Western sahara

My 6 day trip to Western sahara.

I flew on the 20th October 2021. A straightforward flight, from Gatwick, via casablanca to dakhla. The only issue being landing in casablanca to find that our flight home had even cancelled due to covid rules being suddenly changed by the Moroccan government. Not exactly ideal.

Post covid, dakhlas windsurfing Community is alive and well. Handy if you want to stay outside the city and slightly closer to the desert.

Spending a total of about 7 hours over the first 2 days on hold to royal Air maroc trying to rearrange flights meant we didn’t spend as long I’d have liked on the aswerd road, but we did some fairly long drives overall, the longest being about 10 hours. Mammal watching was difficult but quite good for the habitat.


Over 4 days we saw 1 fennec fox, 1 ruppels fox, 1 sand cat, 1 Desert Hedgehog,  several African Hammada Jerboas, several gerbil sp, and alot of hares.

The sand cat was seen moving through the scrub and actually allowed us good views for around a minute. Everything g else was pretty skittish.

Only thing I’ll add in terms of visiting in 2021 and post covid is that:

1. The police checkpoints, according to our hotel, “don’t bother with white people anymore”. We got stopped once out of the 20+ times we went through them.

2. Dakhla looks like quite a nice, modern city, but they still only accept cash in petrol stations. Not a great thing to find out with a nearly empty tank in Aswerd.

3. The tourist industry, mainly built around kite surfing, seems to have survived covid pretty well. We stayed at dakhla Spirit. A decent hotel with good food. It was nearly full and whilst if we went back we’d definitely camp in the desert for a few nights, it was a good place to stay outside of dakhla.


  • JanEbr

    How did you get the sightings, spotlighting or thermal? Any trouble importing gear to Morocco as reported by a few birders a few years ago?

    Also thanks for bringing to my attention that the Western Sahara Lesser Egyptian Jerboas are going to be split! Now I have to figure out where to see the original species 🙂

  • JanEbr

    Yeah that’s exactly the figure I was looking at when thinking about it, because in most of Morocco and Israel (the only two really easy destinations in the range), it shows primarily hirtipes, so one has to pick the destination carefully. But they actually look IDable in the field by the different coloration, right?

    As for whether they “have been split”, I guess in mammalwatching is a bit more difficult than, say, birding, where you have all these organizations keeping the lists – so for my listing, I tend to follow IUCN Red List website and they don’t split them yet, but it seems pretty straightforward that this should be accepted.

    • Vladimir Dinets

      Both species are present in both Morocco and Israel (where it was first discovered that they are two species). Try Erg Chebbi in Morocco and dunes around Ashkelon in Israel.
      There are better sources than IUCN, like https://www.mammaldiversity.org/, although that one still has about 700 unwarranted splits. I keep an up-to-date list for personal use which I am always happy to share but it reflects my personal views on taxonomy 🙂

  • primate_nerd_matt


    We were spotlighting down the road. A thermal scope would work great. A man can dream haha

    There were lots of signs saying declare your drones and no drones at dakhla Airport.

    I also did get stopped at one of the many passport control points when they asked about profession and said photographer. They didnt like that and it took a bit of persuading to prove I was a nature photographer and not a covert spy photographer (I imagine someone has that job). Needless to say I was a carpenter for the rest of the trip.

    As for the jerboas, I just copied precious trip reports haha. I am not a rodent expert

  • JanEbr

    Yeah, you never say you are a photographer, journalist, or something that could rise such associations in Western Sahara. It’s not even really about spying but about reporting, they don’t want journalists running around freely and reporting what they don’t want people to hear. When we were in Iran, I also suddenly became an “astronomer” because I didn’t want to imagine what admitting that I am a particle physicist could do there 🙂 But it’s good to hear they stopped you so infrequently – when we were there in 2016, the controls were quite annoying.

    We have to come back and get all those desert mammals, Aousserd road is the best!

  • Stephen Babbs

    We too found that the local police checkpoint didn’t stop us in 2019. I think they stopped us the first time and not after that – they presumably recognised the car. We were stopped many times when driving to Dahkla as we didn’t fly directly there. I’m hoping to return soon as I feel a thermal scope would be a ‘game changer’ here.

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