Merzouga-Morocco

Southern Morocco - easy birding and natural history

A birding exploration of the varied habitats of southern Morocco.
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Wildlife Travel leaflet South Morocco 2023

Dates

23 March – 4 April 2023

Leaders

Mike Russell and Mike Symes

Price

£2,785

Single Room Supplement – £300

Included

Return flight from London Gatwick. Local transport as specified in itinerary. Twelve nights accommodation, full board.

Not included

Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. Covid tests and associated costs.

Group size

Minimum 6, maximum 12.

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 start our tour by flying in to Marrakech, and heading up into the High Atlas, near the snow line, where we will look for Levaillant’s Woodpecker, Seebohm’s Wheatear, African Crimson-winged Finches and Atlas Horned Lark.

We move from the mountains to the arid rocky steppe of the Tagdildt Track, home to various larks and wheatears, Cream-coloured Courser and Fat Sand Rat.
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 Sparrow, African Desert Wheatear, Fulvous Babbler and Egyptian Nightjar.

Heading westwards again, we will drive through the ancient landscapes of the Anti-Atlas mountains, keeping our eyes peeled for Barbary Falcon and Egyptian Vulture, and pass through the argan forest of the Sous Valley to end our tour of Morocco on the Atlantic Coast. From our base near Agadir, we will seek out more North African specialties, including House Bunting, Moussier’s Redstart, Black-crowned Tchagra and, with luck, the Endangered Northern Bald Ibis.

Along the way, we will pass through spectacular landscapes, find interesting spring flowers, stay in comfortable local hotels, and enjoy some great hospitality.

Day 1 Fly to Marrakech , an d transfer to our hotel in the High Atlas mountains.

Day 2 We head up to the ski resort of Oukaimeden, in search of the stars of the mountains; African Crimson-winged Finches, Atlas Horned Lark, both Alpine and Red-billed Chough, and we may be lucky and find an early returning Seebohm’s Wheatear.

Day 3 We drop back down into the plains near Marrakech, before climbing again to cross the mountains, via the Tiz n Tichka pass at an altitude of 2,260 metres. From these heady heights, we head down into the increasingly arid, rocky landscapes as we head towards Ouarzazate. Along the way we will start to see White-crowned and Desert Wheatears along the roadside.

Day 4 We visit nearby Ouarzazate Reservoir. Various migrants rest here on their journey northwards, and could include a variety of waders and wildfowl, warblers and wagtails. From here we travel eastwards to Boumalne des Dades, where we will explore the famous Tagdildt Track, an area famous for its desert steppe birds: we hope to find a variety of larks, Red rumped Wheatear should put in an appearance, and both Blackbellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse might be seen flying past.

Day 5 After the travelling day yesterday, we will spend the day locally, travelling up the Dades Gorge, where birds might include Tristram’s Warbler, Golden Eagle and Rock Bunting. We may return to the Tagdildt Track, depending on our success yesterday, or relax during the afternoon.

Day 6 This morning we continue our journey eastwards. Along the way we will check suitable sites for Pharoah Eagle Owl, Maghreb Wheatear and Saharan Scrub Warbler before finally arriving in the desert proper of the Tafilalt, at Merzouga, where we will have views over the Erg Chebbi sand dunes from our hotel.

Days 7/8 We 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: Egyptian Nightjar, Houbara Bustard and Desert Sparrow, as well as Spotted Sandgrouse, Bar-tailed Desert Lark and African Desert Warbler. We will visit the sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi an d explore the oasis garden s in search of migrant birds. W e may also visit traditional Gnawa musicians and learn about their interesting history.

Day 9 A travel day: we head back to Ouarzazate, driving through the stunning arid scenery of the Anti-Atlas mountains, with a couple of stops along the way, keeping our eyes peeled for Bonelli’s Eagle, Lanner and Rock Martin. 

Day 10 We continue westwards: along the way we will keep our eyes open for Desert and Maghreb Larks, Cream-coloured Courser, Barbary Falcon and Long-legged Buzzard. Soon the rocky desert makes way for more fertile soils, and we reach the famous Argan forests of the Sous valley, towards Oulad Berhil where we spent the night. 

Day 11 At last, we reach the Atlantic coast, where we will visit the famous Sous Massa National Park. We will visit the river-mouth at Oued Sous, where Greater Flamingos gather on the estuary and feed alongside various waders, gulls and terns. From here, we head to the delightful Atlas Kasbah, our home for the next two nights. Moussier’s Redstart and Common Bulbul are a common sight in the hotel grounds, while the fluting song of Black-crowned Tchagra can be heard from the hillsides.

Day 12 This morning we head up the coast to Cap Rhir and Oued Tamri, where we hope to see the Endangered Northern Bald Ibis along with other wetland birds. We will also explore coastal scrub, hoping to find Spectacled Warbler and Black Wheatear along with endemic geckos and interesting plants. After dinner, we will listen for the ‘tocking’ of Red-necked Nightjar from the hillsides. 

Day 13 One final Moroccan breakfast, before we head to Agadir airport and our 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 Sous Massa National Park and into the desert beyond Merzouga will be by comfortable four wheel drive vehicles.

Group flights

Group flights are with Easyjet from London Gatwick.

23 March depart London Gatwick 15.40, arrive Marrakech 20.15
4 April depart Agadir 11.10, arrive London Gatwick 15.00

Overland travel

You can reach Algeciras by train from London, with an overnight stay in Barcelona. From Algeciras you can take a ferry to Tangier, and from there take a train to Marrakech. Agadir can be reached by bus from Marrakech. Contact us to find out more, and to make your holiday flight-free.

Time zone

Morocco is one hour ahead of UK time.

Entry requirements

If you hold a British passport you can travel to Morocco for up to three months without a visa. Your passport must be valid for at least three months on your date of entry.

At this time of year the weather is usually sunny and warm. If we do get hotter weather we will adapt the itinerary as much as possible. There may be some cooler weather, particularly up 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 driving distances. 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 long.