Explore Algeria’s Ahaggar National Park

Covering a vast area in the Saharan Region in the south of Algeria, the Ahaggar National Park incorporates the majestic Ahaggar Mountains including the 3,003 meter high Mount Tahat. The Ahaggar Mountain range, also referred to as the Hoggar Mountains, consists primarily of volcanic rock which has been eroded by the elements over centuries to produce dramatic, jagged shapes rising up out of the desert surroundings. The park is rather remote and takes some effort to get to, but travelers who have been there tend to agree that it is worth the effort.

Despite the fact that rainfall in the area is sporadic, it is home to a number of animal and plant species that have died out elsewhere. One of these is the Saharan Cheetah (Acinonyx jabatus hecki), also known as the Northwest African Cheetah. Classified by the IUCN as ‘critically endangered’, there are thought to be only 250 Saharan Cheetahs left in the world, many of which are resident in the Ahaggar National Park, with some found in Tassili n’Ajjer.

Physiologically adapted to survive in desert terrain, Saharan Cheetahs are nocturnal, spending the daylight hours sheltered in caves, under rocky outcrops and, when available, in the shade of vegetation. Because they are seldom out in the heat of the day, it may be difficult to spot these elusive creatures, and most photographs on record have been taken by means of nighttime camera traps. The first recorded photograph of a Saharan Cheetah was taken in Algeria in 2009 by scientists from the Zoological Society of London. They are generally solitary animals and are semi-nomadic, moving to where their food source is. They prey on other animals that have adapted to living in arid conditions, such as the Dorcas Gazelle, Rhim Gazelle, addax, Dama Gazelle and hares. They are able to survive in areas where there is no water as they obtain their fluids from the blood of their prey.

Rock paintings in the Hoggar Mountains, which are believed to date back to 6000 BC, reveal that the area was well-watered back then as they depict hippos, crocodiles and elephants along with human figures. Today, the Ahaggar National Park has some of the country’s most dramatic scenery, and while being arid, it is certainly not without life.