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: by 1700 on 16 September into Sharm el Sheikh.
Depart: leave Dahab any time from 1 October 2017 onwards.
Insurance: ensure you have comprehensive cover.
Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
The primary goal of this 230km, camel-supported desert traverse is to cross the southern Sinai, getting back to basics in a nomadic, live-like-a-local manner.
This culturally immersive journey is minimalist in style, in efforts to foster a deeper connection with the vast desert. The team will be supplied with Bedouin cloaks, scarves and sleeping mats, as well as being accompanied by excellent Bedouin guides – true masters of the desert. The secondary, more physical aim of this expedition is to climb several desert peaks including Mount Sinai at 2285m and Mount Catherine at 2629m (Egypt’s highest peak).
Trek 230km between the gulfs of Aqaba and Suez.
Summit Egypt’s highest peak plus other mountains.
Travel in a nomadic, minimalistic manner.
Buy food and trade camels with the Bedouin en route.
Sleep beneath the desert stars.
As featured in National Geographic online (Feb 2016).
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 24hour assistance helpline. Fill in a free flight quote request from on our Flights page 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 for a fee or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. Read our Terms and Conditions online. You need to be in country, bags collected and ready to leave Sharm El Sheikh airport on the team transfer by 1700 on 16 September 2016. Your return flight will also be from Sharm El Sheikh and you are free to depart Dahab any time on 1 October. Please bear in mind the transfer time (1h15) to Sharm el Sheikh airport from Dahab.
Please advise Secret Compass of your flight itinerary before departure. Direct or international flights into Sharm el Sheikh can sometimes be expensive. If they are more than £400 then also search direct flights into Cairo with then the additional domestic flight from Cairo to Sharm el Sheikh with Egypt Air. Note you will need to collect baggage, clear immigration and change terminal if you do this so please leave plenty of time between flights.
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: at least $500,000.
Activities: ensure that any activities carried out on the expedition 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, Canada and countries like 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 this 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 more information and links to suggested companies, please visit our Travel Insurance page.
Visas are your responsibility. Most nationalities require a visa to visit Egypt. British nationals are able to get a visa on arrival ($25, the Red Sea Resort visa is NOT sufficient) or you can apply for a visa in advance with the embassy in London. Information on companies that can assist with this can be found on the Get Ready page of our website.
All expedition members should have a valid passport with at least six months remaining. Please ensure you have at least two spare pages in your passport. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you on the expedition in a safe place.
Registration with the Embassy
Please register yourself with your respective Embassy or Foreign Office tracking service prior to travel.
Day 1: Sep 16 – Rass Shiatan
Arrive into Sharm El Sheikh Airport by 1700. The team will be met by the expedition leader for a two-hour drive to the Bedouin Beach Camp on the shores of the Red Sea where you will meet your Bedouin guides. Accommodation will be in simple beach huts.
Day 2: Sep 17 – Farsh el Friar
After a full expedition briefing and the chance to leave a small bag of extra items behind, the team will cross the road and enter the Sinai desert. Today will be a short trek of around 7km.
Day 3-9: Sep 18-24 – Sinai Desert
The next seven days will be spent travelling West through the Sinai desert. You can expect early mornings, woken before dawn by the sound of fresh coffee being ground on the fire, before setting off into the cool of the morning. There will be long breaks for lunch during which you will help bake bread, make baba ganoush and relax in the shade. The afternoon will see the team continuing the trek towards the evening’s camp, gathering firewood on the way and looking out for the expedition’s camels on the horizon. The terrain varies from soft, sand-filled wadis to slot canyons carved into the sandstone. The exact distances covered each day range from 10km to 30km but will be dictated by the availability of water from wells deep in the desert.
Day 10: Sep 25 – Wadi Arbaen
Today the team will climb Mount Sinai, also known as Mount Moses. There is a good path to the summit but this is a steep, long climb with minimal shade.
Day 11: Sep 26 – Wadi Rotuk
Continuing the trek with another 20km covered today. The expedition will take in Mount Catherine, the highest peak in Egypt, before descending into Wadi Rotuk and the quiet of the desert.
Day 12: Sep 27 – Zaiwateen
Continuing the trek through the Sinai desert for another 13km as you approach the western shore of the peninsula.
Day 13: Sep 28 – Wadi Rimhan
Start today with a ‘Grade 1’ scramble to the summit of Mount Umm Shaumer, an impressive peak offering views back over the trekking route and towards the Gulf of Suez, before descending and continuing the trek.
Day 14: Sep 29 – Wadi Isla bottom
A long day today covering almost 30km as the team passes lush oases and finally leaves the mountains for the desert plain stretching to the Gulf of Suez. Enjoy a final night around the campfire with your Bedouin guides and camel drivers.
Day 15: Sep 30 – Dahab
An early start to meet the minibus for the drive to Dahab, arriving in time for lunch. Check into your comfortable hotel and relax, swim, eat seafood and enjoy a final team celebration.
Day 16: Oct 1 – departure day from Sharm el Sheikh
The expedition officially ends after breakfast today but you are free to depart Dahab anytime or extend your stay. Please factor in transfer times (1hr15) to Sharm El Sheikh. Airport transfers are not included but are easy to arrange and cost around $25.
A note on 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 to the letter. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team may flex and change the plan depending on numerous frictions encountered en route. An adaptable, team-centred approach is required.
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 will be sore, tired, hungry and possibly wet (yes, even in the Sinai!). 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: up to eight hours with long lunch breaks.
Trek: up to 30km a day.
Carry: daily food supplies, water, camera and sun cream.
Terrain: rough, varied, undulating desert terrain, on Grade 1 scrambles to some summits
Climate: approx 30⁰C to 40⁰C. An extremely hot, arid desert climate. Up to 10⁰C cooler at night and at height.
Altitude: up to 2629m (Mount Catherine).
Throughout this expedition, the terrain and climate will have the largest impact on the team. You won’t carry much weight on your backs, but the limited amount of water and food and the lack of the normal luxuries you might be accustomed may stress you more than expected. If you would like to speak to us about the fitness requirements or training plans, please get in touch. Our generic Expedition Training Advice can be downloaded here and adapted to suit.
You’ll benefit from previous multi-day trekking or walking experience. Though not carrying large expedition packs, the consecutive days of activity in a desert environment and a very different way of living and eating will make this a challenging expedition.
Dental. It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.
Egyptian Pound (LE or E£) is the currency of Sinai. There will be access to ATMs at Sharm El Sheikh Airport and in Dahab but be very aware that these are often broken so plan your currency in advance. During the expedition there will be nothing. This expedition is all inclusive so you won’t need much money, except for tipping (discretionary, budget on around £60 for the trip) and to buy a beer or two and some souvenirs on the way.
Home to You. Secret Compass will have an Ops Room manned in the UK throughout your expedition. If your family need to get in touch with you due to an emergency your family can call the Ops Room on +44 (0) 207 096 8428. The Ops Room will ensure the message gets to the expedition within 24 hours. Unfortunately we are unable to pass routine messages between your family members and you.
You to Home. Secret Compass will have satellite phones for emergency use only and these cannot be used for personal messages home unless in extremis. Please reassure your family that we have their contact details (Next of Kin information provided on your Booking Form) and that no news is good news.
Cell Phone. Your mobile roaming will work in towns. There may be no coverage along the majority of the route.
The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for the 2017 expedition to cross Southern Sinai. This is a minimalist-style expedition and we encourage team members to embrace the back-to-basics Bedouin lifestyle and pack accordingly. All of your personal kit will need to fit into the provided shoulder bag and your 20-litre dry bag. A small bag with extra items which you won’t need during the expedition may be left at the Beach Camp and will be returned to you in Dahab at the end of the expedition.
Secret Compass will supply the below items. Apart from the Bedouin carpet, these are available for you to keep after the expedition or they can be donated to a local community.
a. Hand-wrapped water bottle. Recycled water bottles wrapped up in traditional palm fibre and cloth.
b. Farwa – Heavy winter Bedouin cloaks (which will also be our sleeping bags).
c. Head scarf.
d. Bedouin carpet.
e. Woollen shoulder bag.
Secret Compass has arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.
WALKING BOOTS/SHOES: Walking boots with ankle support if you prefer, but lighter the better so no heavy leather boots. Ensure your boot is WORN IN and comfortable. Avoid Gore-tex if possible. Read our Desert Footwear Guide.
2x MIDWEIGHT HIKING SOCKS: Wool is suggested.
1x LONG SLEEVE SHIRT: Thin trekking shirt that dries quickly with long sleeves to provide insect and sun protection.
1x TREKKING TROUSERS: Thin trekking trousers that dry quickly and are comfortable. Zip-off legs are a good idea.
WINDPROOF JACKET: Lightweight windproof. The temperatures will drop to around 10°C and windy in the highlands.
HAT: Wide brimmed or include neck protection.
SLEEPING CLOTHES: Same rules of modesty at night as your day clothes, see the On Exped tab.
Health and Hygiene
SUN CREAM: SPF30+ (SPF50 is recommended), P20 is great.
LIP SALVE WITH SPF: This is essential as chapped lips are painful.
BIODEGRADABLE SOAP: A concentrate eg. Lifeventure Allpurpose Wash is very compact.
SANITARY PRODUCTS: Bring ziplok bags for disposing of things in later.
Small first aid kit
A team medical kit with a comprehensive primary care provision will be carried.
PERSONAL MEDICATION: It is worth identifying the generic/chemical name for your medication in case you need to purchase more in-country. Please also check whether your medication is legal in your destination. You must inform Secret Compass of any medical conditions.
ZINC OXIDE TAPE: Leukoplast if possible, and small scissors for blisters. Dave will be bringing his own tested and very comprehensive blister system so do not worry if you are in doubt about what to buy.
SUNGLASSES WITH UV PROTECTION LENSES: Cat 3 lenses as a minimum, Cat 4 are suggested.
HEAD TORCH: Plus one set of spare batteries.
DRY BAG: 20-litre to put your spare belongings in on the camel. This keeps sand out and also stops them falling out of your bed roll when tied to the camel.
KNIFE: (optional) For helping with food preparation etc.
LIGHTER: For burning loo roll.
HEAVY DUTY ZIPLOK BAGS: For storing cameras etc to keep sand out.
CORD: 5m of 6mm cord for carrying firewood, drawing water from wells 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 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. Frictions are often found with:
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.
Incident management and medical
As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has developed a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies on each expedition. This will be briefed in full at the arrival brief, so that everyone is aware what action will be taken.
It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You MUST be aware that on this expedition you will be in a wilderness environment and any medical evacuation will take a long time (potentially up to two days) 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. 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.
Along this route you will be crossing four different tribal areas. It is Bedouin law to employ camels and Bedouin from the tribal area you are walking in. As you pass through each area you’ll change the camels and their owners to those of the local tribe. There are slight differences between the various south Sinai tribes and you’ll get the chance to meet a wide variety of people.
Both men and women should wear loose fitting clothing that covers their knees and shoulders (and cleavage for women). Our guides are very experienced with varying cultures and quite relaxed about dress code but we must respect local customs when we meet local Bedouin. A handy sarong or a big scarf will help women to cover up shoulders etc. quickly when encountering people during the trek. On reaching Dahab, it is a very different picture and you’ll see a lot of skin on show.
In Bedouin culture, showing respect is very important. If someone approaches the group for the first time, everyone should stand for introductions. It is unlikely that they will shake hands with any ladies in the group. When sitting, it is important not to point the soles of your feet at anyone. When passing food, drinks or when eating, don’t use your left hand (traditionally your ‘toilet hand’), only your right. Further information will be given in the arrival brief and if you have any questions the expedition leader and local guides would be delighted to share their experiences with you.
This expedition will cover all the faces that the southern Sinai desert has to offer.
Tight sandstone slot canyons.
Gravel plains and wide, seemingly endless wadis.
Deep granite canyons.
Rounded granite domed peaks.
High mountain tops.
Oases giving surprising bursts of green and colour.
Steep scrambles up high jagged peaks.
The weather during the day will be very hot and dry. The wind will pick up during the periods of sunrise and sun set. The nights will be relatively cool compared to the days. Daytime temperatures will be between 30⁰C and 40⁰C with temperatures dropping by 10⁰C degrees as we walk into the highlands. There may be rain, but we will be lucky to see any, as after all we will be in a desert.
The areas we travel to are especially remote and transport infrastructure is often ageing, inadequate and sometimes non-existent. Roads flood, bridges collapse, fallen trees and vehicles break down and get stuck. It’s all par for the course. Secret Compass teams thrive on the challenge this provides – overcoming it is more rewarding! Be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally.
From Sharm El Sheikh Airport you’ll drive straight to the trailhead, a Bedouin camp on the shores of the Red Sea. At the end of the expedition you’ll be met by 4WD cars to drive you to the road and then will meet minivans for the drive to Dahab which is approx. 2-3 hours. The expedition ends in Dahab after breakfast on 1 October but it will be easy for you to arrange taxis to drive back to Sharm El Sheikh (approx. 1h15) to catch flights home. These final transfers are your responsibility.
Other modes of transport
The remainder of the journey will be by foot, supported by camels.
Gulf of Aqaba. Your first night will be at a Bedouin camp a couple of hours north of Sharm el Sheikh. The accommodation will be basic bamboo huts on the beach. On the expedition, you’ll sleep under the stars. You will be provided with a carpet to sit and sleep on as well as a heavy Bedouin cloak called a Farwa, which you’ll use as a sleeping bag for the night. There will be no tents provided. In Dahab at the end of the expedition you’ll relax, wash and sleep in a comfortable hotel on the shores of the Red Sea.
Reality of living rough for days
Occasionally people on our expeditions are not prepared for sleeping in such conditions for multiple days. Living in these conditions can degrade your health if you do not look after yourself and can increase fatigue if you are not used to living in this manner. You need to be highly organised so that your night and morning routine is done efficiently and quickly. If you are inexperienced at camping, it is essential that you get as much practice as possible prior to the expedition.
Most of the produce will be purchased from Bedouin that still use local methods to dry and preserve food, this will include dried meats, fish, locally grown veg, herbs, fruit and cheese. We may also buy goats from local shepherds and cook the meat in the fire. Bread will be plentiful and freshly made (if you want to learn how to make local bread, your guides will be delighted to teach you). Expect plenty of dates and home-made energy mix to keep your legs going during the day. All of the expedition food has already been ordered as it not only has to be dried but first planted, grown and picked.
Please advise Secret Compass in advance of any dietary requirements and bear in mind that, although every effort would be made to accommodate different diets, this may not always be possible due to the minimalist nature of the expedition. The coffee we drink will be the traditional green coffee that is roasted and ground around the fire. It is a brave person who declines the offer of coffee from a Bedouin. Black tea and herbal tea (with lots of sugar) are also on offer.
Dave Lucas is an experienced Secret Compass leader, Dave has spent over 85 months on expeditions in 85+ countries from Europe and Asia to Africa and Latin America. He thrives on exploring unclimbed areas of the world and has climbed new routes in dozens of countries. To Dave, the climbing is the ‘icing on the cake’. The real ‘fruit and nut mix’ is made from the people you meet, the animals you encounter, the sights you see and the wonderful food you eat. Dave’s adventures have been on the National Geographic Channel and on Sky TV; in four books; and in seven magazines. He has been recognised by the Royal Geographic Society (RGS) and has been a fellow of the RGS since his mid-twenties. Dave inspires others by speaking about his adventures at numerous public speaking events. Just one of his many adventures was climbing new routes to explore a ruined inaccessible Ethiopian palace for gold, treasure and legends. Dave lives for adventure and this combined with his professional manner and experience has resulted in his being a very sought after expedition guide.
You’ll have two excellent Bedouin Guides throughout the desert crossing, One is from the Tarabin tribe and the other is from the Jebeleya tribe. Their knowledge of the desert is second to none; they understand all the different local cultures and speak excellent English.
Read our General FAQ for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition will be added here as we are asked them. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ and we’ll be pleased to help.
Can I bring a tent?
Due to the minimalist nature of this expedition, tents will not be used. Instead the team will sleep out under the stars using their Bedouin carpets and Farwa. We ask team members to embrace the ethos of the expedition.
Can I charge electronics?
Once the expedition starts there will be no access to mains power so you should come prepared with battery packs or solar chargers. That said, this is an excellent opportunity to unwind and disconnect so please consider whether your electronics are strictly necessary or whether you will enjoy this expedition more by ‘unplugging’.