Day 1: After what we hope has been a trouble free collection from your flight, we head towards our hotel close to the center of the ancient city of Marrakesh. After lunch we can either relax at our hotel or enjoy the city! A guided tour of the old city can be arranged, but prior notice is required. The souk in Marrakesh 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 Hotel El Andalous.
The hotel is located in the residential district Hivernage, few minutes walk from Jemaa el Fna square, this hotel offers calm and luxury in intimate and friendly atmosphere. Built in a charming Moorish style, El Andalous hotel evokes the golden age of Arab-Andalusian culture, exotically and romantically rich. Opens onto a landscaped garden of 7000 m2, this distinguished hotel offers you an heated swimming pool, a traditional Moroccan Spa and a conference room up to 600 persons. El Andalous hotel is a haven of freshness, scents and colours, ideal for meditation in the shade of a palm tree or dream under a starry night.
Climate: Normally warm and balmy. Can be cool at night.
Day 2: 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 1000 m 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 Riad Salam in Ouarzazate. We will stay 2 nights (days 2 & 10) in this hotel. It is styled on the traditional Kasbah architecture commonly seen south of the Atlas Mountains. The hotel is on the outskirts of the town and borders the Oued Draa. 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 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.
Day 3: The picture on the left shows the palmery at Agdz and here we will 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. 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.
We end our day in Zagora where we will stay in Kasbah Sirocco - 2 nights (days 3 & 5). 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. hotel-kasbah-sirocco1The 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!
Day 4: Again we will start our day with a leisurely breakfast, and for those wanting an early stroll, then one of the guides can be available, notice the evening before please! Time permitting, we will again explore the Draa River before setting off for our mini adventure at 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. We will arrive at our Bedouin camp in plenty of time to enjoy mint teas whilst watching desert sparrows and other specialty birds! An early night is recommended here in preparation for the next day.
Having said that, the night's entertainment will probably keep us up until later and the night sky can be fantastic if the clouds stay away. 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! With only a single night here, we hope you enjoy it. Bedouin tented bedrooms provide adequate and comfortable sleeping quarters. Block of showers, washroom and toilets are adequate. The camp together with their food and entertainment will give you an experience you will remember for the right reasons.
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 5: Of course day five is our 4x4 trek 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 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. 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 be back at the Kasbah Sirocco by around 1600hrs in plenty of time for folk to relax or even take a swim before our evening meal.
Day 6: 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 180 kms 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 challanging 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. On journeys like this, your guides need you! Eventually we will arrive in good time at our accommodation the Kasbah Auberge Derkaoua. 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 travelers 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!
Day 7: Second day in Kasbah Auberge Derkaoua. For the next two days there are choices for our fellow travelers. 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.
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 sandgrouse species.
Day 8: 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.
Day 9: A fairly early departure to enable a visit to the Todra Gorge area and 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 in hotel The Xaluca Dades is situated at 1612 m2, surrounded by the mountains of the Atlas and offers views of the Dades valley. The hotel has recently been renovated with all areas designed to offer a relaxed environment. The hotel overlooks the Dades valley and great views can had here of the river valley and town. Boumalne town is only 5 minutes away and the Tagdilt Track also close to the accommodation.
Climate: Highly variable and dependent on local conditions. Can be very cold in the day and nigh to warm in the day and cool in the night.
Day 10: 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 localmarkets and retail outlets. We can then head for our hotel next to the river in Ouarzazate.
Day 11: 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 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.
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