This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this Secret Compass Classic expedition to Sudan.
Read on to discover our ethos and team-centred approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations. Use the buttons below to ask questions or to apply for this team or, once approved, to secure your spot on the team with a Booking Form and a £400 deposit.
Arrive: At the team hotel, Khartoum by 1800 on 19 Jan 2020
Depart: leave Khartoum any time on the 2 Feb 2020.
Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive cover.
Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
Balance due: 90 days before departure on 21 Oct 19.
The aim of this classic expedition is to cross the Bayuda Desert – a journey of around 280km – on foot and by camel, as the desert nomads have done for centuries.
The team will forgo the clutter of modern life to embark on a minimal journey through the desert, carrying everything by camel and pitching camp each night in remote desert under the stars. Each team member will be allocated their own camel and may alternate between riding and travelling on-foot throughout the day.
Along the banks of the Nile clasping the southern edge of the Bayuda desert, the team will explore the Meroë pyramids which – along with the Nuri pyramids on the northern edge of the desert – were the termini of the Bayuda Desert Route, a hugely important lifeline connecting the northern and southern districts of the Kingdom of Kush in 600 BC.
Journey through diverse Saharan desert scenery.
Follow in the footsteps of ancient Meroitic civilisations.
Interact with nomadic tribes-people as you visit desert wells.
Learn camel riding skills from the local camel-men supporting the expedition.
Explore the pyramids and tombs of the ancient Meroitic civilisation.
Camp under the stars of the desert night sky.
Experience the hospitality of a country rarely visited by western tourists.
You need to organise your own international flights. We have a unique partnership with Student Universe (a specialist division of the Flight Centre Travel Group and no, you don’t have to be a student to use them). The dedicated Secret Compass team understand us, our destinations and use global buying power to save you money and offer security along with a 24-hour assistance helpline. Fill in a free, no-obligation Flight Request Form here or call (UK) 0844 560 9799 for assistance in booking international flights.
It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. See our online Terms and Conditions.
You need to be at the team hotel in Khartoum by 1800 on the 19 Jan 2019 and the expedition officially ends after breakfast on the 3 Feb 2019 although you are free to depart anytime as many flights depart early in the morning.
Travel insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).
Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad of at least $500,000.
Activities: ensure that any expedition activities are included, these could be trekking, horse riding, rafting, MTB etc.
Geographical region: check the geographical region you are going to is insured (often the US and Canada or countries such as Afghanistan are not insured).
Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and the Travel Aware site.
Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country. Many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose these to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.
Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit the insurance page on our website.
Visas & Permits
Visas are your responsibility. Most nationalities, including British Nationals, need a visa to visit Sudan. Visas can be obtained either from an embassy in advance or on arrival at Khartoum Airport, however for both options require supporting documents from us which require arranging in advance.
More detailed information on applying for a visa in advance is given below for British Nationals residing in the UK. For other nationalities please check with your nearest embassy or consulate for the latest advice and be aware that in some countries it can take a prolonged period to obtain a visa.
British Nationals can apply for a visa in advance from the Sudanese Embassy in London. You will need:
a letter of invitation (provided by Secret Compass)
a completed visa application form
1 passport-sized photograph
payment (£65 for UK passport holders, £95 for US passport holders)
applications must be made in person, or via a visa assistance company
To obtain a visa on arrival instead you will need:
entry permit (provided by Secret Compass)
payment of $100 USD cash on arrival ($150 for US passport holders)
To arrange supporting documents all team mates must send Secret Compass:
a copy of the information/photo page of their passport
a digital copy of a passport-sized photograph
notification of which embassy you will be applying for your visa through, or if you would like to obtain a visa on arrival instead
Please note that recent changes to US entry requirements mean that if you live in a country which is part of the US Visa Waiver Program but have recently (since 2011) travelled to Sudan then you will not be able to use the Visa Waiver Program and must apply for a full visa to travel to the US. See here for more details.
Secret Compass will arrange any other permits required.
You should have a passport valid for the duration of the expedition and for 6 months after your travel dates and which has at least two consecutive empty pages. IMPORTANT: Please note that if your passport has an Israeli visa or Israeli entry/exit stamps you will not be allowed to enter Sudan. Please send a clear, colour copy of the photo/information page of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies of you passport and spare passport photos with you on the expedition in a safe place.
Day 1: Jan 19 – Khartoum
Arrive in Khartoum in time to meet your leader at 1800 at the team hotel, for a welcome meal and expedition briefing. If you send your flight details to us in good time we can arrange a transfer from the airport for you.
Day 2: Jan 20 – First day of Expedition
Travel from Khartoum to Metemma by road via the Nile’s sixth cataract at Sabaluka and the town of Shendi on the banks of the Nile. From here cross the Nile by bridge to Metemma on the opposite bank where we will join our camels and camel-men. Every team member will be assigned his/her own camel and after a briefing on the art of camel-riding, we set out north into the rolling sand-sheets and acacia forest of the Bayuda Desert. After a late start our trek today will be relatively short, making camp a short way into the desert, passing through the camps and settlements of local herdsmen on the outskirts of the town.
Day 3 to Day 10: Jan 21 to Jan 28 – On Expedition
We journey for a further 8 nights through the desert, weaving our way through dunes, across great sheets of sand and gravel, past nomadic camps and around brooding volcanic hills and outcrops.
We’ll stop each night to wild camp on the edge of dunes, under sparse trees in wadis or near the wells where we can watch tribesmen coming and going and watering their animals, hauling buckets of water by camel and donkey from fifty metres down. We’ll experience the spectacular changing desert scenery during the day, and camp under glittering skies at night. Expect early starts in the cool of the morning to allow for longer breaks for lunch during the heat of the day. Along our journey we’ll have the opportunity to buy sheep from local herdsmen to cook a traditional meal over the fire.
Day 11: Jan 29 – Karima
As we reach the end of our desert crossing, we’ll spot the dark line on the horizon marking the beginnings of civilization and the River Nile in the distance. Continuing to the outskirts of a small village at the edge of the desert we’ll leave our camels behind and transfer to the town of Karima for a welcome night at a hotel for showers and dinner.
Day 12: Jan 30 – Bejrawiyya
Desert crossing complete, the expedition now takes a more relaxed turn as we explore the ancient sights of Sudan, visiting Nubian pyramids at Nuri and Meroe which once formed the termini of the ancient Bayuda desert route. From Karima we visit the Nuri Pyramids, El Kurru and Jebel Barkal, necropoli of the city of Napata, the ancient capital of Nubia. It is at these sites that numerous important pharaohs were buried. We’ll have the opportunity to enter some of the tombs including some which have hieroglyphic inscriptions and murals to rival those in Luxor. We then head south, back across the desert to overnight at Bejrawiyya, site of the pyramids of Old Meroe, with the opportunity to see the pyramids in the atmospheric light of dusk or dawn.
Day 13: Jan 31 – Khartoum
In the morning we will tour the Pyramids of Old Meroe, a mixture of restored pyramids and tumbling ruins rising out of the desert. Discovered by the explorer Frederick Cailliaud in 1822, the remains of this royal city were very extensive – over two hundred pyramids have been identified. After visiting the pyramids we’ll continue our journey to Khartoum, stopping at Mussawarat Es Sufra and Naqa ancient sights along the way, visiting some of the most beautiful and impressive temples of Sudan.
Day 14: Feb 1 – Khartoum
Contingency Day or further sightseeing in Khartoum.
Day 15: Feb 2 – Khartoum
You are free to depart anytime today. The expedition officially ends after breakfast although many flights depart early in the morning.
About Secret Compass itineraries
Please remember that this itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but may not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team will adapt, flex and change the plan depending on the numerous frictions you may encounter along the way.
No specific previous experience is necessary to join this expedition but team members would benefit from multi-day trekking and camping experience. Please do not underestimate the challenge presented by the conditions in the desert. When on foot you will need to walk at between 3 and 5 km per hour to keep pace with the camels, and the team will be trekking for 8 hours a day or more. Your riding camel will be available whenever you wish to ride but be aware that camel riding is not a passive activity and still requires fitness.
All our expeditions are achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, this is an arduous expedition that will test you and at times you may be sore, tired, hot, dusty or hungry! The most challenging aspect of this expedition will be the heat – with daytime temperatures of 30 – 40 °C. You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration. Please ensure that you train for the expedition and arrive fit and ready to go. You will be required to be fit enough for the following.
Daily activity: varies but approx. 8 hours per day average.
Walk and / or camel ride: up to 30km a day at 3 – 5 km per hour.
Carry: your day-sack containing your essentials – water, camera, sun cream, snacks etc (your main luggage will be carried by camel).
Terrain: a variety of desert terrain including rocky, sandy and sometimes steep or shifting terrain.
Climate: very hot and dry (daytime temperatures of 30 – 40 °C), potential sandstorms, cooler nights.
Vaccinations. Please seek advice from your health professional on recommended vaccinations. The NHS Fit For Travel site and Travel Health Pro are both useful.
There is a risk of Yellow Fever in some parts of Sudan, although not the area we are travelling. However, a Yellow Fever regulations change regularly and a Certificate can sometimes be required when departing Sudan so we recommend ensuring you are both vaccinated and carry your original certificate with you. WHO advice now states that Yellow Fever Vaccinations are valid for life instead of the original 10 years claimed – please note that this information is not widely known so if necessary you should insist on a medical practitioner issuing a new, valid certificate or extending the expiry on your existing one. Do not accept an exemption certificate as an alternative to a vaccination certificate, as these too are not widely recognised.
There is a risk of malaria in Sudan so please bring appropriate prophylaxis.
Dental. It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.
The currency in Sudan is the Sudanese Pound (SDG). Credit cards, debit cards, ATM cards and travellers’ cheques are NOT accepted in the Sudan so you must bring enough cash with you, in USD dated 2006 or newer, to last you for the duration of the trip.
This expedition is all-inclusive so you won’t need much money, just enough for some souvenirs on the way or for (discretionary but always appreciated) tips.
Secret Compass always suggest carrying an emergency fund of $100-$200 in cash.
The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for the Sudan expedition. There are some examples on our website under the kit section. Secret Compass will supply tents, and group cooking equipment.
Secret Compass have arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.
Baggage and sleeping
DAYSACK: 30 ltr, large enough to fit your water, sun cream and personal kit during the day.
SOFT-SIDED DUFFLE / SOFT FRAME RUCKSACK: 70 ltr max. These will then be carried by the camel caravan in the desert, so this should be soft-sided and compressible (no wheels). Don’t bring unnecessary items to overburden the camels.
WATERPROOF RUCKSACK LINER: Sealable “canoe” or “dry” bags made by Podsac or Ortlieb, etc. are useful to help keep the sand out. We are not expecting any rain but you never know!
SMALLER DRY BAGS: As above, but smaller dry bags to put essential items in. These will hopefully keep your gear dry and sand free.
SLEEPING BAG: Overnight temperatures are likely to be 5-15 degrees Celsius, but could drop as low as 0 degrees Celsius. Please bring an adequate sleeping bag for your personal sleeping temperature.
TREKKING SHIRTS: 2 x thin trekking shirts that dry quickly. Long sleeves to provide insect and sun protection.
THERMAL BASE LAYER: 1 x long sleeved thermal top. Helly Hansen or equivalent.
LONG TREKKING TROUSERS: 2 x thin trekking trousers that dry quickly and are comfortable. Do not bring shorts as these are not acceptable in Sudan.
MID LAYER: 1 x fleece or equivalent
WARM LAYER: 1 x light down jacket or equivalent. It may be cold in the evenings.
WATERPROOF JACKET: 1 x Gore-tex or equivalent. We’re not expecting rain but this will also offer protection from the wind.
WALKING BOOTS: Must be worn in before the expedition. Please consult your nearest outdoor store for advice on choosing the correct boot. We recommend a specialist desert boot from providers like Altberg. See our blog article on desert footwear for more information.
HIKING SOCKS: 4 pairs that fit well with your footwear and provide cushioning.
LIGHTWEIGHT SHOES: For use around camp. Flip-flops are not recommended.
WIDE BRIMMED SUN HAT
WARM HAT FOR EVENINGS
UNDERWEAR (optional): 4 x sport /seamless Lycra shorts that don’t chafe.
SCARF (Optional): Lightweight. Useful for protected again the sun and sand
KNIFE, FORK, SPOON
ROBUST WATER BOTTLE: 2 x Nalgene or Sigg. Combine with a Camelback.
CAMELBACK: You need to be able to carry a minimum of 2 litres of water in a combination of camelback and water bottles.
Health and Hygiene
WASHBAG, TOOTHBRUSH & TOOTHPASTE, RAZOR, DEODORANT (optional): This should not be massive! A small drybag or re-sealable freezer bag is ideal.
SOAP (optional): Anti-bacterial and BIODEGRADBALE.
TRAVEL TOWEL/SARONG (optional)
WET WIPES OR BABY WIPES: There will be no washing facilities during the trek so bring plenty.
TOILET PAPER: A small personal supply is useful.
ANTIBACTERIAL HAND GEL: Enough for the entire duration of the expedition.
SANITARY PRODUCTS (optional): Bring nappy sacks or similar for used items to be carried out.
LIP SALVE WITH UV PROTECTION
VASELINE: Keep readily available to prevent chafing skin and heel friction blisters.
AFTER SUN/MOISTURISER (optional)
FACTOR 30+ SUN CREAM
Small First Aid Kit
A team medical kit with a comprehensive primary care provision will be carried.
WATERPROOF BAG OR TUPPERWARE BOX: Keep kit dry and safe.
PAIN KILLERS: Ibuprofen and paracetamol.
ZINC OXIDE TAPE AND SMALL SCISSORS: If you can source Leukoplast, we have found this to be the best.
MELOLIN DRESSING PADS x 4
CREPE BANDAGE x 2
COMPEED BLISTER PADS: Please note that compeed produce several similar-looking blister packs for corns, etc. Please ensure you purchase the standard / original item.
DIAHORREA TABLETS: Immodium
DIORALYTE SACHES OR SIMLAR REHYDRATION PACKS
PIRITON TABLETS: For allergies
EURAX CREAM: For bites
ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: It’s worth noting down the generic/chemical name for your medication in case you need to buy more. Please also ensure that your medication is legal in your destination.
TREKKING POLES Optional but highly recommended even if you don’t normally use them as you will be trekking over uneven, shifting terrain.
HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES: Petzl Tikka head torch or equivalent.
GOGGLES: In case of dust or sand storms.
SUNGLASSES WITH UV-FILTER LENSES
SPARE GLASSES OR CONTACT LENSES
PENKNIFE (optional): Remember, do not carry this in your hand luggage.
GAFFA TAPE (optional): For emergency repairs to your kit, you can take some off the roll and wrap it around something else in your kit.
KARABINER x 1
SPARE BOOT LACES (optional)
SMALL SEWING KIT
RE-SEALABE PLASTIC BAGS: For dirty washing, wrappings, etc.
Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims. Our people are as passionate as you are about achieving the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.
Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Each expedition is thoroughly reviewed on its return and team members will have the opportunity to provide feedback which helps to inform planning for future expeditions.
Local partners and bureaucracy
Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours. Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.
Infrastructure and natural events
The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more interesting time on the expedition.
In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs).
Part of a team
Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.
There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help each other, look out for each, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.
You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.
Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.
We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.
Key risks encountered on this specific expedition include desert driving, heat-related illness and blisters. If you would like to see the full Risk Assessment for this expedition, please email email@example.com
Incident management and medical
As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.
It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time (potentially up to 36 hours) and will require wilderness extraction techniques and long carries by stretcher. In-country search and rescue and emergency services are very basic or non-existent and the expedition will rely on internal resources for medical evacuation. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.
Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.
Sudan is a Muslim country and operates Islamic Sharia Law. Drinking alcohol or bringing alcohol into the country is illegal. While Non-Muslim women are not expected to wear a veil or cover their heads, women should dress modestly and respect local customs and sensitivities. Gestures which would not cause concern in Europe or America can be seen as an insulting gesture in Sudan. You should not show the bottom of your foot, or make the sign hand signal for “O-kay” (e.g. touching your thumb to your index finger while extending the rest of your hands). As with many countries, you should not take any photos of government or military buildings or installations, or public utilities (including petrol stations, airports, bridges).
It should also be noted that Sudan is not an LGBT friendly country and extra-marital relations are illegal.
The Bayuda desert encompasses a surprising variety of terrain. This expedition will cover expansive sand and gravel sheets, dune fields, stony plateaus and desert wadis. There will be some sparse vegetation and we’ll travel along the base of dark volcanic mountains.
Northern Sudan and the Bayuda have a desert climate and temperatures can vary greatly between daytime and night-time. The weather during the day will be very hot and dry. Daytime temperatures can be up to 30 – 40 degrees whilst night-time temperatures are much cooler, generally between 15’ C and 5’ C. It should be noted though, that climate is often unpredictable and you should come equipped for a wide range of conditions. Sandstorms are also possible.
From the airport. Team members are responsible for their own transfers between the airport and the accommodation at the start and end of the expedition. Transfers are easily available by taxi.
Road. Depending on the final team size, 4×4 vehicles or minibuses will be used to transport the team to and from Khartoum and the start or end of the camel trek.
On Expedition. In the desert transport will be solely on foot or by camel. Each team member will have their own riding camel and they can choose to ride or walk as much or as little as they want. Some team mates may prefer to ride most of the time, while some prefer to walk the whole distance: the ratio of walking to riding is entirely your own choice. We will have support vehicles in the area in case they are required, but these will only meet with the team every few days.
The team will stay in a comfortable hotel in Khartoum at the start and end of the expedition, and in Karima at the end of the desert crossing. Rooms will be on a twin or occasionally triple-share basis. Whilst in the desert on expedition, the team will be wild camping each night. Tents will be provided by Secret Compass and will be shared.
In towns, the team will eat well in local restaurants. On expedition, we will be accompanied by a cook will provide simple but nutritious local food for the team: chicken, vegetables, rice, potatoes, pasta etc. If the chance occurs we can also by a lamb or goat from nomads whilst in the desert. Dietary requirements can usually be catered for but should be arranged with Secret Compass in advance. It is recommended that you bring a favourite snack or cereal bar for each expedition day as a morale boost.
Secret Compass staff will be carrying at least two methods of communication, usually a Satellite Phone and a DeLorme two-way communication device. These will be used for regular updates to head office and for emergencies.
Unfortunately, routine communication between team members and family/friends is not possible – please reassure them that no news is good news! If there is an emergency and someone needs to contact a team member, they can contact Secret Compass’s Operations Room on +44207 096 8428 who will endeavour to pass a message on within 24hours.
Cell Phone. Assuming your home mobile phone operator has a roaming agreement with a Sudanese company your mobile should work in Khartoum, however you are unlikely to get any signal whilst in the desert.
Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.
Is it safe to visit Sudan?
Sudan has been embroiled in a civil war in Darfur for several years and the UK Foreign Office advises against travel to certain parts of the country. However, we do not visit any of these areas. In fact, violent crimes are rare and the Sudanese are among the most hospitable and friendliest people in Africa. Whilst Sudan is one of the world’s poorest countries, they welcome visitors and our trips generate much-needed income to the region. Your Secret Compass expedition leader will be carrying a full medical kit and will have access to a 4WD vehicle in an emergency.
What language do they speak in Sudan?
The official languages of Sudan and Arabic and English. Sudanese Arabic is most widely spoken and is unique to Sudan, borrowing many words from the local languages. There are also many tribal languages including Beja, Tigre and several Nubian languages.
I’ve never ridden a camel before. Can I come?
Yes of course! As long as you fulfil the fitness requirements, have an adventurous spirit and are willing to work as a team, then you will have no problems. All team-mates will receive a briefing on riding camels.
Do I have to ride a Camel?
No. Team members are free to walk or ride as much or as little as they want. The camels will walk at a steady 3-5 km per hour and you must be able to maintain this pace when you are walking. You camel will always be available for you should you wish to ride.
Will there be ‘phone signal or Internet?
There should be signal in Khartoum, however it is very unlikely that you will have signal in the desert. You Secret Compass expedition leader will have a satellite phone and radios for emergency communications only.
Do I need to cover-up?
Women: Non-Muslim women are not expected to wear a veil or cover their heads, but should dress modestly and respect local customs and sensitivities.
All: Shorts are not appropriate for either male or female team members.
Can I arrive a day late?
Unfortunately, due to group transfers from the start and end of the trek, the start and end dates for this expedition are fixed.
Can we take photos?
Once in Sudan we will arrange any necessary permits for team members. However, as in many countries, taking photos of government or military buildings or facilities is not advised and consideration should be taken when photographing people.
Can I charge all my electricals?
There will be no access to power once the trekking section begins. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs if you need them to avoid frustration.
Is alcohol allowed?
No. The sale and consumption of alcohol is illegal throughout Sudan and this prohibition applies to tourists as well.
I’m Israeli / I have an Israeli stamp in my passport – will I be able to visit Sudan?
Unfortunately, Israeli citizens will not be issued an Sudanese visa. Additionally, if your passport has an Israeli visa or Israeli entry/exit stamps you will not be allowed to enter Sudan.
Will my camera work in the heat?
Cameras should not be that affected by the heat and dryness, but if it reaches over 45 degrees they might struggle (note that we do not expect temperatures this high in January). However, it is still advised to keep your camera in its bag until you use it and don’t keep in the direct sunlight for too long. The main problem is the sand itself. Grains can easily get into the lens systems, particularly compact cameras with zoom lenses. Ones with electronic lens covers are most at risk. The best cameras to use are sealed waterproof cameras which have no external working lenses so no sand can egress them. If using an SLR, then take care to prevent sand getting into a lens housing. Using Prime fixed focal length lenses can help. Take a small paintbrush, a puffer bottle or, even better, a compressed air canister (probably bought in-country if flying in) to blow away sand and grit from moving parts. Take care around the sensor and never wipe this if sand is on the sensor. Take particular care if the wind is blowing or the sand is very fine.
Will there be toilets or showers?
There will be no toilets or showers available during the trek. You should be prepared to duck behind the nearest sand dune ‘al-fresco’ and limit yourself to wet-wipe washes. Toilet paper is generally burned or packed out in sealed plastic bags. As we are carrying our own water into the desert there will not be enough to provide showers of any nature. Wet wipes are the way forward: you’ll all be in the same position so don’t worry about it.
All meals are included on this trip. Please advise us on booking if you have any special dietary requirements.
Do you provide further advice?
You might find our Get Ready section useful, with further advice about fitness, flights, travel insurance, visas and our approach to risk management.
How can I apply?
Use the buttons below to contact Secret Compass with your questions or to complete our no-obligation Application Form to join this team. Someone will get back to you promptly.