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Until a few weeks ago, ‘Agadir’ meant to me ‘just’ that awful 1960 earthquake which killed some 12,000 to 15,000 people. Other than that it was on the coast somewhere in North Africa, I couldn’t have told you its location. Now I know it is to the southern end of the UN-recognised part of Morocco, which itself is on the left-hand – as you’re looking at it – ‘shoulder’ of the continent. (I mention the UN because Morocco itself lays claim to the next country south, known to the rest of the world as Western Sahara.)

The improvement in my geography has come about because three days ago I returned from a very enjoyable week’s holiday in that Maghreb country, organised by Wildlife Travel for BBC Wildlife readers, and we stayed in a beautiful ecolodge half an hour’s drive from Agadir airport. We got back just in time. Last night, Monday 16th March, at midnight, the Moroccan government banned travel to and from the UK, having done the same to 25 other countries the day before we left.

It was a nearly four-hour afternoon flight from Gatwick to Agadir. With a window seat I had splendid views of:

the Spanish Pyrenees (I presume),
the High Atlas (I presume) in Morocco,
polytunnels (growing our tomatoes?) as we were descending,
and general landscape as we came in to land. Almost certainly these are argan trees, (more of those later)

It was late by the time we arrived at our ecolodge, but a welcoming meal awaited us.

Breakfast was always at 8.00, and we were out at 9.00. Here we are on the Sunday morning, 8th March, at our introductory briefing from Philip Precey, from Wildlife Travel, as big James Lowen, BBC Wildlife contributor, looks on reflectfully. Apart from these two leaders, there were ten of us, plus Mohamed, our excellent driver and sometimes guide.

(To help my future memory, the others here are Jill, Nick, Prue, David and Helen. Alison, Don, Pat and Keith not visible.)

Outside, Philip introduced us to the Argan tree, a staple of Moroccan life, and providing employment for women in co-operatives, as they make argan oil, and products for cooking and beauty from it.

We get our first proper view of the ecolodge where we are staying, the Atlas Kasbah.

Here are the inner gates, with the name of the ecolodge written in Arabic:

and Berber, the language and tribe most widespread in Morocco.

We started walking down to the main gates.

Part of the water purification system
James was our moth expert/fanatic. This is an Amata Mogadorensis
Argan tree

We set off for a local walk, looking back at our kasbah.

Woodchat Shrike
Another (or the same)
Thekla Lark, blending beautifully with its surroundings
Drought meant that there were not the proliferations of spring flowers that I had hoped for, but botany expert (and fanatic) Philip knew the name of everything we saw, and there was much to please those who were happy to identify the many varieties of plants there were, many not in flower. I failed to get the name of this one, but later was to find out that it is Linaria bipartita.
Catananche arenaria.
A stock of traditional beehives.
Volutaria lippi (sunflower family)

We approached the sound of many sheep and goats, anticipating a delightful rural scene. We were very disappointed.

They were on and eating rubbish!
The fact that many of them were eating rotting oranges changed little.
A promise of some very dramatic geology to be seen later in the week.
Donkeys were the main agricultural support animal, difficult viewing at times.
A view from the outer gates.
Up the path
And a North African Water Frog