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Southern Morocco A 10-day birdwatching tour to the deserts, oases and mountains of southern Morocco's kasbah country.Thursday 21st February - Saturday 2nd March Cost: £1,495Thursday 7th March - Saturday 16th March Cost: £1,595Thursday 21st March - Saturday 30th March Cost: £1,595Thursday 4th April - Saturday 13th April Cost: £1,695Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationS. MOROCCOALGERIAMEDITERRANEAN SEAATLANTIC OCEANMOROCCOEL KELAAMERZOUGAAGADIRERFOUDTODRAGORGEMIDDLE ATLAS MOUNTAINSHIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINSTANGIERCASABLANCAMARRAKECHOUED MASSAANTI ATLAS MOUNTAINSTAROUDANTOUARZAZATEOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Marrakech. Day 2/3El Kelâa des Mgouna. Day 4/5Erfoud. Day 6Ouarzazate. Day 7Taroudant. Day 8/9Agadir. Day 10Fly London. AccommodationAn interesting mix of characterfuland comfortable hotels, all withprivate facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Limited walking, but plenty of action in this comprehensive birdingtour.FocusBirds.LeaderDave Allen, Geoff Carr, Andy Impey,Andy Smith, Dave Suddaby, RegThorpe or Simon Woolley.Single room supplement£230. ExtensionsIf you have time, we recommendextending your stay in Marrakech.Please call 01962 733051 for advice.Web quick search: MAR01157Imagine birdwatching in an oasis of datepalms, surrounded by a warming desert,beneath a clear blue sky and aspectacular snowclad mountain range thatis as high as the Alps. The temperature isperfect; at home it is chilly and grey! Thisis southern Morocco: the dramatic kasbahcountry of central southern Morocco,impressive pictures of which decorate somany brochures and tourist board offices,but which remains a little too inaccessiblefor the majority of the country's visitors. Itis this region, in particular the desert,oasis and mountain habitats that borderthe beautiful Dades and Draa Valleys-two rivers to the south of the High Atlasmountains that never reach the sea-onwhich we will focus in our quest forsouthern Morocco's birds.We begin our journey with a flight toMarrakech. This old imperial capital ofMorocco, surrounded by olive and palmgroves, and with the towering snowypeaks of the High Atlas forming such amagnificent backdrop, has a trulywonderful atmosphere. We may have timeto briefly explore the fascinating souks,mosques, mausoleums and palaces of theMedina (old city) and, as the sun sinks, wemay sample the excitement generated bythe open-air entertainers and attendantcrowds in the Jemma el Fna-Marrakech's central square. Such culturalinduction, followed by a delicious dinner oftraditional Moroccan cuisine, will surelyprovide a fitting start to our holiday.We next take a spectacular drive southover the snowbound High Atlas mountainsto Ouarzazate, a French garrison town beside a Glaoui kasbah, sandwichedbetween the High Atlas and Anti-Atlasmountains. From here we will driveeastwards along the Dades Valley to ElKelâa des Mgouna, where a 2-night stay will enable us to explore the Dadesand Todra Gorges; the former with itsbizarre limestone erosions and impressiveksour (fortified villages) and kasbahs, thelatter a dramatic narrow gorge whosetowering pink cliffs are home to CragMartins and Bonelli's Eagles. By contrast,a wide and stony desert close toBoulmane may reward us with a variety of larks, sandgrouse, and possiblyHoubara Bustard.We now continue our journey eastwards toErfoud, through an increasingly desolateand barren landscape, broken only by theoccasional oasis. A stay of two nights here,in this 'gateway to the Sahara', will allow usthe chance to enjoy some of the bestdesert birding that Morocco has to offer.The palmeries and gardens of Erfoud arethe haunt of large numbers of CommonBulbuls and a good variety of otherpasserines, but it is the sandy wadis andstony desert not far from the town, and thefirst great sand dunes of the Sahara atMerzouga, two hours to the south, that willwarrant most attention. Here we will searchfor such elusive species as Desert Sparrow,Houbara Bustard, Cream-coloured Courserand Fulvous Babbler, plus a variety of'desert' larks and even sandgrouse. Theruins of Rissani, fast being consumed bythe travelling sands of the Sahara, are alsoworth a visit, illustrating as they do afascinating 1,000-year period of Moroccanhistory.Breaking the journey in Ouarzazate, wenow return westwards to Taroudant, anattractive ochre-walled town, and 16thcentury imperial capital of Morocco, set atthe head of the fertile Sous Valley. Thelong drive to Taroudant will not be withoutinterest. Thick-billed Larks, Thekla Larks,Barbary Falcons, and other pre-Saharanspecies may be seen on the way, whilstfine views of the High and Anti-Atlasmountains, and the historic kasbah atTaliouine, are further ingredients of asatisfying drive.At Taroudant, from our fine hotel thatnestles in the city walls, we will visit the Argana woodland and olive and citrus groves of the nearby Sous Valley.Here we may find such species asBlack-shouldered Kite, Spotless Starling,Spanish Sparrow, and a variety of finchesand warblers. In particular we will belooking for the very elusive Dark ChantingGoshawk, though any sighting of this birdis considered a rare prize indeed! Wecomplete our tour with two nights in a verycomfortable hotel on Morocco's Atlanticcoast, at Agadir. From this base we arewithin easy striking distance of the OuedMassa lagoon and Tamri, where recentNaturetrek groups have had great successlocating the endangered Bald Ibis. Thissmall wetland is one of the most rewardingbirdwatching sites in Morocco, andamongst its spectacle of herons, ducks,waders, gulls, terns and raptors, we havea good chance of some less commonspecies such as Greater Flamingo, BaldIbis, Tawny Eagle and Black-headed BushShrike. Even some American and southernAfrican vagrants regularly appear here!Finally, at the end of our week of springsunshine and avian activity, we will catch aconvenient, direct flight home from Agadir.Almond blossom in the High Atlas Cream-coloured CourserCrownedSandgrouse

Morocco is quite unique. It offers anexotic environment at a short-haulprice, being just a 3-hour flightfrom London. Yet there is much more toMorocco's popularity than this. Sitting onthe edge of the great Sahara, with both anAtlantic and a Mediterranean seaboard,and the highest mountains in northernAfrica, Morocco has a variety of sceneryand climate unrivalled by otherMediterranean countries. Further, betweenthe end of Roman rule in AD 253 andFrench takeover in 1912, Morocco wasable to develop as a fiercely independentnation with a unique and powerful cultureof its own. Few other countries haveremained as separate entities with theirborders unchanged for so many centuries.Few Moslem countries todaycan offersuch a flavour of Islam with so fewaccompanying restrictions on visitors. Soclose to the West, Morocco has a fineunderstanding and tolerance of our ways.Our trip centres on the High Atlas. In thesebeautiful mountains that are as high as theAlps and stretch for 700 kilometres acrossMorocco, we spend 10 days. By the endof May the fierce heat of the north Africansummer has arrived in the plains, but inthe High Atlas seasons are late: it is stillspring. Snow sits on the high peaks, andits melt floods the mountain streams andlush green pastures that abound withmauves, pinks and yellows of springflowers. Botanists will be in their element.Fields of barley sit on ancient terraces,and green walnut groves nestle in everyvalley. The Berbers, the indigenous people of these mountains, filter towardsthe high pastures and summer villages,their sheep and goats before them, theirchildren and colourfully dressedwomenfolk riding on mules.We follow them, via rocky ridge and pass,from busy valleys to barren pastures,through forests of ancient junipers andholm oaks. We follow tumbling streamsthrough shady groves. We take our timeenjoying the flowers and local birdspecialities-Moussier's Redstarts,Tristram's Warblers, Rock Sparrows, Bootedand Golden Eagles, Long-legged Buzzards,Shore Larks, Rock Buntings, Seebohm'sWheatears, Crimson-winged Finches,Rollers, Barbary Partridges and Levaillant'sGreen Woodpeckers. Lizards, of variousshapes and sizes, are common too, andground squirrels. If we are lucky we mayeven see the endangered Barbary Sheep,which still occurs in the region in smallnumbers. However, just as interesting arethe local people. These tribal subsistencefarmers, untouched by time, are happy,humorous and hospitable; they have alwayspreserved their independence, first againsttheir own Sultans, more recently againstFrench colonists, and now against theMoroccan Government. Even today theypay no taxes; in return they take no socialsecurity.We begin and end our holiday inMarrakech, the ancient capital of southernMorocco where we explore the fascinatingsouks, mosques, mausoleums andpalaces of the 'Old City'. We also visitEssaouira after our trek, an exquisitefortified port and one of the most beautifultowns in Morocco. Here we eat freshlygrilled sardines and bathe from the sandsthat stretch endlessly to the south, or wecan watch the Eleonora's Falcons andseabirds that breed on the offshoreislands, and explore the inland maquis.The High Atlas Mountains of MoroccoA 15-day holiday incorporating a 10-day trek to discover the spring flowers and resident birdsof the Mount Toubkal National Park.Wednesday 22nd May - Wednesday 5th June Cost: £1,395Outline itineraryDay 1Depart London andarrive Marrakech. Day 2Marrakech. Day 3/12Trekking, High Atlas. Day 13/14Essaouira. Day 15Depart Marrakech andarrive London.AccommodationSimple but characterful hotels inMarrakech and Essaouira, both withprivate facilities. A mixture of basicBerber houses and fully servicedcamping on trek.FoodIncluded in the price, except forlunches and dinners in Essaouiraand Marrakech. Allow £30.TrekkingGrade B. Moderate. Between 1,520and 3,050 metres.FocusPlants, birds and Berber culture.LeaderDavid Tattersfield.Single room supplement£80 (where available). ExtensionsAvailable on request, with or withoutcar rental. Web quick search: MAR04158Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryS. MOROCCOALGERIAMEDITERRANEAN SEAATLANTIC OCEANMOROCCOAGADIRESSAOUIRAMIDDLE ATLAS MOUNTAINSHIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINSTANGIERCASABLANCAMARRAKECHANTI ATLAS MOUNTAINSIMLILRhodanthemum catananche, High AtlasMoussier's RedstartAnagallis monelli