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Photography by Guenterguni/Getty

Guelta D’Archeï


You want off the beaten path, you got it. Chad has earned some unfavorable superlatives over the years: It’s consistently named one of the poorest, most corrupt, most dangerous and least visited countries in the world. And yet, its Ennedi Plateau boasts some of the planet’s most marvelous geological formations (think Lawrence of Arabia on steroids). Wind and water erosion have sculpted gorges and grottoes aplenty and whipped rocks into spiky pillars and cloud-scraping mushrooms. 

But the most stunning sight of all? The Guelta d’Archeï, an oasis amid the arid massif where, for centuries, nomadic caravans have stopped in the walled canyon to water their camels and donkeys. The inky black pool may look inviting on a sweltering afternoon, but you should resist the urge to dive in. These waters are inhabited by West African crocodiles, and that onyx color comes from — pinch your nose, friends — animal excrement. Still, the mirage-like guelta is catnip for argonauts with its dizzyingly high sandstone cliffs, prehistoric cave paintings and a tourism infrastructure so nascent that calling it “basic” feels wildly exaggeratory.

How To Get There

After flying into N’Djamena, travelers make a four-day trek via 4×4 or camel across the Sahara Desert to reach Guelta d’Archeï. Alternatively, you can hop a puddle jumper to Fada, a town about 25 miles away, and finish the rest of the route on foot, hoof or SUV.

Outfitter To Tap

No tour operator handles this corner of the world better than GeoEx. Their expert-led itinerary will take you to the guelta, of course, but also pack in other Ennedi wonders like stone mazes, gravity-defying arches and the rock art of Terkei.

Good To Know

For an unrivaled view, GeoEx guide Brad Hansen says to follow the goat droppings at La Route de Savonnier: “Once you pass the first steep section, walk 20 minutes along a wadi until you reach a wide rock wall. Navigate to the top of the ledge, and your reward is a scene best described as biblical.”

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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