Tour At A Glance

Cost:

1799.00

Deposit:

350.00

Single Room Supplement:

200.00

Tour Code:

Intensive with early and late starts and finishes. Some walking at altitude during our visit to the Atlas Mountains.

Group Size:

Seven plus Leader

Cream-coloured Courser Moussier's Redstart Desert Warbler Thick-billed Lark Hoopoe Lark Maghreb Wheatear Temminck's Lark Bald Ibis

Morocco - Desert, Mountains and Coast

Date: 12th - 23rd March 2019 [THREE SPACES - Guaranteed departure]
Leaders: David Gosney

Itinerary

 

DAY ONE
Fly London/Agadir where you will be met by your tour leader who will have travelled a few days earlier. Following check in, we’ll probably have time to explore the Souss estuary. Amongst a good variety of gulls, terns and shorebirds, we’ll be looking out for species such as Gull-billed Tern, Mediterranean Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Greater Flamingo, Purple and Black-crowned Night Herons, Pied Avocet, Stone Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit and this is one of best places to see the distinctive Moroccan race of Magpie and the often elusive Barbary Partridge. We end the day searching for Red-necked Nightjar at the Royal Palace.
Overnight Hotel LeTivoli Agadir.
 
DAY TWO
Even around the hotel grounds we are likely to observe Common Bulbul, Sardinian Warbler Blackcap, House Bunting and Laughing Dove, while overhead the flocks of Pallid Swifts often include a few Little Swifts too. Following breakfast, we will visit Tamri and Cap Rhir. The main bird we’ll be looking for in the morning is the Northern Bald Ibis. It’s difficult to know in advance where these birds will be feeding but we usually find at least one feeding party. Even if we don’t, there’s still every chance of seeing some in flight. The estuary at Tamri is also a great place for seeing Audouin’s Gulls and perhaps some other wetland species such as Eurasian Spoonbill and Osprey. There’s also a chance that a Black-crowned Tchagra will give away its presence with its fluty song and we’ll look out too for Barbary Partridge. A spot of sea watching from Cap Rhir should at least add a few species such as Northern Gannets and Sandwich Terns to our trip list. Plain Martin  is becoming harder to find on the Oued Massa so, in the afternoon, we will drive an extra one hundred miles to Essaouira where there is a more reliable breeding colony and a further chance to look at gulls and waders in the hope of something unusual. 
Overnight Hotel Le Tivoli Agadir. 
 
DAY THREE
We begin the day at Agadir’s other famous estuary, the Oued Massa. Many birders have expressed disappointment at the lack of birds here in recent times but we’ll be visiting sites further up river where great birding can still be enjoyed. Plain Martins and Marbled Ducks are still sometimes seen and we’ll be visiting a site where Glossy Ibis breed and numerous ducks and herons occur that could include species such as Ferruginous Duck, Garganey, Little Bittern and Great White Egret. Local specialities such as Moussier’s Redstart and House Bunting should be easily seen and this is one of the best places to find Black-crowned Tchagra. We’ll then drive along the Sous Valley, a wide plain covered with Argan trees, a species that dominates the landscape here but occurs nowhere else in the world. Much of this area is now degraded but we'll be finding hotspots that are great for birds, especially finches, buntings and sparrows, where raptors such as Black-shouldered Kites often hunt. At passage times there's always a chance of other raptors such as Long-legged Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Black Kite and Marsh Harrier. A speciality of this area is Fulvous Babbler, hundreds of kilometres from their more typical sites in the desert areas. They're an elusive species but we have a good track record of finding them.
Overnight Riad l’Arganier D’or near Taroudannt.
 
DAY FOUR
After an early morning walk with a chance of species such as Fulvous Babbler, Black-crowned Tchagra and Western Orphean Warbler a long drive will take us inland to Boumalne du Dades. En route, we’ll no doubt spot a number of roadside birds such as Thekla Lark, Black Wheatear, Trumpeter Finch and Desert Lark, but the most exciting bird to look for will be the Maghreb Wheatear, a notoriously difficult bird to encounter. This has now been split from the Mourning Wheatear found in the Middle East, not least because the female looks completely different from the male and this is one of the few places where you might see this species. We will also stop at the Barrage Al Mansour near Ouarzazate which has become an outstanding wetland site. If the water levels are right we can expect dozens of Marbled Duck and Ruddy Shelduck and lots of wildfowl, terns, herons, shorebirds and passerines on passage. With so many birds to look through we can hope for something unusual; in 2012, birds seen here in spring included Marsh Sandpiper, Isabelline Wheatear and Pallid Harrier.
Overnight Kasbah Tizzarouine Boumalne du Dades. 
 
DAY FIVE
The morning will be spent enjoying the sights and sounds of larks and wheatears in the desert along the Tagdilt track- a rather ordinary looking piece of stone desert which may seem empty of birds but which can be simply fantastic for larks and wheatears. Here we should at least encounter our first Temminck’s Larks, Desert Wheatears and Red-rumped Wheatears, but we also hope to find the spectacular Greater Hoopoe Lark, singing ‘God Save the Queen’ before leaping into the air to flash its black-and-white wings. Birds such as Cream-coloured Courser and Thick-billed Lark are highly nomadic, so they can be numerous in one year but absent in others but we usually manage to find both species. Sandgrouse are regularly seen here, especially Black-bellied but this is one of the most likely spots for seeing Crowned Sandgrouse and recently Pin-tailed Sandgrouse have returned after a long absence. We'll be checking places where all of these species have been seen on the ground. This is also a good area for raptors such as Lanner and Long-legged Buzzard. Later we’ll visit the impressive Gorge du Todra, where we’ll see species such as Crag Martin and Blue Rock Thrush but the star attraction is a pair of Bonelli’s Eagle which usually breed here. 
If we haven’t already seen Maghreb Wheatear, we’ll make a determined look for them in this area – we know no less than five sites here but they are so elusive that we may need to check all of them.
Overnight Kasbah Tizzarouine Boumalne du Dades. 
 
DAY SIX
In the morning we have a chance to catch up on any desert birds we may have missed at Boumalne. As we drive further east towards Rissani, the scenery becomes more exotic with groves of date palms wherever there is enough water. By the time we reach our destination at Merzouga we’ll be seeing the awesome sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi and feeling that we are truly in the desert. En route to Merzouga, we’ll make a special stop to check out a site for Scrub Warbler. This species has been difficult to find in Morocco for many years but we’ll visit a site that gives us an excellent chance and we'll also look for other species such as Spectacled Warbler, Fulvous Babbler, Thick-billed Lark and maybe Bar-tailed Lark. Before we get to Merzouga we’ll take our first look at the sandy desert habitats and may have time to find some tricky species such as African Desert Warbler as well as commoner birds like White-crowned Black Wheatear, Brown-necked Raven and Greater Hoopoe Lark. 
Overnight Auberge Mohayut Merzouga.
 
DAY SEVEN
We have a whole day to explore the ‘true desert’ area known as the Tafilalt. We’ll make an early start to be taken in 4 x 4s ‘off-piste’ into the desert with a local guide who will try to show us the highly-prized Houbara Bustard. This bird is still present in the Tafilalt but in such small numbers that they are difficult to find. However, our guide knows this bird better than most and has a good track record of finding them. We’ll spend the rest of the day searching for the other key desert species, including the iconic Desert Sparrow, the difficult African Desert Warbler, the ridiculously well-camouflaged Egyptian Nightjar and the spectacular Pharaoh Eagle Owl as well as ‘usual’ species such as Greater Hoopoe Lark, Cream-coloured Courser, Spectacled Warbler, Bar-tailed Lark and Brown-necked Raven. There’s always a chance of seeing sandgrouse flying over and our guide may be able to show us some birds feeding on the ground. To see Spotted Sandgrouse or Crowned Sandgrouse on the ground at close range is a fantastic experience but we may also get a chance to prove that Pin-tailed Sandgrouse is even more gorgeous when seen at close range.
Overnight Auberge Mohayut Merzouga.
 
DAY EIGHT
We spend the day around Merzouga and Rissani again; to catch up with any desert species we may have missed, as well as migrants such as Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters if they have arrived. Key species we’ll look for include Pharaoh Eagle Owl, Fulvous Babbler, Lanner, Desert Lark, Maghreb Lark [Long-billed Crested Lark], Saharan Olivaceous Warbler and, if they are still present on their wintering grounds, Tristram’s Warblers. If we haven’t already seen Spotted or Crowned Sandgrouse on the ground, we’ll check other sites for those. On at least one of our ‘desert days’ we’ll check a site where Dunn’s Lark was present in both 2010 and 2012. At this time of year, migrants will be crossing the desert, so we’ll do some enjoyable birding in various gardens and oases to see what species we can find; such places can be great for chats, wheatears, flycatchers and warblers including Subalpine Warbler and Western Bonelli’s Warbler.  If we haven't already seen Egyptian Nightjar with the desert guide, we'll make a dusk visit to a site where they are likely to be heard singing and may be seen in the headlights.
Overnight Auberge Mohayut Merzouga
 
DAY NINE
Today we make the journey back to Ouarzazate. Although there’s a chance of some good birds en route, our best birding options will be at the beginning and end of the day so, depending on what we’ve already seen, we could either have another look for any desert birds we may have missed around Merzouga or we could get to Ouarzazate early enough for another visit to the Barrage el Mansour. 
Overnight Kasbah Zitoune Ouarzazate.
 
DAY TEN
The drive to Ouirgane will give us another opportunity to look for Maghreb Wheatear, if we haven’t seen it already and we will also make a stop to look for woodland birds at two sites where Levaillant’s Woodpeckers have been reliably seen. Other birds here are likely to include Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Cirl Bunting, Booted Eagle, Common Crossbill, Coal Tit, Northern Goshawk, Ultramarine Tit and the distinctive African Chaffinch. We will stay at Ouirgane in the Atlas Mountains, where we will look for Tristram’s Warbler in its breeding habitat.
Overnight Ouirgane
 
DAY ELEVEN
If we don’t get the warbler in the evening, we will have time for another look this morning but the rest of the day will be spent in the Atlas Mountains around the ski resort of Oukaimeden. On the high alpine rocks and meadows we should see both Red-billed and Alpine Chough and find colonies of Rock Sparrow. We’ll also look for the Moroccan race of Shore Lark which has good credentials to be a new 'split' - Atlas Horned Lark - and this is probably the best place in the Western Palaearctic to see both the beautiful Crimson-winged Finch and the surprisingly different-looking Seebohm’s Wheatear, now classed as a separate species. The finch is easiest to find in winter but the wheatear doesn’t arrive until mid-March so it can be difficult to see both species in one trip but we’re hoping that on this date the wheatears will have just arrived and the finches may still be viewable too. Other birds we'll look out for include Rock Bunting, Alpine Accentor, Peregrine Falcon and Water Pipit. We won’t spend all our time at such high altitude, because there are different birds to be found at different levels as we return down the mountain. The key species we’ll look for are Levaillant’s Woodpecker and Barbary Partridge, but we’ll also look for birds such as Blue Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear, Short-toed Treecreeper, Moussier’s Redstart, Common Crossbill, Firecrest, and Ultramarine Tit. We’ll keep a constant vigil for raptors overhead before driving in to the vibrant city of Marrakech. Pallid and Little Swift should be on view from the hotel. Following dinner, you have the optional opportunity if you wish to visit the Djemel el Fnaa, where the souk and incredible street theatre and food stalls offer an exciting and memorable way to end the tour
Overnight Hotel Mogador Opera Marrakech.
 
DAY TWELVE
Following breakfast, we may have time to go shopping in the souk of Marrakech where a breeding colony of Little Swifts will give us fantastically close views. Even within the airport terminal we can still enjoy the local House Buntings before taking the flight back to London, arriving mid afternoon. Upon arrival, the tour will conclude.
 
 

 

Additional Information

 

TOUR CODE
Intermediate with some early starts and late finishes. There is some walking at altitude during our visit to the Atlas Mountains and off tarmac road driving but nothing strenuous.
 
WHATS INCLUDED
Return flights London/Agadir/Marrakech/London, transport in minibus and 4 x4 vehicles with drivers, all meals from dinner on day one to breakfast on final day, services of leaders and reserve entrance fees.
 
NOT INCLUDED
Transport to/ from UK airport and any overnight stay that may be involved, travel insurance, lunches on first and final days, drinks, local driver’s gratuities and any items of a purely personal nature.
 

PASSPORT, VISA & HEALTH

Visas are not required by UK nationals. Passports must have 6 months validity beyond the return travel date. Standard health and innoculation requirements apply for UK nationals, visit www.masta-travel-health.com to check these and if necessary, download a free health brief to take to a travel appointment at your local medical practice. 
 

 

Tour Reports

 

2011  2012  2007  2013  2014    2015    2016    2017    2018a   2018b

 

Testimonials

 

“I had a brilliant time and would like to thank you all for your excellent company and help. I’ve managed to find Moroccan oranges and olives in Sainsbury’s today though they don’t taste quite as good as in that lovely sunshine. That’s a memory of taste to keep forever. The birds we didn’t find are only a great excuse to plan for a return trip” F. G. Surrey.
 
" We could not have wished for a better prepared or more knowledgeable guide than Dave. Always cheerful and helpful and came up with the goods every day! A superb trip with a fantastic range of birds, range of habitat and wonderful diverse scenery. M.B. Aberystwth 
 
“A splendid experience with people who are the bestest company” C. E. Cardiff.
 
 “Dear Neil, Just a quick note to thank you for organising what was a great holiday. The holiday was great fun, and very instructive and both leaders were knowledgeable and helpful” C. H. Cardiff.
 
“Everything seems reversed today. Dim light outside, bright light inside. I fear a trip to the supermarket later will be pretty dull too compared with off roading in Morocco! What a wonderful trip. Thanks Neil and thanks to the rest of you for all your contributions to a memorable time” L. T. Dorset
 
"Just to emphasize that small group size and the quality of leader are so important to the success of the trip. Dave was outsanding - we not only saw all of the targets but got quality views and often encountered them more than once. The organisation and logistics were very good and the whole atmosphere was fun and relaxed. The accomodation and meals were also of a higher standard than anticipated " B B Oxon
 
“I had a wonderful holiday. I don’t want to let it go. It was great to be with you all and share the fun and the serious birding. There are images constantly going through my head of colourful landscapes; snow-covered mountains; blossom trees; flower filled deserts, birds everywhere; crazy driving; mud and straw hotels. I could go on ad nauseam. Loved it, loved it. Wish the sun would shine today” C. B. Oxford
 
" I had a fantastic time with great birds and great company in a great country. The tour was very well led by Dave and many thanks to all - a great holiday!!" P. R. Kent
 
" I really enjoyed the undeveloped coast north of Agadir and the desert. The use of 4x4 vehicles was much better than using a minibus that the two other groups we met were using. Our drivers were were very professional and excellent. The whole group got on well and the small size allows everyone a good chance of seeing everything and the leaders instructions when coming across a new bird" J C Glamorgan
 
"I recently got a new broadband connection and email address so wish to thank you properly for the excellent trip to southern Morocco.It was the first time I have used a tour company and only chose the trip because you were the leader. I feel I had good value for money. Our time was used really efficiently resulting in many excellent views of birds and other wildlife. Your birding knowledge and sensible approach was much appreciated-many thanks for a memorable trip"
D C Cornwall
 
" We thoroughly enjoyed birding with Dave Gosney in Morocco. Dave is very friendly and helpful, and of course he knows where the birds are. We were also indebted to two local guides [Brahim and Ahmed], who found us some of the best species in the desert. It was an excellent trip"  S & A N Norfolk
 
" I very much enjoyed my holiday - great bird, great leader and great company. A fantastic trip!" R W Cheshire"
 
"A marvellous birding adventure visiting the coastal river mouths, the stunning Sahara and on the last full day, over 3000m above sea level in the Atlas Mountains. The number and variety of species was tremendous" A S Glamorgan
 
"An excellent and memorable trip. Many great birds and amazing scenery. Dave Gosney was the perfect tour guide"
B C Cornwall
 
"Fully lived up to our expectations and a memorable opportunity to discover the best of Morocco with first class birding and a great bunch of people" A J & M S London
 
" Fantastic trip - superbly led and organised by Dave. All target species accounted for and an excellent list of 192 species in total " M H Glamorgan
 
" Just back from a great trip" R S Berkshire
 
" Dave - Just a short note to thank you for the exceptionally hard work you put into finding such an amazing quality of birds and the tremendous views we had at close quarters - quite awesome at times. As an introduction to birding abroad, [not sure within the WP?] I wll have such an experience going forward. Many thanks again. M C Leicestershire
 
" I enjoyed this holiday very much, especially the huge bird list and the variety of scenery S E Stoke-on-Trent
 
" We enjoyed the holiday very much. It was an excellent and well managed tour and we considered Dave to be an excellent leader" SW & SR Chepstow
 
" A great trip - I thoroughly enjoyed myself! E. K . London
 
" The 2017 tour was absolutley fantastic. Bob and I saw ALL of our target species [including stonking views of Egyptian Nightjar on the ground and in flight] and Dave was an excellent leader - his knowledge of the many locations [all from memory] and his ear for vocalisations, was most impressive. We'd both like to do it agian some time in the future!!" RF & AF Isles of Scilly

 

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