After meeting with our local guide at airport, we head towards our hotel close to the center of the ancient city of Marrakech. After some time around we can either relax at our Riad or enjoy the medina! A guided tour of the old city can be arranged, but prior notice is required. The souk in Marrakech is rightly famous and is a feature in the older part of the city. The market experience is unique and is a must for anyone wanting a true ‘Moroccan’ experience! Evening meal can be either arranged around the square or at your place of stay.
Climate: Normally warm and balmy. It can be cool at night.
We will start our day with a leisurely breakfast, mindful of your hectic schedule of yesterday! We will set-off, when ready, to ascend the pass of Tizi Ntichka crossing the peaks of the High Atlas, before descending down the mountains towards Ouarzazate. Our planned stops during our journey are many; we hope to add a few raptor species to our tour list. The scenery is home to some beautiful alpine flowers as well as birds. We eventually leave the mountains behind and wind our way down towards the gateway to the barren open steppes of Ouarzazate. The town is also the home to the main film studios in Morocco and the bizarre sight of film sets in the desert can be seen on entrance to the town.
Climate: Temperatures, during winter, here range from hot to cool and is largely dependant upon the wind direction. Winds coming from the north and crossing the High Atlas can produce cool temperatures, but normally we have found the days warm and the evenings cool.
Next to Ouarzazate is the palmery at Agdz. It is the beginning to explore the Draa river for migrants. Spring can produce Red-throated Pipits, Bush Chat Robins, Yellow Wagtails and other exotic species including Blue-cheeked Bee eaters and possibly juvenile white-crowned Black Wheatear. Most of these are frequently observed near to human habitation.
The temperature here is quite a few more degrees higher than our previous day and a walk along the river should prove worthwhile and provide for a stretch of the old limbs! Continuing along the Draa Valley, we will go off road into the wadis hoping to find such species as Laughing Dove and an array of spring migrants.
Our day ends around Zagora where we will stay charming and comfortable places. Set amidst the palmery of nearby Zagora, Kasbahs provide us with a perfect base from which to travel and explore further south along the Draa valley with great food and really beautiful traditional surrounding. From the grounds of our base we can walk around the palmery and hopefully find such notable species as Laughing Dove and Barbary Partridge.
Zagora is set around the midway point of the Draa Valley and is perfectly located for us to explore the sandy deserts of the Sahara which are some 50kms further south. Here you will be able to experience some of the famous Berber culture.
Climate: Much warmer than our previous two days and normally enjoys comfortable and balmy evenings. Provided there are no strong winds, we will be able to enjoy our meals outdoors. The pool water is normally cold!!
An optional early stroll for those who wish to before our mini adventure to the Bedouin Camp near M’Hamid. For most of our journey we will follow the wadis through the Draa Valley and stop to seek various species typical of the area i.e. laughing Dove, Common Bulbul, House Bunting, Blue-cheeked Bee eater and others. The hill areas before M’Hamid are worth stopping in for possible Desert Lark and Desert Warbler.
With plenty of time to enjoy the setting whilst watching desert sparrows and other specialty birds! And also to rest in preparation for the next day. Yet, the stars can appear so close, you feel you can reach-out and touch them! The isolation of the camp produces a peace and tranquil experience and the surrounding desert constantly changes its appearance with the different lights each time of day produces. We rarely see other people in this area and only the occasional camel train.
Climate: The Sahara has one of the harshest climates in the world. The desiccating and dust-laden winds are sometimes felt north and south of the desert, where they are variously known as sirocco, khamsin, simoom, and harmattan. During the summer: daytime temperatures are high, with records reaching 45°C to 50 °C. During the winter: warm during the day however freezing temperatures are not uncommon at night from December to February. Rainfall is sparse, with an average annual total of less than 5 in. (12.7cm); rainfall is usually torrential when it occurs, often after long dry periods that sometimes last for years. Sandstorms may happen throughout the year, and if you are lucky enough to experience the “Ajaj ” (fierce sand carrying winds) you will never forget it.
Our 4×4 safari into the open desert and who knows what awaits at the Oasis? In the evening we head back to our hotel in Zagora. And so we venture into the ‘silent country’ and immerse ourselves in the tranquil peace that is the Sahara. Through the soft sands of the Tamarisk crowned dunes and plains, we will search for sand grouse species, Hoopoe and Bar-tailed Larks. We expect to see typical birds of the area such as Brown-necked Raven and Short-toed Lark. The landscape, or more correctly the texture of the desert, changes here and there from stone to sand and here we can find other species to add to our growing list. Desert Lark, Cream-coloured Courser and Desert Wheatears start to appear as the desert becomes varied. We may see large flocks of Trumpeter Finch and the desert sub-species of Crested Lark, so much paler and almost sand coloured on its mantle. Slowly we will wind our way towards the main road for Zagora Certainly we will stop at the crossing of the Oued Draa and here we will search the riverside vegetation for migrating warblers and normally we manage good views here of Blue-cheeked Bee eaters.
Our journey north/east to Tazzarine for lunch requires an early start to allow more time for regular stops and opportunities to observe properly the species around. We will seek such birds as Trumpeter Finch, Lanner Falcon, Desert Wheatear and migrants. The open desert areas can be really challenging to find birds, but it is worth remembering, that more eyes means more birds, so we all need to be keen and keep our eyes peeled. The efforts can produce some excellent rewards, Sand grouses, Cream-coloured Coursers and other top desert species. On journeys like this, your guides need you!! Eventually we will arrive in good time at our accommodation. Sunrise over the sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi, which occupies Morocco’s south-east corner, is the reason most travellers visit this part of the country and can be yours if you decide to step back from bird watching for some short time. We resolutely turn our back on the dunes and we gently will be exploring small wadi with gushing artesian water. There are various tents, shady benches and pavilions in which to shelter from the sun in the heat of the day. There are places to stop on the edge of the stunning desert experience that is Erg Chebbi. Close enough to visit the famous dunes and surrounded on all sides by desert. Forming an oasis in its own right, the established and landscaped grounds offer an ideal retreat from the harsh and arid desert beyond.
Climate: Set in the Sahara the temperatures here can vary in the springtime. It can be very hot, but we have experienced warm days to balmy evenings on previous visits. Of course it can also become windy and produce memorable sandstorms!
For those who are willing, the surrounding desert offers some real treasures. Here we will explore the famous Erg Chebbi dunes, visit the Merzouga area and also hope water is present in the Dayet Srji, a local lake where it had been dry for many years prior to very recent years. If we are fortunate enough to find water here, then a real mixture of water birds will be on display. Today we will first visit the Dayet Srji and hope to find water there. In previous years we have had such notable and bizarre birds as Red-necked Phalarope, Greater Flamingo (over 1000), mixed ducks including Marbled Teal, Spoonbill and a host of other species.
After lunch we will explore the desert area close to the Erg Chebbi and close to our hotel. We hope to find Cream-coloured Courser, Hoopoe Lark and sand grouse species.
Last day in the Erg Chebbi. Today we will be accompanied by our local guide for the morning. Our main target bird for the day will be Houbara Bustard and with the aid of our guide we hope to be successful. In the desert surrounding of our hotel we will also search for Fulvous Babbler, a notoriously difficult bird some years. Other birds we might find here are Desert Warbler and Spectacled Warbler and if we are lucky we might find a Tristram’s Warbler among many migrant species. The approach road to the hotel can be a good place to find various Sandgrouse and in particular Pin-tailed and Spotted Sandgrouse.
Later and after lunch at our hotel we can relax for awhile before those willing take another look at the Dayet Srji. Who knows what we will find?
In the evening, sat near to the pool (with a glass of something in your hand) we will sit back and hope an Egyptian Nightjar comes cruising into the gardens searching for night flying insects.
Whether early in the morning before breakfast or last thing in the day, the hotel grounds are always worth exploring. Because the gardens are matured and the trees well grown, the area is an oasis in its own right and attracts many passing migrant birds.
A fairly early departure to enable a visit to the remarkably stunning Todra Gorge area and allow for stops on our route to Boumalne de Dades. Time permitting, we can search the Tagdilt track for unusual species, the area is well known and references can be found on many internet sites by searching Tagdilt Track. Our drive today includes journeying through wadis to Erfoud wide open spaces and beyond, so time spent at some of these areas should be rewarding with a good range of species. Fulvous Babbler is a must find species here, a mixture of habitats from Tinejdad to Boumalne de Dades promises much in variety of bird kinds.
Oued Dades has extensive palmeries and valleys. The area around the river is fertile and striking north of the town is the famous Gorges du Dades.
Again we will be able to enjoy a relaxing evening and also allow the opportunity for the more adventurous to again search the Tagdilt Track for sandgrouse species and the elusive Thick-billed Lark. The area has very good population of Red-rumped Wheatears and Temminck’s horned Lark, plus Trumpeter Finches.
Climate: Highly variable and dependent on local conditions. Can be very cold in the day and night to warm in the day and cool in the night.
After yet another leisurely breakfast, we will again take a quick look and perhaps a stroll at the Tagdilt Track. We will then head east and target a couple of species, which can prove very
difficult Cream-Coloured Courser and the rare Mourning Wheatear. We will explore various tracks to find these species, but will need some luck, especially to find Mourning Wheatear. Time should allow for spending time at the reservoir near to Ouarzazate, here we could expect migrants and aquatics. Marbled Teal and Red-knobbed Coot are some of the species to look for and migrants could include raptors. We will explore both sides of the reservoir in order to get full value from this large expanse of water, for many birds it is their first sight of water after the Sahara. The area surrounding Ouarzazate and Tiffoultoute is stone desert and foothills. The deserts are noticeably more covered with scrub and help provide cover for small migrants. We need to watch for Barbary and Lanner Falcons here, but from experience, the Lanners tend to be seen more frequently nearer to the towns. Hopefully we will be able to spend time around Ouarzazate and find time to explore local markets and retail outlets. We can then head for our hotel next to the river in Ouarzazate.
Yes, another very leisurely breakfast! Anybody would think we are on holiday. We have time to look around the ruins and town of Tiffoultoute, before making our way slowly to Touflian. We will begin our ascent into the High Atlas and give ourselves time to admire the changing, but staggering scenery. At the peak of our ascent we will cross through the highest pass in the mountain range and in Morocco, where we can again hope to see typical mountain species and hopefully catch sight of a raptor (or two). During our decent it will be possible to take time around the ruins of Taddert and any vantage point to add to our tour total list. Eventually we will arrive at in Marrakech.
Depending on flight schedules, our stay in Marrakech can be longer if you wish for more extended time. Transfer arrangement can be done prior to your arrival. Please get our advise.
We used the following books for site/species information:
A Birdwatchers’ Guide to Morocco by Patrick and Fedora Bergier (Birdwatchers’ Guides).
Finding birds in Southern Morocco by Dave Gosney (A Gostours Guide)