Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Southern Morocco

Morocco is arguably the best and most well-known of the North African Countries with a vast array of habitats and species to work through, this magical country also harbours many speciality birds, which are very difficult to find elsewhere in the Western Palearctic. With 11 nights in this wonderful country it enables us to recharge our batteries with three nights in the desert. During the tour we willl experience the essence of the country as we listen to the mesmerising Berber drummers within palacial accommodation or feasting on incredible hot 'tagine' to combat the cold of the High Atlas. In Mohamed Zaki we have a very experienced local guide, as a traditional Berber mountain man (where he still lives with his family) will tell us of the cultures and customs of these native Moroccans. Not to be missed.

At a glance itinerary:- Flight to Marrakech, 2 nights in Atlas Mountains, 2 nights in Boulmaine du Dades, 3 nights in Merzouga, 1 night in Ouzazate, 3 nights just south of Agadir, flight back.

Atlas MountainsDays 1 & 2:- We fly into Marrakech for the start of a wonderful 12 day adventure around the southern half of this wonderful North African country. Having been met at the airport by the jovial Mohamed and once ready we will head into the heart of Marrakesh for some lunch, which should yield a few species including White Stork, House Bunting, Common Bulbul, Pallid & Little Swift. After lunch we will make the 1.5 hour transfer to our hotel in the High Atlas Mountains, and if time allows we will do some late afternoon birdwatching en-route looking for some more Moroccan specialities.

Today we head high into the High Atlas mountains to the ski resort of Oukaimedan (2600m). As we drive through the cultivated valley floor we may find our first stunning Moussier's Redstart along with Cirl Bunting, Firecrest, Common Crossbill and Woodchat Shrike. As we climb we will be keeping a careful eye out for possibly Black Wheatear, Barbary Partridge and the endemic Levaillant's Woodpecker from the roadside. At the ski station we should be around the snowline and this is were we may encounter another scarce species Crimson winged Finch, along with possibly Golden Eagle, Shore Lark, Red billed & Alpine Choughs.

Day 3 & 4:- After breakfast we will leave our hotel and wind our way through the visually magnificent Tizi & Tichna Pass. This road is not for the faint-hearted but the road is excellent and we shall make plenty of stops to admire the scenery. Once through the valley we drop down and enter the hammada (stone desert) carrying on to our hotel in Boumaine du Dades. As well as more montane species through the pass the roadside desert species may include Desert & White crowned Black Wheatears, Desert & Thekla Larks. If time allows we will make an evening visit to the Mansour Eddahbi Dam, which is a large permanent body of water on the edge of some semi-desert, and as a consequence can attract lots of passage migrants. The reservoir also holds good numbers of wintering ducks and waders including Ruddy Shelduck, Coot, Shoveler, Common Teal, Black winged Stilts, Avocets, Grenne Sandpipers and Little Ringed Plovers.

This morning we travel the famous Tagdilt Track looking for it's many and varied desert species such as Cream coloured Courser, Black bellied & Crowned Sandgrouse, Red rumped & Desert Wheatear plus possibly the scarce Mourning Wheatear, Thick billed, Temminck's Horned, Greater Short toed & Bar tailed Desert Larks. The afternoon we shall make a leisurely trip through the spectacular Todra Gorge, with it's towering pink rock walls that hold Bonelli's Eagle, Crag Martins, Alpine Swift, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Sparrow and Rock Bunting. In 2010 we had a Tristram's Warbler here, which was a surprise.

Long legged buzzardDay 5:- Today we will spend most of the day travelling east towards the Algerian border stopping en-route at the very scenic Todra Gorge hoping to find the breeding Bonelli's Eagles, Peregrine Falcon, Crag Martins, Red rumped Swallows, Black Wheatear and Desert Larks. The picnic lunch will be at a small desert oasis where we might find a few early migrants such as Woodchat Shrike, Black eared Wheatear, Sub-alpine & Willow Warblers. Our journey east continues to Erfoud and the out to the deserts of Merzouga, staying at a wonderful isolated Auberge, whose gardens can be migrant traps for birds crossing the Sahara Desert. We shall undertake several walks around the grounds looking to find Blue cheeked Bee-eater, Western Olivaceous, Western Orphean & Spectacled Warblers, Hoopoe, Wryneck, White crowned Wheatear, Common Redstart and Tawny Pipit. That evening if the conditions are right we might make an excursion looking for Egyptian Nightjar in a local wadi (we had two birds in 2010).

TifartDays 6 & 7:- Today we change minibuses for our 4 x 4 desert safari, this type of transport is essential for negotiating the rugged and hostile terrain in search of our main prey the extremely rare and localised Houbara Bustard and also Desert Sparrow, which breed around the inns and cafés of this inhospitable place. The incredibly atmospheric sand dunes of Erg Chebbi (the largest in Morocco) may produce Brown necked Raven, Crowned & Spotted Sandgrouse, Southern Grey Shrike (elegans), Hoopoe Larks and a chance of the North African endemic Tristram's Warbler & (African) Desert Warblers, both over-wintering species to the area. Picnic lunch will be taken on the edge of a palm grove and a short walk along the drainage channels may produce Fulvous Babbler, Laughing Dove and Moroccan Wagtail. The rest of the day will be spent checking the seasonal pools that can occur and can attract many species of migrant waders (Kentish & Ringed Plovers, Ruff, Black winged Stilts) ducks (Ruddy Shelduck, Marbled & Ferruginous Ducks) and even Greater Flamingos.

Today is designed to be a relaxing day with just a morning excursion to the nearby ancient city of Rissani to look for 'Pharoah' Eagle Owl, which nests in the cliff that surround the town. Also here we will be on the look out for sandgrouse, Desert Lark, Barbary Falcon and Brown necked Raven. After this Mohamed our Moroccan guide will take to a souk in the city where we shall have our lunch after learning how the local carpets are made and about the fossils found locally in the desert. The afternoon will then be spent to yourselves around the auberge either by relaxing in their court yard areas or wandering around the cultivated fields looking for migrant passerines.

Day 8:- After breakfast we pack up the minibus and make our return journey west to the French garrison town of Ourzazate, with frequent stops for any interesting roadside birds and refreshments. This time we head along another road so we can drive some way up the Draa Valley. This lush stretch of road that follows the river can again be excellent for migrants such as Blue cheeked Bee-eater, Sub-alpine & Olivaceous Warblers, Short toed & Booted Eagles. Upon arrival at Ourzazate (and if time allows) we might head out again to the Mansour Eddahbi Dam but another area closer to the hotel.

Day 9:- Most of the day will be spent travelling again, continuing west to the coastal city of Agadir.This will be a fairly long day but worth the extra effort of a three night stop in this beautiful resort, however stops en-route will keep the journey interesting. Later in the day we drive through the famous Argan forests of the Sous Valley where we hope to find the locally breeding Black shouldered Kite near to the historic town of Taroudant. Also here we should find Moussier's Redstart, Hoopoe, Woodchat & (algenensis) Southern Grey Shrikes, Turtle Doves and Moroccan Magpies.

Days 10 & 11:- A fairly relaxed start after the long journeys of the previous two days will see us after breakfast head out north to the coastal town of Tamri, where we will search the coastal cliffs for the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis. The whole area is wonderful for birds with chances of finding North African Raven , Moussier's Redstart, Audouin's & Lesser Black backed Gulls, Sandwich Terns, and Gannets offshore. Later in the afternoon we will visit the Oued Sous on the edge of Agadir, a river inlet which holds very good numbers of waterbirds such as White Storks, Spoonbills, Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Moroccan Cormorant, Marsh Harrier, Little Ringed & Kentish Plovers, Common & Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Ruff, Common & Green Sandpipers, Sanderling, Black winged Stilt and Avocets. We should also find Mediterranean Gulls amongst the big numbers of Black headed & Yellow legged Gulls, with Sandwich Terns patrolling the river.

Our last full day will be spent at one of Morocco's premier National Parks - the Sous Massa River. This vegetated river and estuary is simply awesome and a haven for locally breeding Moroccan specialities and migrants alike. Here we shall listen out for the distinctive call of Black-crowned Tchagra ring out from dense cover and hopefully find one hopping through the undergrowth. More easily observed birds along the river should include Marbled Duck, Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Squacco & Purple Herons, Ruddy Shelduck, and possibly Plain Martin another rare breeding North African species. Other likely species include Moussier's Redstart, Western Olivaceous, Sub-alpine, Sedge & Moustached Warblers, Zitting Cisticola, Pallid Swift, Serin, Hoopoe, Chaffinch and Stonechat. It can get hot here even at this time of year so after our walk along the river we shall enjoy a cool drink and picnic in the shade of some pine trees at the entrance to the National Park. After this we shall spend some time searching the surrounding fields for Stone Curlew, Thekla Lark and Little Owl. Mid afternoon we shall return to the hotel so you can maybe have a siesta or relax and swim in the outdoor pool beofre making a night excursion out to the edge of the Kings Palace, where we hope to find Red necked Nightjars hawking insects around the floodlights.

Day 12:- Early morning we head back to Marrakesh for our flight back to the UK.

Multi-centre holiday where the accommodation ranges from standard 4* resort hotels to traditional Moroccan desert auberges. They all offer en-suite facilities and excellent local cuisine.

What's been said...

Had a great time on the tour with a great group of people, and thanks for your expert guidance. Vehicle was great once we found out how to open the door from inside and open the windows! . Accomodation was fine . I thought the first place was an experience but was let down more by the expensive drinks than the rooms. Take care and will see you again soon.

N. Muddiman

Just got back from a superb holiday and thanks to all of you for making it so. Our favourite five birds observed (in no particular order): Hoopoe Larks displaying, Desert Sparrows sharing nesting duties, columns of Black Kites heading for Europe, Moussier's Redstart, all those Sparrowhawks on day 2. Ibraham's driving, a mixture of panache, skill and at times mucho macho bravado will long be remembered!

R. & M. Chisholm-batton

Thank you for arranging and leading our adventure in Morocco so professionally. We are, indeed, very privileged to have had the opportunity to combine seeing such contrasting scenery and habitats with birding of such exceptional quality. It was a revelation to Wendy and I to see such rich contrasts - snow in the High Atlas Mountains, improbable vast seasonal lakes set in arid Sahara desert, with the huge red sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, high mountain passes and that fortified isolated hill set in a vast desert plain that was home to 2 surprised Pharoah Eagle Owls. But perhaps the most surprising feature of the trip was the wonderful flowers of all hues in the desert, and their, at times overpowering scent.The quality of views of many of the birds was exceptional too. A great list, with a huge 31 lifers for us. Mohamed Zahi was a gem of a local birding Guide [the only, and by far the best in Morocco?].

He took us to places off everyone else's radar. He was also a great travelling companion and a huge plus to the group. Not least because he was so skilled in mimicing the authentic Yorkshire tongue. Our fellow travellers were a great bunch of sad Birders. We very much enjoyed their company, and they added lots to the quality of the adventure. And finally, you Jules, you were not just a top drawer birder, your enthusiasm for the birds and the country was inspirational. Well done! We must go there again - with Oliva Rama Tours of course!

M. & W. Ball

Hi Jules, just a quick e-mail to thankyou very much for a fantastic holiday. Morocco is truly a wonderful country, we had a great time with great birds not forgeting the great views. hope to see you in the near future all the best my friend.

J. & M. Murray

Jules, I hope you are now safely back in Oliva. Firstly many thanks again for putting up with me, for me it was a fantastic trip and the biggest adventure of my life. The highest and furthest south I have ever been, first time in Africa and visiting a totally different culture and landscape. The list could not have got any longer. Don't beat yourself up on some of things, you'll improve on them in the future, even though they weren't in your control. Everything that was under your control was fine. Rest assured everyone on the trip has been with you before and will be back again.

What more needs saying !!!. On a personal note 26 lifers was very much at the top end of expectations and although we perhaps maligned Mohamed skills, I don't think I would have fared better on any other trip given the reports I have read. The day in the desert with the Desert Sparrow, Houbara Bustard, Desert &Tristram's Warblers, Fulvous Babblers has to be one of the best ever. The larks were not as difficult as I imagined but I guess we were lucky with "crippling" views. They were so many great moments and I will enjoy typing up my notes.

J. Moon


Cost £1790
Based on sharing a twin/double room.

Single Supplement - £190
Deposit - £300
Maximum Group Size - 8

Price Includes:

  • 11 nights accommodation with en-suite facilities
  • All meals
  • All transport costs
  • Information pack
  • Daily check list
  • Use of field guides & maps

Price does not Include:

  • Flight to Marrakech
  • Flight from Agadir
  • All drinks except water
  • Travel & contents insurance
  • Items of personal nature
  • Tips to Moroccan guide & driver

Flights are not included in the prices quoted, however we are more than happy to help with finding suitable flights.

2nd - 13th April 2017

(see icon guide)

Highlights -

  • Full day's desert safari
  • Northern Bald Ibis on their breeding grounds
  • High Atlas day for Crimson-winged Finch, Shorelark, Alpine Chough
  • Larks, wheatears, sandgrouse on the famous Tagdilt track
  • Passage migrants moving north through the country
  • Atlantic coast for Black-crowned Tchagra, waders and waterfowl
  • Desert Sparrow, Desert Warbler, Desert Lark in the Sahara
  • Moussier's Redstarts everywhere!
  • Incredible landscapes

Target Species:

  • Northern Bald Ibis
  • Marbled Duck
  • Ruddy Shelduck
  • Black shouldered Kite
  • Long legged Buzzard
  • Bonelli's Eagle
  • Lanner Falcon
  • Barbary Falcon
  • Barbary Partridge
  • Houbara Bustard
  • Crm Coloured Courser
  • Blk bellied Sandgrouse
  • Crowned Sandgrouse
  • Laughing Dove
  • Pharoah Eagle Owl
  • Levaillant Woodpecker
  • Egyptian Nightjar
  • Little Swift
  • Plain Martin
  • Fulvous Babbler
  • Thick billed Lark
  • Bar tailed Lark
  • Hoopoe Lark
  • Temminck's Lark
  • Shore Lark
  • Moussier's Redstart
  • Black Wheatear
  • Wt Crowned Wheatear
  • Mourning Wheatear
  • Desert Wheatear
  • Red Rumped Wheatear
  • Desert Warbler
  • Tristram's Warbler
  • Blk Crowned Tchagra
  • Common Bulbul
  • Crimson winged Finch
  • Trumpeter Finch
  • Desert Sparrow
  • House Bunting
  • Fat Sand Rat
  • Allen's Gerbil
  • Egyptian Mongoose

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