Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Morocco's Bird Watching Oasis

My trips don't always work out the way I'd like. Sometimes they work out better. Because of itinerary restrictions among the members of the group I was traveling with, I spent my brief time in Morocco based out of Agadir and not the High Atlas Mountains, as I would've preferred. But that didn't stop me from heading out into natural landscapes.

I hired a jeep and took off on a day trip with my guide, Mokhtar, through the Souss Valley, a fertile land in south Morocco where the country's Berber people reside, bound for Massa with its picturesque estuary.

On our journey, we passed donkeys carrying heavy loads and women dressed in colorful garb sitting astride horses with baskets filled with greens, sometimes they overflowed to such as extend that you could hardly see the donkey. We passed villages of red clay in an ever-changing scenery -- from lush verdancy dappled with bold wild flowers to crop fields, groves of citrus, olive and almond trees, and dense forests of Argania trees
. (The oil from their nuts are used in many traditional dishes.)


As we traveled through the semi-desert, the buildings were the color of sand with doors painted in bold blue and green hues. We bumped off road on rutted, bone-rattling single track bound for Souss Massa National Park and its picturesque estuary that's surrounded by massive sand dunes and a tidal sandbar. The road got sandier as we bumped along towards the ocean. Finally, I strolled through sugar-fine golden sand delighting in the cool breezes. Then my guide told me that this area is more than a prime migratory bird zone. It's also said to be the beach where the whale disgorged the prophet Jonah.

This petite wetland with its reeds and grasses is considered Morocco's prime bird watching site. And it didn't disappoint, with an array of sightings: terns, gulls, herons, ibis, sand martins and marbled ducks, a threatened species. I kept my eyes focused skyward, wondering if I'd spot eagles, falcons or even some rarer birds. Given the natural beauty and the wealth of bird sightings, I wished I had a few days to spend here. But we had to head back to Agadir that evening.

We did have time for a late lunch of traditional Berber bread that was baked in a clay kiln and then piled high in shallow wicker baskets. We ate the warm bread with honey. Then I curled a piece around beef shish kebabs. I also scooped up the traditional Berber dish, tajine, that's served in a round clay pot with chicken, squash, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes.

19 comments:

Frugal Kiwi said...

Sounds like an amazing place. Especially with warm bread and honey!

JTravel said...

Hi Frugal Kiwi, Warm bread is always yummie, especially with honey. Thanks for commenting.

marthaandme said...

That sounds beautiful and even though I am not a big bird fan, I think I would enjoy it.

JTravel said...

Hi marthaandme, I'm actually not the biggest birder either. But I really love nature and bird watching spots provide that. I think you'd love this area even if bird watching is the farthest thing from your mind.

Christine said...

Such a treat to read about your journey. Your words are very evocative - I feel like I was there alongside you!

Susan Johnston said...

I'm not big into bird-watching, but my Dad would have loved this! Sounds like an amazing experience.

MyKidsEatSquid said...

What a cool adventure. Good for you that you just took off on your own. There's nothing like finding your own spot--especially if you have some good food to go with it!

kris said...

Your adventures are always so inspiring. I've recently added Morocco to my "must visit" locations, after reading a great essay about it. I'll ask your advice if I get there!

JTravel said...

Hi Christine, I'm totally glad you enjoyed this post and that I was able to successfully bring you along my journey.

JTravel said...

Hi Susan, I was never into bird watching until I started visiting the places that are along bird migratory routes. And there was so much natural beauty that I gradually got into it, not in a super serious way, but more a way to get away from urban chaos and enjoy the verdant scenery.

JTravel said...

Hi MyKidsEatSquid, Yes, I don't let a group's disparate interests hold me back. A good adventure usually awaits when I take off on my own.

JTravel said...

Hi kris, Thanks for stopping by and I'm happy you enjoy my adventures. Definitely get in touch with me should you decide to travel to Morocco. If I can help provide insights, I will.

Meredith said...

What an exotic place to bird watch and visit in general.

JTravel said...

Hi Meredith, I agree. I was actually totally surprised to find this bird watching venue. When I was in Agadir, I hardly thought about bird watching. I love stumbling on things like this.

Katherine Lewis said...

Morocco is the top of my list of places to visit. I never even imagined you could see herons there! Thanks for the gorgeous pictures - they will tide me over until I get there myself.

JTravel said...

Hi Katherine, Thanks for commenting and glad to hear that Morocco is right at the top of your list. I hope my post will be useful to you once you start planning your trip.

Donna Hull said...

I enjoy watching birds, although I wouldn't call myself a birder. Do you know that it's a very popular hobby? On my last plane flight, I met a professional birding guide. His stories kept me laughing all the way to Tucson. I would definitely consider this birding excursion on a trip to Morocco. I can tell that you enjoyed it.

JTravel said...

Hi Donna, Yes, birding treks have become quite popular. My first experience with bird watching was in college when I took a field biology of NYC trip. The professor was a big birder who would drive our group at high speeds to Long Island or New Jersey and then jam on the brakes every time he saw a particular bird. Every outing with him was an adventure, to be sure. I think you'd really enjoy Morocco for a bird watching expedition.

canvas pictures said...

Beautiful place, thanks for this feature.