With beaches that seem to stretch on forever and wildlife species that are unique to its deserts and seas, Mauritania is a nature-lover’s paradise. Rare Nile crocodiles roam the country’s far-flung oases while ancient towns like Tichit, Oualata, Terjit, Chinguetti, and Ouadane boast elaborate architecture, breathtaking landscapes, historical shipwrecks, rock paintings, and medieval mosques.
Bird watchers from across the world flock to the famed Parc National du Banc d’Arguin—just south of Nouadhibou (Mauritania’s second-largest city after capital Nouakchott)—arguably one of the best bird-watching sites in all of Africa. The 12,000-square-kilometer park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to more than 200 species of birds. Additionally, the park is home to myriad species of seals, jackals, turtles, gazelles, hyenas, foxes, dolphins, and fish.
Another bird-watching hotspot can be found further south of the Parc National du Banc d’Arguin at the Parc National du Diawling, which is located along the northern bank of the Senegal River. Established in 1991, this park features many wetland bird species such as pelicans, herons and flamingos in addition to rare warthogs and jackals. Wintering species of birds from Europe, Greenland, and Siberia can best be seen between December and February.
While bird-lovers focus their visits along Mauritania’s western coasts, other rare and endangered species abound elsewhere. The deserts in the east are home to the endangered addax antelope, for example, and the seas off the coast of Nouadhibou are home to the world’s largest remaining colony of Mediterranean monk seals.
Geoff Weiss and Andrea Papitto first traveled to West Africa together in 2005. Geoff is a freelance journalist based in Lyon, France. Andrea is vice president of Thinking Forward Media, a boutique communications agency specializing in marketing and media production for international tourism & development clients. She is currently producing Essakane Film, a documentary on the Festival in the Desert in Mali.