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.
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
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).
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.
Sahara desert fossils
. These elongated fragments should be fossilized roots
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
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.
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.
Not far from the oasis, we have found a vast expanse of fossils
, probably more ancient roots.
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.
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
Sahara desert panorama
: a view of the Sahara desert with the Ounianga lakes
in the distance.
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).
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.
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
Among sand dunes and odd rock formations, someone carries something...
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.
A large oasis in the Sahara
, a lake that is part of the Ounianga Serir lake system.
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.
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.