Morocco, from the Atlas to the Sahara
Morocco has the richest avifauna in North Africa and, with its many specialities, ranks as one of the classic regions of the Western Palearctic. This scenically spectacular country has a decidedly exotical feel and, for those who like travelling somewhere distinctly different, a visit to Morocco will be a memorable journey through a land where many regions seem outwardly little changed in centuries.
Here the combination of dramatic desert and mountain scenery, superb desert oases, attractive mud-walled towns and villages, colourful tribal people and superb birding ensures that Morocco is one of those places that one longs to return to.
During this exciting tour we shall have the opportunity to see a full range of habitats at the moment when milions of birds move Northwards to their nesting grounds in Europe. Our journey starts in Marrakech, where we will explore the beautiful valleys North of the Atlas mountains in search of specialities such as Levaillant’s Woodpecker, Barbary Partridge and Tristam’s Warbler to end the day in lovely farm land nearby Marrakech in search of Atlas Buzzard, Black-winged Kite and Short-toed Snake Eagles. Here we will arrive beyond 2.000 metres high in search of the scarce African Crimson-winged Finch. From the snowy tip of the Atlas mountains we will drive South East to Agadir, where we will spend two days exploring the wonderful Souss-Massa National Park and nearby estuaries. Here, we shall find the extremelly endangered Northern Bald Ibis along with Black-crowned Tchagra, Western Olivaceous (also named Isabelline) Warbler and Moussier’s Redstart nesting in the reedbeds and the fascinating euphorbia scrublands.
From Agadir we will cross the Atlas to arrive to the endless steppe streatching beyond Ouarzazate. This is a wonderful landscape where we will be in search of top specialities including Thick-billed Lark, Maghreb Wheatear, Temminck’s Lark, Red-rumped Wheatear, Pharaon Eagle Owl or Cream-coloured Courser. We shall follow up the Draa River into the desert having always the snowy peaks as a striking setting to arrive to the northern edge of the Sahara. Here, we will explore the stony, desert plains called “hammada”, the spectacular sand dunes of Erg Chebbi and a number of green oases and river coursers hidden in the spectacular scenery of dunes and rocky slopes. Here we will be in search of a long list of desert specialities including Egyptian Nightjar, Desert Sparrow, Fulvous Babbler, Sahara Scrub Warbler and Desert Warbler while looking for flocks of both Crowned & Spotted Sandgrouses appearing from the endless desert landscape. This area supports also a very good bird migration and, if lucky, the green oases will be full of Western Bonelli’s, Western Orphean, Subalpine & Melodious Warblers. If lucky, we shall find scarcer migratory birds such as Bluethroat, Savi’s Warbler or, even, Iberian Chiffchaff.
Carles Oliver has been intensively travelling and birding in Morocco since he was a teenager. He has a strong link with the country since his family lived for over 20 years in Larache, at the Northern Atlantic coast. Since 2013 he has been leading birding tours all arond Morocco, but he is always happy to come back to the steppes and desert by the edge of the Sahara.
A book to help you understand Morocco: “The Voices of Marrakech” (1968) by Elias Canetti (1905-1994).
Day 1. Asni-Oukaïemeden. After an early morning start in Marrakech we will explore the valley around Asni which provides one of the best places to look for Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker along with African Blue Tit, Hawfinch and African Chaffinch. From here we will move to Ouakaïemeden, a sky resort placed in the center of the Atlas. Due to its high altitude (over 2.500 metres) this is a worderful site to look for high mountain specialities such as Alpine Accentor, Red-billed and Alpine Choughs and the very scarce African Crimson-winged Finch. In our way up and down the impressive slopes of the Atlas Mountains, we would have chances for other interesting species such as Booted Eagle, Moussier’s Redstart, Thekla Lark, Long-legged Buzzard, African Blue Tit, Dipper, Rock Bunting and Ring Ouzel.
Day 2. Marrakech – CapTamri. A short transfer will lead us to Cape Tamri, a worldwide famous natural site for Northern Bald Ibis. Here it is located the last reliable colony of the species concentraring over 90% of its population worldwide. Other birds here include Red-rumped Swallow, Blue Rock Trush, Spectacled Warbler, Black-crowned Tchagra, Kentish Plover, African Wagtail, Thekla Lark & Barbary Falcon. The area is also noted for the variety of migratory birds. In the afternoon we will enjoy some see watching. This area can produce excellent birdwatching as thousands of birds fly northwards in their way to their nesting sites in North Atlantic. Species may include Northern Gannet, Shooty, Balearic & Cory’s Shearwaters, Skuas and a good variety of gulls. Arrival to Massa River for a two nights stay.
Day 3. Souss-Massa National Park. Full day in the Souss-Massa National Park. Here is one of the best places to spot Black-crowned Tchagra and, along with them Western Olivaceous Warbler, Marbled Teal, White-headed Duck, Greater Flamingo, Audouin’s & Mediterranean Gulls, Moussier’s Redstart, Little Bitterns, Squacco Heron and the scarce Brown-throated Sand Martin and a large variety of migratory birds that may include scarce species such as Red-throated Pipit or Pallid Harrier. After exploring these areas we will enjoy of some other good birds such as African Magpie and Spanish Sparrow.
Day 4. Agadir – Boulmane du Dades. This day we will cross the Anti-Atlas. In the long road we will have several chances to see quite a lot of specialities including Atlas Buzzard, Barbary Partridge, Common Bulbul, Black-winged Kite as well as some little beauties such as Tristam’s Warbler or Moussier’s Redstart. Near Ouarzazate we will stop in search of desert specialities including Scrub & Desert Warblers. Arrival to Boulmane du Dades for a two nights stay.
Day 5. Boulmane du Dades. During the morning we will explore the endless steppes inmediatly South of Boulmane. Here we will look for a long array of specialities and an average day it would include Temminck’s, Thekla, Lesser Short-toed, Desert & Greater Hoopoe Larks; Black-bellied & Crowed Sandgrouses; Desert, Red-rumped , White-crowned & Mourning Wheatears & Cream-coloured Courser. Here Lanner Falcons are not scarce and they can appear at any moment. In the afternoon we would explore the scenic Gorge du Dades. Barbary Partridge, Black Wheatear, House Bunting as well as Olivaceous & Tristam’s Warblers can be surprisingly common here.
Day 6. Boulmane – Merzouga. We will start the day again in the massive plains South of Boulmane in search of those specialites missed the previous day as well as looking for scarce birds such as Thick-billed Lark, Trompeter Finch or even Saharan Scrub Warbler (not recorded in recent years at this point..). We will then follow our way East to visit the steep Gorge du Todra.
Here Bar-tailed Lark is a common view and we will try to find the very elusive Saharan Scrub Warbler! The oases before entering the gorge are a wonderful place for passage birds and Eurasian Wryneck, Common Nightingales are common along with Common Bulbuls, Hoopoes and Rock Sparrows.
Day 7. Merzouga. In the morning we would enjoy of the fresh combination of the Atlas and the oases around. Blue Rock Thrush and Woodchat Shrike should be around and parties of passage raptors fly North over this point. We will continue East towards Arfoud. During our way we will check some place where we would have chances for scarce species such as Scrub Warbler and Trumpeter Finch. After the arrival to our hotel in Merzouga we will enjoy of some birding in the gardens of the hotel. Here parties of Fulvous Babbler activatly move around and White-crowned Wheatear, Maghreb Larks and Laughing Doves are easily found within the area. Stay in Merzouga for three nights.
Day 8. Merzouga. Merzouga is one the Morocco’s main gate to the Sahara. Here the landscape is composed by a huge variety of desert and semi-desert ecosystems. Our hotel is facing the scenic Erg Chebbi. This morning we will explore the desert areas around our hotel as well as Merzouga’s temporary lagoon. Some specialties living here include Greater Short-toed, Greater Hoopoe and Bar-tailed Larks, Egyptian Nightjar, Cream-coloured Couser, Blue checked Bee-eater and Spotted Sandgrouse. Merzouga lagoon is an excellent spot and provides great sights on Brown-necked Raven, Greater Flamingo, Ruddy Shelduck, Marbled Teal, Ferrugineous Duck, Black-winged Stilt and a variety of waders that can easily include Little Ringer Plover, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff. We will anyway make a special effort to find out the very scarce Desert Sparrow and the elusive African Desert Warbler!! During the afternoon we will go for the scarce and secretive Pharaon Eagle Owl…
Day 9. Merzouga – Ouarzazate. Early morning start to explore a small w. Here we may locate Sedge & Common Reed Warblers (Aquatic Warbler was found here in our 2015 issue!) and the recently split African Wagtail. Little and Spotted Crakes are also likely. Desert specialties here includes Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Desert Lark, Desert Shrike, Trumpeter Finch and Little Owl. Saharan Olivaceous Warbler (a form of Eastern Olivaceous Warbler) is a common breeder in the trees around. Transfer to Marrakech expecting to arrive at late afternoon. When arriving to Marrakech we will enjoy the last dinner of the trip and the last overnight (included in the price) in the city.
Day 10.Ouarzazate – Marrakech. Early morning start to explore a small w. Here we may locate Sedge & Common Reed Warblers (Aquatic Warbler was found here in our 2015 issue!) and the recently split African Wagtail. Little and Spotted Crakes are also possible. In recent years this is the most reliable spot in the route for Marbled Teal & Black Stork. Desert specialties here includes Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Desert Lark, Desert Shrike, Trumpeter Finch and Little Owl. Saharan Olivaceous Warbler (a forma línies to Eastern Olivaceous Warbler) is a common breeder in the trees around. Transfer to Marrakech expecting to arrive at late afternoon. Arrival to Marrakech during early afternoon.
9 nights of accommodation at different locations in twin room, breakfasts, lunches and evening meals, birding guide and tour leaders, ground transport in air conditioned vehicle, reserves entrances fees and travel insurance. Pricing includes VAT.
Transport to / from Marrakech, all drinks out of water, any other item not listed as “INCLUDED”. Meeting point of this tour in is Marrakech. The trip starts early morning so it is mandatory to reach the city during the day before. The overnight prior the tour starts is NOT INCLUDED in the price. We always recommend our clients to book that night all in the same hotel so we can have breakfast together and go on with the trip!
Our base in Marrakech will be Hotel Le Semiramis or similar, which offers a really good set menu dinner, comfortable rooms and a good buffet breakfast. Gardens of the hotel can be also really interesting. We will spend two nights in the Souss-Massa National Park, enjoying a wonderful, local-owned accommodation. 2 nights in Kashba du Dades, in an incredible location over the steppes and offering good typical amazigh food both for dinner and breakfast. 3 nights at Riad Ali or similar. A wonderful location in front of the famous Erg-Chebbi, built imitating traditional kashba style. The hotel has fresh, clean and well fournished rooms and a really good set menu for dinner. It also has swimming pool by the sand. All rooms during the tour are en suite with air conditioning. All evening meals will be in the hotels. Lunches will be in different restaurants “en route”.
PASSPORT, VISA & HEALTH
Visas are not required for any UK, US or UE citizen. All citizens from these countries will need Passport for up to three months stay and, at much, you will be required for a Return Ticket. South African citizens will need Visa (please check your local authorities). All Passports must have 6 months validity beyond the return date. There are no special health requirements to get inside Morocco. However, we recommend you to contact your local health authorities to get updated information before travel. You will be required for a International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever if you have been in any infected area during the last five years.
Reportes de viaje:
2022 Tour Report
Dates: March 12th to 25th, 2022 (with extension to the Middle Atlas)
Number of species seen: 190
2019 Tour Report
Dates: March 14th to 23th, 2019
Number of species seen: 189
2017 Tour Report
Dates: March 20th to 29th, 2017
Number of species seen: 190
2015 Tour Report
Dates: March 21st to 30th, 2015
Number of species seen: 173