Morocco - autumn wildlife of the mountains and coast
An introduction to the natural history of southern Morocco
Morocco is a country of great contrasts. Situated on the edge of Europe, its culture and people are a fascinating mix of Berber, European, African and Arab influences. From the Mediterranean coast in the north, through the snow-covered Atlas mountains to the arid Saharan desert these diverse habitats make Morocco a top destination for wildlife.
With Mediterranean, Macaronesian and African influences, this area has a fascinating mix of plants including succulent euphorbias, lavenders and interesting shrubs including the endemic Argan tree.
This is a good time for enjoying the interesting birdlife of the area. We should see most of the local specialties, including House Bunting, Moussier’s Redstart, Blackcrowned Tchagra along with migrant species, heading south from Europe for the winter and, with luck, the endangered Northern Bald Ibis. We will visit the SoussMassa 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.
Based for the week at the wonderful Atlas Kasbah, near Agadir, this holiday is intended to give an introduction to the plants, birds and other wildlife of this corner of southern Morocco, including an insight into the local Berber culture, at a relaxed pace.
This trip should be ideal for anyone wanting a taste of Morocco or want to revisit in a different season, in the company of expert leaders whilst enjoying a high standard of accommodation and easy, comfortable travel.
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.
Day 1 Flight to Agadir and transfer to our hotel (c. 30 minutes).
Day 2 Today we will explore the lanes and hillsides around the hotel and the nearby village. We walk from the hotel through the Argan woodland and discover why the tree is so valuable. The Argan tree, Argania spinosa is a remnant of a once tropical flora and a key tree in the local economy: the oval fruits sustain the local community and there is an increasing commercial activity selling the sweet, rich oil, widely used in cosmetics as well as traditional Moroccan cooking. Colourful annuals can be a feature of the field edges, depending on the rains. The local birdlife includes Common Bulbul, House Bunting, Moussier’s Redstart and Black-crowned Tchagra.
Day 3 The Atlantic coast south to the Sahara is well know n for its unique communities of succulents Euphorbia officinarum, Euphorbia regis-jubae and Kleinia anteuphorbia mixed with shrubs such as Nauplius imbricatus, Searsia pentaphylla and the desert-dwelling Warionia saharae. We will visit Cap Rhir to explore these communities and visit nearby Oued Tamri, where we hope to find the endangered Northern Bald Ibis: the total world population is only around 800 birds, with one of the main breeding sites nearby.
Day 4 Today we visit the attractive town of Taroudant, described as a ’mini Marrakech’ but with a character of its own reflecting its rich Berber culture. We will enjoy views from ancient city walls and explore the labyrinthine market – full of spices and herbs and traditional furnishings such as rugs and teapots, House Buntings twittering from the buildings overhead. We also visit a women’s Argan oil co-operative and visit the oasis at Tioute, the natural habitat of the date palm Phoenix dactylifera.
Day 5 We head south along the coast to the famous Souss-Massa National Park. We will learn about the important conservation work going on here, especially the reintroduction of a variety of Saharan ‘megafauna’ to the reserve; antelopes including Dorcas Gazelle, Scimitar-horned Oryx and Addax, and the Red necked Ostrich, all of which have become extinct across much of their range due to overhunting. We visit the area where these animals have been reintroduced in a convoy of very comfortable four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Day 6 This morning we head south to the Anti Atlas, a low range of very old mountains, which form much of the landscape in the south east of the country. We will travel to Ait Baha and beyond, to visit an ancient ‘Agadir’, a fascinating fortified grain store, typical of the Berber villages in the area. Along the way we will look out for the locally endemic broom Hesperolaburnum platycarpum. Barbary Ground Squirrel and the large lizard Bibron’s Agama may appear along the roadside, while Bonelli’s Eagle soar overhead.
Day 7 We start today with a visit to the river mouth at Oued Souss, where Greater Flamingos gather on the estuary to feed alongside various waders, gulls and terns. We will then continue south to Oued Massa to search for birds and other wildlife around the river banks and among the sand dunes.
Day 8 For our final morning, we have time to re-visit some of the local lanes or relax at the hotel. After a final lunch out on the terrace, we will have a lazy afternoon enjoying the grounds and pool of the Atlas Kasbah, before we transfer to Agadir and our flights to UK.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
We will stay for the whole week at the wonderful, award-winning Atlas Kasbah, set in lush grounds amongst the Argan trees in the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve. Opened in 2009, the Kasbah was designed sustainably, built using traditional techniques and local craftsmen, with a view to promoting ecotourism in Morocco and sharing the local Berber heritage. The rooms are spacious, the local culture reflected in the furnishings, with lovely views from the roof terrace and patio. The Atlas Kasbah is the first accommodation in North Africa to have been granted the prestigious World Responsible Tourism Award (Gold winner, 2015) as a recognition of its proactive ecotourism practices. In 2016 it won the COP22 Tourism and Climate Award.
All meals are included. Evening meals will be at the hotel and we will have picnic lunches on most days.
We will travel by minibus for our excursions. Our visit to Sous Massa will be in high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Group flights are with Easyjet from London Gatwick to Agadir.
It should also be possible to fly with Easyjet from Manchester to Agadir.
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.
Morocco is one hour ahead of UK time.
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.
In November, the weather is usually sunny and warm but not too hot (12°C to 24°C). If we do get hotter weather we will adapt the itinerary as much as possible. There may be some cooler weather, particularly near the coast, and a small chance of some rain.
This is not a strenuous holiday but on some days we will be walking for much of the day, sometimes gently uphill. All excursions are optional and you can choose to spend more time in the pleasant grounds and rooms of the hotel if you wish. The hotel rooms are on the first or second floor and reached by stairs.