Dakar Desert Challenge, The Great African Adventure

Aug. 22, 2013 By Off-Road.com Staff, Photos Courtesy of Dakar Desert Challenge

Inspired by the Dakar Rally and the exploration and adventure for which the world-famous race entails, the Dakar Desert Challenge is an off-road rally open to all types of 4x4 vehicles. The transcontinental adventure ride, which is not a race, takes place from December 26, 2013, to January 9, 2014. It will travel through seven countries starting in Coruche, Portugal, and ending in Dakar, Senegal.

The desire to explore the unknown and venture into new lands has shaped human culture, and it is on this idea that event organizers have founded the Dakar Desert Challenge. The event also shares that same sense of adventure as the Dakar Rally but not the in the form of race – and not with the same expenses. Cultural exchange is the basis of the DNA of the Dakar Desert Challenge, which ultimately aims to recreate the great moments of escape and adventure of the legendary African Dakar Rally with very low costs of participation and the opportunity to participate in various types of motor vehicles.

A good dose of bravery, spirit of adventure and willingness are the ingredients needed to undertake this great trans-Saharan route, which runs about 5,000 km from the Iberian Peninsula to Dakar through some truly breath-taking scenery through the Sahara desert and of African Sahel.

The Dakar Desert Challenge is a great trans-Saharan expedition linking the two continents of Europe and Africa through Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Senegal, ending in Dakar. Since the event is non-competitive and the participants travel as a pack, great driving and navigation skills are not necessary. Event organizers also claim that most stock 4x4 vehicles and off-road bikes are sufficient for the trek, though proper tires, skid protection and suspension are certainly valuable. Event organizers say the level of difficulty for participants is beginner to intermediate, as mutual aid and camaraderie is really a key aspect to the experience and essential for the entire group to reach Dakar.

The navigation for the trip is done both by a “road book” and with GPS support. The road book, supplied by event organizers, contains diverse information that includes the description of the route, the GPS coordinates, the required points ("waypoints"), the partial and total kilometers, various information about the end place of each stage, local contacts of the authorities, health centers and hospitals, additional sites of mechanical assistance, parts stores and more.
The Dakar Desert Challenge is organized by an experienced team that has more than 12 years conducting expeditions across the Sahara desert, in countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry.  The main goal for the event to make sure arrival and departure for everyone in the group is achieved, as they organize checkpoints for each stage featuring specialized mechanical support for small and medium repairs on the vehicles (and medical assistance will be available if necessary).
Along the trip, the CCD will visit locations such as the Plage Blanche or the desert of Western Sahara (following the paths of marked pistes through which the Dakar Rallyran). Dakhla Bay (a surfing paradise) will also be an area traveled, where the desert dunes bathe in the sea. Or the Parc National du Banc d'Arguin in Mauritania, arriving to Nouackhot after traveling hundreds of miles on the beach surrounded by ocean and desert. With a little luck the group might hear the world's longest train in Bou Lanouar, transporting iron from the inside of Mauritania to the north. The group will also see wildlife in the wild in Diawling, the National Park which borders with Senegal. And CCD will venture into the dense and beautiful forests of Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Gambia, crossing part of the African Sahel. And of course, the trek will visit to the Pink Lake and the beach leading to Dakar, where this great African adventure ends.

Added to the next event is a shorter section called the "Marocco Adventure," a special category that allows a more short participation with a route through Portugal, Spain and Morocco. This category, linking Coruche, Tarifa, Marrakesh and Dakhla (from 26 December 2013 to 01 January 2014), is an ideal solution for those who have little time or a more limited budget, allowing cover part of this great adventure and feel the spirit of adventure.

As mentioned previously, the Dakar Desert Challenge is set on adventure much like the Dakar Rally, yet the cost for participation is much more reasonable. The registration prices for a 4x4 or 4x2 vehicle, including two participants, €730 (approximately $1.000). For dirt bike participants, the entry fee is €530 (about $750). The participation of for a pick-up or van with a dirt bike onboard, including two participants, is €850 (roughly $1.200). The price includes five nights accommodation on route, GPS tracks, a road book, medical and mechanical assistance, and more.

Off-Road.com will be covering the Dakar Desert Challenge later this year providing updates on the progress. In the meantime, for more information on the event, visit http://www.dakardesertchallenge.com/.

Off-Road.com Newsletter
Join our Weekly Newsletter to get the latest off-road news, reviews, events, and alerts!