This small lake or pond is in the northern part of Erg (a dune field in Arabic, or Saharan sand desert) Chebbi, the highest dunes in Morocco (170m). The Erg is located in east Morocco, about 15 km from the Algerian borders.
I remember the first time I visited about 15 years ago—there was no paved road to take you there, you had to stop where the road ends at Erfoud, a small village about 50 km from the Erg, and hire locals to take you. Even if you had a 4×4, you still had to have a guide to take you there. There were few basic guesthouses and tourists were rare.
Today, there are tens of hotels right by the dunes, some with swimming pools, and thousands of tourists visit every year. This had a very positive economic impact on the neighboring village of Merzouga and the region in general, but also a negative impact on the natural site. Merzouga has also become a playground for 4×4 drivers and a training site and one of the stages of many rallyes.
I usually go to Merzouga in winter, as the weather during the day is pretty warm, and it’s usually sunny. It’s the best time for 4×4 desert raids, and Merzouga has always been for us a starting point.
This time it was spring, I went there for an event, and I stayed on the northern part of the dunes by the water pond. It was my first time on that part of Erg Chebbi. I was very excited to take pictures of the dunes and the water, but I wasn’t sure of what to expect. I woke up before the sun on that morning, for the first sun rays of light obviously, but also for the place to be tourists-free.
I was lucky as there was no wind on that day, and the lake was a perfect mirror. I took the first pictures, the classic reflection, and I tried different angles and compositions. I was quite satisfied with the result and was about to go into the dunes for a completely different set of photos. On my way, heading to the big dunes, I saw the caravan, and I thought that I shouldn’t miss this. I waited a couple minutes to have the caravan with the dunes in the background and shot a dozen pictures before it disappeared behind the vegetation.
Fortunately, some braves out there had woken up even earlier than me—this caravan was actually tourists being taken back to their hotels that they had left early in the morning for spots where they could enjoy spectacular sunrises. I was finally happy to see the tourists’ caravan as I think this added a lot to the picture.
Equipment & Settings: Nikon D200, 70-300mm f4-5.6D @ 110mm (eq165 ), ISO 200, 1/200 sec. and f8.