© Matt Erke/WWF-US

The Top Shot blog feature showcases WWF staff’s favorite photos from their travels around the world. This post features a stunning photograph taken in Morocco by Matt Erke who is a Program associate for WWF’s Eastern Himalayas Program. 

When I think of a remote place, I think of the days I spent in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. We drove for hours down an unpaved road, with desert floor stretching to the horizon in every direction. We relied on misleading and inaccurate maps and hoped that sheer intuition and luck would secure our arrival. I was traveling in a rental car with close friends from Germany and Belgium, and we were in search of an oasis of sorts in this barren place.

We eventually found the hostel at the base of mountainous red dunes along the western boundary of the Sahara Desert. I had never been to a place quite so desolate. I was surrounded by sand and minimal vegetation, with nothing else in sight. I had this profound, strange feeling of being small and perhaps a little lonely; we were so far from anything I imagined being civilization. These feelings somehow compelled me to enjoy the experience even more.

The first night we climbed nearby dunes to watch the sunset. It was difficult traversing the soft sand, which sank and fell away with every step. But this was a memorable sunset, as the deep tones of red and orange of the sand resembled a subsiding sea of rust as the last rays of daylight slowly moved across the landscape.

The following day we rode on camel back to a campsite to sleep overnight. It was dark by the time we ate dinner, and we marveled at the seemingly infinite sky above us. I had never seen so many stars, which appeared closer to Earth than they ever had before. Visiting remote stretches of the Sahara Desert, and seeing the stars that night, allowed me to fully understand what it means to be in an isolated, remote place. I was also able to explore a realm of myself previously untapped, and was, in the end, able to reach a feeling of fulfillment and enjoyment in a place far away from civilization.

– Matt Erke, Program Associate, WWF Eastern Himalayas Program