Looking at these pictures you wonder why you’ve never seen this stunning place before. Well, it is is a barren place, away from beaten paths; reaching it by land requires a 4×4 and at least four days’ travel from N’Djamena, Chad’s capital, which is by no means a tourist destination.
Furthermore, the place depicted in these pictures can only be reached by a 30-minute trek from the nearest point a 4×4 can approach.
The Guelta d’Archei is one of the most famous guelta (pocket of water) in the Sahara, situated on the Ennedi Plateau in northeastern Chad. The steep-faced canyon, a dream venue for any adventure movie set, has been used by caravans to water their camels for millennia.
Every day, hundreds, sometimes thousands, of camels can be seen drinking the black water of the guelta, their grunts and bellows echoing around the canyon walls.
Due to the incessant supply of excrement offloaded by the thirsty camels, the mostly knee-deep water has turned black long ago. So it’s not exactly the perfect place for a swim – unless you happen to be a crocodile.
Crocodiles used to be widespread throughout the Sahara until the early 20th century, when increased aridity combined with killing by humans led to the extinction of many local populations. The small group of surviving crocodiles in the Guelta d’Archei represents one of the last colonies known in the Sahara today (there are some other small populations in the Tagant and Assaba provinces of Mauritania). They feed on the fish that thrive on the algae-rich waters of the camel-dung fertilized guelta.
A Guelta d’Archei crocodile. There are only 4 of them left today. Source: Kiara’s pace
With the exception of the daily camel herders, humans rarely visit this amazing place. Why? Chad is one of the most destitute and least visited countries in the world and, as noted above, the oasis is situated in the middle of the Sahara, making access very difficult.
But for those adventurous travelers who do brave the desert for a trip to the Guelta d’Archei, the reward is a surreal landscape in one of the Sahara’s most ancient oases, as attested by the rock paintings up on the cliffs, some of which date back to the middle Holocene.
Truly a unique place to visit, but it’s definitely not for everyone.