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Chad: Ounianga Lakes

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Ounianga Lakes | Chad | Africa

[Visited: November 2016]

A day of driving through desert landscapes, passing a salt water lake at Teguedei, brings us to some mighty rocky mountains, all surrounded by sand. We get off, the Landcruisers drive to our camping spot, and we climb up a few steps to a ridge from where a panoramic view unfolds below us as we walk. More mountains, more sand dunes, and then: Wow! A strip of green lies in the orange desert landscape, and in it, we see the blue shimmer of water. It is too late to go down now; we walk down the other side, towards a ridge where the cars are parked, and set up our tents. We discover that he rock formations provide great natural bathrooms for a basic wash. After a pretty windy night, we follow a ritual that now has become our daily routine: wake up before sunrise, and walk towards the west.

Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): Ounianga Serir, a fresh water lake in the middle of the desert

A row of rocky pillars on a mountain ridge above us look like guardian angels, and the clouds in the sky take a pink and orange colour, and make the rocks stand out in black, as we watch the sun rise behind them. As light gradually falls over the landscape, the details emerge: the sand dunes are ribbed, the rocks are jagged, the landscape always majestic. We walk up the ridge, and down towards the lake, which is now basking in the sun. We find a small beach, and dip into the surprisingly cold water. We have been looking forward to this moment for days now, and happily splash around in the water. I cannot resist swimming to the other side of the lake and back, the sheer sensation of water against my skin is pure joy. After the pleasure of swimming in Ounianga Serir, we lie down on the sand and close our eyes, and that too feels great.

Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): Sand dune and rock formation near Ounianga Serir

There is more to explore, so we get moving again, drive to a village close to a bigger lake, take water, chat with some locals who offer the inevitable handmade souvenirs, before we drive down to the lake. It has a layer of foam near the shoreline, and like most other lakes in the region, is salt water. Our guide tells us how these lakes used to be much bigger, and how the water level has been dropping alarmingly over the last decades. What will happen to these communities, the nomads, the region, when the lakes dry up in the future? We have a lot to think on our way to Ounianga Kebir, the largest lake of the region. A protruding rock turns out to be a perfect spot from where to admire the huge lake. With some trouble, we find a place to take fuel for our next stretch of driving through the desert - and our caravan moves on.

Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): Landscape of palm trees and sand dunes at Ounianga Serir
Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): Palm trees lining a narrow lake in the desert
Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): Landscape of sand and rocks near Ounianga Serir
Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): Dawn at the sand dunes and rocky mountains near Ounianga Serir
Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): Sand dunes and rocky mountains in the Ounianga region
Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): View of a salt water lake in the Ounianga region
Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): View over Ounianga Kebir, the largest salt water lake in the region
Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): View of Ounianga Serir lake in the middle of the desert
Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): Rock formation with sand dunes near Ounianga Serir
Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): Sea of sand dunes at the foot of a rocky mountain
Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): Fresh water Ounianga Serir is perfect for a swim in the middle of the Sahara desert
Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): Salt lake surrounded by palm trees
Picture of Ounianga Lakes (Chad): Dawn over pointy rock formation near Ounianga Serir

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