Lakes in the Sahara desert and the oasis of Ounianga Serir

February 20th, 2018 

When thinking to a desert, the oasis is certainly one of the most fascinating thing. Extensive lakes among huge sand dunes, palms growing around the water, dromedaries that drink, nomads taking advantage of fresh water. The Sahara desert in Chad offers excellent opportunities to enjoy oases, like Ounianga Serir lakes.

4x4 on the dunes
As usual, soon in the morning the camp is put down and we continue our expedition on board the 4x4 cars, to discover new places. We are now leaving the sand dunes of Derbili, heading west to the oasis of Ounianga Serir and to its vast system of lakes of southern Sahara desert.
We say goodbye to the last sand dunes of Derbili.
Grass among sand dunes Dirty dune
The most peripheral sand dunes have "dirty" sides due to the dust carried by the prevailing winds (the dark areas in the photos are not shadows but, as said, deposits of darker dust).
Lonely tree in the desert Dune
Ciad Sahara desert
A long time ago, a vast area surrounding the current Ounianga lakes, was flooded and the landscape was radically different than now. What we see today, is nothing more than the dry bottom of an ancient lake. In fact, it is enough to look more closely at the ground, to find a lot of fossils that testify to a life-rich past, as we will soon see.
Fossil of root Fossilized root
Sahara desert fossils. These elongated fragments should be fossilized roots.
Fossils of roots Fossilized roots
Fossils of silica Fossilized by sand
Fossils in Sahara desert

These curious spikes, which recall the lower parts of a mangrove, probably are really fossilized roots too. One of the most curious aspects is that the fossilization does not seem to be based on accumulation of calcium carbonate, but rather silicon, as we are in a desert with lot of blowing sand.
In the distance, we spot a beautiful jackal.
Teguedei Teguedei lake
Lake in Sahara desert
Lakes in the Sahara desert. We finally get to Teguedei lake, the first of Ounianga lakes system. This is a salt lake, where lot of sodium carbonate deposits appear evident along the shore.
Palm grove in the desert Silos to store dates
Around Teguedei lake, lot of palms grow luxuriant and the people who live in this oasis, collect the dates before storing them in small silos raised from the ground.
Sahara desert fossils Fossils in Sahara desert
Not far from the oasis, we have found a vast expanse of fossils, probably more ancient roots.
Place looking like Mars Martian landscape
Landscape looking like Mars Oddly shaped rocks
Driving further to the west, we come across a fabulous Martian landscape dominated by oddly shaped rocks and orange sand. If you would like to visit a place looking like Mars, this location in the Sahara desert is probably one of the best place of the world where to come.
Saharan oasis Lakes of Ounianga Serir
Oasis in Chad Saharian oasis
Scanning the horizon more carefully, we can see a series of Saharan lakes showing different shades of blue, set among fantastic dunes of orange sand and surrounded by lush palm groves: this is certainly one of the most unusual and spectacular landscapes of the entire Sahara desert, and one of the landscapes most similar to Mars in the world.
Chadian Sahara desert
Sahara desert panorama: a view of the Sahara desert with the Ounianga lakes in the distance.
Sahara desert oasis Sahara desert lake
The lake system of Ounianga Serir has several lakes: they are always fed by fresh water, but due to the high salinity of the bedrock at the bottom of the lake, the water can be more or less salty (although sometimes it can be just fresh water too).
Sahara desert Landscape similar to Mars
Oasis Lake in the desert
Ounianga oasis

I climb on the top of a dune to have a beautiful panoramic view of the oasis, onto the huge dunes that surround the lake and onto the hills all around, with their strongly eroded sides. A totally surreal landscape in terms of shapes, colors and contrasts: one of the most beautiful visions of the entire Sahara desert.
Sahara desert oasis
A panorama of almost 360° on Ounianga Serir oasis, a very high resolution picture (31633 x 2721 pixels, 18MB file). It can be seen well only on a computer, not on a smartphone, and the full size version can be downloaded from the following link: Sahara desert panorama.
Person walking in the desert
Among sand dunes and odd rock formations, someone carries something...
Village in Chad among the desert Village near an oasis
Typical town in Sahara desert Village in the Sahara desert
Nomads houses in Sahara desert Silos for dates
A village located near Ounianga lake system. The houses are built by either bricks or simple mats. Sometimes we can see strange "skeletons", which are nothing but the supporting structure for the mats composing the hut (probably the family that lived there has moved elsewhere, taking away just the "cover" of the house). In the last picture, we can see silos for dates.
Lake in Chad
A large oasis in the Sahara, a lake that is part of the Ounianga Serir lake system.
Jackal footprints
Along the beach of a lake, jackal footprints can be seen leading to a small hole in the sand: the jackal digs because it knows that deep into the sand there is fresh water without salt.
Salt over grass
And... no... this isn't frost, but just salt carried from lake by wind.
We then leave the lake system of Ounianga Serir and camp in a beautiful place among low rock formations.

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