Candy Whittome review 1 Apr 2022
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Realising how big and desolate the desert is, but how life can still emerge and grow. The importance of water. The resilience and ingenuity of people. The value of camels.
Ben Amera and the Ayisha - phenomenal. Wild camping underneath them- the starry skies.
The iron ore train.
Cap Blanc - the birds and the location.
Animal tracks in the sand after our night wild camping.
The family living in the middle of the Guelb er Rich‚t
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Take soap as well as loo paper. Glasses as well as contact lenses. Make sure to have long sleeves and long trousers to respect the local culture in some of the more conservative places, and t-shirts with half sleeves for elsewhere.
Be prepared for long long drives across the desert - can be bumpy. Travel sickness pills?
Liner for sleeping bag is all you need on some nights so bring that as well as the sleeping bag.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Not obviously. This was the only part of the trip that disappointed me. I would like to have had more contact with people from the areas we visited, more opportunities to find out what their situation was and how, if at all, our tourism helped them.
In particular, please can you think about abandoning the use of plastic water bottles and asking people to bring water purification tablets or equivalent instead. If each of us drank 3-4 bottles a day over 9 days, that is around 150 plastic bottles unecessarily used. Would also show leadership.
Also, more time in the Banc díArguin -if there were time for a tour of part of the reserve eg at Cap Blanc, this would give a local guide some employment,
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Generally excellent - the guide and drivers were great. Reliable, thoughtful and considerate and read the group very well.
One thing that would make it even better, 5*, would be to provide visitors with information about eg birds, music, food, dress, politics, history and geography (and definitely a map with places visited marked). 1 double sided sheet for each topic would suffice; would be super helpful eg to have pictures of the birds/animals you are most likely to see, with a little paragraph about them.
Read the operator's response here:
I hope you are well.
Apologies that it has taken some time for us to respond to your feedback about this trip.
Iím really pleased to hear that you enjoyed your time in Mauritania and gained a lot from your experiences here. It sounds like you made some fantastic memories. Iím glad that you felt well looked after by your guide and drivers. We always prefer to work with local guides and drivers - not only does this ensure that money stays within the local economy, but also local people know their country best, which really enhances the experience for the group. Unfortunately, the guides at Banc díArguin arenít very experienced with international tourists, so we wouldnít be completely confident in allowing them to lead one of our groups. That said, we will certainly consider spending more time at Banc díArguin on future trips, and see how we can incorporate this into the itinerary.
Interaction with local people, and doing this well, is important to us. We try to include meaningful experiences wherever possible on our tours, and when appropriate, take the opportunity to interact with people when opportunities arise along the way. Itís great that you were able to meet a family in the Guelb er Richat, and get an insight into their way of life. Unfortunately, not all local people are open to visits from tourists so we try to strike the right balance with this and make sure that we don't intrude too much.
We are very conscious about single use plastic and as part of our responsible travel initiative, we are looking at ways to cut down on this, such as asking our travellers to bring a reusable water bottle which can be refilled during the tour. We do find that people would rather not drink water that has been purified with tablets, so this is a challenge, but itís an issue that we are taking seriously. Please be assured that any plastic bottles used during our trips are disposed of properly and taken to recycling centres back in the cities, where these exist.
Iím sorry that you felt our traveller information was lacking a bit in terms of culture and geography. We provide some information about culture, practical information and a suggested reading list in our country notes for each destination, but try not to overwhelm people with the amount of documentation we provide. Some travellers prefer more detail, others prefer less, and of course personal interests vary. Our guides are really the experts in terms of country knowledge, so they are based placed to inform our travellers during the tour, answer any questions and bring their culture to life. We will definitely consider how we can improve our country notes and pre-departure information going forward, to make them more trip specific. Thank you for mentioning this, as well as your tips on what to bring - we can add some of these to our packing list.