Morocco – A Bald Ibis Break!

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Bald Ibis

Nudging confidently into Agadir’s traffic our driver calmly joined the throng. We’d met Mohamed and Syed at the airport along with our fellow ‘adventurers’ Trevor and Ken and Pip and Ruth. First stop: lunch and a demonstration of mint tea pouring from Mohammed – terrific.

Back on the road, traffic danced around us parting, it seemed, to order; taxi, donkey, lorry and bus waltzed and shimmied, allowing Syed to transport us to the Souss River estuary.  Storks, flamingoes and waders abounded, and I was caught up in the excitement, breathing in the atmosphere and scents, (some good, some very bad). Our group seemed to have gelled. It seemed as if we had known each other forever, each with our different expectations, life ticks for some, new horizons and deeper knowledge for others. Along with Syed and Mohamed we made a very good team.

At the fine Hotel Ksar Massa which stands overlooking a magnificent beach, where breakers crash in from the mighty Atlantic, after freshening up in our exotic rooms, we made our way under the stars in the cold night air for our first dinner. The OOOHHH that erupted as the lid lifted on our first tagine was to be repeated throughout the holiday. The food was excellent, tasty, interesting, and always devoured with vigour. Must explore Moroccan recipes when I get home. I’m already seduced by Morocco.

Some of us, not me, are out at 6.30am to meet Mohammed. It’s still pitch black, back to bed. Out again at 7.30 – walked north to the desert plateau, not much seen. After a delicious breakfast, what was to become the famous five accompanied Mohamed to the reserve lagoon. Good birding: Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Black-shouldered Kite, Barbary Partridge, Moussier’s Redstart and Audouin’s Gull amongst the rarities.

After lunch we drove to the furthest gate of the reserve, seeing a beautiful Blue Rock Thrush, ending our day with a colourful sunset and another excellent tagine dinner. OOOHHH.

After breakfast, much to Chris’s chagrin, Ruth and Pip saw a Black-crowned Tchagra in the hotel grounds; this would have been a tick for him. He’s not happy. On our way to Sidi Ouassay we spotted 4 gazelles. We watched for some time before they disappeared into the trees. Later we saw another Black-crowned Tchagra. Chris is happy again.

After another delicious lunch and a rest, some of us swam in the freezing cold pool. We ventured out again, travelling through the local town, seeing fascinating shops, workshops, men sitting in cafes drinking mint tea, colourfully clad women, their faces covered walking along the road. Out into the countryside again donkeys like huge haystacks on legs carried bundles of brush and alp alpha back to their village. Alp alpha which grows in the fields along the river valley is used for animal feed. Great excitement, on the old road to Tiznit – a mixed flock of birds rose, turned then disappeared behind tall reeds. Mohamed asked a local man who clambered out of the ditch and smilingly led us to a flooded field; there feeding was a group of 40 Glossy Ibis alongside Herons, Black-winged Stilts, ducks and waders. We shook the man by the hand thanking him profusely.

Lots to discuss that evening over our tagine…………

The intrepid 3 (2 more dropouts today) accompanied Mohamed to the plateau again this morning, the highlight being an Osprey along the shore. In the afternoon we saw our first Hoopoe in the river valley; again the sunset was wonderful and we enjoyed our last supper at the Ksar Massa.

Off to Marrakech today where we say goodbye to Mohamed. On the way we called at the village of Tifnit. The famous 5 and Mohamed quickly fanned out up the hill, their last hope of seeing Bald Ibis. I was enjoying the view of the beautiful bay and the comings and goings of the locals when Pip and Ruth shouted ‘There they are!’ … and there were! Bald Ibis circled then landed on the edge of the car park, parading in their finery, spiky black headgear and prehistoric beaks, giving us the show of our lives. Beat that!

It was a quiet and thoughtful drive through the foothills of the Atlas mountains knowing we were to make a sad farewell to Mohamed and Syed. In our smart Riad we ate our tagine that evening and were treated to a few verses of 60’s songs by various members of our friendly group. We laughed a lot and looked forward to our tour of Marrakech the next day. Off to bed. What happy memories to dream about.

Marrakech is wonderful. Busy, traffic everywhere, colourful people, horse-drawn carriages, mosques, gardens, snake charmers … The Kasbah exotic, colourful, interesting, diverse, engrossing, timeless, exhausting.

We are off on the ‘big orange bird’ tomorrow taking with us souvenirs, memories and the intention to return to Morocco.

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