Thursday, November 30, 2017

Morocco de Lux Safari 2018 - Spain Tour Optional Extension


Morocco de Luxe - 22-31 march 2018
The Atlas and Saharas

Morocco is one of the most beautiful countries in the region and one of few places where you really can get the true 1001 nights feeling. On this trip we focus on the inner of Morocco´s mountains and deserts. A road-trip for the adventurous who likes the idea of traveling a bit off the beaten track to see special birds and habitats. We will however stay in very comfortable Kasbah style hotels and taste genuine, local food. When we get to the real desert, we will be driven in 4x4 vehicles so we can move freely in the habitat and seek the birds we want. Our leader has done more than 40 trips to Morocco and knows all the best sites for all the specialities. In addition we also use local guides at times. Egyptian Nightjar, Cream-coloured Courser, Desert Sparrow, Pharaoh Eagle Owl, Fulvous Babbler, are some of the birds we will target in the Sahara. Sandgrouse, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, several species of Wheatears and Larks are also on the menu and of course the birds of the High Atlas like Crimson-winged Finch and Levaillents´s Woodpecker. This time of the year there´s also a lot of migrating birds around and any bush can hold interesting finds.

Day 1 22nd March
Common Bulbul and breakfast
We plan to arrive on the afternoon in Marrakech. It means we stay the first night in Marrakech to load our batteries with a nice evening meal and a good night´s sleep. The hotel has a lovely garden/park area where some birds can be seen. Night in Hotel Farah.

Day 2 23rd March
After breakfast we will begin our journey across the Atlas Mountains south towards Ouarzazate, that is our first destination on the tour. But we will have time for many stops before that, especially up in the mountains where we will keep our eyes open for Levaillant's Woodpecker,  Barbary Partridge, Tristram´s Warbler and Moussier´s Redstart. Raptors to look out for are Barbary Falcon and Golden Eagle, but since it´s migration time, anything can come across. We will do stops on above 1.000 meters, so warm clothes can be good to have ready. We recommend you to bring a warm sweater, and a windstopping jacket & trousers, even if we only spend the first and the last days at this elevation. Pretty soon we will start to see the first ”exotic” Wheatears; Mourning Wheatear, Black Wheatear, White-crowned Wheatear and eventually perhaps the first Desert Wheatears. Our base Hotel Dar Chamaa in Ouarzazate lies surrounded by palm trees with the Atlas mountains in the backdrop. There´s a pool and a nice terrace embed with trees and bushes. The weather varies a lot here between cool or balmy, mainly depending on the wind. Northerly winds will produce cold weather, but normally days are pleasant and nights are cooler this time of the year. (Today´s transfer is 198 km, effective travel time estimated to 2 hours, 52 min)

Male Desert Wheatear
Day 3 24th March
Our journey continues south through palm tree plantations in the Agdz and Draa Valleys, where there could be all sorts of migrating birds around; Raptors, Wheatears, Warblers, Wagtails and Pipits. Maybe we have already seen the first Subalpine Warblers in the hotel garden before breakfast.  Most likely also the first Common Bulbuls and House Buntings. Temperatures down here will be considerably higher than yesterday and it will feel nice to stretch our limbs on a walk along the river to find some new birds. A first stop by a shallow lake is usually productive with Ruddy Shelducks, different Waders, Terns, Herons, maybe Flamingos, etc. We follow the valley and stop in different, small wadis where the green habitat can attract migrants. Laughing Dove, Spectacled Warbler, White-crowned Wheatear  and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater are some of today´s target birds. We will also look for Bonelli´s Eagle, Streaked Scrub-Warbler and Seebohm´s Wheatear. Kasbah Sirocco is a charming and and comfortable hotel, surrounded by palmeries near Zagora. The bar area by the pool is a nice place for a get-together and to go through the list of birds we´ve seen during the day. We´ll then enjoy some good local cuisine in this nice as well as traditional environment. If weather is good we can sit outdoors. (Today´s transfer is 163 km, effective travel time estimated to 2 h, 46 min)

Laughing Dove
Day 4 25th March
Today we need to start early to make the 300 km we need to travel to reach the sand dunes of the Sahara. We we still have time for plenty of bird stops. We´ll keep our eyes open for birds like Trumpeter Finch, Lanner Falcon, Desert Wheatear, but also different migrants. White Wagtails of the handsome subspecies subpersonata are not numerous but we´ll certainly try our best to see some. The open habitats is a tough challenge when it comes to spotting birds, but the more eyes…We might be rewarded with Spotted- or Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Fulvous Babblers, Cream-colored Courser and other good species. When we arrive there will be a little more choice on which activities you want to participate in, since we are staying two nights at Auberge Kasbah Derkaoua. A small hotel with low buildings, named after the ruins of an old sufic shelter, built by traditional ”bricks” of straw and clay. A selection of tents and gazebos offer shelter from the heat and sunshine. Kasbah Derkaoua is surrounded by desert and a little oasis in it´s own right. It´s also the place that many travelers have used as a base for their desert adventure in Sahara spelled Erg Chebbi! - the famous sand dunes that have become a main image of Moroccan Sahara, but in fact isn´t a common habitat at all. Here the 150 meter high sand dunes rise just near the hotel and covers an area of 50 km. (Today´s transfer is 305 km, travel time estimated to 4 hours)

White-crowned Wheatear
Day 5 26th March
Today we well explore the areas around the Erg Chebbi – so we will enter 4x4 jeeps and drive straight out into the habitat. The area around Merzouga is also interesting with the temporary lake Dayet Srji. If it holds water it attracts Flamingos, a variety of Ducks and Waders and other migrating waterbirds. However it can be dry for several years, so nothing is guaranteed. Nonetheless today we have good chances on seeing local specialties like Fulvous Babbler - not always easy - , African Desert Warbler, Cream-colored Courser, Hoopoe Lark and Spotted Sandgrouse. The gorgeous little Desert Sparrow is naturally in focus here as well, because the vast, remote desert areas with small human settlements, is the true habitat of this species. On the drive we pass tamarisk areas and small berber fincas, we look out for Sandgrouse, Brown-necked Raven, Bar-tailed Lark, Desert- and White-crowned Wheatears. As the desert changes in texture to finer sand and grass tussocks it´s time to look more carefully for one of the most charming species on the trip - Cream-colored Courser. Flocks of Trumpeter Finches, Desert Larks will most likely appear around us. As will the pale sandy brown desert form of Crested Lark that has just recently been separated to an own species named Maghreb Lark. After lunch in one of the nearby villages, we go to look for Pharaoh´s Eagle Owl and/ or the bird magnet Dayet Sjri if it holds water. We will also do our best to find the enigmatic Egyptian Nightjar.  On this destination we employ a local bird guide to find the rare birds. Night at Auberge Kasbah Derkaoua. Here we can let ourselves be embraced by the silence, the sky, the sand and the infinity of the Sahara.

Maghreb Lark
Day 6 27th March
A walk around the hotel garden - with old trees and green bushes, can produce migrating birds resting after their crossing of the desert. A nice pre-breakfast activity. Today we hit the road again and head back west towards the Todra Gorge and Boumalne de Dades. We will travel through a good mix of habitats from Tinejdad to Boumalne de Dades with it´s extensive palmeries, lush wadis and the Todra Gorge just north of town. If we haven´t seen Fulvous Babbler yet, today is the last chance. Lanner Falcon is to look especially for here. After lunch we will look through the stone desert areas around the famous Tagdilt track where we will look for specialties like Thick-billed Lark, Temminck´s Horned Lark and Red-rumped Wheatear. The last two have a good population here.  Hotel La Porte du Dades with it´s berber architecture is close to Tagdilt and have a nice view over the landscape, a traditional restaurant and lounge. (Today´s transfer is 260 km, travel time 3 h, 37 min)

Red-rumped Wheatear male
Day 7 28th March
If we feel need for more stone desert birds we take another drive down the Tagdilt track with inhabitants like Thick-billed Larks and Red-rumped Wheatears, Long-legged Buzzards and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. If we haven´t got proper views of Mourning Wheatear we will make a short detour to target them. We will try several small dirt tracks but will need a bit of luck with this tricky species. The time should allow us to check the reservoir by Ouarzazate where Crested Coot and Marbled Teal can be seen. Good chances on raptors on migration as well. The hills around Ouarzazate and Tiffoultote are covered with bushes and can attract tired migrants. We also look for Lanner and Barbary Falcons. Night at Hotel Dar Chamaa in Ouarzazate. (Today´s transfer is 117 km, travel time 1 h 50 min)

Temminck's Lark
Day 8 29th March
On our way back up through the Atlas mountains we can admire the landscape as we have more chances to look for birds like Seebohm´s Wheatear, Levaillents´s Woodpecker, Barbary Partridge, African Blue Tit, and most likely some raptors. Maybe we fancy a stop at the ruins of Taddert or the highest pass of the Atlas. New for this year is that we go further up into the high Atlas. Our last destination of the trip is Oukaimeden – a ski resort on 2.650 meters elevation.  A site known for good birds like  African Crimson-winged Finch, Rock Sparrow, Atlas Horned Lark and more. There can still be some snow around this time of the year so make sure to bring gloves, a scarf and a hat. The reward will be some really fine birds and amazing scenery. Night in hotel in Oukaimeden. (Today´s transfer is 229 km, travel time 4 h 30 min)

Crimson-winged Finch
Day 9 30th March
We do as much bird watching as we can around Oukaimeden before we have to drive the last 80 km to Marrakech to get our hotel in Marrakech, we will also bird our journey to Marrakech.

Alpine Chough
Day 10. 31st March
Rest morning before our group departs Morocco. Some to Sweden others to Spain.

House Bunting male - a species resident at our hotel in Marrakech

Spain Leg of Tour. Optional Tour Extension

Serrania de Ronda
Day 1. 31st March
Arrive Sevilla and drive to El Rocio hotel set in the National Park - Donana. We will bird lakeside in El Rocio and have dinner in the town square.

Day 2. 1st April
Birding the Donana and visiting various wetland habitats for special birds.

Day 3. 2nd April
Depart for Tarifa, visiting La Janda

Day 4. 3rd April
Birding the Barbate, La Janda and Tarifa area then depart for the Serrania de Ronda.

Day 5. 4th April
Birding the Laguna Fuente de Piedra

Day 6. 5th April
Birding the UNESCO Biosphere Park of Grazalema and surrounding area.

Day 7. 6th April
Birding Sierra de las Nieves another UNESCO Biosphere Park.

Day 8. 7th April
Departure day.

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