I recently finished a camel trek from M'hamid to Erg Chigaga that was arranged through SaharaTrek (an American middleman company that subcontracts to local tour operators). While the desert was fantastic, the service was not. The cost was supposed to include an English-speaking guide the whole time, but he arrived a day and a half late*; meanwhile I was being led about the desert by our 18yo camel driver. I would avoid SaharaTrek if I were you. Luckily, there are plenty of other companies that arrange tours, and it is an amazing experience that I highly recommend, just not with that company.
Worse yet, and I don't know if this is a standard practice among all tour operators, but I discovered too late that my guides did not use soap before preparing food (and no idea if they had soap at all, even for washing after call of nature). To no one's surprise -- despite using alcohol hand rub religiously myself -- I came down with traveller's diarrhea, something that I can tell you as a doctor is annoying in Cancun but a major medical problem when in the middle of the Sahara desert. Yet, my guides were totally untrained to deal with this, and when I requested to be evacuated out of the desert (thus prematurely terminating my tour) instead of riding a camel for two more days, they charged me over $50 extra for a 4x4 ride instead of paying for something that was their fault to begin with. When I called the local supervisor to complain, he was patronizing and defensive; I was stuck in the bathroom wishing I could go home instead of being able to enjoy Morocco.
I learned the hard way that tour agencies should be avoided; if anything goes wrong, they are contractually protected from any liability because they don't provide the tour itself -- you're better off hiring a tour operator directly. If you do use a third party, make sure they don't work with Habib based in Ouarzazate.
Other helpful info: if you choose the long journey to Erg Chigaga totally by camel, take my advice and ride the camel! They will let you walk if you want, but what no one told me in advance is that the journey is 36 miles one way, a distance that few can cover on foot in the Sahara comfortably in 3 days (let alone repeat!).
*in full disclosure, I was reimbursed a small amount for the fraction of time that the English-speaking guide was missing by SaharaTrek, but they totally stonewalled me on accepting responsibility or any compensation for guide behavior that seemed to directly lead to my illness and having to terminate my trip prematurely
Have a camel ride at sunset, leaving from M'Hamid to the first real dunes of Sahara.
You'll discover a silent place where the wind blowas and doens't make noise, pure air and intense colours. A really nice experience.
The only thing in M'Hamid is to do a desert excursion. It's quit a great experience when you first hop on a camel. But wait until you will go down a hill!!!
By the time we got to Mhamid i was actually almost 'starving'! so it was even more appreciated having an excllent lunch put before us!
Thanks so much to the guys at Dunes d'or Restaurant and Houssine who was escorting me down from Ksar Riad Malal just north of Zagora and showing me just what the Sahara south of Zagora ie Chigaga had to offer! especially in comparison to the Merzouga Sahara i am very familiar with.
The brochettes were excellent - our plates certainly looked bright! -the meat was lovely and tender - without any redness which i sometimes worry about for the risk of 'bugs' in our digestive tract, nor overcooked - perfect really!
a simple light lunch to keep us going without loading us down in the increasing heat.
But we didn't have the same luck on the return trip!!!
You will maybe see our car in you desert excursion!
She is dead!!!
We were to only one with that kind of transport! Everyone else were some big 4x4.
It did the job on the way to the desert...
You know you buy a desert excursion, you're all nervous to hop on a camel, and then lunch is served and your guide tells you to just take it easy and take a nap then after you will go !!!
But I guess taking a nap is good??!!
Just being able to walk from dune to dunes was the best thing in the world!
Feeling the sand and the sun was great!
HOTELS AND ALTERNATIVES
There are now three very basic hotels in M'hamid, where the Hotel du Sahara which has received the best reports. They are all cheap and clean. For those who never get it cheap enough, or simply want to sleep under an open sky (which can be freezing outside summer), there is a camping lot.
RESTAURANTS AND ALTERNATIVES
The hotels come with restaurants, but just like everything else, they only serve simple food.
Change money in Zagora.
Two buses every day to Zagora. There are no reports on any taxi services.
It is easy to arrange for night or even week excursions from here. Prices are supposed to be OK, and the experiences available fantastic. Bringing together a group is an effective way of reducing the individual cost.
M'hamid can get very hot during the day, and necessary protection as well as good supplies of water is always a good idea. And for the night, do not defy the cold Sahara nights!