At first glance, the desert seems harsh and inhospitable, a scorched habitat devoid of life bar the occasional scarab beetle leaving tiny tracks across the sand. But there are acacias, tamarisk and calotropis here, and lichens and algae that survive on the dew that clings to the undersides of rocks and stones.
Such modest pickings provide sustenance for the many birds that pass through on their spring and autumn migrations, as well as native desert-dwelling species. Spotted sandgrouse, white-crowned wheatears, Egyptian nightjars, eagle owls and Houbara bustards are just a few of the magnificent species that can be seen, while, incredibly, greater flamingos can sometimes be found at Dayet Sriji and other lakes near Merzouga – but bear in mind that these can disappear to nothing in dry years.
The desert and hammada also house reptiles such as Berber skink, Montpellier snake and fringe-toed lizard, whose feet are perfectly adapted for their desert environment, as well as nocturnal mammals; you’re less likely to see them, but jerboa, desert hedgehogs and fennec (desert fox) make their presence felt by leaving footprints in the morning sand.