on the street selling me a desert tour. If I’m going to be taken to the middle of boofoo Africa, I need to trust the company.
Though I know many have safely done this, I’m just not comfortable with that approach. I’ve also read some pretty ugly stories of booking without research and again, I’m so glad I didn’t go that route. You can read one of those stories here. There are two sides to this, and as I mentioned, many do safely book that way and save lots of money, but the experience is definitely not Kam Kam level.
Getting to the Sahara
One of the things I learned while researching my desert trip is that the Sahara is farrrr from the main cities. You can either hire a private driver, take a bus, or drive yourself. All three of these options leave you in Merzouga, the town closest to the desert. You can possibly fly as well, but I didn’t do enough research on that because it’s really pricey.
From there, depending on where you’re staying, you can either get a camel ride to your camp or pay extra for a 4×4 to drive you to the camp. If you choose the (usually included in the price) camel ride you won’t be able to bring your luggage. The camel cannot carry your luggage. From what I read, you’ll need to bag your stuff up and leave your luggage in the car. For this reason, I went with a 4×4.
The usual routes offered are from Marrakech and the drive is about 8.5 hours without stops (9.5-10 hours if it’s raining). Tours will also pick you up and drop you off in Fes. Most tours offer several (pretty cool) stops along the way from Marrakech or Fes.
Some also offer an overnight stay at a halfway point from Marrakech to the desert. With that option, you’d only get 1 night in the desert instead of 2 nights. Considering the number of hours you’d be driving to get there, I highly recommend 2 nights.
Our desert route went like this:
> Private driver picked us up from Fes (at our riad doorstep)
> 7-hour drive to the desert, we stopped to see a town built by the Swiss, wild monkeys in the forest, and then to have lunch
> 2 magical nights at Kam Kam Dunes
> 9.5-hour drive with no stops to Marrakech (we chose no stops due to reasons I’ll explain later)
> Driver leaves you at your riad door in Marrakech
Kam Kam Dunes Experience
I chose Kam Kam Dunes because of their fantastic reviews. They offered everything I wanted from this experience along with a user-friendly website, great communication, and a picturesque camp inside and out. I also liked that they were deeper into the desert (you can see Algeria from the camp). Another plus is that Kam Kam is surrounded by tall dunes and is spaced out well from other camps.
exploring the nearby dunes on our own
Kam Kam offers different options based on your personal preference. You can book a group tour that takes you on a minibus with people from different camps, private tour likes ours, or drive yourself and book a tent with them. We did a customized 3 days/2 nights private tour.
The tour included:
> The private driver in a 4×4 vehicle who speaks multiple languages (we spoke in Spanish after he learned we were fluent)
> Pick up and drop off at our riads
> 2 night stay in the tent with private toilet and shower
> Dinner and breakfast
> Camel ride for sunset
> Day trip to visit a nomad family among other things
I know they call it camping, but it was a lot more luxurious than the real camping. As you can see from the photos, they have a gorgeous set up for their guests. The bed was comfortable, I felt safe, there were no bugs to be seen, and we never ran out of hot water! What more can you ask for in the desert?!
The breakfast was decent. The dinners were fantastic! The set up for dinner was stunning. I wish I could redo my wedding to have it look like this.
I loved the traditional live music they played after dinner. They sing and dance, and in the end, they’ll show you how to play one of the instruments (if you’re interested). The first night they played inside the “lounge” tent. It was just Jorge and me who stuck around till the end, and when they learned we speak Spanish they started playing “Despacito” lol! It was so much fun.
The second night they played around the fire under the abundance of stars and I felt like I was in a dream. It’s one of those moments that you keep around forever.
For the most part, we had great weather. Since it was the end of September, the temperature hit a high of 85ºF and a low of 60ºF at night. The tents are thick so it holds the heat in, I was never cold while sleeping. They close the camp over the summer when temperatures hit 120ºF.
It doesn’t usually rain, but of course, when we arrived a storm hit immediately. It was a sand/thunderstorm combo and I was freaking out. The wind was hitting hard against our tent. I feared it would fall over and I’d get struck by lightning and die (just a teensy bit dramatic). But those tents are pretty sturdy and we survived the storm.
that’s me surviving
Let’s not forget the camels! The camel ride wasn’t as bad as I thought. They’re tall animals so I was afraid I’d come crashing down, but the seat and handles were solid. Depending on where the hump is it might be bumping up against your front or backside as they walk, and that can get a little uncomfortable.
When they’re going uphill or downhill you’re at a higher risk of falling right off if you’re not holding on tightly. The total time we spent on the camels was around 40 minutes (to and from the dunes). The following day we were so so sore.
Our camel handler took us to the foot of a high dune to watch the sunset. We had to do the steep climb by foot (wasn’t bad). Sitting up there as the sun went down for the evening was amazing.
sand got in every nook and granny
Overall, it was an unforgettable and relaxing 2-night stay and I wouldn’t change anything about it.
Private Driver > Rent a Car
I read mixed reviews about driving in Morocco. The main complaint was that the rental car companies were shady, and would try to charge you for scratches that were already on the car. As I’ve mentioned, the drive is a long one and a lot of the roads wrap around the mountains. One of the reasons I decided against renting was because we’d have to drive down the Tizi n’Tichka road.
Tizi n’Tichka source: moroccoworldnews.com
Tizi n’Tichka is a mountain pass located in the High Atlas Mountains and is on the list for one of the world’s “most dangerous roads”. It’s a long road that takes 3-4 hours to pass. Sadly, many people die on those Moroccan roads. I didn’t want to do that drive without someone who has more experience. And boy did we make the right choice!
One thing I noticed while on the road is that there are a lot of cop checks. We saw them once or more every hour. Sometimes they’d stop us and ask our driver questions (not sure if they speak English), and sometimes they’d just let us through.
On our drive to Marrakech from the desert, we were rerouted by cops because the roads were flooded (from a previous rainfall). Thankfully, our driver knew the route so well he took a side road and got us back on track. Other drivers from the camp were calling him for directions! Imagine if we had been driving ourselves. We didn’t know about that side road, and the iPhone GPS isn’t as savvy in Morocco. We would’ve been stuck.
Our driver was concerned that more rain was coming because their roads aren’t equipped to handle heavy rain. He told us that many people had died this year because of the flooding. They tried to cross through high waters when a wave would come crashing in from the river and take their cars.
At this point, I was a nervous wreck. I requested he make no stops (except gas), and to just get us to Marrakech ASAP. I was hoping to beat any future rain. All was well until we got to Tizi n’Tichka. The storm came and continued throughout the entire time we were on this dangerous and scary road.
I could feel the tension in my body and I was praying HARD. We ran into one accident where a motorcycle crashed into a truck. The bike was a crumbled mess and I’m not sure if the person survived it.
Thank God we made it to Marrakech safe and sound. I was grateful we hired someone to drive us who knew the roads, the safest places to eat, and the best (regular) toilets *traditional Moroccan toilets are holes in the ground*. Peace of mind was worth every penny on this trip.
Even though getting to and from the desert was not the easiest, I’m really glad we went for it. It was an extraordinary experience that has taught us so much more about traveling. The Sahara will be topping lists for years to come.
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