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MOROCCO

Atlas Mountains, Sahara & Atlantic Coast

Birdquest's Morocco birding tour explores the best country for birdwatching in North Africa. Our Morocco tour has the most comprehensive Morocco itinerary available and targets every North African endemic other than Algerian Nuthatch (restricted to that country), including Atlas Flycatcher, and many other specialities. Our tour is timed to catch the spring migration too, making for a richly varied bird list as we travel this land of dramatic scenery and fascinating culture.

Friday 26th April — Tuesday 7th May 2019
(12 days)


Leader: Chris Kehoe

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations

Almost the entire world population of the Bald Ibis lives in Morocco, where fortunately they are usually easy to find (Nigel Redman)

Almost the entire world population of the Bald Ibis lives in Morocco, where fortunately they are usually easy to find (Nigel Redman)

Morocco has the richest avifauna in North Africa and, with its many specialities, including all but one of the North African endemics, ranks as one of the top birding destinations in the Western Palearctic (the zoogeographical term for Europe, North Africa and the Middle East).

This scenically spectacular country has a decidedly undeveloped feel and, for those who like travelling somewhere distinctly ‘different’, a visit to Morocco will be a memorable journey through a land where many regions seem outwardly little changed in centuries. The combination of dramatic desert and mountain scenery, superb desert oases, strikingly attractive mud-walled towns and villages, colourful tribal people and superb birding ensures that Morocco is one of those places that one longs to return to.

This is a land of contrasts where in the course of a single day one can be watching Firecrests in the forests of the Middle Atlas in the morning and Desert Wheatears on the edge of the Sahara in the afternoon.

During this exciting tour, which is the most comprehensive Moroccan birding itinerary available (our longer itinerary produces more of the country’s specialities than any other bird tour, normally including every North African endemic occurring in Morocco plus Atlas Flycatcher, which only breeds in Northwest Africa), we shall have the opportunity to see the full range of habitats that exist in this diverse country at a time of year when many northbound migrants are passing through. In particular we shall be concentrating on North African endemics and other regional specialities.

First we will explore the magnificent High Atlas at Oukaimeden above the historic city of Marrakech. Here, with a backdrop of towering, snow-capped peaks and green alpine meadows, we will search for our first North African endemics, in particular the distinctive African Crimson-winged Finch, as well as Barbary Partridge, the localized Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker, the stunning Moussier’s Redstart, the very distinctive Seebohm’s Wheatear (formerly treated as a race of Northern) and the smart North African Blue Tit.

From here we will cross the cultivated plains of central Morocco and climb into the Middle Atlas, where we shall find a rugged patchwork of stony uplands, superb montane forests and small lakes. In these varied habitats we shall seek out the breeding-endemic Atlas Flycatcher (split from European Pied), a species most Moroccan bird tours fail to see, and we also have a second chance for the partridge and the woodpecker if need be, as well as our first opportunity to find Red-knobbed (or Crested) Coot.

Beyond the Middle Atlas we cross an area of arid, sparsely vegetated plains. Here we will be wanting to see the shy and little-known Dupont’s Lark and the recently-recognized endemic Maghreb Lark. As we travel further south, we will encounter the starkly dramatic mountain scenery of the High Atlas where we will pause to search for the endemic Tristram’s Warbler.

Soon we will reach the northern edge of the Sahara. Here, we will explore the stony expanses of the ‘hamada’, the spectacular sand dunes of Erg Chebbi and the numerous green oases hidden in deep valleys. Amongst the desert specialists found in this area are such North African endemics as African Desert Warbler, the rare and localized Desert Sparrow and House Bunting, as well as the impressive Pharaoh Eagle Owl, the mysterious Egyptian Nightjar, the gorgeous Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, and, with luck, the endangered Houbara Bustard.

After crossing the Anti-Atlas we will explore the rocky deserts around Boumalne where specialities are likely to include Black-bellied Sandgrouse (and perhaps Crowned Sandgrouse), the impressive Thick-billed Lark, Temminck’s Lark and Western Mourning and Red-rumped Wheatears.

Finally we will follow the Sous valley west to the Atlantic coast at Agadir. During our stay in the Agadir region we will explore the nearby estuaries of the Oued Sous and Oued Massa, which at this time of year are packed full of migrating waders, gulls and terns, look for Red-necked Nightjar and explore northwards along the rugged Atlantic coastline to look for the endangered Northern Bald Ibis and the spectacular Eleonora’s Falcon.

Birdquest has operated tours to Morocco since 1982.

The Best Season for Morocco: Please be aware that some of the Moroccan specialities are absent or significantly harder to find in winter, and the Atlas and Sahara (which form the bulk of any bird tour to the country) are cold or even very cold at that time of year. The very best time for finding the specialities is late April and early May, and temperatures are generally ideal at that season.

Marrakech Option: Marrakech is probably the city that epitomizes Morocco for most people, and we can easily arrange for you to stay there either before or after the tour if you would like to take in the sights and atmosphere of this amazing city. Please contact the Birdquest office if you are interested in doing so.

As dusk approaches the old part of the city takes on a magical atmosphere: Little Swifts circle around the minaret of the lovely Koutoubia Mosque before going to roost, people throng the streets in traditional Arab and Berber dress, and at the famous Place Jemaa el Fna the bustling daytime commerce of the adjacent souks gives way to a fascinating array of entertainers ranging from traditional story-tellers to snake charmers and fire-eaters. Add to this the peaceful Saadian Tombs, the extraordinary Marjorelle Garden, the elaborate Ben Youssef Madrasa, the city walls and the souks and you have something truly extraordinary!

Important: The Birdquest group size limit is significantly lower than for most other Morocco tours.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are mostly of good standard, sometimes medium grade. Road transport is by small coach or minibus (and by 4x4 vehicles at Merzouga) and roads are mostly surprisingly good.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few fairly long walks, mostly on flat terrain.

Climate: Rather variable. Many days at lower altitudes are warm or hot, dry and sunny, but sometimes it is cool and overcast. There may well be some rain at times. At higher altitudes conditions range from cool to distinctly cold.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are good.

Can be taken together with: WESTERN SAHARA

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £2090, €2470, $2740 Marrakech/Marrakech. Single Room Supplement: £220, €260, $289. Deposit: £300, €360, $390.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Base prices for this tour are in Euros. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = €1.180 and €1 = $1.110.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Early morning light on the dunes of Erg Chebbi (Jo Jones)

Early morning light on the dunes of Erg Chebbi (Jo Jones)

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater is one of the most striking and sought-after species in the south (Paul Ellis)

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater is one of the most striking and sought-after species in the south (Paul Ellis)

It's no wonder we have trouble identifying Eastern and Western Olivaceous Warblers in the field – unless they are singing! (Nigel Redman)

It's no wonder we have trouble identifying Eastern and Western Olivaceous Warblers in the field – unless they are singing! (Nigel Redman)

Few birds live at the highest altitudes in the High Atlas, but the scenery is magnificent (Nigel Redman)

Few birds live at the highest altitudes in the High Atlas, but the scenery is magnificent (Nigel Redman)

Levaillant's (Green) Woodpecker is one of a suite of North African endemics (Nigel Redman)

Levaillant's (Green) Woodpecker is one of a suite of North African endemics (Nigel Redman)

Horned (or Shore) Lark in the High Atlas – likely to be the last of 14 species of lark on this remarkable tour! (Nigel Redman)

Horned (or Shore) Lark in the High Atlas – likely to be the last of 14 species of lark on this remarkable tour! (Nigel Redman)

Western Black-eared Wheatear is one of 9 potential wheatear species (Dave Farrow)

Western Black-eared Wheatear is one of 9 potential wheatear species (Dave Farrow)

Crowned Sandgrouse favours the stony hamada desert of southern Morocco (Dave Farrow)

Crowned Sandgrouse favours the stony hamada desert of southern Morocco (Dave Farrow)

White-crowned Wheatear is a familiar species in North Africa that often lives close to habitation (Dave Farrow)

White-crowned Wheatear is a familiar species in North Africa that often lives close to habitation (Dave Farrow)

Egyptian Nightjar is a scarce speciality of southern Morocco (Dave Farrow)

Egyptian Nightjar is a scarce speciality of southern Morocco (Dave Farrow)

A colourful Berber woman in the Atlas (Nigel Redman)

A colourful Berber woman in the Atlas (Nigel Redman)

House Buntings are opportunistic feeders in the souk at Essaouira! (Jo Jones)

House Buntings are opportunistic feeders in the souk at Essaouira! (Jo Jones)

The old and the new blend in well in the fascinating villages of southern Morocco (Nigel Redman)

The old and the new blend in well in the fascinating villages of southern Morocco (Nigel Redman)

Bushes and trees at the Merzouga oasis provide a welcome refuge for tired trans-Saharan migrants (Nigel Redman)

Bushes and trees at the Merzouga oasis provide a welcome refuge for tired trans-Saharan migrants (Nigel Redman)

The contrast of colours in the Todra valley is typical of areas with permanent water (Nigel Redman)

The contrast of colours in the Todra valley is typical of areas with permanent water (Nigel Redman)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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