Untamed Tibesti

Our Untamed Tibesti tour is the ultimate journey through an untamed land to Chad’s mighty Tibesti Mountains, the holy grail of Saharan travel. For a long time, these jagged volcanic peaks, home to the fiercely independent Tubu people, have been out of bounds, but no longer.

Leaving N’Djamena we travel through the lands of the Sahel to Abeche, passing nomads with their camels along the way. We then travel on to the north-western edge of the Ennedi massif, a land of incredible eroded sandstone. Continuing north we explore the palm groves and meet the Teda clan of the Tubu, before heading into the mountains, a series of rocky summits that are almost completely unexplored. We stop first at the volcano of Emi Koussi, the Sahara’s highest peak. Here we search for rock art that dates back millennia and is a testament to a time when this region was populated with large wildlife.

Moving on we stop at Tubu villages, explore picturesque gorges and canyons, and drive through lands with stunning rock structures that are a real photographer’s delight. At the Trou au Natron we descend to the bottom of a huge crater, where local people bring their livestock to graze on the salty earth. We then head to Bardai, the home of the Tubu’s spiritual leader. After thoroughly exploring this incredible mountain range we begin our journey back, crossing the renowned Erg du Djourab, a huge sand sea that is one of the Sahara’s most formidable obstacles, before returning to the Sahel.

Throughout this trip we will stop to meet local people, learning about their customs and how they live in such a remote and difficult area. Our excellent local knowledge means that we can gain a real insight into one of Africa’s most traditional and shy ethnic groups, usually closed to outsiders. The Tibesti holds an allure that is hard to resist, one of the last places left where you can feel like a true explorer. This is a truly magical journey through an intoxicating land.

Untamed Tibesti 1

Highlights

  • Hike in the Trou Au Natron
  • Meet the Tubu people
  • Stunning overnight campsites
  • Drive through sand dunes
  • Incredible desert scenery

Day 1 - N’Djamena

Arrive in N’Djamena and transfer to the hotel. Depending on when you arrive you may have time to explore the city. Overnight Hotel Mercure or similar.

N’Djamena

Formerly known as Fort Lamy, Chad’s capital sits on the banks of the Chari River facing Cameroon and is the largest city in the country. Founded by the French at the turn of the 20th century, it has grown from a town with a population of around ten thousand in the 1930s to something approaching a million now.

Over the years it has seen its fair share of conflict, largely destroyed during the civil war of the 80s and stormed by rebel forces in 2008. Its wide boulevards were once flanked with trees, but these were cut down to deprive attackers of covers, and only in recent years did its dusty streets become paved.

Rather devoid of traditional sights, N’Djamena is home to a large and sprawling central market which is interesting to explore, and also contains the National Museum with a collection of prehistoric artefacts from the surrounding area. It is also the most ethnically diverse place in Chad, with people from both the southern and northern ethnic groups as well as Lebanese, European and more recently Chinese populations.

Days 2-3 - Abeche

Begin our journey by heading east from N’Djamena, towards the city of Abeche. Travel through a Sahelian landscape of small villages through the region of Guera, with its interesting markets and isolated granite peaks, stopping en route where possible. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Abeche

Abeche is the capital of Ouaddai province, the seat of an ancient sultanate that once played an important part in Saharan trade, linking tropical Africa to the slave markets of Tripoli. Captured by the French in 1909, it is today the fourth largest city in Chad and has been a base for international aid efforts to assist the refugees from neighbouring Darfur. Despite its history there is very little to see in Abeche but the markets make for an interesting walk.

Days 4-6 - Kalait - Bichagara

From Abeche head north, through the villages of Arada and Biltine en route to Kalait. We stop here to shop in its busy market, then continue into a Saharan landscape populated by Gaeda, Tama and Zaghawa people. At the northwestern edge of the Ennedi massif, we reach the region of Bichagara with its incredible sandstone structures and rock paintings; we should also see nomadic groups with their livestock as we travel further into the desert. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Days 7-8 - Borkou

We head further north on the way to Emi Koussi, crossing dunes and passing palm groves and small settlements, and travelling through a region known as Kouroudi, studded with magnificent tassili rock structures. This is a particularly beautiful area with some of Chad’s most picturesque scenery, dotted with small Tubu villages. We continue towards Emi Koussi and skirt the base of the volcano, the highest mountain in the Sahara. Overnight camping. (BLD)

The Tibesti Mountains

The mighty Tibesti Mountains straddle northern Chad and southern Libya and lay claim to being the highest range in the Sahara desert. The name Tibesti means ‘where the mountain people live’ and the range is home to the Teda group of Tubu, most of whom live in the main settlements of Zouar, Aozou and Bardai.

The independent spirit of the Tubu and the geopolitical situation in the region has complicated the exploration of the range as well as the ascent of its peaks, and for a long time this area was considered out of bounds, but it is now possible to visit the mountains – possibly the most remote and least explored area of the whole desert. The Tibesti are volcanic in origin and its highest peak – Emi Koussi, at 3415 metres – is a giant volcano with a huge central crater.

Other volcanoes in the range include Tarso Toon and Tarso Yego, also very impressive. Like the Ennedi, the Tibesti are home to a good number of rock carvings, many of which depict wildlife that has long since vanished with the drying up of the Sahara. The Tibesti is, however, wetter than much of the Sahara and harbours some interesting species, including Barbary sheep, gazelle, cheetah and jackals. The German Gustav Nachtigal was the first European to explore, albeit with great difficulty, the Tibesti in 1869. While Nachtigal provided an accurate description of the population, his account discouraged any new adventure into the Tibesti for over 40 years, as he was convicted by the Tubu of spying and only released after some time.

Days 9-11 - Emi Koussi – Birni Erde – Yebbi Bou

We explore Emi Koussi and its surrounds, looking for prehistoric rock art, enjoying magnificent scenery and following the course of an old waterbed, the Enneri Miski. We stop at sites of interest along the way, exploring the region on foot and by vehicle, and visit the well of Birni Erde, where a small population of Tubu live nearby. Continue to Yebbi Bou, a small village of Teda Tubu. Nearby a deep canyon is home to one of the prettiest palm groves in the region. Overnight camping. (BLD)

The Tubu

The Tubu people make up the bulk of the population in Chad’s northern desert regions, and are something of a Saharan legend. Reputedly the toughest desert dwellers of all, there are numerous stories of their prowess in eking a living out of such an unforgiving place, including one that involves a warrior making his way over 500 miles of desert with little more than a handful of dates and a goatskin of water.

The Tubu are split into two main clans – the Teda, based in the Tibesti, and the Daza who are based in the Ennedi and the plains. Their spiritual leader is the Dardai, the leader of the Teda, but in practice, the Tubu are highly individualistic and their principal allegiance is to the sub-clan or family group. Ties between clans are strengthened by the practice of marrying from a different clan, as well as trading camels.

The Tubu are also something of an ethnic conundrum, with dark skin but almost European features, and while researchers have yet to come to any sort of definitive conclusion the current best guess is that they are descended from both Berbers to the north and Bantu Africans to the south. Spread between Niger, Libya and Chad they total around 200,000 in number and were the last group to be ‘pacified’ by the French colonial authorities – even after independence the French were asked to stay on and maintain order in the Tubu regions, as they were thought to be almost ungovernable.

During the war with Libya Tubu forces fought on both sides, both with and against Gadaffi. Traditionally the Tubu have been nomadic, moving to find pasture for their livestock – although most still follow traditional ways, some have settled in towns like Fada and Faya. Based in some of the farthest regions of the Sahara, traditionally they have had very little contact with outsiders and as a consequence can be quite wary of visitors – in particular, they are averse to photography and so we ask that you respect this and follow your tour leader’s guidelines to avoid any problems.

Days 12-13 - Zoumri – Bardai

Following the Yabbigue gorges our route takes through diverse landscapes, from harsh rocky terrains to lush wadis with acacia, tamarisk and other vegetation, and we travel past Tarso Voon and Tarso Toon, two of the Tibesti’s dead volcanoes. In the valley of Zoumri we pass oases, settled by farmers, and continue to the town of Bardai. Bardai is the principal settlement in this part of the Tibesti and an important trading centre for the nomadic groups that populate the area; it is also one of Chad’s most attractive towns, nestled amidst pretty palm groves. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Days 14-15 - Trou au Natron

Climbing higher we travel past the gorges of Oudinger until we reach the Trou au Natron, a vast crater with huge deposits of sodium on its floor. This provides a vital source of salt for local people and their animals and we may see groups of Tubu grazing their animals and gathering salt here. We descend to the bottom on foot to explore the crater in depth before moving on. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Please note: the trek to the bottom of the Trou au Natron is optional. Although achievable for people of moderate fitness it involves several hours of walking over rough tracks, with some steep ascents and descents, and you should be confident of your fitness to do this. However, if you do not want to do this, then it is possible to remain with the vehicles and drivers at the crater rim – there are stunning, and changing, views from the rim throughout the day.

Day 16 - Zouar

Drive up to the Enneri Tao plateau to be greeted by views of the erg of Bilma, a vast sand sea stretching far into Niger, and the mountain of Sisse to the north. From here we head to Zouar, another of the Tibesti’s small towns and traditionally the home of the Dardai, loosely the leader of the Teda Tibesti. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Days 17-19 - Marmar – Faya

After refuelling in Zouar we drive to the region of Marmar, with its high rocky peaks contrasting with the surrounding sands. This area of the Tibesti is characterised by beautiful sand dunes, which we traverse on the way to Faya, the ‘capital’ of the Tibesti region. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Faya Largeau

One of the most isolated towns in the Sahara, Faya – often known as Faya Largeau, a nod to the French colonial period – is the capital of the Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti region, a huge swathe of northern Chad that is largely populated by the Tubu. The main occupation here is agriculture and the town is surrounded by large palm groves, while small-scale farmers eke an existence from the desert sands. In a strategic historic position linking the cities of the Fezzan to the empire of Kanem Bornu to the south, Faya changed hands several times during the war with Libya, and evidence of the conflict is not hard to find in and around the town. It is now home to a small and symbolic detachment of French troops, who have long maintained an involvement in this area of Chad even after independence.

Days 20-21 - Salal – Moussoro

We make our way south, crossing the formidable Erg du Djourab, a vast sea of sand that effectively isolates Faya. Making our way into the Bahr el Ghazal region we traverse vast plains, often covered in yellow grass, a remnant from the rainy season. The people that live here are from a number of different groups – Fulani, Keraida and Kanembou among others. The landscape starts to change from desert to a mixture of savannah and sahel. From Salal we head west, onwards to Moussoro and our last night in the bush. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Day 22 - N’Djamena

Return to the capital. The landscape is far more populated now, with small villages and decent roads showing us that we have completely left the Sahara behind. We should arrive at N’Djamena in the afternoon, where day use rooms are available for a welcome shower, before heading out for a final dinner and transferring to the airport for your flight home. (BL)


This itinerary is provided as a guideline – the nature of Saharan travel means that it is not always possible to stick rigidly to a day-to-day itinerary and you should be prepared for slight changes to this when necessary. 

We arrive back in N’Djamena in the afternoon of the final day and you should not book any departure flight before the evening.

Chad’s - Untamed Tibesti
Chad’s - Untamed Tibesti
Chad’s - Untamed Tibesti
Chad’s - Untamed Tibesti
Chad’s - Untamed Tibesti

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. However, if you are arriving apart from the main group (on Air France flights) there may be an additional transfer charge.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    In most cases, you will be accompanied by one guide from start to finish. However, there may be occasions when this is not practical, for example, if your trip covers a number of different countries. In these cases it often makes more sense to include different guides for each place, to take advantage of their specific knowledge of the destination.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively, a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If, however, you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

All travellers will require a visa to enter Chad, which must be obtained before travel. Most travellers will also need an invitation letter, which we will provide if requested. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations, you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Please note that Yellow Fever is a compulsory vaccination for entering Chad and you must bring your vaccination certificate with you, otherwise you may not be allowed to enter.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover, which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The local currency in Chad is the Central African CFA, a currency that is shared with many other countries in the region. It is not, however, the same as the West African CFA, and the two are not interchangeable. It is best to bring Euros for exchange purposes as the CFA is not obtainable outside of the region.

You will not be able to change money outside of N’Djamena and so we recommend that you change money at the hotel upon arrival.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Chad is one of our most pioneering destinations. Not only is there very little tourism here but the nature of the destination means that you should be prepared for challenging conditions. Outside of the capital very few hotels or accommodation options exist – in the desert these are non-existent. There are few opportunities to buy supplies en route and so we carry the majority of these with us, stocking up on fresh vegetables and fruit in the small towns that we travel through, where possible.

There are no formal bathroom facilities on our trips in Chad, although on many nights you will be provided with water for washing, depending on how far we are from any wells and how much water we have used that day. Priority is given to drinking water, which is drawn from wells and treated with a sterilizing agent to make it safe to drink.

Our trips in Chad travel to some of the most remote parts of the Sahara, and it is essential that you appreciate what this entails before booking a trip. We cannot promise home comforts or luxuries and if you expect these, then Chad probably isn’t the right destination for you. However, if you are prepared for sometimes challenging conditions, then Chad offers an adventure that is difficult to match through some of the most untouched, traditional and isolated corners of Africa.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO advises against travel to all parts of Chad.

We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in Chad. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Updated May 2019

Chad’s - Untamed Tibesti
Chad’s - Untamed Tibesti
Chad’s - Untamed Tibesti
Chad’s - Untamed Tibesti
Chad’s - Untamed Tibesti
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
10 November 2019
Price (PP) -
£4,699
Single Supplement -
£175
Trip Status -
Contact us
Date -
08 November 2020
Price (PP) -
£4,699
Single Supplement -
£175
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
07 November 2021
Price (PP) -
£4,899
Single Supplement -
£175
Trip Status -
Available