The Straits of Gibraltar are only 16 kilometres wide, but they represent a significant barrier for birds that are on migration, crossing from Europe to Africa, or vice versa, each year. On this new tour we will view this spectacular migration at its narrowest points from both Spain and Morocco. We begin on the Spanish side of the Straits and, from our comfortable eco-resort base, we’ll look for raptors and a host of other birds as they arrive from Africa. We will also head out onto the water ourselves to look for some of the cetaceans that are present in the Straits. Next we cross by ferry to Morocco, and visit a variety of key sites both inland and on the coast to look for passage raptors such as Black Kite and Short-toed Eagle, warblers, seabirds and other birds. After looking for the Barbary Macaques that live in the Forest of Bouhachem, we will catch the return ferry to Algeciras in Spain, where we will continue our birding in the wetlands of La Janda, and other sites, for two more full days before it is time to make our own passage home.
- Shearwaters, petrels, dolphins & pilot whales all possible on boat excursion in the Straits
- Based in a quiet eco-resort near Tarifa & comfortable hotels in Morocco
- Boat excursion out on the Straits to look for cetaceans & seabirds
- Migration watching from Europe & African sides of the Straits
- Key sites include the ‘blue’ town of Chefchaouen & the Rif Mountains
- An estimated 250,000 raptors pass over during spring migration!
- Enjoy a dusk excursion in Morocco to look for Marsh Owls at roost site
- Red-knobbed Coots, Marbled Duck & Bald Ibis among bird highlights
- Black-shouldered Kite, Egyptian Vulture, Honey Buzzard & Booted Eagles among raptors
- Visit the Forest of Bouhachem to look for Barbary Macaques
All included in the price.
A quiet eco-resort near Tarifa and comfortable hotels in Morocco; all rooms have private facilities.
Day 1 Fly Malaga; transfer Tarifa
Day 2 Birding and whale-watch excursions from Tarifa
Day 3 Ferry to Tangier; transfer Larache
Day 4 Talassemtane National Park; overnight Chefchaouen
Day 5 Forest of Bouhachem. Return ferry to Algeciras and overnight Huerta Grande, Tarifa
Day 6/7 Birding from Tarifa, Spain
Legend has it that Hercules used his fabulous strength to separate the continents of Europe and Africa, creating the Straits of Gibraltar. The point at which these two great continents converge is the focal point, twice-yearly, for one of the world’s most impressive bird migrations. This new tour focuses on enjoying the spectacle from both sides of the Straits, with time spent in both Africa and Europe — a holiday offering a ‘taste of two continents’! The Straits may be just 16 kilometres wide, but for the birdlife, and humans, it is a significant barrier and we will enjoy these differences, both avian and cultural, throughout the tour. After crossing to Africa, tapas and Rioja give way to the aromas of spicy street food and mint tea, and familiar European birds become ‘African Blue Tit’ and ‘Moroccan Magpie’. Every year, millions of birds make the journey across the Straits between these two continents, making use of uplifts and thermals which swirl around the Rock of Gibraltar and the majestic Moroccan peak of Jebel Musa. An estimated 250,000 raptors pass over this rugged terrain during these periods, and on this new 8- day holiday to Spain and Morocco we will watch the migration and look for Marsh Owls, Bald Ibis, Barbary Macaques as well as the seabirds and cetaceans of the Straits on a boat excursion.
We begin with a flight to Málaga, from where we transfer to our delightful ecoresort in quiet woodland near Tarifa. Our base at Huerta Grande is ideal for watching the migration as it is located between two natural parks in the hills above the Straits of Gibraltar, amongst 7 hectares of Laurel and Cork Oak forest. We should witness many hundreds of migratory birds making the crossing back to breed in Europe including Egyptian Vultures, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Honey Buzzards, Black Kites and storks. We will also take a boat excursion, weather permitting, into the Straits to witness the seabird passage. We will be on the lookout for Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters and European Storm-petrel among other species, plus the three species of resident dolphin (Common, Bottlenose and Striped) and the resident pods of Longfinned Pilot Whale.
We next make our own crossing, to northern Morocco by ferry, before beginning our exploration of the African side of the Straits, visiting a variety of coastal and inland sites including Chefchaouen and Talassemtane National Park in the Rif Mountains, and the estuary of Merdja Zerga, a sweeping wetland on Morocco’s Atlantic coast south of Tangiers. Merdja Zerga is famous amongst birders as the last known winter haunt of the legendary Slender-billed Curlew, a bird now sadly presumed extinct. None have been seen here since 1995, but the beautiful drawings of those who journeyed here in the early 1990s can still be seen in the cherished bird log on display in a quiet estuary-side café. Despite the demise of its Slender-billed Curlews, Merdja Zerga is one of a handful of wonderful birding sites dotted along Morocco’s coastline. Here, in April, a variety of terns stop to feed and breed, while waders probe the mud in their thousands, amongst them Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Whimbrel and Avocets, competing with the local shellfish collectors for the shoreline’s rich pickings. We’ll stay until dusk, for then we have a chance of seeing a local hunting Marsh Owl; but first we’ll check out some of the area’s quiet backwaters where elusive Red-knobbed Coots and both White-headed and Marbled Ducks may usually be found more readily than in Spain.
The Barbary Macaque lives mainly in mountain ranges in north-west Africa and is the only species of macaque found outside Asia. We will spend a morning in the Forest of Bouhachem in the Rif Mountains where, among the Portuguese Oaks, there is a small population of these engaging monkeys. We will then retrace our steps, driving back to Tangier for the ferry to Algeciras or Tarifa on the Spanish mainland. There, during the last part of our holiday, we will spend our time birding again around Tarifa and Bolonia, and exploring the wetlands of La Janda where we should see a good variety and number of passage waders, storks and birds of prey (including the resident Black-shouldered Kite), before visiting the reintroduced population of Bald Ibis.
This holiday offers the chance to see the bird migration on both sides of the Straits, as well as to make comparisons between avifauna across the short stretch of water dividing Europe and Africa. After a week’s exciting birding it will be time to leave this avian highway bottleneck and make our own flight home, with memories of the spectacular flow of birdlife over the Straits and some special species from both Spain and Morocco fresh in our mind.
Well done to all at Naturetrek - this is our fifth tour with you and again thoroughly enjoyed it. We will be with you again. Starting to look for the next one!
I really did enjoy it all!
Being an apprentice bird watcher your tour leaders were very helpful and very patient. Nothing was too much trouble when asking a question. It was a fantastic bird watching trip and the picnics superb!
I enjoyed the variety of birds/animals and locations. Huerta Grande lodge was excellent with superb food. The "quirky hotels in Morocco were fabulous! The enthusiasm and knowledge of our guides was excellent - Simon Tonkin and Alejandro Onrubio.
Huerte Grande truly outstanding in all respects. Both leaders worked hard to find birds for the group, catering for different skill levels. Whales wonderful and excellent views of Moussier's Redstart, Montagu's Harrier and Marsh Owl.
Mr & Mrs Howell
This was the best view ever of the whales. Swimming right alongside the boat.