Today is the day that all our fellow travellers will arrive. Because if different arrival times we only have included dinner at the hotel restaurant. For those who are early, 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. This market and its unique atmosphere is a must for anyone wanting a true ‘Moroccan' experience!
We will stay in a 4* hotel located in the residential district Hivernage, few minutes walk from Jemaa el Fna square.Climate:
Normally warm and balmy. 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 peaks of the High Atlas, before descending down the mountains towards Ouarzazate. There are many planned stops during our journey, especially in the mountains, where we hope to add a few raptor species to our tour list. The scenery is beautiful and as we descend becomes noticeably more arid. Hopefully, there will be time to look for alpine flowers as well as birds. We eventually leave the mountains behind and wind our way down towards the gateway to the Sahara, that is at least what locals call Ouarzazate. The photo above, shows the view of the Toufliat area. Here we are at over 1000m in the High Atlas, so it will be necessary for warm clothing. Although we are here for only the second and last day of our tour, we do recommend at least a fleece or anorak. A good wool sweater would also have uses in other areas at night time.
Our hotel is Hotel Dar Chamaa in Ouarzazate. We will stay 2 nights (days 2 & 10) in this hotel. Hotel Dar Chamaa is situated in the Ouarzazate Palm Grove with views of the Atlas Mountains. It has an outdoor swimming pool with a terrace area, that is surrounded by sun loungers and palm trees.
Climate: Temperatures 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.
Travelling south through the palmery of Agdz we will explore the Draa river for migrants. Spring can produce Red-throated Pipits, Bush Chat Robins, Yellow Wagtails. We hope to add our target bird White-crowned Black Wheatear to the list here in Agdz. One of our target birds for today! Juveniles do not have the white crown. Most 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. 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.
We end our day in M'hamid where we will stay in Hotel Chez le Pacha for 2 nights. Chez le Pacha is on a 3-hectares parkland, located in Palm Grove in M'hamid El Ghizlane, close access from Zagora. It offers an outdoor pool with a furnished terrace.
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.
Day four is our 4x4 trek into the open desert and who knows what awaits at the Oasis?
In the evening we head for 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 sandgrouse 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.
Again we will start our day with a leisurely breakfast, and for those wanting an early stroll, your guide will be more than happy to come with you, notice the evening before please! Time permitting, we will again explore the Draa River near M'Hamid. 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 and soon after joining this surfaced road we will take a late lunch stop. We will take our time returning to our hotel in 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. We hope to arrive at Zagora by around 1600hrs having plenty of time for folk to relax or even take a swim before our evening meal.
The Kasbah Sirocco is both charming and comfortable. Set amidst the palmery of nearby Zagora, the Kasbah provides us with a perfect base from which to travel and explore further south along the Draa valley. The bar area provides for a great place to meet and discuss details of the tour so far, or just to relax.
The restaurant serves great food in a really beautiful traditional surrounding. From the grounds of the Kasbah 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!!
After our early start of the previous day, it is sad to report, that we also need a reasonably early start for our journey north and east to Tazzarine for lunch. Today we will need to cover over 180kms and will need time for a number of stops. By allowing for an early start, then we can take several opportunities to stop and 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 eye's peeled. The rewards can produce some excellent species, Sandgrouse/s, Cream-coloured Coursers and other top species.. Here we would recommend to those wanting to relax from the birding to advise your tour leader if you do not wish to go out on both days birdwatching. With 3 nights and 2 days here there is time for those wishing to simply relax and enjoy the peace and quiet in the gardens of the hotel. Bliss, with an evening walk around to hotel grounds or simply relaxing in the knowledge we have 3 nights at one hotel!
A swimming pool, drinks and meals (Moroccan and French cuisine) served around the grounds or in the small dining room. 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. The Auberge Kasbah Derkaoua resolutely turns its back on the dunes and is gently cultivated by a small wadi with gushing artesian water. A small, low-level hotel (named after the crumbling ruins of an old Sufi guesthouse), it is built of traditional mud bricks with window frames and doors picked out in green. There are various tents, shady benches and pavilions in which to shelter from the sun in the heat of the day. The original place 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!
Second day in Kasbah Auberge Derkaoua. For the next two days there are choices for our fellow travellers. Those wishing to stay in the grounds of the hotel and spend a relaxing day can do so for one or both of our two days here. 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 2007. 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. 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, sandgrouse species and a host of other species. Day Eight
Last day in Kasbah Auberge Derkaoua.
Today we will be accompanied by our local guide for the morning. Our target bird for the day will be Houbara Bustard and with the aid of our guide we hope to be succesfull. 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 Todra Gorge area ad allow for stops on our route to Boumalne de Dades. If time permits, 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 tour for the day includes journeying through wadis to Erfoud and beyond, so time spent at some of these areas should be rewarded with a good range of species. Fulvous Babbler is a must find species here, so if the guides fail, then they are in danger of a heavy tour fine!!. A mixture of habitats from Tinejdad to Boumalne de Dades promises much in variety of species.
Boumalne de Dades is built around the Oued Dades and has extensive palmeries. The area around de wadis are 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. We stay the night La Porte du Dades. With a Berber architecture, La Porte du Dades is located in southeastern Morocco and features a rooftop terrace with a panoramic view of the landscape, a traditional restaurant and a garden with a lounge area.
Each air-conditioned room at La Porte du Dades has a view of the patio and includes a private bathroom with traditional tadelakt walls and a shower. A bathrobe and free toiletries are provided. The Tagdilt Track is not far from the accommodation.Climate:
Highly variable and dependent on local conditions.Can be very cold in the day and night (2008) to warm in the day and cool in the night (2007).
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. 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. We can then head for our Hotel Dar Chamaa in Ouarzazate.
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 the airport in Marrakech! Here we will say our goodbyes and thank you for joining us. We will hope you would have enjoyed our tour and feel like joining us again, here in Morocco or another of our bird tour destinations.
After having left members of the group not participating in the extension at the Airport in Marrakesh, we carry on for a quite long but relaxed drive to our first destination and hotel in the reserve of Oued Massa. The plan is to arrive at the hotel between 19.00 and 20.00, in time for dinner. The hotel is in a fabulous position and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and beach! Here we can relax and stroll down from the hotel gardens to the nature reserve of the Oued Massa checking on the open waters and marginal vegetation for migrants. The beach near the lagoon is well worth checking for unusual gulls among the ever present Lesser Black-backed and Yellow Legged Gulls. Peter, our main tour guide, is offering a free drink to the first person that sees and points out Moustached Warbler, hearing their song and call does not qualify for the drink! If people want to take themselves off for an evening stroll and view magnificent sunsets, then they are most welcome to do so. We will stay in Hotel Ksar Massa for 2 nights. The hotel’s own publicity gives its location as being somewhere between the ocean and the sky! The hotel is located on the Atlantic Coast in the Souss-Massa National Park with its bird sanctuary, about 30 miles south of Agadir down the state highway to Tiznit. It is surrounded by sand dunes and stands in its own grounds of some 6 hectares. Climate: Normally warm by day and can become cool in the evenings/night. Being immediately next to the Atlantic Ocean breezes/winds are common.
Yet another relaxed breakfast, but with so many good sites close to our hotel we expect some of you to have had a good sized bird list before breakfast! Our targets will be Black-crowned Tchagra and of course Northern Bald Ibis. The area north and east of our hotel is desert, so we will search this habitat as well as the wadi and marshes. It’s a fair bet we will pick-up a number of new species here, as the area is a favoured one for migrants as well as rare breeding residents. Again we will visit the reserve area and we will take lunch at our hotel. It is in such a magnificent setting we can again offer options to the group for the afternoon, for those wanting to wander off on their own or just sit around the pool, sea watching at the same time, then we are happy to be able to let you make your own choices. For the rest of us, we will go for a walk around the reserve or drive to the nearby village of Sidi Ouassai. We will return to the hotel by late afternoon for relaxation before dinner.
We will spend another morning in the Reserve trying to get those birds we have missed so far, or find new species, the reserve is a migratory stopover for many birds, so anything is possible exploring the reserve. After lunch we will drive back to Marrakech and start to climb into the High Atlas Mountains. We will stay not far from the top at Asni in Hotel Ksar Shama for 2 nights.
This day we will go into the nearby High Atlas to the Ski resort of Oukaimeden, We are hoping to bag a few mountain species here and the primary target is Crimson-winged Finch. Chough, Rock Sparrow and Shore (Horned) Lark are others we should see, but if we really get lucky then Alpine Chough might put in an appearance. Our last visit to the area also produced Golden Eagle and Dipper. Our journey to and from Oukaimeden will provide opportunities to try and find Tristram’s Warbler and other birds of mountain woodlands.
The morning we will give us time to spend again in the High Atlas looking for species we may not have seen so far. After lunch we will travel back to Marrakech, where we aim to arrive at around 15.00. Here we will say our goodbyes to our fellow travellers and hoping to meet you again on one our many adventures.