Introduction

After crossing the rocky and forlorn expanses of the hammada south from Tarfaya, the Western Saharan city of Dakhla is an appealingly relaxed destination. A constant feature is the cobalt intensity of the Atlantic Ocean, softened here by palm trees, a pleasant oceanfront esplanade and a shallow island-studded lagoon.

The region's recent Spanish past echoes languidly in cafes and restaurants, while one of the world's best kiteboarding scenes attracts international visitors seeking a more energetic Western Saharan experience.

Occasional roadblocks on the fringes of the desert reinforce this is a disputed region, despite what is indicated by the Moroccan flags shifting in tropical breezes.

Against this subdued background of international contention, a small group of pioneering expats are developing eco-aware and low-impact tours exploring the lagoon and surrounding desert.