Oasis of Tafilalelt
Morocco Morocco: (PG-MRTL)
Across the sand dunes of Erfoud to the Oasis of Tafilalelt: a riding adventure in mysterious Morocco
Ride across sand dune over 150 meters high on this exciting expedition into the remote regions of southern Morocco. Enjoy endless gallops over the Moroccan sands, ride under desert palm trees, through oases and lonely valleys of dry river beds. This is a dream come true for those who long for the unique landscape of the desert!
This ride traverses the black mountain passes of Jebel Saghro, which appear inhospitable at first but offer unparalleled views of the desert. You will learn to spot natural springs by the telltale signs of small bursts of green and identify lonely Tamarisk and Acacia trees. On this ride the desert is only broken by a few ancient towns, Merzouga and Rissani, and the titular oasis: the Oasis of Tafilelt. All of these are steeped in significance and history: Merzouga is a tiny village that symbolizes the beginning of the Sahara and Rissani is where the reigning Alawite dynasty was born. Here, Moulay er Rachid started his 1666 war in a bid to conquer Morocco and overthrow the Saadians. The Mausoleum of Moulay Ali Cherif is also here. The Oasis of Tafilalelt, for which the whole valley is named, is the largest palm grove in the world with over 800,000 trees. This ‘sea of palm trees’ is roughly triangular, 12km across and 20km long, and is crossed by the Ziz and the Rheris, two rivers that rarely flow. Their convergence marks a wide plain planted with Acacia trees. In the middle of the desert lush greenery awaits – it is a sight to be seen!
Come and experience this unique combination of desert versus abundance, riding on strong Berber stallion and mares and spending the evenings relaxing in comfortable camps and unique Moroccan hotels!
You will be camping in comfortable tent camps and hotels.
Hotel List (subject to change):
Hotel les Jardin de Ouarzazate
Tack: Mostly English and some military tracking saddles. Some people bring their own gel-cushion or sheep-skin cover to put over the saddle.
Horses: Mares and stallions of Arab-Berber origin. They aren’t as big as European or American horses, but they are very surefooted and strong and are used to our climate. The stallions are just horses that have a natural leadership urge for "group care" and they do not like to stray too far from the group. When you ride a stallion, you should also pay attention not to get too close to another stallion. They are just as soft in the mouth as the other horses but we would only ask you to pay attention to the other horses.
Pace: Fast with many trots and canters
Daily Riding: 5-6 riding hrs
Level: Good Intermediate
We ride between 5 and 8 hours per day with mares and stallions, so basically you should be a rider with a good stamina and have some common sense
Horses and Guides:
Driss and Rena Erroudani started their riding tours with Hidden Trails in the year 1993, but have been organizing treks on horseback in Morocco since 1982.
Rena, once a schoolteacher in Switzerland, came to Meknes in the year 1984 to realize her dream of living in harmony with horses and nature.
In love with Morocco and its inhabitants, she'll help you discover another Morocco, away from the beaten track, authentic and enchanting, as your guide on the treks.
Driss is a riding instructor who used to work for the National Studfarm of Meknes. He has more than 25 years of experience with horses and he has taught a great many students (a lot of them French) who for the most part have gone on to be high level riders).
Together they will help you to realize your passion for horses.
The horses are of Arabian Berber descent: small but shurefooted and possessing great courage and stamina. In Morocco you ride with fairly severe bits -- please ride with a soft hand, but constant contact !
2015 Sample-Itinerary - Subject to changes
Day 1: Arrival in Ouarzazate. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 2: In the morning we travel over Boumalne Dadaes to Tinghir where we meet our horses. Along the way we get our first glimpses of the desert countryside. Driving along the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs, you pass through many villages, although many of the khasbas are today ruins. After a picnic in Tinghir we meet our horses and enjoy a three hour ride that brings us to the camp where we spend the night.
Day 3: Today we follow the dry river valley, on one side seeing the endless grey-blue mountain ranges of the Jebel Saghro, on the other side the High Atlas Mountains which are often covered with snow in the winter months. Wherever there are springs we see green shoots peeking up, Beside such a ‘garden’ we enjoy a picnic lunch in the shade of Tamarisk trees. In the afternoon we ride over the hill of Shebel Saghro. We stop a salt spring where animals often drink so there might be a chance to see camels or goats of the nomads. We enjoy long canters until we reach the camp of Tindruish.
Day 4: Today we ride over sandy plains between palm groves. One large spring provides water for the whole oasis of palms. We cross aver a empty river valley and will find our picnic place under palm trees. In the afternoon we follow a dry river course into the mountains. On this plane you can gallop for miles. As the plain meets a river bed we slow our pace and follow the trails through black mountains. Suddenly a tooth-like, black mountain rises before us; at its feet some palms and oleander grow. There is even a small well here, making this an ideal campsite.
Day 5: We leave the stony plateau and gallop over sandy plains and the impressive desert that seems infinite. Often we see herds of camels converge on lonely wells. We have lunch in an old abandoned fort which was a former military base. The lone structure is still in good condition with typically shaped windows and ornaments. We continue our ride by passing green gardens. We travel over small sand dunes and through palm trees. Tonight we camp close to a well that provides water for this whole oasis.
Day 6: The today's palm gardens belong to the Oasis of Tafilalelt. Beside them the desert stretches away and in the distance isolated mountains rise. In some places we find again rows of innumerable, small earth hills that cover a waterway system. Many long gallops bring us to the Hotel in the city of Rissani. In the afternoon we visit this small desert town. There is the Mausoleum of Moulay Ali Cherif, a king of the Alaouiten Dynasty. In the center is a small Souk, some cafes and little shops. Three times a week there is a bigger market so we may get lucky! We spend the night in a hotel.
Day 7: After a good breakfast we leave for a long ride towards the sand dunes of Merzouga. We follow little ways trough the palms. Sometimes we cross villages where many children follow us. A short gallop brings us again to the solitude of the oasis, but it doesn’t last long. Soon we are out of the palm trees and an immense plain opens in front of us. If the weather is clear we can already see the rose colored sand dunes far away. This infinite flat expanse littered with small black stones has no vegetation. Our camp is at the feet of the dunes. There is a spring which brings water for the whole region so many green gardens are just beside the sand dunes. In the afternoon we can walk up the sand dunes and enjoy the beautiful view. These impressive dunes reach up to 150 meters in height. We can stroll through the green gardens or travel to the nearby village for a coffee.
Day 8: Today is a resting day. We have the chance to further explore the sand dunes or go for a camel ride. Additionally, we can ride along the sand dunes in the adjacent area. In this area it is possible to discover the nesting places of rare birds.
Day 9: In the morning we leave the camp by the sand dunes. If there has been a big rain we find a lake near Merzouga. Many birds flock to this lake when the water is in; sometimes we even spot pink flamingos. Around the lake a few green stalks grow camel herds come there to eat the grass. Soon we gallop over a big black plane – it seems to be endless when in front of us the black plane joins the blue sky. Later we cross an empty river valley and follow as white sandy planes replace a black and stony ground. In the evening we find the hill of Tinghras, famous for its use in Hollywood desert scenes. Our camp will be just under this beautiful mountain.
Day 10: Today is a long riding day so we leave early in the morning. Small sand dunes cross our path before we reach another plane and begin to gallop once again. From time to time a little village shows up but before long there are no people anywhere and we follow lonely valleys. The mountains are covered with red sand and the black stone shines through the golden sand. One lonely valley follows the other. Finally we find a well in the middle of the desert. The horses are very thirsty after this long day. We rest and rehydrate before crossing another big valley to find our camp next to a well.
Day 11: Plentiful gallops bring us through Acacia trees this morning. We then follow a river valley along which many villages are based. The water is pumped out of wells and many green fields grow along the valley. We enjoy a picnic in a lonely spot under palm trees. We spend the afternoon following the same river valley and more villages and people cross our path. However, camp is still isolated tonight as we sleep outside a palm oasis.
Day 12: This morning we cross over a mountain range. In these mountains people have found fossils over 500 million years old. Often we encounter herds of sheep and goats. In between the brown and yellow mountains there is one very black mountain. Finally we come to a canyon and in the middle is a little spring with some palm trees. This is a rest stop for all the people crossing the canyon stop so there is a little coffee shop where we can even buy Coca Cola, if desired. In the afternoon we continue to follow the canyon before crossing the mountains. On the next plane we set up camp underneath palm trees.
Day 13: Today is our last riding day. We ride along the Jebel Saghro, a black colored mountain range. On the other side are yellow and brown desert mountains. We have a chance to gallop over fine stones on the ground. From time to time we find a little well where the horses can drink. The nomads always leave a rope and a bucket by each well so anyone who comes can reach the water. In a little palm oasis we stop for lunch. Some last gallops bring us to the camp near Tinghrir. We leave the horses and the crew and drive to the hotel in Tinghrir. If there is enough time we have the possibility of visiting the Gorge of Tinghrir. Dinner and overnight in a hotel.
Day 14: Today we drive back to Ouarzazate. On the way we will visit the gorge of Boulmane Dadés. On the way through the gorges you will see plenty of greenery, mostly figs and almond trees, interspersed with an array of kasbahs and ksours. In some places you can see very bizarre rock formations. In the afternoon we arrive in Ouarzazate with enough time to visit the souks. Dinner and overnight in hotel.
Day 15: A fond farewell before departure.
--Subject to change--
Note: It is possible to ride for only the first (SU-SU) or only the second half (SA-SU) of the trip with us.
Rates and Dates for Oasis of Tafilalelt
Accommodations - 4 nights hotel and 10 nights camping, meals and 11 riding days.
Transfer and Other Options:
Transfer from Ouarzazate included
Rates do not include:
Drinks at hotel and alcoholic beverages at camp. Tips for hotel porters and grooms.
What To Bring:
What weather can I expect?
Sunny weather all year! Isn't that great! Actually, you can expect warm to hot weather with a nice breeze in the open country. At noon, we typically foresee siesta's to stay out of the sun. Except sunny weather most of the time, so bring light yet comfortable clothes with you. Nights can be chilly however, so take some warm clothes as well. but i any moment of the year you might have a thunderstorm. so better you bring a rain coat with you.
How hot can it be?
Very hot! You should always have a good suncream with you all the time. It is also strongly recommended to wear something on your head to avoid a sunstroke. The most comfortable clothes in warm environments are covering your body yet are light and airy to make sure that the air can circulate. Morocco has a subtropical climate that is tempered by oceanic effects resulting in moderate temperatures. In January, these average 16°C (61°F) and 22°C (72°F) in August.. Towards the interior, winters are colder and summers warmer. Thus, in Fès the mean temperature is 10°C (50°F) in January and 27°C (81°F) in August. Some mountain peaks are covered with snow during most of the year. Rain falls mainly during the winter months and is heaviest in the northwest and lightest in the east and south. The average annual precipitation is about 955 millimetres (about 38 inches) in Tangier, 430 millimetres (17 inches) in Casablanca. Spring and fall are very pleasant. Temperatures from March to May and from September to October are between 19-29° C or 66-84 F. Summers are very hot with temperatures up to (and over) 35° C or 95 F (nights are considerably cooler!).
Recommended Equipment to Bring:
* Warm sleeping bag (if camping)
* Comfortable riding clothes
* Multipurpose shoes (riding and walking)
* Non-revealing city clothes for occasional visits to towns and hotels
* A warm sweater and coat
* water bottle
* pocket knife
Note that old clothes and riding equipment you no longer need are very welcome and appreciated!