Berber Encounter & Beach Ride

At a GlanceItineraryDetail

Beach ride & Berber encounter, Morocco

8 days, 6 days riding.

Ride from Berber village to Berber village; meet the local people and explore the hidden-away Argan Forests near the Atlantic sea-boarder. The second half of the ride descends from the highlands to the shore. Gallop over firm sandy beaches with the Atlantic surf pounding away on your left.

At a glance

Beach ride & Berber encounter, Morocco

A fully guided horse riding holiday in Morocco, Africa – 8 days and 7 nights (6 days riding)

Day 1: Arrival
Day 2: Imi Ouaddar to Immsker
Day 3: Immsker to Timkti
Day 4: Timkti to Barrage
Day 5: Barrage to Tamanar
Day 6: Tamanar to Iftane
Day 7: Iftane to Diabat
Day 8: Departure

Morocco has a long tradition of horsemanship that stretches back centuries: Julius Caesar is said to have chosen a Barb stallion to do battle with the Gauls.  A “Barb” is a horse from the Barbary Coast and is renowned for its courage, sure-footedness and verve. The Barb is one of the oldest breeds in the world and their genes are found in many modern thoroughbreds and race horses. Only the Arab has had a greater influence on modern breeds, and the Arab and Barb share many qualities and characteristics. The Barb stallions we ride are like driving a V8 sports car: the feeling of controlled power is awe-inspiring!

This ride takes place on a section of the Barbary Coast that is difficult to access by vehicle. Leaving the busy town of Agadir far behind we ride into the hills and forests that lie to the north. Later we return to the beaches, with pristine stretches of Atlantic-washed sand and secluded little coves. The trail passes through tiny fishing hamlets and explores hidden-away seaside villages.  Morocco lies so close to Europe, yet is so completely different.

Berbery

A Barb stallion ready for the trail.

Beach ride & Berber encounter, Morocco

Day 1 – Arrival and transfer to Agadir

Marrakech is the main ‘gateway’ for SW Morocco but there are also seasonal charter flights to Agadir (please ask us for current details). From either airport it’s a short transfer to the start of the ride; the transfer is not included but we can certainly arrange it for you, so long as we have your flight schedule. Accommodation tonight is in a hotel (included) and at supper we’ll give a full briefing about the trail that lies ahead. Meanwhile the camp will have been set up near the tiny village of Imi Ouaddar 45 Km north of Agadir and this is where the horses will be waiting, ready for tomorrow. D, B&B.

Beach ride & Berber encounter, Morocco

An oasis deep in the Atlas mountains.

Day 2 – Imi Ouaddar to Immsker

The horses will have been boxed to Imi Ouaddar the previous evening and left quietly to settle overnight. They will be groomed, saddled and ready for a morning ride. There will be time for a trial ride and spare horses will be available but we can usually match you up from the information you supply us on the original booking form.

Leaving the beach at Imi behind us we ride inland travelling east along small paths. The trail here is rocky and undulating so the pace is slow and steady; this is a good opportunity to get accustomed to your horse and its movement. Argan trees and cactus grow on the surrounding hillsides and behind us there are panoramic views of the Atlantic beaches. Immsker is the first of many Berber villages that we’ll encounter along the way.

The Berber are the original inhabitants of this part of Africa with their own language and culture, which are very different from Arab language and culture. Many of the village families are small scale farmers with animals a few argan trees (for oil), an orchard and an olive grove.

Overnight in camp; full board throughout the ride.

Saddle time: 6 hours
Distance: 20 km
Overnight: Camp

 

Day 3 – Immsker to Timkti

The trail from Immsker continues to climb and eventually leads to the top of a hill. These are the foothills of the mighty Atlas Mountains that run for hundreds of Km and form nature’s barrier between the arid Sahara sands to the south and the fertile lands that lie on the northern side, named the Maghreb. The countryside here is semi-arid and water is at a premium. As we descend the trail leads through palm groves and village life is centred around the wells where we’ll see donkeys and camels being watered and local ladies filling vessels for the home. The trail descends into the valley with a small river at the bottom. We camp on the riverbank at a spot that’s silent and peaceful, ideal for star-spotting tonight!

Saddle time: 6 hours
Distance: 18 km
Overnight: Camp

 

Beach ride & Berber encounter, Morocco

Approaching the valley of fossils, Atlas Mountains

Day 4 – Timtki to Ait Hammou

Set off after breakfast along an ancient road (perhaps pre-Roman?) that clings to the mountainside and climbs steadily; at the head of the valley is a small Berber community and a souk (market) with an unlikely assembly of donkeys, camels and all sorts of local merchandise (the market isn’t daily, but we may be lucky). Picnic lunch and then the trail descends through an area that is famous for its amazing fossils and must have been a very different habitat once upon a time. Continuing down the trail to reach, of all things, a small lake! In this arid land it creates a stark contrast, and is in fact a manmade water catchment lake called Ait Hammou. We make camp here and yes, it’s OK to swim in the lake!

The camp is carried on a support vehicle and is always centred around a traditional Berber Tent which can accommodate several people. We use it for six persons, though if you prefer a more private 2-man dome tent, let us know and it’s no problem to pitch these smaller tents too. The evening meal is prepared by our excellent camp chef and is cooked over an open log fire. A mobile camp shower is available – not as luxurious as your power-shower at home, but effective enough at washing away the day’s dust.

Saddle time: 5 hours
Distance: 24 km
Overnight: Camp

Day 5 – Ait Hammou to Tamanar

There must be slightly more ground water in this valley because the morning’s trail leads through a fair-sized Argan forest. Argan trees and not big (never higher than 10 m) and grow for at least 200 years; they’re gnarled, twisted and bent. The local goats have a fondness for argan nuts and often climb high in to the trees to find it, and browse on the leaves; it’s a marvellous spectacle of balance to observe, but a real problem for local nut production, so we’ll see fulltime wardens patrolling the forest, specifically to keep the goats out!

The fruit matures in June and July and is a small (3 cm) nut that is as hard as you can imagine. There are many cottage industries and women’s co-operatives that gather the nuts, strip the pulp away and process the kernel for the oil. Traditionally the oil is used in the same way olive oil is used, but during the last couple of decades it has become increasingly sought after by the cosmetics companies and is seen as something of a wonder oil. Locally we may come across “amlou” which is argan oil, blended with almonds and peanuts, sweetened with honey and used as a crusty bread dip.

Once through the argan forest we reach the oasis of Amssene and enter the territory of the Ida ou Tanane Berber clan. We’ll stop for a picnic lunch here on the edge of the Atlas Mountains where the rich farmlands of the Maghreb begin. In the afternoon we descend onto the plain and make camp at Tamanar.

Saddle time: 6 hours
Distance: 24 km
Overnight: Camp

 

Beach ride & Berber encounter, Morocco

Ride Barb horses on this beach ride & Berber encounter, Morocco

Day 6: Tamanar to Iftane

Today’s ride is probably the longest day: 7 hrs that ends on the beach!

The trail is along a narrow road lined with white stone walls, towards the tongue-twisting village of Iggui Iferkhs. We ride on downhill through the last patches of argan forest to hit the beach at Iftane. Camp is on a low bluff overlooking the beach and the small fishing village with great vies of the bay.

Saddle time: 7 hours
Distance: 28 km
Overnight: Camp

Beach ride & Berber encounter, Morocco

Loosen the rein and squeaze the knees!

Day 7 – Iftane to Diabat

After breakfast, we ride directly onto the sand and the Atlantic shore; you and your horse will be in harmony by now and the pace is considerably brisker than yesterday. It is a pleasure to feel what these horses can do! They are willing and well-mannered and capable of a respectable turn of pace.

As we ride north the beaches becomes more and more pristine; there is limited access to these beaches by road and the villages are so small that they aren’t marked on maps. Many of the hamlets here are subsistence Berber fishing communities. We pass a couple of tiny fish restaurants that serve what’s just been caught; net to pan to plate! When we reach Sidi Kaouky we’ll stop for lunch in one such place.

We continue north and the horses get the scent of home in their nostrils. We will be travelling at all paces now and enjoying the speed and exhilaration this brings. The dunes on the right get higher and higher but we favour the firmer sand closer to the Atlantic (depending on tide times). The trail leads along the sand and up into light eucalyptus and mimosa forest as we approach the lighthouse at Cap Sim. And so we reach the estuary of the Oued (river) Ksob passing just beneath the Dar Soltane, a ruined Sultan’s palace dating from the early 1800’s. The river bank leads to the ranch and the trail’s end where we say goodbye to our horses.

Transfer into nearby Essaouira (5 Km) and to our hotel for the night.

Saddle time: 5 hours
Distance: 17 km
Overnight: Hotel

Day 8: Departure

Transfer back to airport (not included) and depart for home; or extend your trip.

Beach ride & Berber encounter, Morocco

Evening grazing

Details

The price includes: all meals, lodging in Berber collective tent or individual tent (2-man tents are available). Horse and tack, the trek guide and full back-up. Please note that we can arrange flights to suit you, Venture Co is ATOL bonded and deals directly with all major airlines.

Meals and camp life: will be prepared by our cook who will introduce the subtleties of the Moroccan cuisine. There is a camp shower. Baggage is transported by jeep and will be waiting in camp each evening.

Moroccan immigration formalities: No visa is required to travel to Morocco, you only require a passport valid six months beyond the date of entry. No special vaccinations are required but it’s wise to have cover for typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis.

Rider ability: you must be at ease at all paces and accustomed to riding outside a ménage/school. If you wish you can travel to the ranch early for a few days’ practice.

The horses: The horses are Arab, Arab cross; Barb and Barb cross stallions who live as a “band of brothers”. They are between 15 hh and 17 hh with 15.2 being the average size. They are well-mannered and willing. Grooms will attend to tack-up and look after the horses, so you can be fully involved or stand back and have it all done for you! It’s up to you.

The tack: each horse is equipped with a trekking-saddle and saddle-bags which enable you to carry your picnic and the personal items. Don’t forget your water-bottle.

Beach ride & Berber encounter, Morocco

A plague of goats!