Egypt // The Western Desert Oases //

Tours around Bahariya Oasis and beyond

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Half-day local tours of Bahariya Oasis – visiting the Black Mountain, Bir el-Ghaba and Jebel el-Dist – can be arranged by El-Beshmo Lodge (£E300), Ahmed Safari Camp (£E400) or freelance drivers (negotiable). The cost can be split between four or five passengers and a 4WD vehicle isn’t essential.

Bahariya is a hub for jeep safaris throughout the Western Desert, whether to the White Desert in nearby Farafra Oasis, Siwa via the Great Sand Sea, or the Gilf Kebir in the far south. Although this is the best oasis in which to shop around for a deal, price shouldn’t be your only benchmark when choosing a safari operator. Some are highly experienced but others lack the skills to respond to a sandstorm, a car overturning or a tourist needing to be rushed to hospital after dark – or even carry enough water or fuel to survive getting stranded or lost. The farther off-road into the desert you venture, the more vital their competence becomes.

Outfits attached to hotels or camps using drivers aged over 30 are a safer bet than gung-ho 20-somethings with a borrowed jeep and no back-up – so don’t begrudge paying more than the bare minimum charged by novices. Priced on the basis of four passengers, safaris should have a separate supply-jeep for every two or three passenger cars, depending on the terrain and the duration of the trip. Off-road to remote areas requires a guide familiar with the terrain from experience, not merely reliant on GPS waypoints. Local drivers may tell tourists that they have been to the Gilf when really they only know easier terrain closer to home.

 

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