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Dakhla: The Desert Kitesurf Oasis

With its legendary turquoise flat water lagoon and excellent wave spots, Dakhla in Western Sahara, Morocco is the ultimate kitesurf and windsurf oasis. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

6th September 2016 | Words by Tom @ WildBounds HQ


Imagine water so flat, so clear and so still that it resembles a surreal turquoise mirror. Imagine it extends out for thousands of metres in three directions. Now imagine riding across it, slicing through it like a hot knife slices through warm butter. This is the glassy water leading to the Speed Spot, one of the many incredible and unique spots found at the kite and windsurfing oasis of Dakhla lagoon.

Dragon Island, Dakhla, West Sahara, Morocco

On the west side of the peninsula, the waves of the Atlantic pound the white sand beaches of the Western Saharan coast. Beaches with no facilities, no lifeguards and very few other beach users. Just a strong steady wind, beautiful waves, blazing sun and enough space for an armada of kitesurfers to rig up.

Dakhla camp at night
The predominant northeast winds whip over the featureless landscape, before blowing hard and steady over the lagoon.

First ‘discovered’ by windsurfers in the late 1990s, Dakhla was quickly taken over by kitesurfers. At first there was nothing – no camps, no hotels, no facilities, nothing. A small camp soon developed on the edge of the lagoon, which hosted those first wind seekers in canvas tents with no electricity or running water.

What it did have was very reliable thermal winds and an immense flat water lagoon. The predominant northeast winds whip over the featureless landscape, before blowing hard and steady over the lagoon. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

Main Spot on Dakhla Lagoon, Morocco

The Lagoon

It is possibly one of the best places in the world to learn and practice kitesurfing.

Most of the wind sports activity is concentrated in the northeast of the immense 45 km long lagoon, where Dragon Island provides a fitting backdrop for your sessions and snaps.

The appropriately named Main Spot stretches from the very north of the lagoon for 2.5 km to the large outcrop where Dakhla Attitude is perched. It is possibly one of the best places in the world to learn and practice kitesurfing. The warm, flat, knee deep water is rimmed with forgiving sand beaches.

Main Spot, Dakhla lagoon, Morocco

The Speed Spot is incredible - a huge kite-able area in the lagoon’s northeast pocket. At low tide a small 40cm tall dune emerges, setting up the deep and flat water you want for mega jumps and lighting speed. Not a spot for beginners as the wind here is directly offshore.

White Dune, Dakhla lagoon, Morocco

If there is any one spot which brought Dakhla its desert oasis status – it is the White Dune. A tall dune of pure white sand creates a mini-lagoon within the lagoon. If you haven’t already checked out the stunts pulled off the sides of this thing, get yourself over to YouTube for a look. Simply epic.

Wave Spots

Although it is the flat waters of the lagoon which have made Dakhla famous, there are several excellent surf spots along the west coast of the peninsula.

Atlantic Ocean side of Dakhla Peninsula, Morocco

The desert sand beach of Pointe de l’Or is the closest surf spot to most of the hotels. The rocky outcrop at the southern end of the beach serves up an excellent point break. Depending on the tide and swell and with the predominant side-shore wind, the waves will roll on in for 500 metres.

Near the northern entrance of Dakhla town, Oum Lamboiur is another excellent surf spot with side to side-offshore winds and long rights breaking over the point. The ground is rocky here, so take care at low tide.

Shelter

Several hotels line both sides of the lagoon, almost all with a kitesurf/windsurf centre attached. The most established of these are Dakhla Attitude, Ocean Vagabond and Dakhla Spirit.



I stayed at Ocean Vagabond, situated right on the northern edge of the lagoon. The 30 bungalows (for 1, 2 or 3 people) each have their own porch and deck chairs. The rooms are very comfortable with separate showers and large windows overlooking the lagoon. Meals are served three times daily in the dining room and on the main deck, where kitesurfers lounge about between sessions. The room price includes meals, WiFi, and airport transfers.

Kitesurf Centres

The kitesurf centre attached to Ocean Vagabond, ION Club, is very well run. With most any shop you can tell straight away if the staff like what they do or not. At this place it was obvious that they love what they do. They have a real passion for wind sports and an eagerness to get beginners up and riding. 3x Kitesurf World Wave Champion Kirsty Jones is one of the instructors at ION Club, from where she runs her kite, surf and yoga KJ Experience weeks.

Kitesurf centre at Dakhla Spirit

All the kitesurf centres including Rihley Water Sports at Dakhla Attitude, ION Club at Ocean Vagabond, and the centre run by Soufiane Hamaini at Dakhla Spirit, offer the full range of group and private lessons. Many also run guided sessions to the White Dune, Speed Spot and Oyster Farm. These are not lessons per say, but rather guide-led outings to renowned spots which would otherwise be difficult to find for the first-timer. Kirsty Jones led one of the excursions I was on, and having observed my (poor) jumps, gave me a few pointers during the break.

Guide-led kitesurfing session around Dakhla lagoon: 25 euros.
Getting tips from a world champion while kiting around a desert oasis: priceless.

View from Dakhla Spirit camp

As for kit - I highly recommend you leave your kites and boards at home, and opt instead for a hire package. A six-day full equipment hire will set you back between €195 and €245, but not only will you choose the best sized kite and board for the conditions, you also get to try out different kit. Want to take out a 9m Switchblade and Tronic board for a flat water session on the lagoon in the morning, then swap to a 7m Drifter and Spade surfboard for an afternoon wave session? Done.


No Wind Activities

There isn’t loads to do except kitesurf and relax. Sounds pretty good, right? It's awesome, unless you’re the sort who doesn't like siting still for too long. Either way, be sure to bring a book or two. There are a handful of other activities to check out:

Desert excursion – Ranging from 2 hours to overnight, we highly recommend getting into the desert. From the different landscapes and sweet water blow holes, to sleeping under the canopy of a star-filled sky – it’s a real experience. Imlilli is a popular half day excursion.

Wakeboarding – If you’re staying at Dakhla Attitude, check out their 140 x 45 metre cable park, with 2 kickers, one slider and one up rail (plus two small kickers for beginners).

SUPing and Kayaking – Most of the wind sport centres offer SUPs and kayaks for hire.

Oyster Farm – Have a long lunch at Dakhla’s local oyster farm, located on the lagoon’s edge (you can kite right up to it). The seafood served was literally caught that morning. Dishes include fish fruit tajine and oven baked fish with local veg. Bring your own beer and wine (and ice).

Dakhla city – Home to 70,000 people, the city is known for its vibrant souks, or street markets. Try a camel kebap if you fancy. Or stick with the amazing fresh juices and traditional teas sold by the local cafes.

Fishing – Alongside tourism, fishing is the main economic activity in the area. Fishing trips can be arranged both in the lagoon and the Atlantic ocean side of the peninsula.


Key Info
Conditions Flat water in Dakhla lagoon. Waves on the Atlantic Ocean side of the peninsula.
Peak season April - October
Avg air temp 20-30°C / 68-86°F
Avg water temp 19-24°C / 66-75°F
Facilities All the hotels which line both sides of the lagoon have facilities including a kitesurf centre, bar and dining area.
Average costs Beer: £3 / Restaurant Meal: £5-35 / Accommodation: £40 - 75 (More expensive options available)
Airport Dakhla (VIL) via Marrakesh (RAK) or Casablanca (CMN)
Kitesurf centres Rihley Water Sports at Dakhla Attitude / ION Club at Ocean Vagabond / Dakhla Spirit centre run by Soufiane Hamaini

Images: 1, 6: Monique Pouzet/Adobe; 2: Groundhopping Merseburg/Flickr; 3: Matthieu Milliot/Flickr; 4: François-Xavier Borin/Flickr; 5: WildBounds; 7: JS Callahan/Alamy; 8, 9: Ocean Vagabond; 10: Jonathan Fusellier/Flickr; 11: Emma Wood/Alamy


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