Merzouga-Morocco

Southern Morocco - easy birding tour

A birding exploration of the varied habitats of southern Morocco.
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Dates

13 – 25 March 2021

Leaders

Mike Russell

Price

To be confirmed

Included

To be confirmed

Not included

To be confirmed

Group size

To be confirmed

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 Moussier’s Redstart, Blackcrowned Tchagra and, with luck, the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis. We will visit the Sous Massa National Park where we will look for several species of antelope that have been reintroduced here, including Addax, Dorcas Gazelle and the graceful Scimitar-horned Oryx.

Heading inland we will pass through the argan forest of the Sous Valley to the arid rocky steppe of the Tagdildt Track, home to larks and wheatears. 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 sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, home to desert specialities including Desert Sparrows, Egyptian Nightjar, Cream-coloured Courser and various sandgrouse

Heading back westwards, we will travel through the spectacular Anti-Atlas mountains, before finally climbing the High Atlas to the snow line, where we hope to find African Crimson-winged Finches, Seebohm’s Wheatear and Levaillant’s Woodpecker.

As well as Morocco’s birdlife, we will find reptiles, butterflies, spring flowers and some amazing scenery. This holiday will be our 18th visit to southern Morocco, and our second to explore further into the eastern desert.

Day 1 Fly to Agadir and transfer to Atlas Kasbah.

Day 2 This morning we head to the Atlantic coast, where we hope to see the Endangered Northern Bald Ibis. This coastline is also well known for its unique communities of succulent Euphorbias, and we will stop to explore this interesting habitat, hoping to find Moussier’s Redstart, Spectacled Warbler and Black Wheatear along with endemic geckos and interesting plants.

Day 3 We head to the famous Sous Massa National Park to learn about the important conservation work going on here; ’rewilding’ of a variety of Saharan 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. We visit the reintroduction area, enjoying close encounters along the way. We spend the afternoon at Oued Massa, hoping to hear the fluting song of Black crowned Tchagra.

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. From here we strike inland, travelling through the famous argan forests of the Sous valley, towards Oulad Berhil, where we spend the night. 

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 keep our eyes open for Barbary Falcon, Lanner and Long-legged Buzzard.

Day 6 Our morning starts with a visit to the 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 explore the Tagdildt Track, an area famous for its desert steppe birds: we hope to find a variety of larks along with Red-rumped Wheatear, Cream-coloured Courser and Trumpeter Finch. 

Day 7 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 8 This morning we continue our journey eastwards. Along the way we will check cliff faces for a chance to find Pharoah Eagle Owl. Nearby we hope to find Maghreb Wheatear. Further eastwards, depending on time available, we may look for Saharan Scrub Warbler before finally arriving in the desert proper of the Tafilalt, at Merzouga.

Days 9/10 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 and explore the oasis gardens in search of migrant birds. 

Day 11 Today we head back to Ouarzazate through the Anti Atlas mountains, with one or two stops along the way amongst the stunning scenery.

Day 12 Up until now we have been south of the High Atlas: today we cross the 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 13 An early start takes us in search of one of the stars of the mountains; African Crimson-winged Finches that feed around the base of the Oukaimeden ski lifts. Atlas Horned Lark and both Alpine and Red-billed Chough should also be found, and we may be lucky and find an early returning Seebohm’s Wheatear. Nearby we will look for Levaillant’s Woodpecker. From here, we head to Marrakech for our flights.

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 are with Easyjet from London Gatwick to Agadir, and returning with British Airways from Marrakech.

Morocco is one hour ahead of UK time.

If you hold a British passport, you do not need a visa to travel to Morocco. If you do not have a British passport, please check with your local consulate. Your passport will need to be valid for at least six months after your entry into Morocco.

In March, the weather is usually sunny but not too hot. If we get hot weather we will adapt the itinerary as much as possible. There may be cooler weather, particularly in the mountains.

This is not a strenuous holiday. The main fitness consideration is likely to be 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.