All-star Birding in Morocco

Voyage in Morocco for Eleonora’s Falcons, Cream-coloured Coursers and much more!

7 days – 12th June – 18th June 2018.

£1,195 per person (excludes flights)

Deposit: £240

Single supplement – £180

As well as being an under-explored Nature-lovers’ paradise full of hidden bird-watching gems, Morocco is a fascinating country full of rich colours and flavours and welcoming people.  This seven-day holiday takes in three diverse but equally enthralling bases, all within an easy drive of one another.  This will allow us to enjoy the very best of the local reserves and habitats while minimizing time spent on the road.  Apart from a refreshing boat trip on a tranquil lagoon, most of our exploring will be done by short walks on well-kept tracks.  We have plenty of room in our itinerary for relaxing in the shade with a mint tea, watching the vibrant tapestry of Moroccan life unfold in front of us.

There has been a fortress in Essaouira since 1506, but the modern day town was founded in 1760 by Mohammed III.  The town’s name in fact means ‘little fortress’, but can also be translated as ‘beautifully designed’.  It’s easy to see why as you wander the streets of the medina or old town, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Around the town, the port and the beach offer beautiful views of the coast and opportunities to see House Buntings, Common Bulbuls and Little Swift.

Essaouira, formerly Mogador, lies just north of where the beautiful Oued Ksob river reaches the sea.  Travel a few kilometres upriver and you will be treated to spectacular scenery where the river passes through magnificent gorges and valleys.  This area is host to local specialities like Moussier’s Redstart, Brown-throated Martin and Barbary Partridge .  Eleonora’s Falcons, which breed on the Île de Mogodor just offshore, use the river’s pools and meanders as bathing sites, and there are thrilling opportunities to observe and photograph their behaviour.

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Eleonora’s falcon © Inglorious Bustards

The pretty little resort of Oualidia spreads around a languid crescent-shaped lagoon fringed with golden sands and protected from the Atlantic surf by a rocky breakwater.  What better place to stay to explore a diversity of local habitats? From here, along the scenic road stretching north to El Jadida, rolling fields stretch right down to the coast to meet marshes, reedbeds, saltpans, sandy beaches and rocky outcrops.  The varied wetland sites we will visit on foot and by boat afford great opportunities to see Marbled Duck, Greater Flamingo, terns and stunningly close fishing Ospreys and a host of wading birds replete in their summer plumages.  As well as being extremely picturesque, the area is an important resting site for migrating birds and literally anything can turn up!

On the neighbouring farmland, in 2007, a living Andalusian Hemipode was photographed for the first time in the Western Palearctic.  Thought extinct, the small population that breeds here was rediscovered in the 2000s.  It should go without saying that it is vitally important for the future of this population that bird-watchers keeping a respectful distance during the breeding season.  Luckily the many farm tracks through scrub and fallow land should give opportunities to hear and perhaps even see this most elusive of birds.  The farming here is traditional and non-intensive, so offers fantastic habitat for other resident and migrant species such as Turtle Doves and Speckled Flunkey Moth.

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Cream-coloured Courser © Inglorious Bustards

Marrakech, known as the ‘Red City’ for the vibrant colour of the walls of its UNESCO Heritage medina, is not to be missed.  Its thriving souks are a whirlwind of colour and spicy smells and there is architectural splendour all around.  House Buntings and Little Swifts can be seen flitting through and over the city’s exquisite gardens, intricately carved archways and ornate mosques.  At night the main square comes alive with performers, musicians, entertainers, dancers and circus acts, providing a sensational end to this vivid tapestry of a trip.

About Central Morocco

As well as being an under-explored Nature-lovers’ paradise full of hidden bird-watching gems, Morocco is a fascinating country full of rich colours and flavours and welcoming people.  Situated at the northern edge of the continent, where Africa meets Mediterranean Europe, Moroccan culture is a blend of Arab, indigenous Berber, Sub-Saharan African, and European influences.

‘Real Morocco’ finds its life in bustling markets and squares in cities like Essaouira and Marrakech, both of whose ancient but thriving medinas (old towns) are UNESCO World Heritage sites.  The urban birding is fantastic too – there have most likely been Little Swift colonies in these medinas since they were first constructed centuries ago!

The wildlife, too is a vibrant mix of European and African.  The differences and similarities are fascinating, as a dash of Moroccan spice changes familiar European birds into ‘African Blue Tit’ and ‘Moroccan Magpie’.

The local currency in Morocco is the Dirham.

Tour overview

This seven-day holiday takes in three diverse but equally enthralling bases, all within an easy drive of one another.  This will allow us to enjoy the very best of the local reserves and habitats while minimizing time spent on the road.  Apart from a refreshing boat trip on a tranquil lagoon, most of our exploring will be done by short walks on well-kept tracks.  We have plenty of room in our itinerary for relaxing in the shade with a mint tea, watching the vibrant tapestry of Moroccan life unfold in front of us.

There has been a fortress in Essaouira since 1506, but the modern day town was founded in 1760 by Mohammed III.  The town’s name in fact means ‘little fortress’, but can also be translated as ‘beautifully designed’.  It’s easy to see why as you wander the streets of the medina or old town, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Around the town, the port and the beach offer beautiful views of the coast and opportunities to see House Buntings, Common Bulbuls and Little Swift.

Essaouira, formerly Mogador, lies just north of where the beautiful Oued Ksob river reaches the sea.  Travel a few kilometres upriver and you will be treated to spectacular scenery where the river passes through magnificent gorges and valleys.  This area is host to local specialities like Moussier’s Redstart, Brown-throated Martin and Barbary Partridge.

Eleonora’s Falcons, which breed on the Île de Mogodor just offshore, use the river’s pools and meanders as bathing sites, and there are thrilling opportunities to observe and photograph their behaviour.

The pretty little resort of Oualidia spreads around a languid crescent-shaped lagoon fringed with golden sands and protected from the Atlantic surf by a rocky breakwater.  What better place to visit to explore a diversity of local habitats? From here, along the scenic road stretching north to El Jadida, rolling fields stretch right down to the coast to meet marshes, reedbeds, saltpans, sandy beaches and rocky outcrops.  The varied wetland sites we will visit on foot and by boat afford great opportunities to see Marbled Duck, Greater Flamingo, terns and stunningly close fishing Ospreys and a host of wading birds replete in their summer plumages.  As well as being extremely picturesque, the area is an important resting site for migrating birds and literally anything can turn up!

On the neighbouring farmland, in 2007, a living Andalusian Hemipode was photographed for the first time in the Western Palearctic.  Thought extinct, the small population that breeds here was rediscovered in the 2000s.  It should go without saying that it is vitally important for the future of this population that bird-watchers keeping a respectful distance during the breeding season.  Luckily the many farm tracks through scrub and fallow land should give opportunities to hear and perhaps even see this most elusive of birds.  The farming here is traditional and non-intensive, so offers fantastic habitat for other resident and migrant species such as Turtle Doves and Speckled Flunkey Moth.

Marrakech, known as the ‘Red City’ for the vibrant colour of the walls of its UNESCO Heritage medina, is not to be missed.  Its thriving souks are a whirlwind of colour and spicy smells and there is architectural splendour all around.  House Buntings and Little Swifts can be seen flitting through and over the city’s exquisite gardens, intricately carved archways and ornate mosques.  At night the main square comes alive with performers, musicians, entertainers, dancers and circus acts, providing a sensational end to this vivid tapestry of a trip.

Expected Birds 

Farmland visits should yield Southern Grey Shrike, Black-eared Wheatears and Atlas Long-legged Buzzard – and hopefully Andalusian Hemipode!  On our wetland trips we should see Red-knobbed Coot, Marbled Duck, Greater Flamingo, terns, Ospreys and a host of wading birds including Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint and Grey Plover replete in their summer plumages.  Upriver we will look for Eleonora’s Falcons, Moussier’s Redstart, Brown-throated Martin and Barbary Partridge.  And our urban birding should bring us such delights as House Buntings, Common Bulbuls and Little Swifts.

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Itinerary

Day 1

We begin our tour with an early flight into Marrakech, from where we will make the fascinating drive through the Moroccan countryside to beautiful Essaouira.  The atmospheric Old Town (medina) is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it is here we will check into our high quality accommodation before enjoying a traditional lunch to unwind from our journey.

We will spend a relaxed afternoon wandering the streets, port and beach of Essaouira, soaking in the atmosphere and keeping our binoculars at the ready for some urban birding delights.

We’ll round off the day with an evening meal in one of Essaouira’s many fine restaurants.

Day 2

Today will be spent exploring the beautiful gorges and valleys of the Oued Ksob river, which reaches the sea just south of Essaouira.  We will explore a site just a few kilometres inland, where a bend in the river affords lovely views across a shallow gorge, and a well-kept path allows us to stroll upstream with ease.

Here where the river widens we will hope to see Eleonora’s Falcons coming in from their colony on the Île de Mogador just offshore, and using the river to bathe.  We will also look for local specialities such as Moussier’s Redstart, Brown-throated Martin, and Barbary Partridge.

The shady wooded river banks here make an ideal site to take our picnic while we enjoy the surrounding wildlife and check for Levaillant’s Woodpecker, African Chaffinch and African Blue Tit the flowering woodland fringes attract many butterflies including Cleopatra, Plain Tiger, Common and Long-tailed Blue, Moroccan Orange-tip and Clouded Yellow.

Day 3

Today we travel to our second base near Oualidia, along coastal clifftop roads that boast exhilarating views of the Atlantic Ocean.  We will make the journey at a leisurely pace, stopping frequently to look at some of the beaches and coves along the way and search for waders, gulls and terns whilst also looking offshore for views of feeding seabirds as well as pausing for a picnic lunch en route where we may encounter several species of raptor including Atlas Long-legged Buzzard.

After we arrive and check in to our tranquil rural accommodation in the village of Sebt Sais, there will be time to relax on the terrace with a refreshing mint tea and look for House Buntings in the streets.

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House Bunting © Inglorious Bustards

Then, at dusk, it will be time for our first opportunity to explore the farmland surrounding Oualidia in the search for Andalusian Hemipode and perhaps nocturnal mammalian species such as Common Genet.

Day 4 & 5

For the next two days, we will spend more time exploring nearby farmland and scrubland for species such as Southern Grey Shrike, Black-eared Wheatears and and of course further opportunities for views of Andalusian Hemipode.

The coastal landscape here is a mixture of salt pans, brackish and fresh marshes, and sandy and rocky beaches opening straight onto the Atlantic Ocean, so there will be chances to see a wide variety of species from each of these habitats at a variety of local sites, where waders, gulls and terns mix with Greater Flamingos and a bewildering array of migratory wading birds.

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Little Tern © Inglorious Bustards

We’ll also have the opportunity to take a boat trip out onto the tidal lagoons and salt marshes at Oualidia. Here we can picnic on a sand bar while experiencing waders and terns at close hand.

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Little Owl © Inglorious Bustards

Day 6

Today we return to the lively and exotic city of Marrakech, where we will arrive in time for lunch in one of the many excellent cafes.  There will be time in the afternoon to explore the city including the enthralling underground markets (souk), ornate mosques and open park spaces – all the while looking out for Little Swifts, House Buntings and Spotless Starlings.

We’ll round off our last evening with dinner and a wander round the main square, which after dark comes alive with musicians, entertainers and circus acts and is guaranteed to provide an unforgettable experience.

Day 7

Today we must say goodbye to the exotic sights, sounds and smells, the engaging people and spectacular wildlife of Morocco and depart from Marrakech back to our home destinations.

To book your place on the above tour, check availability or for further information contact us

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Common Bulbul © Inglorious Bustards