5 December 2010

Morocco - October 2009

Friday evening flight from London Gatwick to Marrakech Menara International (3h10mins). Flight cost around £85.00 per person return through Royal Air Maroc website Royal Air Maroc (flight is operated by Atlas Blue). 

Car Hire – searched through Car Trawler Agent : Argus Car Hire. Car hire is expensive – approximately £200 for 6 days. I’d advise you don’t take the Extra insurance on offer from the website, as the rental company is going to bill you an extra £6.00 a day regardless. Avoiding dings, scratches, windscreen chips and accidents in general is extremely difficult – driving conditions explained later.

Fuel costs around D10.00 a litre. Typical meals cost around D250 per couple, while accommodation in modest hotels costs around D300 – D350 per twin room. 

Driving conditions

Moroccan driving standards are atrocious, particularly the local Mercedes Taxis, Tour busses and newer trucks. Overtaking 3 or more vehicles around a blind cutback is ‘normal’. It is advisable to allow taxis and tour busses to overtake you as soon as possible – I took to slowing down so that they could do this before I entered any bends in the road.

Traffic police are all over the country and it is best to stick rigidly to traffic laws. You can expect to encounter Road Blocks at least twice a day. I was pulled over for two minor infractions which carry a D400 fine each. Co-operation and good manors meant I paid a D200 unofficial fine. I wouldn’t suggest attempting to bribe any of the officers, my unofficial fine was a slight surprise and accepted as much. I also did not have to pay either of the other fines as I was honest and apologetic to the officers. However, plenty of the leniency was directed towards us due to the fact that we were South African. Talk immediately moved towards football and the impending World Cup. Morocco at this stage were still likely to qualify. After chatting football for a few minutes, we were normally allowed to depart as a ‘special favour’.


Flight departed Gatwick an hour late – no surprise. Customs is fairly straight forward if not reminiscent of a communist style state. Baggage collection is long and tedious – you are best to move baggage off the carousel otherwise further baggage will not be added to it. Hire car process takes some time and we were hit another £30 for ‘late’ pickup! 


Our intention was to drive from Marrakech towards Ouarzazate through the morning (Road N9). Roads are well signposted. The drive itself though is long and difficult. While the roads are decent dual carriageway, the cutbacks through the high Atlas take time. I would however suggest that driving this road at night is preferable to driving during daylight hours as there are fewer vehicles and one is able to see oncoming traffic much easier. 

Ultimately we did not quite reach Ouarzazate as I was too tired to continue driving. We pulled over for 2 hours of sleep before continuing on through Ouarzazate towards Boumale-du-Dades (Road N10). Driving conditions were much easier over this section of the journey. Birded intermittently along the way, stopping at Mansour Eddahbi Dam and various unnamed spots en route. Arrived in Boumalne-du-Dades around 15:00 in time to check into the hotel (Hotel Soleil Bleu) . After checking in, spent a few hours on the Tagdilt Track.


Woke up late to have breakfast before attacking the Tagdilt Track proper (the entire road all the way to Tagdilt and back can be done fairly comfortably with a typical saloon car during decent weather). Completed birding in the early afternoon before departing for overnight in Ouarzazate. Checked into hotel late afternoon (La Perle du Sud Hotel). Drove back out to Mansour Eddahbi Dam for remaining few hours of daylight. 


Departed Agadir for Essaouira (Road N1) at 06:00 with the intention of reaching Cap Rhir for some pelagic birding and Oued Tamri. Winter sea mist made pelagics impossible. Continued further north into Argan habitat. Arrived in Essaouira at 14:00, checked in at hotel (Bahja de Mogador). Birded Oued Ksab for the rest of the afternoon.


Our intention was to continue to Marrakech today, but changed plans due to lack of Northern Bald Ibis at this stage. Departed at 04:00 for return journey to Oued Tamri. Still no Ibis, but bumped into some birders who gave us excellent info. We continued on to Agadir and further south to the fishing village of Tifnite. Local guide marched us across the dunes in search of Ibis. Left Tifnite at 13:00 for Marrakech (Road N8). A new road is currently under construction for this route – it did not look as though it would be ready for at least another year or so. Road conditions as per the rest of the country, but many mountain passes to travel on this road with the addition of heavy truck traffic. Arrived in Marrakech around 16:30. Stayed at Ryad Mogador Marrakech.


Early morning flight out of Marrakech Menara.

 Final Distance covered: 1850km

Tagdilt Track

Just outside of Boumalne-du-Dades en route to Er Rachidia. A number of various routes available, although the suggested access is from the ‘New’ Tagdilt Track – right turn just prior to kilometre marker ‘Tinghir 48’. The track is a loose road through the desert that unfortunately plays home to more plastic refuse bags and broken glass than you can shake a stick at as well as having a large smouldering rubbish dump near it's start.If staying at Auberge Soleil Bleu, check the sightings book for updates. 

There were also a small number of excellent hand drawn maps of the Tagdilt Track specifying the likely location of the main species. 

Long-legged Buzzard - few at ‘rubbish dump’

Barbary Falcon - single near human habitation

Black-bellied Sandgrouse - 1 covey near Tagdilt town

Crowned Sandgrouse - 1 covey near start of track

Theckla Lark - common throughout

Greater Hooper Lark - 1 flock, very near to Tagdilt town
Greater Short-toed Lark - small numbers

Thick-billed Lark - small numbers surrounding wadis

Temminck’s Horned Lark - common at start of track

Black Wheatear - small numbers near human habitation

Desert Wheatear - common on track

Mourning Wheatear - 3 birds neat start of track

Red-rumped Wheatear - common throughout

White-crowned Black Wheatear - common on power and telephone lines

Great Grey Shrike (elegans) - at military compound

Trumpeter Finch - common within wadis

Target Species missed : Cream-coloured Courser, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Bar-tailed Lark, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.

Oued Massa

Reached comfortably from Agadir. Drive south for approximately 55km, taking turnoff at signpost ‘Massa / Sidi-Rabat’ (it is located on the left hand side of the road!)

Greater Flamingo - large flock present

Marbled Duck - small flocks

Red-crested Pochard - common

Barbary Partridge - small coveys in farm lands en route to river end

Bonelli’s Eagle - 2 individuals

Kentish Plover - common on beech

Audouin’s Gull - common on beech

Yellow-legged Gull - common on beech

Ring-billed Gull - at least 3 present on beech amongst Yellow-legged Gulls
Moussier’s Redstart - common

Southern Grey Shrike (algeriensis) - singles seen relatively often

Sardinian Warbler - common

Melodious Warbler - at least 2 individuals present, showing very well

Spanish Sparrow - small numbers in farm lands

Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler - 1 bird in reed scrubs at river end

Cirl Bunting - common in village en route to river end

Oued Souss

Just south of Agadir, turn right at Golf du Soleil and drive towards Royal Palace. Park just before Palace on the left side of the road and walk along lagoon.

Slender-billed Gull - 4 adults still with pinkish underparts

Lesser Crested Tern - 1 adult amongst commoner Sandwich Terns

Oued Tamri

Located just past Cap Rhir, the river mouth will come into view, shortly after and gravel road will lead off the road. Park up walk to edge of lagoon. The lagoon cannot be traversed particularly far.

White Stork - single adult amongst European Spoonbills

Marbled Duck - small flock
Red-crested Pochard - common
Common Kingfisher - single amongst reedsNo Northern Bald Ibis today

Essaouira (Oued Ksab)

The Oued Ksab is easily reached just prior to entering town. A bridge is currently under construction over the river, but access between south and north bank is still available. 

Eleonora’s Falcon - common along the Oued Ksab

Plain Martin - common

Moroccon Wagtail (subpersonata) - common
Black-crowned Tchagra - heard a number of times along river bank


Easily reached approximately 25km south of Agadir. A fishing town, it is approximately 10km from junction. Road stops about 500metres from village and it is necessary to walk the rest of the way. Start searching on the western dunes above the village. Ibis often feed within the black bag infested dunes here. It is likely that a local guide will pick you up whether you want them or not. Expect a fee of D100 for their successful services. It was necessary to ascend and descend a number of steep dunes for up to 3km before finally finding the birds. According to our guide, they will be in the area, you may have to walk the full length as we did or get lucky and have them feeding near the village (best early in the morning between 06:00 and 08:00). 

Northern Bald Ibis - approximately 300 individuals on sea facing dunesPeregrine Falcon (brookei/minor) - 2 individuals hunting – exact sub-species is still considered debatable.


Collins Bird Guide Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterstrom, D. & Grant, P. 1999.
ISBN: 0-00-711332-3Birdwatchers Guide to Morocco Bergier, P. & Bergier, F 2003.
ISBN: 1-871104-09-2

Species Lists

Please see Global Twitcher for our full Morocco list – Morocco Bird List



Hotel Soleil Bleu
Highly recommended – email the hotel directly for accommodation, payable in Euros.
 Hotel Soleil Bleu


La Perle du Sud Hotel39/40
Boulevard Mohamed V, 45000. Highly recommended – made arrangements via Travel Republic


La Petite Suede Avenue Hassan II, Agadir, 80000

Would not recommend this place to my worst enemy. Shoddy part of town with overzealous car guards who attacked the vehicle on departure. 
Booked through Hostel Bookers


Bahja de Mogador

596 Avenue Al Aqaba, Essaouira, 44000

Again, not recommended due to location. Car guards around the sea front lie about directions and are impetuous beyond belief. Steer well clear of downtown! No restaurants anywhere near. Booked through Hostel Bookers


Ryad Mogador Marrakech

Angle Boulevard, 11 Janvier, Prince My Abdellah, Bab Doukkala, 40000 Fairly average location, but hotel itself is good.

1 comment:

  1. Here you have a growing site on Northern Bald Ibis in Morocco http://northernbaldibis.blogspot.com