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Morocco 14 – 21 March 2019*

In the foothills of the Anti Atlas

Just a short distance inland from coastal Agadir – with its pallid and little swifts – even many garden birds are unfamiliar. There’s a touch of glamour about Moussier’s redstart, house bunting and bulbuls, all widespread here and easy to see where we stay.

Oued Souss and Oued Massa – part of the Souss-Massa National Park – are a coastal wetlands with easy birdwatching. Waders, terns and passerines of many species pass through, and we are here at an ideal time for passage birds including wagtails, swallows and bee-eaters. Inevitably there are herons, spoonbills, egrets and probably flamingos. Black-crowned tchagra – a bush-shrike - is more African than Mediterranean: though it can be skulking and tricky to see, we know it's at our base of Atlas Kasbah.

Low cliffs support the last truly wild population of the northern bald ibis. One of Europe’s rarest birds, intensive conservation efforts have brought it back from the brink of extinction.

Souss Estuary
Souss Estuary

Part of the attraction of Morocco is the cultural charm, such as flat-roofed Berber villages, herds of sheep and goats and a distinctive cuisine. These are all in evidence around our holiday base, the Atlas Kasbah Eco-lodge, which has a feel of a small castle with its towers and ramparts. It provides friendly and comfortable accommodation run by owners Hassan, a Berber, and his wife Hélène, who is French, providing employment for local people in the kitchen and garden. We have heard good reports of the food: gently spiced, with couscous, tagine and an excellent mix of meats and vegetables, often with a French twist. Mint tea is a local speciality.

The eco-lodge – so named as it has strong environment values, such as using local produce, solar power and on-site water treatment – is situated in the Argan Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is called the ‘High Atlas’ mountains, though here we are in low hills, only 20 minutes from Agadir but a useful distance away from more developed coastal areas where tourism is concentrated.

This holiday is run jointly with our friends in N & S Wildlife & Walking Holidays. Like Honeyguide they take it slowly and enjoy all types of wildlife. Richard is a very experienced botanist, and knows the Moroccan specialities that grow alongside more familiar Mediterranean flowers.

Agadir souk
Shops and souks (Agadir's souk is on the right) provide local colour.

Birds

Those above plus laughing dove, hoopoe, short-toed eagle, Barbary falcon, ruddy shelduck, black and black-eared wheatears, Barbary partridge, woodchat and great grey shrikes, red-rumped swallow and spotless starling. The ‘Maghreb’ magpie mauritanica is distinctive with blue facial skin, and generally ‘split’ as a separate species. The holiday is about enjoying the local birds and other wildlife, rather than travelling distances to see lots of Moroccan specialities.

common bulbul Maghreb magpie
Common bulbul (Igor Maiorano); Maghreb magpie, now confirmed as a separate species (more here).

Flowers

Near the coast there are bright yellow broomrape-like Cistanche phelyphaea, pink Frankenia and some astonishing large spurges, which at first glance appear to be large, prickly cacti. There are also more familiar families such as lavender, poppies and rockroses, alongside the knapweed-like Volutaria maroccana and the odd-looking Periploca – a milkweed relative. There are restharrows in pink and yellow, Moroccan toadflaxes and an endemic bugloss. Spring flowers can include Dipcadi, a brownish ‘bluebell’.

Other wildlife

Barbary ground squirrel, Moorish tortoises, Saharan green frog. Butterflies could include greenish black-tip, false baton blue and common tiger blue.

Moorish tortoises Syntomid moth Amata alicia
Spur-thighed (Moorish) tortoises; Syntomid moth Amata alicia.

Conservation project

A team of wardens safeguards nesting and feeding areas of the critically endangered northern bald ibis. The work is run by GREPOM, a small NGO and the new BirdLife partner for Morocco, supported by SEO/BirdLife Spain. Report from our donation of £800 in 2016 here and it's in June 2016 Birdwatching magazine here. Photos from the visit to the bald ibis colony on Facebook here.

bald ibis
Bald ibis (Igor Maiorano), supported by our conservation project on this holiday.

Holiday details

Price: £1,400 per person in twin or double room for a full week (Thursday to Thursday, one day earlier than the brochure, on account of flight schedules). Price does not include lunches or drinks with dinner.

Single room supplement: £130

En suite facilities

Flights: Scheduled easyJet flights London Gatwick to Agadir.
14 Mar: EZY8149 depart London Gatwick 07:10 arrive Agadir 11:05.
21 Mar: EZY8150 depart Agadir 12:00 arrive Gatwick 15:45. 

Deposit: £300

Maximum number (2/3 leaders): 16

Leaders

Richard Hobbs and Sally Ward have for many years run N & S Wildlife & Walking Holidays, a small company offering natural history holidays. They are based in a village near Norwich, close to the Honeyguide office, and as old friends are natural partners for Honeyguide. This is a holiday designed by Richard and Sally, and run jointly in 2016 as well as this year. Richard worked for Norfolk Wildlife Trust for 17 years, ending up as Director, before concentrating on gardens (he runs a mail order seed company) and holidays.

Chris Gibson has recently taken early retirement from Natural England where he was based in north Essex. He is an author of several wildlife books and has led many holidays for Honeyguide. He is an outstanding all rounder, from birds through flowers to moths, and recognised as a ‘naturalist of distinction’ by the British Naturalists’ Association.


Argan trees in the Argan Biosphere Reserve: there is a thriving export market for argan oil. More on Wikipedia here.

* One day earlier than the brochure, on account of flight schedules.

For prices, see Holiday Details at the bottom of the page.

travel aware

FCO travel advice for Morocco here.

 

This holiday is run jointly by
N & S Wildlife & Walking Holidays
and Honeyguide: bookings are through Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays.

Moussier's redstart

Moussier's redstart (Igor Maiorano)

Holiday report

March 2016 holiday report here.

Photos from March 2016 on Facebook here.

common tiger blue

Common tiger blue on hollow-leaved asphodel.

Barbary ground squirrel

Barbary ground squirrel

News

Our Morocco holiday base is a winner at the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015 (November 2015).

Gold Winner: Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge was the "Best Hotel for Local Sourcing sponsored by Colorado Tourism Office".

"Judges reasons for winning: Based in Morocco’s Argan Forest near Agadir, the judges were impressed by Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge’s ability to report in detail on its impact on the local economy, with 81% of money spent within a 50km radius,and staff employed from nearby Berber communities.

"By offering guests local experiences such as cooking and craft classes, and starting up an organic food basket scheme with deliveries in Agadir and neighbouring villages, Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge has successfully developed wide a range of economic activities with the local Berber communities to their mutual advantage." More information here.

Atlas Kasbah Eco-lodge, above (Richard Hobbs/Sally Ward) and inside below.

Inside Atlas Kasbah

house bunting

House bunting (Igor Maiorano)

Cistanche phelypaea

Cistanche phelypaea

ruddy shelducks

Ruddy shelducks

Volutaria maroccana

Volutaria maroccana

false baton blue

False baton blue on heliotrope.

Holiday leaders

Sally and Richard
Sally Ward and Richard Hobbs

Chris Gibson

Facebook Honeyguide
... where there are many holiday photos to enjoy.

Atol protected

The air holidays shown are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is ATOL 3253. ATOL Protection extends primarily to customers who book and pay in the United Kingdom. Click on the ATOL logo if you want to know more.

Helping you enjoy wildlife – Helping you protect wildlife