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.