Nestled in the heart of the Sahara Desert, the Ubari Lakes also known as Awbari Lakes stand as a remarkable testament to the beauty and resilience of nature in Libya.

Situated in the southwestern region of the country, these pristine lakes are a captivating sight amidst the arid landscape, offering a sanctuary for diverse flora and fauna. With their turquoise waters shimmering under the desert sun, the Ubari Lakes have long been revered as a hidden gem, drawing adventurers, scientists, and nature enthusiasts from around the world.

COORDINATES     26°48’20’’ N  13°32’23’’ E


History of the region

The Fezzan Basin, situated in Libya, stands as a vast endorheic expanse with no outlet to the sea, characterized by extensive stretches of desert and semi-arid terrain. Positioned amidst the central Sahara desert, it represents one of the significant basins in southern Libya, flanking the northern foothills of the Tibesti Mountains, alongside the Kufra Basin to the east.


photo by Giulio Aprin


The formation of the Fezzan Basin can be traced back to the intersection of two tectonic plates, a geological phenomenon that occurred during the Paleozoic era. The collision of these plates led to the thickening of the Earth's crust, subsequently resulting in subsidence and the formation of a depression in the landscape, known today as the Fezzan Basin.

Over time, this basin witnessed the deposition of continental intercalaire and other terrestrial rocks, while substantial volumes of water became entrapped within underground aquifers. Notably, a layer of basalt separates the Fezzan and Kufra Basins, both of which are covered by layers of sand.

The climate of the Fezzan Basin has undergone significant fluctuations throughout its geological history, with alternating periods of pluvial and arid conditions. Presently, the region experiences an arid phase, characterized by minimal precipitation averaging less than 20 mm annually. However, geological evidence suggests that during the Pleistocene epoch, the Fezzan Basin was periodically inundated with water, resulting in the formation of extensive lakes. Sedimentation records indicate that these inundation events occurred at least four times, with thick layers of limestone deposited during each occurrence. Estimates suggest that the largest of these lakes, referred to as Lake Megafezzan, reached its maximum size of approximately 100,000 square kilometers during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 11. Subsequent to this peak, the lake experienced diminishing sizes, with its area reduced to 1,400 square kilometers during MIS 5 and further shrinking during the Holocene epoch.


photo by Giulio Aprin


Lake Megafezzan

The emergence of Lake Megafezzan during the Miocene epoch is attributed to heightened volcanic activity in northeastern Libya, which led to the diversion of the Wadi Nashu River, a major watercourse draining into the Mediterranean Sea. As volcanic activity obstructed the river's flow, water began to accumulate within the Fezzan Basin, forming the proto-Lake Megafezzan during humid climatic periods. This prehistoric lake, dating back approximately 200,000 years, which once dominated the landscape of the Fezzan Basin, played a pivotal role in shaping the region's ecosystems and supporting diverse flora and fauna.


photo by Giulio Aprin



Lake Megafezzan was an expansive body of water comparable in size to today's Czech Republic and owes its existence to a combination of geological and climatic factors. The region experienced significant changes in climate and landscape over millennia, including periods of increased rainfall and runoff that led to the formation of large freshwater lakes. These megalakes, including Lake Megafezzan, were fed by numerous rivers and streams originating from adjacent river basins, contributing to their size and hydrological complexity.

The presence of Lake Megafezzan had profound implications for the development of human societies in the region. Archaeological evidence attests to the presence of vibrant Paleolithic and Neolithic cultures flourishing in the vicinity of the ancient lake. Human settlements and artifacts dating back to this period provide insights into the lifestyles, technologies, and subsistence strategies of ancient peoples who inhabited the area.

The fertile shores of this huge water basin would have supported diverse flora and fauna, attracting early human populations in search of food, water, and resources. Hunter-gatherer societies likely exploited the rich biodiversity of the region, while also engaging in fishing, foraging, and possibly early forms of agriculture along the lake's margins.

The significance of Lake Megafezzan extends beyond its role as a source of sustenance for ancient communities. The presence of such a vast freshwater lake would have influenced regional climate patterns, hydrology, and biodiversity, creating a dynamic ecosystem that fostered adaptation and innovation among early human populations.

In recent years, archaeological excavations and research efforts have shed new light on the history and significance of Lake Megafezzan. By studying sediment cores, fossilized remains, and ancient artifacts, scientists continue to unravel the mysteries of this ancient landscape and its impact on human evolution and environmental change.

The story of Lake Megafezzan serves as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness of human societies and the natural world. As we strive to understand and preserve the legacy of ancient landscapes like Lake Megafezzan, we gain valuable insights into our shared past and the complex dynamics that have shaped the course of human history.

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photo by Giulio Aprin

Ubari Lakes

The Ubari Lakes, are a cluster of natural depressions filled with water, located within the Ubari Sand Sea.

The group consists of more than 20 lakes, each with its own characteristics. Due to the combination of saline sedimentation and water evaporation, they are up to five times saltier than seawater, similar to the Dead Sea.

This geographical wonder is part of the wider Murzuq Desert basin, characterized by vast sand dunes, rocky outcrops, and sparse vegetation. The lakes owe their existence to a combination of geological factors, including underground aquifers and ancient tectonic activity.

The Ubari Lakes are situated in depressions or basins that have been formed through various mechanisms, including tectonic activity, erosion, and the dissolution of underlying rock formations. These depressions act as natural reservoirs, collecting rainwater, runoff, and groundwater from surrounding areas during periods of precipitation.


photo by Giulio Aprin

The depths of the individual lakes range from 7 to 35 meters, with some being intermittent, replenishing only during winter or spring seasons, albeit inconsistently. Due to extensive groundwater extraction, an increasing number of lakes are drying up. Notably, one of these lakes harbors salt-resistant algae, imparting a distinct red hue to its waters.

The underlying geology of the Ubari Lakes region also contributes to their unique characteristics. The presence of aquifers and impermeable layers of rock or clay helps to trap and retain water within the basins, creating stable ecosystems that support a diverse array of flora and fauna.

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photo by Giulio Aprin

Size and Hydrology

The Ubari Lakes encompass a series of interconnected basins spread across an area of approximately 7,000 square kilometers (2,700 square miles). The exact size of the lakes can vary depending on seasonal fluctuations in water levels and the availability of precipitation.

The largest and most prominent lakes in the Ubari system include Lake Gaberoun, Lake Umm al-Maa, and Lake Mandara. These primary lakes are surrounded by smaller, satellite ponds and marshes that contribute to the overall hydrological diversity of the region.

The hydrology of the Ubari Lakes is influenced by a combination of factors, including precipitation, evaporation, and groundwater flow. Rainfall in the region is sporadic and unpredictable, with most precipitation occurring during the winter months. As water accumulates in the lakes, it undergoes rapid evaporation under the intense desert sun, leading to fluctuations in water levels and salinity concentrations.

Groundwater also plays a crucial role in sustaining the lakes, providing a continuous source of replenishment during dry periods. The interconnected nature of the aquifers beneath the surface ensures that water can flow between different basins, maintaining a delicate balance within the ecosystem.


photo by Giulio Aprin


Despite the harsh desert environment that surrounds them, the Ubari Lakes support a surprising array of life. The presence of water in this arid landscape has attracted numerous species of birds, including migratory waterfowl such as flamingos, herons, and ducks. These lakes serve as vital stopover points for birds traveling along the trans-Saharan migration route, making them of significant ecological importance.

Beneath the surface, the lakes harbor unique aquatic ecosystems, with endemic fish species adapted to the extreme conditions of high salinity and fluctuating water levels. Some of these species are found nowhere else on Earth, underscoring the ecological significance of the Ubari Lakes and the need for conservation efforts to protect their fragile habitats.

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photo by Giulio Aprin

Cultural Significance

The Ubari Lakes hold profound cultural significance for the indigenous Tuareg people who have inhabited the region for centuries. The lakes feature prominently in Tuareg folklore and traditions, with stories passed down through generations celebrating the life-giving properties of water in the desert. For the Tuareg, the lakes are not just sources of sustenance but also spiritual sites imbued with deep meaning and reverence.

Throughout history, the Ubari Lakes have also served as waypoints for trade caravans crossing the Sahara Desert, linking the oases and settlements of the region. The lakes provided vital water sources for travelers and their camels, facilitating commerce and cultural exchange between distant civilizations.

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photo by Giulio Aprin


Challanges and Conservation

Despite their natural beauty and ecological significance, the Ubari Lakes face numerous threats that jeopardize their continued existence. Climate change, overexploitation of water resources, and unsustainable development practices pose significant challenges to the delicate balance of these ecosystems. Additionally, political instability in Libya has hindered efforts to implement effective conservation measures and management strategies for the lakes.

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photo by Giulio Aprin

In recent years, there has been growing awareness of the need to protect the Ubari Lakes and preserve their unique biodiversity. Conservation organizations, government agencies, and local communities have begun collaborating to address these challenges, implementing initiatives aimed at sustainable water management, habitat restoration, and eco-tourism development.


photo by Giulio Aprin

Exploration and Tourism

After years of unrest and conflict in Libya, the Ubari Lakes have once again emerged as a beloved destination for local tourism, drawing visitors from various parts of the country seeking tranquility and rest from the frenetic life of the city. Despite the challenges posed by political instability and social upheaval, the allure of these beautiful oases has endured, offering a welcome respite from the turmoil of recent years.

Activities such as birdwatching, hiking, and camping provide opportunities to connect with nature and gain a deeper appreciation for the fragile ecosystems of the Ubari Lakes.


photo by Giulio Aprin

Typically, the first four lakes are the favourites by the locals for their accessibility: Mandara, Umm al-Maa, Mavo (or Mahfu), and Gaberoun. Accessing the remaining lakes requires traversing high ridges of steep dunes, which demands additional time and the use of more capable vehicles within a group.

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photo by Giulio Aprin


Mandara Lake has long dried up, leaving behind a bed of wrinkled, solidified salt and mud mixture.


photo by Giulio Aprin



Umm al-Maa, meaning "Mother of Water," is recognized for its slender, elongated form, perhaps contributing to its distinction as the most aesthetically pleasing among the Ubari lakes. Despite its modest size, Tuareg vendors have established a presence there.

photo by Giulio Aprin

photo by Giulio Aprin

The name "Aun's Tomb," derived from Lake Gabar-Un, alludes to an abandoned village on its northern shore, enhancing its allure. The water's color fluctuates throughout the day, ranging from green and blue to red hues. Several access points along the shore provide opportunities for exploration, with nearby wells available to rinse off the salty residue. Swimmers should exercise caution, as the water temperature can significantly differ at varying depths.

Ubari-Lakes-Gabreoun-Sun-Set 2

photo by Giulio Aprin



photo by Giulio Aprin



photo by Giulio Aprin




The Ubari Lakes stand as a testament to the remarkable resilience of nature in the face of adversity. Despite the harsh desert environment and myriad challenges they face, these pristine oases continue to captivate and inspire all who encounter them. As guardians of this natural treasure, it is incumbent upon us to take action to ensure the preservation and protection of the Ubari Lakes for generations to come. Through sustainable conservation efforts and responsible tourism practices, we can safeguard this precious jewel of Libya's natural heritage and celebrate the enduring beauty of our planet's diverse ecosystems.

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photo by Giulio Aprin





  1. Carol Crawford
    February 10, 2024 / 1:35 pm

    Beautiful ❤️

    • Giulio
      February 11, 2024 / 8:34 am

      Thank you Carol

  2. Sonia
    February 11, 2024 / 6:28 am

    Loved the article.

    • Giulio
      February 11, 2024 / 8:35 am

      Thank you Sonia for taking the time to read it and happy you found it interesting.

  3. Griselda
    February 15, 2024 / 12:28 am

    So well written and so informative. I learned so much by just reading this article
    Must of been an amazing experience. Can’t wait to read more
    Thank you for the write up keep doing what you are doing

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