Only a few thousand years ago the mighty Sahara did not exist. The Sahara was green and people and many animals inhabited it (as is shown by prehistoric rock paintings). It was home to vast lakes, savannas, and innumerable herds of Africa's most iconic animals. Today the Sahara has become a desert and the animals have long since moved on. Well. Almost. There are still isolated pockets of animals clinging on to a vastly changed landscape - the Guelta d'Archei in Chad is one of the most spectacular.

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The guelta is a sight no one will forget. Imagine being deep into the Sahara, in a country few ever tread, and seeing hundreds of camels come to quench their thirst, a remnant of a historic crocodile clinging on, and traditional nomads on their way to pasture their camels!

Why Guelta d'Archei Is So Unique

The Guelta d'Archei is a guelta - that is a pocket of water that forms in a drainage canal or wadi in the Sahara. Like an oasis.The Guelta d'Archei is home to several kinds of animals - the most notable of which is the West African crocodile (different from the Nile crocodile).

The crocs are one of the last colonies in the Sahara today, it is known from ancient rock paintings that the crocodiles once thrived throughout the Saharan. And today these are survivors and some of the last of their kind in the region.

  • Location: In The Middle Of the Sahara About 25 Miles Southeast Of A Town Called Fada
  • Camels: See Hundreds Of Camels Drinking
  • Crocodiles: See The Large of Crocs In The Region

It is not hard to see why the Guelta d'Archei is one of the most famous gueltas in all of the Sahara. It is located in the Ennedi Plateau in north-eastern Chad. It is not the easiest place to get to (perhaps if it was easy, everyone would visit).

Guelta d'Archei is the only permanent waterhole in the region and is nestled in amongst a towering gorge - a breathtaking sight. Adding to the atmosphere is the sound of bellowing camels echoing around the rock walls.

Don't expect the oasis to be a pristine one. Over the years the mostly knee-deep water has been turned black by the excrement of the many camels coming to drink every day. Tourists may perfect not to swim in the water on the account of the excrement and the crocodiles, but for the crocodiles, the excrement has a positive effect. It created algae-rich waters that the fish thrive on, that the crocodiles in turn feed on.

Other animals one can expect to see in the guelta include frogs and the desert antelope.

Related: These Photos Show How Intense A Saharan Dust Storm Can Be

Getting Into Chad And To Guelta d'Archei

Chad is not a very simple country to visit. Basically, everyone needs a visa to go to Chad (with the exception of many neighboring African countries) - so plan in advance. There is also basically no tourist infrastructure in the country.

  • Visa: Visa Required
  • US Travel Advice: "Reconsider Travel

Chad is also a very poor and undeveloped country with pervasive problems of poverty and instability. As of the time of writing, May 2022, the U.S. Department of State has a level three warning for Chad "Reconsider Travel." There are also do not travel warnings to regions of the country near Lake Chad and the borders with Libya and Sudan.

  • Roads: There Are No Paved Roads
  • Four Days: To Get There by 4x4 From The Capital N'Djamena

If one does choose to go to Chad, it is very difficult to get to the guelta (there are almost no paved roads in the country and there are no paved roads to the oasis). It is about four days 4x4 drive from the Chadian capital of N'Djamena. At the end of the drive, it's another few hours of trekking in the desert to get to the guelta.

Related: 19 Places We Would Never Visit Because Of The Harsh Climate

Two Week Chad Expedition

For those with a sense of adventure and who accept the risks, the best way to get there is with an organized tour. Chad Travel and Tours offers a range of tours around the country including their two-week-long expedition into the untravelled depths of the Saharan nation.

This tour is one of the very few that goes to Guelta d'Archei. One will see sites that very very few explorers have seen before.

  • Cost: From $4,750
  • Duration: 14 Days (approx)
  • Location: N'Djamena

The expedition will unlock sites and attractions in the country that would have otherwise been largely inaccessible. If one is in the region, consider also visiting the unvisited country of Niger.