My Journey To Dakhla
Ever since I first ventured into Morocco, Dakhla has been on my list of places I had to visit. If you’ve never heard of Dahkla, you’re not alone. As with other Moroccan cities and towns off the beaten track, Dahkla wouldn’t be on your everyday tourists’ itinerary. Located deep in the Western Sahara, this beautiful little town is disputed territory. Partly controlled by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, but occupied by Morocco since 1975. Today the region is fairly stable, though there are increasingly loud calls for Western Saharan independence. This magical slice of the African coast is built on a narrow peninsula about 18 hours south of Marrakech. It is a beautiful and unique place, where the barren desert of the Western Sahara meets the wild Atlantic ocean.
I had been wanting to trek to Dakhla for a number of years, but the daunting task of a 24 hour bus ride had deterred me every time. There is limited information about Dakhla online other than some insights on the political stance of the region, a few nice pictures of the beach, and a couple of blogs promoting all inclusive camps on the peninsula. Other than that, there isn’t a lot to be found, which in the past had hindered my desire to partake in such a long journey.
You can probably understand my apprehension towards catching a 24 hour bus into disputed territory, in the thick of the Saharan Desert, with no clue what might be waiting for me. To be frank, though Dahkla had always been on my list, I really never thought I would venture out there, especially not alone. As I am primarily a solo traveller, it started to seem like just a fantasy.
But, at the beginning of September, I was at Oasis Festival in Marrakech where I met an awesome local girl named Rania (check out my article about the Oasis Festival experience here). Rania and I accidentally spent the three days of the festival bumping into one another front and centre on every dance floor, which left a great first impression. When the party dream was over, she and I met up at the Spice Market in the Marrakech Medina for a proper chat, and a hang. As we got to know each other better, Rania asked me if I had ever been to the Western Sahara. I told her ‘yes’, because I had certainly been to the desert a number of times. “Merzouga, Zagora…”, I listed a few of the places I had visited. She chimed in saying, “that’s not the Western Sahara, have you heard of Dakhla?” It turns out that this conversation was exactly the sign that I needed, and come morning, my tickets were booked.
I approached the journey with a sense of excitement, and trepidation. Not gonna lie, being a solo female traveller in a precarious part of the world, I was hella nervous. When I jumped online, I couldn’t find a single hostel in the area, so I booked a night of hotel accommodation in the city. Upon arrival I quickly realised that this area was not where the travellers were coming when they hit up Dakhla. As it turns out, like other places in Morocco, Dakhla is famous for its ideal kitesurfing conditions, with enthusiasts flying in from all over the world to take on the beautiful lagoon.
Living here at this camp gave me an incredible opportunity to bond with local Moroccan people in a relaxed, friendly environment. Dakhla Spirit is eco-friendly, has a fully equipped kite-surfing centre, provides three amazing meals per day, hosts an awesome beach bar right on the edge of the sea, and has a salt-water pool pumped straight from the Atlantic. You just can’t beat it. In the evenings, a DJ would spin tunes at the bar, where patrons of the camp could drink, listen to music, engage with fellow travellers, and chat to the awesome staff, who were always up for a laugh. My experience at Spirit Dakhla ticked all the boxes - a beautiful location, wonderful people, jaw-dropping views, and general good vibes all around.
Things To Know About Dahkla
Where To Stay?
My number one recommendation for accommodation would be a camp like Dakhla Spirit. Bear in mind that Dakhla is extremely secluded, meaning you’ll need a car to get from A to B. It’s likely that if you go to Dakhla, you’re there for the beaches. So, the lagoon is the ideal location to stay, and is where all of the camp accommodation is located. Beachside living is one of the greatest things about Morocco, and Dakhla is no exception - there’s really nothing else like it.
You'll find everything you need, including ATM's in Dahkla town which is about 30 minutes from the lagoon and less than 10 minutes from the airport.
Dahkla is located in The Western Sahara.1,611 km from Casablanca. You have a couple of options when traveling to Dakhla.
There is a small local airport just outside of the city centre. If you stay at one of the all inclusive camps such as Dahkla Spirit, an airport transfer will be included as part of your stay. The town is about 30 minutes from the lagoon, with not much in between. For this reason, a driver is essential if you want to get around. Getting to Dakhla from Marrakech in the air is approximately a two hour trip.
There are a couple of terrific bus companies in Morocco, who can take you to Dahkla. The most popular and reliable services are operated by CTM and Supratours. You can jump on a bus straight to Dakhla from Marrakech, but bear in mind that it is massive distance, and the drive can take up to 24 hours.
Of course, there’s also the option to go on a good old fashioned road trip, and drive into Dakhla yourself. If you have the time and the will, then this is an awesome idea. There are a lot of beautiful coastal towns and beaches along the way, so I would suggest taking a couple of days to do this trip the right way. However, be cautious if you do decide to drive - make sure you have a valid international drivers licence, and you familiarise yourself with Moroccon road rules. Police are notoriously present on Morroccan roads, so always have your wits about you. I personally have not made this journey by car, but I have driven from Marrakech to Merzouga, and I must say that this was one of my absolute favourite ways to travel in Morocco. Feeling so present as I made my way through the ever changing landscape of Morocco was a truly exhilarating and reflective experience.
What To Do In Dakhla?
Like many places in Morocco, Dakhla is famous for its idealistic kitesurfing conditions. A gorgeous lagoon, steady winds, shallow waters and a flat sandy surface make for dreamy kitesurfing experiences. Plus, the weather here is great all year round. Personally, I didn’t have a crack at kitesurfing, preferring to spend my time in Dakhla relaxing by the beach instead - though I must confess, I was probably the only tourist there not partaking in the popular activity. Everyone I saw kitesurfing out on the water looked to be having an absolute ball, and if you’re unfamiliar with how to kitesurf, there are plenty of instructors who will be eager to show you the ropes.
La Dune Blanche / White Dunes
These dunes were remarkable, and easily the highlight of my trip out to Dakhla. The White Dunes are about 45 minutes from the lagoon. After cruising down the one road that connects the peninsula to town, my driver took a sharp right and went off-road, marking the start of my journey to dunes. The path to reach the dunes was barely marked, so you should absolutely hire a tour guide or a driver for the particular adventure. Once you arrive you will be taken aback by the gorgeous view that awaits you - a place in time where the expanse of the ocean meets the barren sand of the dunes. Unspoilt, naked land, without a road or a building in sight. The feelings I experienced here cannot be summed succinctly in words, there is just something very special about this little pocket of the world.
The oyster farm and restaurant is located right on the waters edge in Dakhla. Here, you can eat a freshly shucked oyster straight from the water, or dine on one of their seasonal fish dishes, including mouth-watering lobster. An oyster will set you back 4dh, and a lobster between 60-80dh - roughly $12AUD. During low tide, you can witness the fishermen tending to the oysters, and during high tide you’ll enjoy the fabulous experience of eating at the outdoor restaurant, with the water lapping at your feet. This was a wonderful, soul and stomach nourishing way to spend some time outside of the camp.
Located 6kms from Dakhla Spirit Camp on the lagoon, this piece of land is something to behold. During high tide you can reach it by boar, kayak or kite, and on a low tide you can actually walk across the sand to reach it! It boasts untouched shorelines and stunning views of the sea. If you go during low tide, you’ll bear witness to clusters of crabs scattered across the flat sands. You might even encounter a flamingo, a dolphin, or if you’re very lucky, the occasional whale.