Morocco – easy birding, from coast to desert
A birding exploration of the varied habitats of southern Morocco.
This holiday will be our 12th visit to southern Morocco, but the first tour to explore further into the eastern desert.
March is a very pleasant time to visit Morocco, with good weather, large numbers of migrating birds heading northwards to Europe and plenty of plants in flower, both on the coast and in the mountains.
We will start our tour on the Atlantic Coast, seeking out local specialties, including House Bunting, Moussier’s Redstart, Black-crowned Tchagra and, with luck, the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis. We will visit the Sous Massa National Park where, as well as a variety of birds, we will also look for several species of antelope that have been reintroduced here, including Addax, Dorcas Gazelle and the graceful Scimitar-horned Oryx.
We will explore rock gorges in search of Pharoah Eagle Owl, Maghreb Wheatear and the endearing Gundi, before reaching the stony desert of the Tafilalt and the magnificent sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, home to some true desert specialities including Desert Sparrows and Egyptian Nightjar.
Finally, we will head up to the High Atlas, near the snow line, where we hope to find African Crimson-winged Finches and Atlas Horned Lark.
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Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
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Return flights from London Gatwick to Agadir. Local transport on excursions as specified in the itinerary. Eleven nights’ accommodation, full board basis.
Refreshments. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.
Day 1 – Flight to Agadir and transfer to the Atlas Kasbah.
Day 2 – A pre-breakfast wander around the garden will make us acquainted with our first North African specialities, before we head to the Atlantic coast, travelling up to Cap Rhir and Oued Tamri, where we hope to see the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis.
Day 3 – We head to the famous Sous Massa National Park where we learn about the important conservation work going on here, the ’re-wilding’ of a variety of Saharan antelopes. We spend the afternoon at Oued Massa, hoping to hear the fluting song of Black-crowned Tchagra and with luck we should track down this handsome bush-shrike.
Day 4 – We start today with a visit to the river-mouth at Oued Sous, where flamingos gather on the estuary and feed alongside various waders, gulls and terns.
Day 5 – We continue our journey eastwards, travelling through increasingly arid, rocky landscapes as we head towards Ouarzazate. Along the way we will start to see White-crowned and Desert Wheatears and a variety of larks along the roadside, and we will explore one particular area for the rare Maghreb (Mourning) Wheatear.
Day 6 – Our morning will start with a visit to the nearby Ouarzazate Reservoir, of importance as the only large and permanent body of water in the sub-desert areas south of the central High Atlas. Various migrants rest here on their journey northwards, and could include a variety of terns, waders, herons and wildfowl, hopefully including Marbled Ducks.
Day 7 – This morning we will explore the famous Tagdildt Track, an area famous for its desert steppe birds: during the morning we hope to find a variety of larks and several species of sandgrouse. As the day warms up, we get back on the road and head further eastwards, finally arriving in the desert proper of the Tafilalt, at Merzouga.
Days 8 and 9 – We will spend two days exploring the Tafilalt, taking a four-wheel drive ‘safari’ one day in search of some of the special birds of the desert. We will visit the magnificent sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi and explore the palm groves and inn gardens in search of migrant birds – in some years, a large wetland forms at the base of the dunes, where flamingos, storks and various ducks and waders can be found, a bizarre sight out here in the desert.
Day 10 – A travel day, as we head back to Ouarzazate for the night.
Day 11 – Today we cross the Atlas Mountains, via the Tiz n Tichka pass at an altitude of 2,260 metres. From these heady heights we drop back down into the plains near Marrakech, before climbing again up towards the ski resort of Oukaimeden.
Day 12 – An early start will take us in search of one of the stars of the mountains, flocks of African Crimson-winged Finches that feed around the base of the Oukaimeden ski lifts. After lunch, we leave the high mountains and head down to Marrakech in time for our evening flights home.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
Our hotels and guesthouses will have en-suite accommodation – dinner and breakfast will be taken in the hotels, with lunches a mixture of picnics and sit down meals in hotels and local restaurants.
We will travel by minibus. Our excursions in Sour Massa National Park and into the desert beyond Merzouga will be by comfortable four-wheel drive vehicles.
The group flights are with Easyjet from London Gatwick.
Morocco is the same local time as the UK.
If you hold a British passport, you do not currently need a visa to travel to Morocco, but your passport will need to be valid for at least six months after your entry into Morocco. If you do not have a UK passport, please check with your local consulate.
At this time of year the weather is usually sunny but not too hot. If we do get hotter weather, we will adapt the itinerary as much as possible. There may be some cooler weather, particularly in the mountains where there may even be some snow.
This is not a strenuous holiday. The main fitness considerations are likely to be the heat and the long distances travelled (by bus). There will be some walking, including on sand dunes/sandy beaches, and on rocky/uneven tracks, sometimes gently uphill. We will adapt our walking to the weather but we will no doubt be walking in the sun on some days, albeit not for very long walks. The hotel rooms may be on the first or second floor, with no lift available.