Why book Caravan by Habitas Dakhla?
With Dakhla Bay in the Western Sahara rapidly emerging one of the world’s hottest spots for kitesurfing, this luxe yet laidback hotel – the latest outpost of experience-led hotel group Habitas – offers a sophisticated base for adventurous travellers looking to immerse themselves in the local scene.
Set the scene
Few backdrops are more dramatic than Dakhla Bay, a 25-mile-long lagoon sheltered by a finger-thin peninsula that separates the Sahara desert from the Atlantic. A 20-minute drive north of Dakhla, this upmarket addition to the region’s existing roster of surf camps and hostels opened at the end of 2022. Overlooking the lagoon, which sees kitesurfers zip back and forth from dawn until dusk, Caravan Dakhla places its guests seconds from the action, where strong, consistent wind conditions are perfect for kitesurfing and wind foiling. Seasoned pros regularly drop into Caravan Dakhla’s bar and restaurant, while the adjoining Naish kitesurf school will help newcomers separate their chicken loops from their chop hops.
After bonding at Burning Man, Habitas’s three founders have built a compelling, near-cultish hospitality empire – expect welcome ceremonies burning local jawi resin, drop-in yoga sessions, firepits for after-dark powwows and gentle reminders that this is a ‘home’ rather than a hotel. As well as boasting digital nomad-worthy modern trappings, each venue aims to tap into each location’s sense of place with minimal environmental impact. For this, the brand’s second Moroccan outpost, the design team has revamped an existing property that merges into the surrounding dunes, letting the surrounding landscapes speak for themselves. Windswept sand piles up between the rooms overnight, and decor by local artisans gives Berber character throughout the hotel’s 24 rooms and communal areas, which include a central terrace, swimming pool and yoga deck and the cosy Levante restaurant as well as a wellness area for weary kiters. Another major draw is its state-of-the-art kitesurfing school, opened in collaboration with watersports pioneer Robby Naish.
Split across three categories, Caravan Dakhla’s 24 rooms either face over the lagoon (Ocean Villas) or the desert (Dune Villas), while a handful of Desert Riads offer a more secluded, enclosed option for families or larger groups. All are as comfortable as they are charismatic, defined by traditional tadelekt walls and other regional accents in the form of chunky Berber rugs, terracotta pots and bronze tables. Bathrooms come with twin sinks and toiletries made from honey and Argan oil bought from a women’s collective in the Atlas mountains, while an outdoor shower means an extended opportunity to stargaze after dark. Given the extreme remoteness of its location, don’t expect everything – showers, wifi, electricity – to work all the time, although these might be ironed out over time.
Food and drink
One of the only destinations on Dakhla Bay offering an a la carte menu, life at Caravan Dakhla ebbs and flows around its restaurant, Levante, which melds culinary influences from the Middle East and – in a nod to the region’s Spanish heritage – Latin America. Menus change frequently, but ahead of a day on the water, kiters might grab a smoothie bowl or breakfast burrito, while more substantial fare – essential given the calories burned while kitesurfing – can be found at lunch and dinner, where hearty harira soups and daily tagine specials appear alongside fish tacos, tostadas and ceviches. Expect to find locally farmed oysters from Dakhla Bay served in various formats and refreshing Casablanca beers and wines from the Benslimane region.
A former Spanish colony with Berber roots, the Dakhla region is part of the disputed Western Sahara territory, currently occupied by Morocco. The sleepy city of Dakhla itself offers few reasons for visitors to linger for long beyond its lively markets, yet offers glimpses of its multifaceted past. Here, among stalls selling piles of Berber rugs, spices and knock-off Nikes, street-food vendors dish up camel meat skewers, babbouche snails in broth and pillowy msemen pancakes as the town’s elders linger over Sahrawi tea. The city’s emerging kitesurfing industry is visible in the arrival of a handful of sleek new boutiques for those in search of watersports gear. Further afield, the dramatic Dune Blanche and the golden sands of Pointe D’Or, on the Atlantic side of the peninsula, are also worthy detours on no-wind days.
Authentic and warm, the international team here are professional to a tee. Coffee orders are remembered, exchanges are good-natured, and your kitesurfing progress toasted – reflective of the camaraderie of the watersports fraternity at large – you’ll feel like an extended family in no time.
The main attraction here is undoubtedly the watersports, meaning those children keen to try their hand at either kiting or wing foiling will be in their element, with the charismatic Naish kitesurf instructors able to tailor lessons to all abilities. Beyond that, excursions to Dune Blanche or the pink flamingos, which arrive at the lagoon each July, are sure to impress.
Given Caravan Dakhla’s remote location, water and electricity are at a premium, with both often switched off for periods overnight. All electrical and water equipment is energy efficient and geared towards low consumption. Elsewhere, all products in the bathrooms are 100 per cent organic to prevent chemicals from leaching into the sand, while – as with other Habitas properties, single-use plastics have been eliminated. Given the scale of plastic pollution visible in beauty spots throughout the region, it’s positive that the hotel’s staff regularly contribute to beach cleaning and have partnered with a local organisation dedicated to children’s education on these issues.
Given the minimal intervention design, Caravan Dakhla’s uneven, sand-strewn landscapes aren’t easy for less able travellers.
Anything left to mention
There’s always something happening on the terrace at Caravan Dakhla that tallies with Habitas’ aim to foster human connection. Expect daily yoga drop-ins and regular oyster tastings, movie nights and family-style dinners across communal tables at Levante, while Sahrawi tea ceremonies and an expanded music programme are likely to follow this summer.