Morocco’s famous for its Sahara Desert, with its rolling dunes and burnt orange sand. However, the 8 hour journey (minimum) into the desert might be a deterrent to some with limited time in the country. But you don’t want to miss out on experiencing the great outdoors and to maybe ride a camel. So what do you do? Situated an hour’s drive away from Marrakech lies the Agafay Desert. The rocky terrain with its steep hills and valleys may not be what you pictured in your mind but it brings its own charm. There are a couple of places that you could stay at in Agafay but for us, we settled on Scarabeo Camp.
The insta-famous Scarabeo. White Berber tents, luxurious accommodations, stark landscapes and adventurous activities await! You might have seen a photo or two or maybe 10 of the campsite. Actually, the word campsite might be a stretch. We were definitely not roughing it out at Scarabeo Camp.
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The Planning Essentials
We travelled to Scarabeo from our riad in Marrakech. Making the arrangements and booking was easy. You just need to drop them an email with your dates to check the availability and they’ll get back to you within a few business days with a couple of questions. From there, you can choose your transport options to and from the camp, whether you want to have lunch on the day you check in (this will affect the time you check in) and if you want to partake in any of the activities on offer at the campsite (of which there are plenty!). Once your itinerary is confirmed, they’ll send you a link for the deposit to be charged to your credit card and you’re good to go!
Getting to Scarabeo
We wanted to make everything hassle-free and didn’t want to bother with making our own arrangements for travel between Scarabeo and Marrakech. The camp arranged everything for us and picked us right at the doorstep of our riad. The 4×4 transport was a swanky and new Land Rover, branded with Scarabeo colours and its logo. We were already impressed (you don’t see that many Land Rovers where we’re from). We travelled out of the city, through small villages and finally into Agafay Desert. I reckon any big car with a decent wheel size could have made the same trip.
Welcome to Scarabeo
We were welcomed and ushered into camp with Moroccan hospitality. My cold hands (yes, the desert was a bit chilly) eagerly received the piping hot mint tea that was served and I happily ate some biscuits, whilst we sat under a tented shelter overlooking the desert. The camp sat perched atop higher ground and our vantage point provided a great view of the rolling hills and valleys of the desert. We sat there for awhile longer before being shown to our tent.
The tent is a whole other different story. You won’t feel like you’re missing out on the creature comforts of a hotel room. Upon entering, you set your sights on a king-sized bed before turning to see a fireplace, sofa set, desk and clothes rack. Everything was done up well, with small touches like decorative old luggage pieces and Moroccan poufs. Rugs lined the ground, so don’t worry you won’t be stepping on the rocky desert ground. There were lamps around the room, connected to electricity (yes, you read that right). We even had an electronic safe to store our valuables (which didn’t work well for us and we had to use a manual key).
The camp staff showed us around our room before proceeding to the ensuite bathroom. There was a portable toilet (where you had to pump the mechanism to flush down everything into a receptacle at the bottom), a sink, mirror, and a working hot and cold shower.
Everything was plush and beautifully decorated. This was the true glamping experience.
Lunch is Served
After tidying ourselves up and taking multiple photos and videos, we headed back to the main tent where lunch was served. For those with specific dietary requirements, just inform the camp ahead of time and they’ll prepare your food accordingly. The meals are cooked according to what is available in nearby villages on that day so be prepared to eat a wide variety of dishes. We were served a selection of vegetarian appetizers that were pretty delicious. We had warm, fresh-baked (onsite!) bread to go along with our chickpeas, cucumber, cheeses and other vegetables. We then had chicken kebab that was tasty, though the portion was on the smaller side. A lemon tart wrapped up our lunch and we felt satisfied with our meal.
The Nitty Gritty
We sat around for a little longer before proceeding to the office to get ourselves properly checked in. I left my wallet with all the cash I had set aside for payment and was too lazy to get it. So the Scarabeo staff was nice enough to let us pay upon check out the next day. He informed us of the timings for our activities that day. We would face some hassle the next morning because of this arrangement (i.e. paying the next day). We felt that he could have gone through with us our entire itinerary in detail, including the time that breakfast was served.
We headed back to our tent to get ourselves ready for our first activity, an ATV ride. Now, we signed up for this without knowing where we would be riding to. What we knew was that we would get a guide and we would follow him along. This was my first time riding an ATV and I was pretty apprehensive. Especially when our guide told us to keep at least 10m away from the person in front of us because it’s dangerous. Our group also included a father-son duo from Finland who went in a buggy (which looked a lot safer).
Nerves aside, we started on our journey. Everything seemed fine and we were travelling on pretty flat ground at the beginning (I strayed off onto a field, but that’s beside the point). About 10-15 minutes into our ride, the terrain started to get hilly and soon we were riding on paths beside slopes into the valleys. So if you’re thinking of signing up for the ATV ride, make sure you’re confident on an ATV and comfortable with heights. Speaking from someone who is deathly afraid of heights, I was nervous and basically a wreck. I was just happy when we reached our first stop, which was a massive dam surrounded by beautiful scenery. We took a couple of photos there and I took this chance to recover from the ride.
The journey back seemed more treacherous and never-ending. The Finnish father saw that I was freaking out and was nice enough to offer to swap our ATVs for their buggy. Being in the buggy still felt scary because of the heights and slopes but I was more comfortable because I wasn’t driving.
Our final stop was at the top of a steep hill. The journey up was well worth it as we were rewarded with a stunning view of the camp and the surrounding areas. The ride back was the most uneventful part of the ride (thank God).
Riding the Camels
After the (nerve-wrecking) ride, we went off to our tent to quickly dust ourselves off (we had sand all over us from the ride). Next up was our camel ride. The camels were grouped further away from the camp, resting before the ride started. The ride itself was a short trip away from the camp and we had the opportunity to take a couple of photos on the camels. Our guide must have been a photographer in his spare time as he took some really excellent shots!
When Night Falls
Once we got back to the tent, the sun was setting and the air was starting to get colder. A camp staff came by to light us a warm, toasty fire. I sat next to the fireplace basically staring at it in wonder and soaking in the waves of radiating warmth. Soon it was time for dinner. We wandered out of our tent and saw that they had started to light up the campfires outside the main tent. We eagerly sat around one of the lighted fires. I wish I could describe that night but it was beautiful just sitting around the fire, looking at the hills and sky.
A Toasty Fire & Hearty Dinner
Of course, we were getting hungry so we headed into the main tent for dinner. During dinner, you can order cans of beer or soft drinks, or choose to have wine (at an additional cost!). We sat down and were immediately served hot soup and bread. The main course was a chicken tajine with a side of potatoes. It was a hearty meal, one that filled you up and made you warm from the inside. The tent was filled with soft conversations as everyone’s shadows danced in the flickering candlelight. Dinner ended on a sweet note with a chocolate desert. We spent some time sitting around a fire before retiring back to our tent.
Once back in the tent, I proceeded to take a shower. To their credit, the shower actually works but the hot water is a bit temperamental. After a couple of minutes, the hot water will run out and you’ll have to wait for a minute or two in the (slight) cold before hot water comes back. I made my shower quick after the second time the hot water ran out.
The next day, we woke up and headed for breakfast. Breakfast was a pretty decent spread, with bread, crepe, jams, eggs (you can choose what kind of eggs you wanted), yoghurt, coffee and orange juice. We had our fill and stayed in the tent taking in the cool air and views from outside.
At this point, we felt the staff could have done a better job to inform us regarding the arrival of our transport back and when we had to check out. We headed back to our tent with no clear idea about what was to happen. We were rudely rushed out of our tent after quickly packing our items. I then had to briskly walk to the office to make our payment after being informed that our transport would leave without us the transport company had to pick someone else up from the airport. Luckily payment was quick and smooth. The camp even has credit card facilities so you don’t need to worry about that (and they don’t charge any hidden fees!). Apart from this hasty and rushed experience, the rest of our stay was great and we had fun experiencing the glamping life in the Agafay Desert.
Ready to Sleep Under the Stars? Book your stay at Scarabeo Camp here.
Photos featured in this article have been edited with @Travelinhershoes (Aggie Lal) Lightroom Presets World Tour Collection. Get your own pack of these amazing and easy-to-use presets!
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