Central Africa

Hidden Treasure: Guelta d’Archei’ Hidden Deep In The Sahara

Story Highlights

  • Brief History Of Guelta d’Archei, The Hidden Treasure Of Africa
  • Animal Inhabitants Of  Guelta d’Archei, The Hidden Treasure Of Africa
  • Location Of Guelta d’Archei, The Hidden Treasure Of Africa

This hidden treasure of africa and ancient guelta — the North African word for a desert pool, is definitely not you everyday thing. Guelta d’Archei is an oasis,  in the heart of the Sahara desert.

A guelta is a peculiar type of wetland, typical of desert regions, formed when underground water in lowland depressions spills to the surface and creates permanent pools and reservoirs. Guelta d’Archei is located in the Ennedi Plateau, north-eastern Chad, hidden behind a canyon.

Hidden Treasure: Guelta d’Archei' Hidden Deep In The Sahara
Hidden Treasure: Guelta d’Archei’ Hidden Deep In The Sahara

 

For centuries, caravans have stopped in the steep-faced canyon to water their camels. Every day, hundreds of camels can be seen drinking the black water of the guelta, their grunts and bellows echoing around the canyon walls. Dung from thousands of camels excreted over hundreds of years turned the water black.

Lake Malawi the ‘Lake of Stars’, A UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Brief History Of Guelta d’Archei, The Hidden Treasure Of Africa

The Guelta d’Archei is one of the most famous guelta in the Sahara and Hidden Treasure Of Africa. It is located in the Ennedi Plateau, in north-eastern Chad, south-east of the town of Fada.  Thousands of years ago, this was a verdant landscape full of life, but today it is one of the harshest environments in the world.

The Guelta d’Archei is a thousand-year-old reminder of greener days in this now barren landscape. Paintings on the looming cliff walls date back to the Holocene era, more than 5,000 years ago when the desert bloomed and life was abundant.

 

Hidden Treasure: Guelta d’Archei' Hidden Deep In The Sahara
Hidden Treasure: Guelta d’Archei’ Hidden Deep In The Sahara

The Guelta d’Archei is a permanent oasis fed by the water table deep beneath the desert floor. Tucked away among the wind-eroded towers of the Ennedi Massif, this hidden oasis is a well-known pit stop for desert travelers, and it’s been so for a very long time.

Caravans crossing the Sahara stop here to rest and refill their supplies of water; and the canyon walls frequently echo with the bellowing of camels.

Up on the cliffs are rock paintings, dating back to middle Holocene, that stand testament to the guelta’s long age.

The World’s Oldest Desert’ Namib Desert in Namibia

Animal Inhabitants Of  Guelta d’Archei, The Hidden Treasure Of Africa

The Guelta d’Archei is inhabited by several kinds of animals. Rare desert antelopes (called “oryx”) visits the Guelta d’Archei occasionally and also frogs. The most common animal seen here — other than the great camel caravans — is the dwarf Nile crocodile, most notably the West African crocodile until recently thought to be a synonym for the Nile crocodile.

 

Hidden Treasure: Guelta d’Archei' Hidden Deep In The Sahara
Hidden Treasure: Guelta d’Archei’ Hidden Deep In The Sahara

This species once thrived across most of today’s Sahara desert and in swamps and rivers along South Mediterranean shores. Guelta d’Archei represents one of the last remaining colonies of the Nile crocodile known in the Sahara today. The crocodiles feed on fish that survive on the algae that thrive on the waters fertilized by camel droppings.

These crocs are very likely descendants of crocodiles who were trapped here a millennium ago when the desert expanded. Now they’re dependent on the visiting camels for their survival. The abundance of camel droppings in the water creates large blooms of algae — and that’s the crocodiles’ main diet.

Pools like this one provide support for the few remaining animals in the area.

Lake Malawi the ‘Lake of Stars’, A UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Location Of Guelta d’Archei, The Hidden Treasure Of Africa

The Guelta d’Archei is located in the Ennedi Plateau in north-eastern Chad deep in the sahara, about 25 miles southeast of the town of Fada. Trips to the guelta can be arranged in the capital N’Djamena, but get ready for quite a voyage.

 

Guelta d’Archei' The Hidden Treasure Deep In The Sahara

It’s a four-day journey across the desert by 4×4 (or camel if you so desire), and then a few hours of trekking to reach the guelta itself. Alternatively, you can look for a flight into Fada and arrange a trip from there. Needless to say, be careful in or around the dung-blackened water.

Guelta d’Archei' The Hidden Treasure Deep In The Sahara
Guelta d’Archei’ The Hidden Treasure Deep In The Sahara

West African crocodiles are smaller and less aggressive than the closely related Nile crocodile, but they could still take a bite at a human.

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