Sahara-Desert-Landscape-Dunes A trip to the Sahara Desert was one of the experiences that I was most excited for on my recent trip to Marrakech! I almost had the trip booked before the flights and accommodation! The obsession started back in October 2015, a year and a half before my actual trip - I was staying in a hostel in Slovenia and two girls who had just met booked a trip after both lusting it after it for a while separately. Then I found the amazing Sarah and read both of her blog posts on the trip at least 15 times (you can read about her Sahara Desert tour here & here). So when the time came for me to take my trip, it's safe to say that I was SO excited. There are lots of these tours on offer, I saw so many posters and signs for excursions while in the city, so if you're thinking of booking a trip, here is EVERYTHING you need to know! Morocco-Scenery-Valley How Long is the Journey? LONG! Apparently I didn't sufficiently brief Callum on the length of the journey between Marrakech and the desert (although I made him read Sarah's blog posts multiple times!) so I think he was a bit surprised! The total journey from Marrkaech to the desert takes around 8-9 hours each way including stop-offs. So if you're only in the country for a weekend, it probably isn't worth it, but if you've got some time to kill, you won't regret it! Quite honestly, the ever-changing scenery of Morocco kept me captivated the entire way! Sahara-Desert-Camping-Beds What Are The Sleeping Arrangements? There were a number of tents in the desert set up in a circular structure. Some are private and will only be allocated to you if you have paid extra for a private tent. We opted for the shared tour and were placed in a tent for 6 people - myself, Callum, two American girls that we had become good friends with during our trip and two solo travelling guys (one from Hong Kong and one from Japan). Singular mattresses are laid on the floor with masses of different blankets and duvets to keep you warm. The desert does get very cold at night and I definitely recommend bringing a jumper with you! Our booking confirmation also asked us to bring an additional sleeping bag if we were visiting in January (we weren't). Ait-Ben-Haddou What Is The Structure Of The Tour? You will be picked up from your accommodation in Marrakech bright and early before setting off for the first leg of your journey. The journey is truly beautiful, I really didn't expect to see so many different environments in Morocco. Your journey will obviously start with the hustle and bustle of the city, before descending into rolling hills and greenery, followed by the snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains, red rock canyons and finally the sandy desert! There will be plenty of little stops along the way for photo opportunities, toilet breaks and grabbing snacks/drinks as well as a big lunch (at an additional cost)! On route, there is one bigger stop at Ait Ben Haddou (pictured above) which you may recognise as a popular film set (including Game of Thrones, Indiana Jones and Gladiator)! On a day-to-day basis, the town is only populated by 8 families (a total of 40 people) who have no electricity and have to walk 3km to access water! On arrival at the edge of the desert, you will meet the lovely camels and ride across the Sahara Desert either at sunset or just beforehand. We were visiting in March when the sun sets earlier than in the summer, so we experienced sunset on the camels rather than in the heart of the desert. We then were shown to our tents and were cooked a huge meal (a tagine style meat and potato dish). Afterwards, a bonfire was lit and we all sat in the desert, gazing at the impressive stars, singing African camp songs and getting to know our new camp friends! Day 2 included an early morning wake up call to see the sunrise and eat breakfast in the desert (of course with mint tea). We then jumped back onto the camels for a much shorter trip to another roadside to meet the van. The drive home was filled with chatter (after all, we'd got to know our trip buddies fairly well at this point)! The main stop was for lunch but there was an optional stop at a film museum (Ouarzazate Hollywood of Morocco) which didn't interest our group, so we gave it a miss. Sahara-Trip-Atlas-Mountains Where Can You Book A Tour & How Much Does It Cost? Tours are offered in most riads/hotels/hostels, as well as by street vendors in the city. However, we booked ours before departure through I Go Morrocco who took a 50% deposit on booking. The exact tour that we booked can be found here and cost 59 euros per person, which is incredible given that you get two full days of adventure! Kids below the age of 12 get a 50% discount. When booking our tour, we also got asked if we wanted a complimentary airport transfer on our arrival in Morocco too! Which I certainly would have taken up if we hadn't already made arrangements with our hotel! Is It Safe? Most definitely! There was no point during the entire tour that we felt unsafe. Whilst in the car, you are obviously accompanied by a driver the entire time and the surroundings are so beautiful, if you have any concerns about safety, they will quickly evaporate! During your time at Ait-Ben Haddou, you are shown around by a local guide also. Girl-Camel-Sahara-Desert What Is The Difference Between The Zagora Desert And The Sahara Desert? You'll notice that the 1 night tours are to the "Zagora Desert" rather than the "Sahara Desert". The longer trips usually cover both the "Zagora Desert" and the "Merzouga Desert". Essentially, Zagora and Merzouga are two separate parts of the Sahara. Zagora is known as the "gateway to the Sahara" and is the closest point of the desert to Marrakech (hence the ability to reach it within a 1 night trip). However, if you're looking for a TRULY authentic experience, the Merzouga desert offers much larger sand dunes, richer coloured sands and an array of wildlife. What Trip Should I Pick? It really depends on how much time you have. We only had 2 days to spare, so the 1 night trip to Zagora was all we could manage. It was a great insight into the desert life and I can now tick off a bucket list item of camping in the Sahara Desert! But if I were to return with unlimited time, I would love to do a longer Merzouga trip to see the real expanse of the desert! Sahara-Food What Should You Pack? Make sure that you take a small bag with you that you can carry on your lap/back whilst riding a camel. While you probably could have left a larger bag in the van, the van doesn't come into the desert with you and god knows where it stays for the night/how secure it is! We left our cabin sized luggage in our riad. What Do I do About Water? In the last town before the desert, you will be given a chance to stock up on water bottles before the night ahead, so don't worry about packing lots of water, but of course bring some for the day! Always keep hydrated kids! What Is the Food Like? As pictured above, we sat in a separate tent to eat in small groups - the starter was a yummy soup with thick warm bread, both of which were delicious. The main meal was a HUGE tagine dish filled with all kinds of goodies - meat, veg, potatoes etc! Considering the food is included in the price of the trip (which is really reasonable by the way), the quality was great! Sahara-Desert-Camels How Are The Camels Treated? Before the trip, I was just TOO excited to camp in the Sahara Desert that I didn't even think about the logistics of getting to the camp and booked it straight away. It wasn't until the trip was looming that I started to consider whether this was the right choice. I absolutely love animals and would never promote something that I thought hindered their life (swimming with dolphins in enclosed spaces, going to tiger kingdoms, riding elephants etc.), I did my research and from what I could gather, the camels were treated well. After visiting, I am still of this opinion. The camels make one journey in the morning from the desert to the roadside and one back again in the evening. In the meantime, they aren't chained and are free to roam - while we were sitting around the campfire in the evening, the camels roamed around the outskirts of the tents. My research shows that when a camel is distressed, it will spit or scream - something that we did not experience at all. Further to this, I can confirm that my tour group did not use any of the cruel herding methods such as bull hooks, pegs or ropes that are pulled directly through the tissue of their external nostrils, a very painful procedure (if pulled too hard the rope can rip the tissue). The men that operate the camel element of the tour live in the desert and this is their livelihood, good treatment of camels is in their best interests.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

SAHARA DESERT - FAQ-Pinterest

IMG_3296 v2 What Is The Essex Pass?  If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have heard about my love for The Essex Pass. Despite my blog name, I'm not ALWAYS trying to escape Essex, in fact I love finding new things to do in the local area. That's where the Essex Pass comes into play - 12 months membership will cost you a mere £9.99 and will give you loads of discounts in Essex (most of which are 2 people for the price of 1)! If you live in Essex and want to find some new things to do (like me), or you will be in the area for a short period of time and want to do more of the touristy attractions in the area, I couldn't recommend this card enough! I've recently visited the Original Great Maze and also Hazle's Pottery Barn using the pass, but this was the first time we had used it for a FULL day out - so I thought I'd share it all with you because it was a really great day (although it included a very strange mixture of activities - from sports, to history to animals)! Rope Runners IMG_3269 v2IMG_3271 v2IMG_3284 v2
  • Location: Ongar Rd, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood, CM15 0LA
  • Normal Price: £28 per person
  • Essex Pass Price: £28 for 2 people = £14 each
  • Website: http://www.roperunners.co.uk/
If you want to complete the full day of activities listed in this post, you'll need to book on to a 10am Rope Runners course. The booking lasts for 2.5 hours and your get to do as many courses as you like in that amount of time as possible! There are 6 rope courses in total, 2 at ground level, 2 at medium height and 2 high up courses. Being completely afraid of heights, the medium levels were quite enough for me but Callum completed all of them (with only a few little moans on the high levels). Each course ends with a zip-wire (there's a brilliant video of me being terrified on the podium and refusing to do it, before doing it, realising it was fun and then falling on my face at the end - not sure that video will ever make it to the internet!). And there's also a huge stand-alone zip-wire which we both also completed. The staff were super helpful and friendly, so if you want a fun activity-based day out, this is the place for you! They also have archery, air rifle, paint balling and water-zorbing to choose from, so there's something for everyone! You can tell I'm not built for sports however.. it's the day after and my legs hurt... Secret Nuclear Bunker IMG_3293 v2IMG_3300 v2IMG_3339 v2
  • Location: Ongar Rd, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood CM15 0LA
  • Normal Price: £7 per person
  • Essex Pass Price = £7 for 2 people = £3.50 each
  • Opening Times: 10am - 4pm (5pm on weekends in Summer)
  • Website: http://www.secretnuclearbunker.com/
If you're visiting Rope Runners, it would be wrong not to also visit the Secret Nuclear Bunker as they are located right next door to each other! This photo made it's way round social media a while back as the "secret" bunker is clearly not much of a secret! You enter the bunker through what looks like a normal little house before picking up an audio guide - I think the tour took us about 2 hours but it was great! According to the website, this is the biggest and deepest Cold War bunker that's open to the public in the South East of England. After the heat of the Cold War died down, the bunker was no longer needed and the Government sold it, hence we are now able to visit it as tourists! It's so strange to see something of such historic importance so close to your home! Hopefield Animal Sanctuary IMG_3344 v2IMG_3359 v2IMG_3400 v2IMG_3444 v2
  • Location: Sawyers Hall Farm, Sawyers Hall Ln, Brentwood CM15 9BZ
  • Normal Price: £5 per person
  • Essex Pass Price = £5 for 2 people = £2.50 each
  • Opening Times: 10am - 4pm
  • Website: http://www.hopefield.org.uk/
Located a mere 20 minute drive away, I couldn't help making a quick visit to Hopefield Animal Sanctuary! The sanctuary isn't huge, and it won't take you much longer than an hour to see all of the animals on display. Even so, there's a great range of animals to see including many horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, raccoons, various reptiles, birds and many more! The sanctuary is a non-profit organisation caring for around 200 unwanted, sick or mistreated animals. They require donations and volunteers to continue their great work - so if you're in the area, make sure you stop by! Even the former X-Factor winner Leona Lewis is a huge supporter of the work they do! There are plenty of other ways you can help out including volunteering and adopting an animal. And for only £20 you can have a full animal experience day - my sister has already asked me to buy her this for her birthday! Highlight of the day: I didn't know that Racoon Dogs exist - but apparently they do, and I love them so much. So god damn cute. And in Conclusion... We had a really great day out! The close proximity for these three activities means that it's easy to do all three in one day (providing you get to Rope Runners early)! The full day out would normally cost £40, but with The Essex Pass, it will cost you a mere £20. For three activities spanning 10am to 4pm, I think that's a pretty great deal! Plus, given The Essex Pass only costs £9.99, you've already made your money back! Apart from the Secret Nuclear Bunker, without The Essex Pass, I wouldn't have known these activities exist and I can't wait to find out about more hidden gems near home! Does your local area have a discount pass? Have you ever used it?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1