Travel to Chad: Ennedi Massif Natural and Cultural Reserve

Travel to Chad

With a population of around 12 million inhabitants and a surface area of 1,284,000 km², about two and a half times Spain, in the heart of Africa, Chad is one of the largest countries on the African continent. To travel to Chad is to travel to a country with a great diversity of ethnicities, cultures and landscapes. A crossroads between the Maghreb countries and sub-Saharan Africa.

Chad’s three different climatic zones – Saharan, Sahelian and Sudanese – are full of natural and cultural wonders, such as the Ennedi Massif (UNESCO), the Ounianga Lakes (UNESCO), the Tibesti Mountains (proposed for UNESCO), Lake Chad, the Zakouma National Park and the anthropological sites where the ancient hominids of Djurab were found.

Night photo by Edwin Edelenbos

Is it safe to travel to Chad?

Travel to Chad and in particular to the Ennedi massif, the Ounianga lakes, attending the Gerewol festival or visiting Zakouma is perfectly safe.

For the more adventurous travellers looking to explore regions off the beaten tourist track, Tibesti and Lake Chad are uncharted paradises. These two regions may be subject to travel restrictions.

Ennedi Massif
Salt caravans in the Ennedi region

Ennedi Massif

The Ennedi Massif, inscribed by UNESCO in 2016, is located in the eastern Sahara, northeast of Chad, and is one of the six mountain ranges of the Sahara.

One of the main objectives of travelling to Chad is to visit the Ennedi Massif, one of the most sublime corners of the African continent.

Over millions of years, wind and water erosion have sculpted the wonderful Ennedi Plateau, carving canyons and valleys that make up a spectacular landscape. The permanent groundwater is essential to sustain the ecosystem of the Ennedi massif, nurturing the flora, the increasingly abundant fauna thanks to the new Ennedi Nature Reserve project managed by African Parks and the people who live here.

Travel to Chad
Central Ennedi. Photo by Edwin Edelenbos

Thousands of images have been painted and engraved in the caves and rock surfaces of Ennedi, constituting one of the largest collections of rock art in the Sahara. The exceptional value of the Ennedi massif is due to the combination of three aspects: natural beauty, relictual bio-diversity and rock art.

Ennedi rock art
Examples of rock art at Ennedi

And although the Ennedi massif is usually visited in 15 to 20 different locations concentrated in a space similar to the Madrid region (8.000 km2), much of this territory (like Netherlands 40.000 km2), known as the Eden of the Sahara, has yet to be explored.

Eclipsed by the Ennedi plateau and the Ounianga lakes, the Mourdi depression and its seas of dunes and rocks is another part of the Chadian Sahara worth exploring.

Undoubtedly, the possibility of flying and taking photographs and videos offers a breathtaking perspective of the sublime nature through which we are travelling.

In this “travel to Chad” post we will combine some images taken by me, mainly using a drone, and others taken by some of my travel companions such as Edwin Edelelenbos, Enrique Pidal or María Tudela.

Welcome to planet Chad

Travel to Chad

Ennedi Massif

A fantasy landscape like no other. The erosion of wind and water has created endless rock formations and breathtaking canyons. Although many tell us that similar landscapes can be found in Algeria, Jordan, the USA or Namibia, all passengers agree that none of these destinations can compare to the Ennedi, neither in size, nor in variety, nor in its fascinating culture.

Many times people interested in travel to Chad ask us about the natural stone arches of Ennedi. There are countless of them, we could spend two weeks just visiting arches. Here are some images of the most representative arches of the Ennedi massif.

Aloba Arch

With a height of 120 metres and a width of 77 metres, the Aloba Arch is the largest arch in Africa and the second largest on the planet. A true wonder of nature that is hardly known or visited.

Aloba

To get an idea of the proportions, I share another image taken from below showing several fellow travellers.

Aloba
Aloba Arch in Ennedi, the largest in Africa and the second largest in the world. Photo Edwin Edelenbos

Djoulia Arch

Another masterpiece made by nature. Eroded sandstone arch, called Djoulia arch, in the Sahara Desert, Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chad.

Travel to Chad
Djoulia Arch
Trips to Chad
Sunrise in Djoulia’s arch. Photo by Edwin Edelenbos

More stone arches from the Ennedi Plateau

In addition to the Aloba and Djoulia arches, there are many other incredible examples such as the Elephant Arch, the Djoli Arch, the Petit Aloba Arch or the Arch of the Tooth.

Ennedi Massif
Elephant Arch
Travel to Chad
Arch of petit Aloba
Ennedi Massif
Another spectacular arch rarely visited
Ennedi Massif
Arch and passageway of Djoli

To travel to Chad; the fantasy of the Peaks of Ouimina

After several years of making trips in Chad, knowing like few others the terrain in which we move, we have managed to have the best possible locations to set up our camps. Incredible places to spend the night, which combine the most spectacular landscapes of Chad and at the same time offer us shelter from the winds and harmattan typical of these African lands.

With places like the Ouimina peaks in the Ennedi Massif, travel to Chad is an unforgettable experience.

Trips to Chad
Travel to Chad

Sunset is possibly the best time of day to explore the rock formations of the Ennedi massif on foot.

Ennedi Massif

While we sleep Edwin takes some pictures of the camp.

Gueltas, permanent waters

The term ‘guelta’ is of Arabic origin and is synonymous with oasis. These oases are the manifestations of the groundwater that outcrops in the deepest part of the canyons of the Ennedi massif.

These gueltas, full of water, play a vital role in the socio-economic activity of the local nomadic population, who roam between the west and east of the Ennedi region.

Although there are more and more private wells where water is extracted with a motor and the herders pay for the water used, the large camel herds that roam the Ennedi region still enter the gueltas to find water at no extra cost.

In the Ennedi massif we usually visit two gueltas (there are several others such as the Maya guelta) with permanent waters where shepherds take their herds of dromedaries to drink in the dry season.

Guelta of Bachikele

Located in the easternmost part of the normally visited part of the Ennedi Massif is the Bachikele Gorge. A beautiful, narrow canyon where it is usually possible to find hundreds of dromedaries. Outside, dozens of monkeys watch from the rocks as visitors pass by.

In the picture, we show you the Bachikele Guelta, the narrowest of the Ennedi massif.

Bachikele Guelta
Bachikele Guelta
Trips to Chad
Interior of the Bachikele Guelta. Photo by Edwin Edelenbos

Guelta of Archei

In this one, the Archei Guelta in the early morning, before the herds of camels take the guelta for themselves.

The waters, often coloured black by the excrement of hundreds of dromedaries that enter Archei every day, meander winding through rock walls over 100 metres high.

There are caves in these walls. In some of them, the ones on the outside, we can see some cave paintings. Other caves are used by nomads to rest, drink tea or store their belongings.

Archei Guelta
Archei Guelta

The Guelta of Archei is perhaps the best known place not only in the Ennedi Massif, even in the whole of Chad. A natural scenery that looks like a scene out of papier-mâché.

Unless the waters of the Guelta are low and can be crossed on walk, the visit to Archei is in two parts. The first is from inside the canyon, which offers a view from below, and the second is the panoramic view from the natural lookout point at the top of the canyon floor. To reach this viewpoint you normally have to walk for about an hour.

Archei Guelta
Hike to the viewpoint of Guelta de Archei. Photo Enrique Pidal
Archei Guelta
View from inside the Guelta
Travel to Chad
Children go into Archei to get water. Photo by Edwin Edelenbos

Viewpoint of Guelta de Archei. Photo Enrique Pidal

Bechike Gorge

Another of the most spectacular canyons in the Ennedi Massif is Bechike, where nomadic shepherds with their large herds of dromedaries are also a common sight, and they often go in search of some of the waterholes.

Wells consisting of a simple hole in the ground from which water is drawn with a rope and a container.

Travel to Chad

Interior of Bechike Canyon. Photo by Edwin Edelenbos
Trips to Chad
Loles, one of our passengers, always ready to help. Photo by Maria Tudela

The Oyo Labyrinth, another impressive formation in the Ennedi Massif.

At the foothills of a large dune and the so-called Mont Saint Michel de l’Ennedi is a veritable labyrinth of stone formed by erosion. Entering Oyo is like entering an imposing citadel. In the depths of the labyrinth, sheltered from the winds, we usually set up camp one of the nights.

Labyrinth of Oyo, with the great dune and Mont Saint Michell
Oyo Ennedi
Exploring the Labyrinth of the Oyo

Hubaike, sand and stone

One of our favourite locations in the Ennedi massif. Situated on a hill, this spectacular labyrinth of rocks set in golden sand offers possibly the most beautiful sunrises on the Ennedi. The remains of an ancient settlement can also be found here.

Travel to Chad
Panoramic view of Hubaike at sunrise. Photo courtesy of Edwin Edelenbos
Ennedi Massif

Trips to Chad

Pinnacles and the great dune of Chigou

The hike up the great dune of Chigou offers a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding pinnacles. In front of it, there are several examples of “mushrooms”.

Trip to Chad
Great dune of Chigou
Trips to Chad
Examples of the well-known mushroom formations of Ennedi

Remnants of the Bir Kora war

One of the most surprising aspects when we travel through the different battlefields in northern Chad, known as the Toyota war, is the state of the remains of the war machinery. It is incredible that the ironwork, which has been abandoned in the desert for more than 30 years, is perfectly clean, polished and smooth, even the ones that have shrapnel in them. You really get the feeling of being on a set. I suppose that these same environmental conditions and erosion are what have shaped the majestic landscapes of the Ennedi and Tibesti.

One of the many Ennedi tank cemeteries
Travel to Chad

Caravan Oasis of the Ennedi Massif

In winter some Gorane and Anakassa herder families undertake a month long journey with their families across the Ennedi. In Kumakonda we have located some wells and oases in rarely visited areas of the Ennedi where these caravans spend the night and/or rest.

Ennedi Massif
Ennedi
Salt caravans travel across the Ennedi

Travel to Chad with Kumakonda

At Kumakonda we are experts in Chad. We have been travelling around Chad for years and know the whole country like few others.

These are some of the places we visit in the Ennedi Massif but they are not the only ones. We usually spend four days in this amazing region on each of our trips.

You can join one of our scheduled departures, which we recommend, or you can travel to Chad privately with a tailor-made trip for 3 or more travellers.

    Information request

    If you prefer, you can contact us directly by writing to info@kumakonda.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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