Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Wildlife of Morocco - The Grand Tour

"If local knowledge of where to find the birds, something that can change annually, and be able to point them out to fellow travellers means anything, then Peter is one of the very best and most experienced wildlife guides to lead groups in Morocco"

Worldwide Birding Tours  
Itinerary for Morocco Safari - The Grand Tour 14th to 24th April 2020
Group size 10 guests 1 leader/guide

Day 0ne. 14th April
Arrive at Marrakech Airport, where we will meet the journeymen at arrivals and then transfer to our nearby hotel. Depending on arrival time we can bird the hotel gardens and/or allow guests to rest after their journey. Please note dinner is not included for the first night.

Day Two. 15th April
A morning spent exploring the famous Medina and Souk of Marrakech with our local expert guide. The afternoon will be spent resting, but late afternoon a group meeting will be held to explain the tour itinerary and field any questions guests have about the tour.

Day Three. 16th April
An amazing journey crossing the highest pass in the High Atlas Mountains, where the views are spectacular as well as varied. The northern aspect of the mountain range is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, hence the vegetation is green and lush, but as we climb so the landscape changes and vegetation clings to areas where water passes and becomes sparse on the steep slopes of the multi-coloured mountains. Lunch is taken just before the highest point of the mountain pass and here we can relax enjoying a light lunch and birds that visit the surrounding area. The afternoon drive is downhill headed towards our first encounter of the fringes for the Sahara Desert, a landscape to take your breath away, especially on a planned excursion to seek difficult bird species such as Maghreb Wheatear and other exotics. A walk near to a few palm fringed wadis and a river crossing will produce some migrant birds on their way to their European breeding grounds. We make our way to the town of Ouarzazate, the gateway for the Sahara Desert and famous for it’s movie studios (Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here). We aim to arrive at our hotel with time for guests to relax and cleanup before our dinner and the run through on our bird checklist.

Day Four. 17th April
Most people think of the Sahara Desert as endless rolling sand dunes, but our journey today will bear testimony to the fact that it is anything but. Stone desert interspersed with bare rock mountains, yet where water courses flow above and below ground, green fingers run through the rocky terrain, small oasis form and hold both migrating and resident birds, we will visit a few of these areas. After a drink break we will pass over the Jbel Saghro Mountains, a mountain range of unique features that form a mosaic of shapes created by the lines of strata, from here we descend into the Draa Valley. The Draa Valley is a river system that is lined by palmeries and small villages; it is also a main highway for migrant birds arriving from the vast expanse of the unpopulated Sahara Desert. We should find our first Blue-cheeked Bee Eater here among other exotic migrants, so we need to be on our best ‘find the bird’ mode.  From this wonderful valley we head east and make our way to the largest sand dune complex of the Moroccan Sahara, Erg Chebi. We will be making this unique area our home for 2 nights. Glamping for our first night and then we transfer to a hotel for the 2nd night (Note: Our desert camp, not so much camping as glamping, consists of personal large tents with en suite facilities including toilet, wash area and shower, luxury in the Sahara, as if that wasn’t enough the food is wonderful and campfire entertainment provides a glimpse into Berber life).

Day Five. 18th April
A day in the desert, traversing the dunes and open areas in our 4x4 vehicles, we will be searching for our target birds namely Egyptian Nightjar, Desert Warbler, Crowned and Spotted Sandgrouse, Hoopoe Lark, Cream-coloured Courser, Fulvous Babbler and Lanner Falcon, to name but a few of the specialist birds we will see. The scenery is stunning and we really will be on an adventure day with birds. Later in the day we will lunch and then make our way to the sand plains nearby for Pharaoh Eagle Owl and a nesting place for Lanner Falcon. Desert Sparrow is likely to already have been seen at our camp on the first night of our visit. It will for sure be a day to remember. Late afternoon we will head for our hotel overlooking the amazing high points of the Erg Chebi dune complex, there is a water outfall very near the main entrance to the hotel and here we will find many small migrant birds coming to drink and bathe, one to look for here is the amazing Hoopoe.

Day Six. 19th April
We will look outside our hotel for early morning birds, but before that we highly recommend going up to the hotel rooftop bar and terrace, here you can witness the sunrise over the high sand dunes and it is spectacular as well as an amazing experience. We will start our journey to the high plateau near Boumalne soon after breakfast, we will stop at a few birding spots along the way, but our aim will be to get to our next destination for a late lunch, so we will stop to get a few onboard snacks during this part of the journey. After lunch we will drive through the Gorges du Dades, an amazing deep sided valley with equally amazing geological features, we will stop along the way to take in the scenery and keep our eyes to the sky as we are now in Bonelli’s Eagle territory. Our hotel for the next 2 nights is a favourite, a place to relax and enjoy the superb cuisine and in house entertainment from members of the family who run the hotel. Crag Martins and Blue Rock Thrush are often seen from the terraces, whilst Nightingale will be singing at the river’s edge below our hotel.

Day Seven. 20th April
We concentrate our birding efforts today on the high plateau east of Boumalne. Here we will search the plains for lark and wheatear species, but the area can also hold surprises such as Stone Curlew and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. We will transect the plains, stopping to scan favourable areas and attempt to find the elusive Thick-billed Lark as well as the entertaining Fat Desert Rat. We will take lunch in a family hostel within the plains and hopefully here we might also find Moussier’s Redstart and European Bee Eater. Wheatear species are also a feature in the area and on a good day it is possible to see 6 species including the very handsome Red-rumped Wheatear. After our lunch we will search a couple of green areas, cultivated by local villagers, to look for migrants such as Roller and warbler species. Later we will pass by our hotel and explore the gorge for more migrant birds, a coffee or mint tea and admire the stunning scenery. We will also look for a target bird the Rock Bunting.

Day Eight. 21st April
We will take a leisurely drive to our next destination, a return to Ouarzazate. The journey will provide places where we can stop to seek a few birds and we will also pass through the Valley of the Roses, a famous region in Morocco where women’s cooperatives harvest Rose petals and Rosehips to manufacture cosmetics and lotions. If the group wants to view these products we will make time for stopping at a cooperative showroom. We will either take our lunch at a desert Kasbah near to the town of Skoura, or journey onwards for lunch in Ouarzazate. We will arrive in good time at our hotel and guests are free to rest, enjoy the swimming pool or just relax, or maybe accompany the guide to explore the shoreline of the nearby lake for some water birds that will include Greater Flamingo, the choices will be yours.

Day Nine. 22nd April
Our road trip today takes us back to Marrakech and over the high pass of Tizi N’Tichka. On route we will explore the river areas near to Amerzgane and also the desert area around Tizgzaouine for later migrants such as Ortolan Bunting, Whinchat, Rufous Bush Robin and also desert birds Trumpeter Finch, Desert Lark and wheatear species. The area is breathtaking with desert scenes that have a backdrop of snowcapped mountains, forming a landscape unique to our journey. We will again take lunch at the high point of the mountain crossing and here we might explore the local surrounds for Common Rock Thrush and Rock Sparrow. The descending journey will provide opportunities for us to stop and find more birds and depending on time, we will stop to enjoy a mint tea on a café terrace overlooking some amazing tree lined valleys. Late afternoon and we arrive at our garden Riad for a 2-night stay, here the accommodation is rustic, clean and comfortable with tranquil gardens and large swimming pool, the homemade food is possibly our most favourite cuisine on this tour. Worth to mention that last spring Rufous Bush Robin had taken up residence in this garden.

Day Ten. 23rd April
After birding the gardens before breakfast we will head up high into the High Atlas Mountains to the ski resort of Oukaïmeden. A real departure from our desert experience, we will be looking for high mountain species such as Horned Lark, Crimson-winged Finch, Seebohm Wheatear, Alpine Chough and Red-billed Chough, we will also look for good views of Barbary Falcon and Moussier’s Redstart. Dipper and Common Rock Thrush might also be seen here. Our previous visits and success at finding these target birds has ranged from very easy to difficult, much will depend on the weather, so all things crossed the weather is kind and we have no difficulties finding our birds. We will lunch in the resort area and afterwards we will make our descent taking several opportunities to stop and find mountain birds, also the lower reaches of our road will give us a chance to find the elusive Levaillant’s Woodpecker and Tristram’s Warbler. It is a day of amazing scenery and wonderful birds, before we head back to our own private gardens and wonderful food.

Day Eleven. 24th April
Departure day and thus a time to relax depending on your time for the homeward bound flight. A very leisurely approach to breakfast with time to pack and later you can also relax with an extra coffee or tea. Lunch can be available for those not leaving until the afternoon or early evening, although this is not included in the cost of the tour.

1. The option to book extra nights before and/or after the official tour dates are available upon request.
2. Private tours and guides are available to those wishing to spend extra days around Marrakech.
3. Airport collection and departures are only included in the official tour dates, but these can also be arranged at an extra cost for those visiting for extra days.
4. The tour price includes all transport, including 4x4 vehicles for desert excursions, guiding, meals and excludes all drinks and personal purchases.
5. Travel information facts and tips for Morocco is sent to all participants before the tour.
6. A comprehensive Bird Checklist is provided at the start of the tour.

For further details and prices, please contact us on the following email address, we will be pleased to assist with any queries or questions:



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