Golden Nightjar, Western Sahara by Peter Stronach

Tour Dates: Thursday 18th March – Thursday 25th March 2021 (Dakhla to Dakhla)
Tour Price: £1,799 plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Dakhla approx. £400 return
Deposit: £450 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £150 – £200
Minimum Number: 5 people
Maximum Group Size: 5 people

Target Species
Birds: Golden Nightjar, Dunn’s Lark, Cricket Warbler, African Desert Warbler, Crowned Sandgrouse, Pharaoh Eagle Owl, Desert Sparrow, Sudan Golden Sparrow, Black-crowned Sparrowlark, Vagrants & more!
Mammals: Ruppell’s Fox, Desert Hedgehog, African Savannah Hare and Lesser Egyptian Jerboa

Tour Summary
This popular tour is a great adventure into a wonderfully scenic and remote corner of the Western Palearctic. Our itinerary combines a superb mix of coastal habitat and sub-tropical  shallow bays with some simply stunning desert landscapes. The days will be spent birding the various migrant hotspot wadis, wetlands and desert. A good amount of time will also be spent looking for birds and mammals during the hours of darkness.
The recent exciting discovery of breeding Golden Nightjars in Western Sahara will be high on our list of target species as well as other difficult species within the Western Palearctic region such as Cricket Warbler, African Dunn’s Lark and Black-crowned Sparrowlark . Of course, there will also be plenty of other desert specialities which we will also search for including Desert Sparrow, Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouse, African Desert Warbler, Pharaoh Eagle Owl, Greater Hoopoe Lark and Cream-coloured Courser, some of which can be found in larger numbers compared to further north on the usual Morocco birding circuits.
Finally, mammals will also play a small part in the focus of the tour as we have good chances of finding Ruppell’s Fox, Lesser Egyptian Jerboa, Desert Hedgehog and if we are very lucky, maybe Sand Cat too. We have access to a basic house in the desert (clean but simple) and there is no need to camp.

ACCOMMODATION: 7 nights in Western Sahara
A good quality hotel in Dakhla and a simple house with shared bathroom/toilet facilities whilst in the desert.
Desert house has beds, running water and solar electricity. 2 nights Dakhla, 3 nights Desert House, 2 nights Dakhla
Inclusive Meals: Breakfast from Day 2 to Dinner on Day 7

Previous Trip Reports

DAY 1: Dakhla
Arrive into Dakhla on a late evening flight and transfer to our comfortable hotel with close access to Dakhla Bay. Overnight Dakhla Bay Hotel

DAY 2: Dakhla Bay
Today we will explore the various points around the bay that host gatherings of gulls, waders and terns. We will be looking in particular for the rare Kelp Gull amongst the groups of Lesser Black-backed Gulls as well as commoner species such as Slender-billed Gull and Audouin’s Gull. Caspian Tern and African Royal Tern should be fairly easy to find and waders should also be plentiful. Given that it is prime migration season, the chances for something unusual are also high. We will also check any suitable habitat for passerines. If the sea is calm, a scan over the bay for cetaceans could be productive as there is a chance of the critically endangered Atlantic Humpback Dolphin.
During the afternoon we will travel to the start of the Aousserd Road. Here, we will get a feel for some of the best looking birding areas where we are sure to find some of the commoner desert species such as Greater Hoopoe Lark, Bar-tailed Lark, Desert Sparrow and Southern Grey Shrike.
Overnight Dakhla Bay

African Royal and Caspian Terns, Dakhla Bay by Chris Townend

DAYS 3: Dakhla Bay – Aousserd Desert Region
We will spend the morning checking the areas close to our hotel for waders and migrants and then explore some of the various bays and lagoons around Dakhla. After lunch we will head down the Aousserd Road travelling further than the previous day, this time reaching Oued Jenna in time for sunset and our first attempt for Golden Nightjar. Overnight Desert House

Bluethroat, Mijk Farm by Chris Townend

DAYS 4 – 5: Aousserd Desert Region
During the next couple of days we will focus on trying to find the specialities of this great area focusing our effort primarily for birds. This region is often windy and so the more time we have to try for Golden Nightjars, the better! Other target birds will include African Dunn’s Lark, Sudan Golden Sparrow, Cricket Warbler, Black-crowned Sparrowlark and Pharaoh Eagle Owl. On one night we will spotlight along the road where we have a good chance of seeing some mammals including Ruppell’s Fox, Lesser Egyptian Jerboa, Desert Hedgehog and maybe Horned Viper too. Overnight Desert House

Dunn’s Lark, Aousserd Road by Chris Townend

DAY 6: Aousserd – Dakhla Bay
Today we slowly travel back towards Dakhla making a number of stops en route to check for any species that we are missing. Dependent on time, we may explore a track towards Bir Anzarane which can be productive for both birds like Temminck’s Lark and Cream-coloured Courser and maybe Sudan Golden Sparrow. If time allows we will visit Gleb Jdiane again for any newly arrived migrants and rarities. Overnight Dakhla Bay

DAY 7: Dakhla Bay
We will leave our final day to focus on any species that we may be missing as sandstorms can sometimes cause problems and may have prevented us from visiting certain sites. We will explore the Dakhla Bay area again and in particular, we will visit La Sarga where we hope to find Lesser Crested Tern and Spectacled Warbler. This will also give us further opportunities to look for Atlantic Humpback Dolphin in the bay and to look for migrants and possible rarities that may be present in the nearby Taourta gardens. We should also have plenty of time to check the coastal bays for numerous waders, gulls and terns and anything unusual that may be amongst the commoner species. Overnight Dakhla Bay

Lanner Falcon, Aousserd by Chris Townend

DAY 8: Airport transfer
Early in the morning we will take the short transfer of 10 minutes to Dakhla airport for our return flight back to the UK where the tour concludes.

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides

Leaders: Wise Birding leader and local guide Nico Calcagno
Included in cost: All accommodation, bottled water, ground transport and services of leaders
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Accommodation: Basic but clean and comfortable with mattresses, sleeping bags, running water and solar electricity.
Single Supplement: £125
Transport: 4×4 vehicles throughout tour
Difficulty: Easy
The majority of birding done in close proximity to our vehicle.
Climate: Surprisingly pleasant temperatures during the day of around 15-20 degrees centigrade. Though be prepared for colder temperatures at night with wind in the desert.
Tour Start Point: Dakhla airport, Western Sahara
Tour End Point: Dakhla airport, Western Sahara
Suggested Airlines: Royal Air Maroc

Western Sahara landscape by Chris Townend