Morocco – Rivers, Mountains & Deserts
The Kingdom of Morocco is a country rich in beauty, culture and history. The gateway to Africa, Morocco is a country of incredible diversity and yet this civilization has remained unchanged for centuries. Here you’ll find epic mountain ranges, ancient cities, remote rivers, sweeping deserts and warm hospitality.
Morocco is a storied country, that has, over the centuries, woven its ties to Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the wider Middle East into whole cloth. Its mixed Arab and Berber population forms a strong national identity, but an increasingly youthful one, taking the best of its traditions and weaving the pattern anew – from the countryside to the city, from the call to prayer from the mosque to the beat of local hip hop.
From Saharan dunes to the peaks of the High Atlas mountains, Morocco could have been tailor-made for our travelers. Lyrical landscapes carpet this slice of North Africa like the richly coloured and patterned rugs you’ll lust after in local cooperatives. The mountains offer breathtaking night skies glistening in the thin air, outstanding views and clear rushing waters. On lower ground, there are rugged coastlines, waterfalls and caves in forested hills, and the mighty desert.
This trip is full of contrasts and gives travelers a wonderful insight into the rich culture and dizzying scenery. Our adventure includes a river journey that allows you to experience a part of Morocco many never see. Camel riding, sleeping in a Berber village, exploring the Atlas Mountains, ballooning over Marrakech – we’ve rolled it all into a one multi-sport adventure during the best weather of the year. From the splendor of the Sahara to the pristine beaches of its coastline, from beguiling markets and souqs to the diverse aroma of Moroccan spice, this trip is a feast for the senses.
|Trip Length||11 Days|
|Gateway City||Marrakech or Casablanca|
- Itinerary at a Glance
- explore Marrakech’s museums, kasbahs and souqs
- travel to the Atlas mountains (with mountain biking opportunities)
- raft the rollercoaster rapids of the remote Ahansel River
- visit Lake Bin El Ouidane
- ride camels and bivouac in the Sahara Desert
- indulge in luxury lodgings and spas
- experience live entertainment, culture wonder and Moroccan cuisine
- go ballooning over Marrakech
- visiting Erg Chebbi Auberge and Ait Benhaddou
- Detailed Itinerary
Flights generally arrive into Marrakesh or Casablanca and then you’ll connect to Ouarzazate where a ROAM representative will meet you and take you to our hotel (Riad Ksar Ighnda) at the World Heritage site, Ait Benhadou. After you are settled, it’s off to explore this incredible medina, which has been featured in many Hollywood films. Tonight we’ll meet for a welcome dinner and go over the plans for our adventure.
After a hearty breakfast, we’ll board our vehicles bound for Merzouga on the edge of the Sahara. Upon arrival we’ll load into 4×4’s and whisk across the desert to take an awesome camel ride or hike into the dunes. We’ll watch an incredible sunset before heading to our Berber village for a feast and evening under the stars.
Today you will get a unique insight of Saharan Bedouin life with options for more camel trekking and sand boarding. The scenery is outrageous and the photo opportunities endless. Tonight we’ll dine in a nomad village and meet a number of wonderful families. We’ll have a traditional Moroccan dinner with live entertainment.
Today we travel from Merzouga to Dades to explore the markets in Rissani and Erfoud (including some unique fossil shops). Tonight we’ll stay in deluxe resort with a great pool and lounge area.
Trans Atlas crossing – we’ll take stunning drive over the Atlas Mountains to our five-star hotel on the banks of Lake Ouidane. Depending on our arrival time, there may be an opportunity to sea kayak on the lake. In any event, the lavish rooms, pool and spa facilities will make for a relaxing evening before our river adventure.
After a decadent breakfast,we will take a beautiful drive into La Cathedrale where we’ll meet the river guides, enjoy lunch and float down to our first nights camp at Tilouguite. Our expedition down the Ahansel River provides some fun class III+ whitewater that is suitable for all abilities and first-timers. The rafts provide access to smaller villages and kasbahs that very few tourists ever visit. Rafting an average of 4-5 hours per day allows us to experience scenic canyons and fun technical whitewater but still allows time to explore and/or relax in camp. Overnight the banks of the Ahansel River.
Today will be a fabulous day of whitewater rafting as we challenge rapids such as Wee Stinky, Rock the Kasbah, and Son of Kasbah. There will also be a wonderful hike up to a working kasbah, complete with a hand operated olive press, before stopping for the night in our gorgeous canyon camp. At times, the experience will feel surreal as you are floating crystal clear waters on the edge of the the Sahara, tackling the best whitewater Morocco has to offer.
Arguably one of the highlights of the trip, today we’ll raft through three incredible gorges and down to Lake Ouidane where we will meet a boat to transfer us back to the Widiane Hotel. A decadent night of dining is well deserved and the pool and hot tubs a welcome reprieve for tired rafting muscles!
It’s a 3-hour drive back to Marrakech and its exciting markets and museums. On a clear day we can see Jebel Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. Once at the hotel, you’ll have plenty of time to shop, watch snake charmers, visit a museum and enjoy a lively and entertaining meal in the heart of the market.
Today we have choices for mountain biking, a sunrise balloon ride over the city or visiting beautiful museums. Tonight we’ll have an exquisite dinner at one of our favorite haunts. Overnight Marrakech.
After breakfast take a taxi to the airport and flight home or onwards to other adventures in Fez or Casablanca.
- About the Region
Morocco is intriguingly situated at the triple junction where the African continent, the expanding Atlantic Ocean and the Alpine Collision Zone all meet, resulting in a highly complex and fascinating geology. The variety of Morocco geology also presents a wide range of climactic conditions. Much of Morocco’s landscape is mountainous with slopes that gradually transition into plateaus and valleys. The Atlas mountains dominate the central part of the country, while the Rif mountains make up the northern edge. Jebel Toubkal is the highest point of Morocco at 13,664 ft (4,165 m), and is also the highest peak of the Atlas mountains. The southeastern region of the country is blanketed by the Sahara Desert, the world’s third largest desert at over 3,600,000 square miles (9,400,000 sq. km). In contrast, significant sources of water of Morocco come from the Atlas Mountains and flow into the Mediterranean Sea.
Our trips start in Marrakech, a vibrant eclectic city that offers a plethora of amazing experiences and places to explore in Marrakech and we’d be delighted to craft you some extra days before or after your trip. Here’s the top attractions:
Djemaa El Fna
Think of it as live-action channel-surfing: everywhere you look in the Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakesh’s main square, you’ll discover drama in progress. The hoopla and halqa (street theatre) has been non-stop here ever since this plaza was the site of public executions around AD 1050 – hence its name, which means ‘assembly of the dead’. By mid-morning the soundtrack of snake-charmer flutes has already begun, but the show doesn’t kick off until sunset when restaurants fire up their grills, cueing musicians to tune up their instruments.
Unesco declared the Djemaa el-Fna a ‘Masterpiece of World Heritage’ in 2001 for bringing urban legends and oral history to life nightly and although the storytellers who once performed here have since given way to acrobats, musical performers, and slapstick comedy acts, Djemaa’s nightly carnival continues to dazzle. Berber musicians strike up the music and Gnaoua troupes sing while henna tattoo artists beckon to passers by and water-sellers in fringed hats clang brass cups together, hoping to drive people to drink. This is a show you don’t want to miss and it’s a bargain too. Applause and a few dirhams ensure an encore.
The square’s many eclectic exhibitions are not without a darker side though; you are very likely to see monkeys, kept in cages throughout the day, led around on chains for entertainment, and some of the practices of the plaza’s snake charmers are ethically questionable, to say the least.
Imagine what you could build with Morocco’s top artisans at your service for 14 years, and here you have it. The salons of both the petit riad and grand riad host intricate marquetry and zouak (painted wood) ceilings while the vast grand courtyard, trimmed in jaunty blue and yellow, leads to the Room of Honour, with a spectacular cedar ceiling. The harem offers up yet more dazzling interiors with original woven-silk panels, stained glass windows and rose-bouquet painted ceilings.
The floor-to-ceiling decoration here was begun by Grand Vizier Si Moussa in the 1860s and embellished from 1894 to 1900 by slave-turned-vizier Abu ‘Bou’ Ahmed. In 1908 the palace’s beguiling charms attracted warlord Pasha Glaoui, who claimed it as a suitable venue to entertain French guests. They, in turn, were so impressed that they booted out their host in 1911, installing the protectorate’s resident-general in his place.
Though today only a portion of the palace’s eight hectares and 150 rooms is open to the public, there’s still plenty of ornamental frippery on show. While admiring the tranquil grand courtyard with its floor laid in white Carrara marble, remember this is where people waited in the sun for hours to beg for Bou Ahmed’s mercy. Bou Ahmed’s four wives and 24 concubines all lived in the lavish interiors of the harem’s small salons.
Saadian Tombs/Al Mansour
Anyone who says you can’t take it with you hasn’t seen the Saadian Tombs, near the Kasbah Mosque. Saadian Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour ed-Dahbi spared no expense on his tomb, importing Italian Carrara marble and gilding honeycomb muqarnas(decorative plasterwork) with pure gold to make the Chamber of the 12 Pillars a suitably glorious mausoleum. Al-Mansour played favourites even in death, keeping alpha-male princes handy in the Chamber of the Three Niches, and relegating to garden plots some 170 chancellors and wives – though some trusted Jewish advisors earned pride of place, literally closer to the king’s heart than his wives or sons. All tombs are overshadowed by his mother’s mausoleum in the courtyard, carved with poetic, weathered blessings and vigilantly guarded by stray cats. Al-Mansour died in splendour in 1603, but a few decades later Alawite Sultan Moulay Ismail walled up the Saadian Tombs to keep his predecessors out of sight and mind. Accessible only through a small passage in the Kasbah Mosque, the tombs were neglected by all except the storks, until aerial photography exposed them in 1917.
Other guests bring flowers, but Yves Saint Laurent gifted the Jardin Majorelle to Marrakech, the city that adopted him in 1964. Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé bought the electric-blue villa and its garden to preserve the vision of its original owner, landscape painter Jacques Majorelle, and keep it open to the public. The garden began cultivating in 1924 and thanks to Marrakshi ethnobotanist Abderrazak Benchaâbane, the psychedelic desert mirage of 300 plant species from five continents continues to be preserved. Even if you’re not that into plants, come here to visit Majorelle’s art deco studio, home to the Musée Berbère, which showcases the rich panorama of Morocco’s indigenous inhabitants through displays of some 600 artefacts. By far one of the country’s most beautifully curated museums, the collection includes wood, leather and metalwork, textiles, musical instruments, religious trappings, and a display of the various regional traditional dress. Best of all is the mirrored, midnight-black octagonal chamber displaying a sumptuous collection of chiselled, filigreed and enamelled jewellery that reflect into infinity beneath a starry desert sky. From the museum you exit into the boutique with its handsome coffee-table books and pricey souvenirs: Majorelle blue slippers, perfume and pillows embroidered with YSL. Another museum, dedicated to Yves Saint Laurent, is due to open within the gardens in late 2017.
Ali ben Youssef Medersa
‘You who enter my door, may your highest hopes be exceeded’ reads the inscription over the entryway to the Ali ben Youssef Medersa, and after almost six centuries, the blessing still works its charms on visitors. Sight lines are lifted in the entry with carved Atlas cedar cupolas and mashrabiyya (wooden-lattice screen) balconies, while the courtyard is a mind-boggling profusion of Hispano-Moresque ornament: five-colour zellij walls, stucco archways, cedar windows, and a marble mihrab (niche in a mosque indicating the direction of Mecca). Founded in the 14th century under the Merenids, but fully kitted-out with its exuberantly ornate decoration in 1565 in the Saadian era, this Quranic learning centre was once the largest in North Africa, and remains among the most splendid.
The medersa (theological college) is affiliated with nearby Ali ben Youssef Mosque, and once 900 students in the 132 dorms arranged around the courtyard studied religious and legal texts here. Despite upgrades with its 19th-century renovation, the Ali ben Youssef Medersa gradually lost students to its collegiate rival, the Medersa Bou Inania in Fez, but even today – long after the students finally left – this old seminary still exudes magnificent, studious calm.
The lanes that spool north from Djemaa el-Fna sum up this old caravan city’s charm. Scents of cumin and grilled meat intermingle in alleyways where shafts of sunlight strike through palm-frond roofing and hawkers bid you hello in 10 languages. Throw away your map and go get lost in the helter-skelter for a while.
The Musée de Marrakech exhibits a collection of Moroccan art forms within the decadent salons of the Mnebhi Palace. The central internal courtyard, with its riot of cedar archways, stained-glass windows, intricate painted door panels and, of course, lashings of zellij tile work, is the highlight, though don’t miss the display of exquisite Fez ceramics in the main room off the courtyard. Both the Palace Kitchen area and Palace hammam host much simpler interiors.
The palace was once home to Mehdi Mnebhi, defence minister during Sultan Moulay Abdelaziz’s troubled reign (1894–1908). While Minister Mnebhi was away receiving a medal from Queen Victoria, England conspired with France and Spain to colonise North Africa, and autocrat Pasha Glaoui filched his palace. After independence, the building was seized by the state and became Marrakesh’s first girls’ school in 1965. It was only after a painstaking restoration in 1997, by the Omar Benjelloun Foundation, that the palace swung open the doors to the masses as the Marrakech Museum.
Bab Debbagh Tanneries
The acrid smell assaulting your nose announces your arrival in Marrakesh’s tannery area. You’ll find tanneries scattered on either side of Rue de Bab Debbagh – generally with touts stationed at the gates, offering tours for a tip. The best time to come is in the morning when you’ll usually be able to see tanners at work, transforming leather hides into a rainbow of hues. It’s hard, dirty work and dangerous too, now that natural dyes have been eschewed for chemical colours. In exchange for a tip, you’ll usually also be offered to see a view of the tanneries from above, from one of the houses near the Bab Debbagh gate. The views are definitely worth it, but be aware that many of the ‘houses’ are actually leatherware shops and touts can be pushy. Don’t feel pressured into having to buy something if you don’t want to.
Maison de la Photographie
When Parisian Patrick Menac’h and Marrakshi Hamid Mergani realized they were both collecting vintage Moroccan photography, they decided to open a photography museum to show their collections in context. Together they ‘repatriated’ 4500 photos, 2000 glass negatives and 80 documents dating from 1870 to 1950; select works on view here fill three floors, organized by region and theme, and include a rare, full-colour 1957 documentary shot in Morocco. Most works are edition prints from original negatives, and are for sale. Afterwards, head up to the rooftop terrace for a coffee or pot of tea. If you’re heading to Ourika Valley, be sure to check out their second venture, the Ecomusée Berbere.
- Trip Planner
You will need to arrive at the Marrakech Menara Airport (RAK) on Day 1 of your trip. On arrival, a local ROAM representative will be at the airport to greet you and transfer you to the hotel. There will be a pre-trip meeting at our hotel this evening with the group followed by a welcome dinner.
GETTING TO MARRAKECH, MOROCCO
For U.S. passengers, flights connecting through the United Kingdom may be the best option. Many of the major airlines fly from the U.S. to the UK. From the UK several of the “low cost” airlines such as Easyjet, Ryanair and Atlas Blue have daily flights to Marrakech Menara Airport. Other airlines that service Marrakech are American Airlines, British Airways, KLM, Iberia, Lufthansa, Royal Air Maroc and SwissAir. Let us know if you’d like assistance with arranging your international flight logistics.
After Your Trip
On the final day of your adventure, you will be transferred to the Marrakech Menara Airport for your flight home. A flight at any time on the final day of the trip is fine and one of our guides will escort you to the airport. Morocco recently instituted a departure tax on outgoing tickets. If not included in your ticket, plan to pay this at the time of departure.
Pre-and Post-Trip Accommodations
Your first night’s accommodation is included. If you decide to arrive a day or two early, we recommend you make reservations well in advance in order to guarantee lodging. While there are countless accommodation options in Marrakech but we will be using the Le Meridien N’Fis Hotel for Day 1 of our trip as the small hotels in the Riad are more difficult to wrestle in group luggage. Please let us know if you would like to book additional nights at the hotel, or in the Riad as we’re happy to make the arrangements for you.
ESSENTIAL TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
If you don’t have a passport, apply for one immediately because the process can be lengthy. If you do have a passport, find it and check the expiration date to see that it is valid for at least 6 months from your planned entry into Morocco. There must be at least two blank pages in your passport or immigration authorities may not allow you to enter Morocco. Make a photocopy of the photo page of your passport and carry it separately from your passport. It is also a good idea to leave a copy with your emergency contact at home. We also request that you send us a copy to keep on file for emergencies during your trip. If your passport is lost or stolen, a photocopy will help the local consulate speed up authorization for replacement.
Normally you can enter Morocco with a minimum of formalities at your point of disembarkation. No visas are required for U.S. citizens. If you have any questions regarding your entry into Morocco, please contact your nearest Consulate of the Kingdom of Morocco. (http://www.embassy.org/embassies/ma.html)
R.O.A.M. strongly recommends that you purchase trip and evacuation insurance. You risk forfeiture of all monies paid, if you cancel your trip and getting out of Morocco if you have a medial emergency could be very costly. You have the option of purchasing an insurance policy that meets the specific needs of our travellers.
Please make sure you understand what the insurance will and will not cover. Please consult the policy for exact coverage, details of other risks insured, and for other benefits and limitations of the insurance.
Beyond our standard menu, we can provide options for vegetarian, vegan and many allergy-restricted diets without applying a fee. However, we cannot always provide the same diversity or sophistication for restricted diets as we do for our regular menu. Due to the constraints of cooking for a large group, availability of ingredients in remote locations and limited packing space, we are often unable to cater to dietary preferences (likes or dislikes).
An opportunity to purchase alcohol for the river trip portion of the trip will be arranged for those interested. Alcohol is not included but is purchased on an individual basis.
We recommend you drink only bottled or previously boiled water. Bring a refillable water bottle or similar device, especially when traveling away from major cities.
- Paddle Raft—The sportiest of crafts we put on the water, everybody handles a paddle while the guide steers and gives directions from the rear. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run, and team work begets success. A thrilling way to brave the rapids!
- Paddle Raft with Oar Assist—The most agile of any boat in the raft fleet, your guide powers the raft with two hefty oars on a rear-mounted frame, while the crew wields single blade paddles up front for added horse-power.
Fishing is not an emphasis on this trip, but the river does offer opportunities that are best when it is running clear. Either at camp early in the morning or in the evening, you may find time to cast a line. We do have a couple rods & reels you can borrow or you’re welcome to travel with your own. Light-weight tackle is appropriate for catching the local variety of trout and we ask that you bring your own lures. For recreational fishing on the Ahansel River, no permit is required.
The Portable Toilet
While the idea of a river trip is appealing to most people, many are inhibited or reluctant because of modesty or uncertainty. To minimize our impacts, we carry out all solid human waste and use a portable toilet system that is set up each day at camp in a secluded location a discrete distance from tent sites. It is essentially a toilet without plumbing and is available from the time you pull into camp each afternoon until you leave camp the next day. Toilet paper and a convenient hand-washing station are provided.
Bathing is allowed in the river at certain campsites during lower water. (The water is always chilly!) We recommend using a liquid biodegradable soap such as Campsuds or Dr. Bronner’swhich can be purchased in most stores that have a camping section and can also be used to wash clothes. You may also find a good selection at your local health food store. Disposable anti-bacterial towelettes (Coleman Swash Cloths, baby wipes, etc.) are convenient.
We recommend hard Pelican cases to hold your camera and other items you might want during the day while on the river. It can be secured in a readily accessible spot on the raft. While these cases are designed to be waterproof, you may wish to place your camera in a zip-lock plastic bag or waterproof casing for additional protection. We also strongly recommend you take out a rider on your homeowner’s policy to cover your camera—especially if it’s fine equipment. Make sure to bring additional memory cards, batteries and any other extras you will need. Disposable waterproof and panorama cameras are also a fun option.
Electronics & Technology
The use of electronic devices, especially music players, on your trip may represent an intrusion into the wilderness experience of your fellow guests. We ask that you please be mindful of the impacts to others and respect the wilderness nature of the trip. Please bring headphones if you intend to listen to music during the trip.
Many of our guests travel with their smartphone even though there is no cell service while on the river. On a trip like this, there is always the risk of water damage to smartphones and other electronic devices, even when they are stowed in a dry bag. If you intend to take your phone with you on the river, consider investing in a small, waterproof container just for your phone.
On the river, we are not able to provide a power source for recharging devices. To keep cameras, phones, GPS and other devices working you may need spare batteries or portable power. Options include compact portable solar panels that can recharge devices directly, portable power banks that store power, or a combo unit that can be charged before the trip and recharged with a built-in solar panel.
Morocco is on the 220-240V, 50Hz cycles system. Wall sockets in Morocco are either type C or type E. Plan to bring a converter for 110V devices and a selection of plug adapters. More information about plug types in Morocco can be found at http://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/morocco/
Once you are on the river there is limited communication with the “outside world.” Our guides carry satellite phones which are strictly used to call out in case of an emergency situation on the river. They can call out, but we cannot call them. Periodically the trip leader will check in with our office. If you have someone that needs to contact you about an emergency at home, they should call our office (888 639 1114). If possible, we will relay the message to you. Keep in mind it could be several days or longer before the message actually reaches you. For your family at home you should define for them what you consider an emergency and provide them with instructions to call our office in the event one occurs during your vacation.
Wi-Fi is complimentary in the lobby of Le Meridien N’Fis Hotel. It is also available at all of our accommodations with the exception of our desert camp, although connections may be irregular at times.
The local currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD). At the time of writing, the exchange rate for the Moroccan Dirham was US$1 = 10 Moroccan Dirham. Exchange rates generally vary between the local and tourist rate. Like most cities, it is easy to find an ATM or a Bureau de Change in Marrakech. Most banks in the city offer these two services and you will also find automatic change machines in some parts of the city. One of the places to go in Marrakech where you are sure to find an ATM or a change office is the pedestrian streets close to the Jemaa el-Fnaa square. Ask your guide where to find these.
As most aspects of your trip are included, the money you need to bring will be limited to select meals, souvenirs, gratuities or other extra purchases. You can pay for many items by credit card, but we also recommend travelling with local currency in small denominations, especially if you plan to shop. In general, US dollars are not accepted.
A souq (or souk) is a traditional marketplace selling everything from chickens to high-quality crafts. The souqs of Marrakech are considered to be among the best in Morocco, so if you like shopping and bargaining you’ll enjoy yourself tremendously. Souqs are divided into small areas that specialize in a certain good or trade. The metal workers all have their little shops clustered together, as do the tailors, butchers, jewellers, wool dyers, spice merchants, carpet salesmen and so on. Ask your guides if you have something in particular you are looking for.
The geological variety of Morocco results in a wide range of climatic conditions. Be prepared, because almost anything can happen. As we are rafting in the Atlas Mountains; it can get cold and it is a good idea to bring a reasonably warm fleece or down jacket and some long pants. The water temperature at this time of year averages 56 degrees Fahrenheit. We will provide you with a wetsuit, spray jacket and booties but you can put on a thermal top and bottom if you are susceptible to the cold. You may expect temperatures of 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, but it can be much colder. Rain is also a possibility although not likely. You can bring a light jacket if you wish although many of our guests use our spray jackets.
Average Temperatures for Marrakech
Air (High) °F Air (Low) °F March 74 51 April 77 54
You may want to check one week prior to your trip for an up-to-date weather forecast. We recommend you check the following web site: www.wunderground.com.
Morocco is in the same time zone as GMT, which is 5 hours ahead of the US East Coast and 8 hours ahead of the West Coast.
There are many languages spoken in Morocco including Arabic, French, English, Spanish and several Berber dialects. The most common European language spoken is French.
Morocco is relatively disease free, although proof of inoculation for Cholera will be required if traveling into Morocco from infected areas. No other vaccinations are compulsory but we recommend consulting your physician or travel clinic. They may suggest that you get inoculated against Hepatitis A, Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid and Meningitis. Anti-Malarial tablets are not necessary. Visit the CDC for more information before you travel.
Bottled water is widely available in Morocco. During the river trip all water is filtered and treated.
Despite the many precautions we all take to stay healthy, occasionally one may experience diarrhea. The major problem associated with this is fluid loss leading to severe dehydration, so it is important to maintain fluid intake. Avoid milk and caffeine, as it will only further dehydrate you. The best drinks are weak tea, mineral water and caffeine-free soft drinks. Ideally it is best to let diarrhea run its course. However you may want to bring over-the-counter medication to minimize your potential discomfort.
For Women Only
Even if you aren’t anticipating your menstrual period, come prepared for it. You can use sandwich-sized Ziploc baggies during the day to store feminine products while you are on the river or hiking, and you can then discretely dispose of the baggies when you reach camp. When possible, we recommend o.b.® tampons, which are 1/3 the size of regular tampons, tuck discreetly into pockets and have less paper wrapping. If you use pads, be sure to bring extras. Many women suggest bringing a small supply of baby wipes. We provide some feminine products on most trips for emergencies.
Our primary goal is for you to have an enjoyable experience. The nature of the trip is such that it involves some physical exertion and potential exposure to the elements, including cold water, heat, sun, wind and rain. We have experience accommodating people with a wide range of physical disabilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals who are overweight or lack conditioning can endanger themselves, other guests and the guides. Please consult your doctor if you have medical or health conditions that could impact your ability to participate in this outdoor adventure. In general, trip participants must be able to:
- Wear a Coast Guard approved personal floatation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches)
- Climb on and off the boats multiple times each day
- Paddle or hold on to the boat while navigating whitewater rapids
- Navigate uneven terrain in camp and on hikes
- Carry your own dry bags (20—30 lbs.) from the boats to your camping location and back
- Self-rescue by swimming to a boat or to shore in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid
- Self-rescue by climbing into a boat with the help of another person in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid
Due to the physical nature of this trip, we highly recommend that you engage in regular exercise for at least three months prior to departure to ensure preparedness. No gym membership required! Simple exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and squats go a long way to improving core fitness. Start with these exercises and do three sets of ten repetitions each, three to four times per week. Aerobic training is also easy to accomplish without expensive equipment. Take 30–40 minutes two to three times a week and go for a brisk walk, easy jog or bike ride around town. If you have access to a pool, lake or the ocean, swimming is obviously an ideal choice for aerobic exercise. It provides a full-body work-out and is training that may come in handy in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid. It is important to push yourself in the months leading up to your trip by increasing your strength training repetitions and the pace of your aerobic training. Getting in shape will certainly add to your enjoyment of the trip.
PACKING FOR YOUR TRIP
In Marrakech—The dress code in and around the town of Marrakech remains fairly casual. Lightweight casual clothes are recommended during the day. Women should keep their legs from mid-calf, shoulders and upper arms covered and avoid skin-tight clothing as this will attract unwanted attention and is considered inappropriate to wear in the Muslim religion. This consideration is less applicable during our river trip while rafting and in our riverside camps.
During the day on the river—Start with a swimsuit and/or swim trunks and synthetic or merino wool shirt as a base layer. Additional layers for sun protection or insulation can be added and subtracted depending on the weather, temperature and how wet you’re getting in the rapids. The water can be cold!
In camp—When the weather is warm, lightweight cotton or synthetic pants/skirt or shorts and shirt make great camp wear. Anytime the forecast calls for cool evenings and cold nights, a dry set of long underwear is the perfect base layer under long pants and a fleece sweater.
Please keep in mind that temperatures can drop on the river and in the desert so a fleece or down jacket and pants and a warm hat and gloves are a must. Please see additional information in the packing list.
During the day—On the river, we provide booties (neoprene with rubber sole) or you can bring an amphibious shoe that drains water, protects your toes and won’t come off in swirling current. A retired pair of athletic shoes can work well, too. Sport sandals with a heal strap are a good option, especially on rivers with sandy beaches. Be sure to bring a pair of neoprene socks to supplement if temperatures are low. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco.
In camp—We recommend wearing shoes in camp due to risk of kicking a rock buried in the sand, or stepping on a sharp stick. The athletic shoes or light hikers you bring can double as your camp shoes. It’s nice to put on dry socks and shoes after a day on the water. Flip flops or slip-on sandals are OK for wearing in camp.
Please note: If you buy new shoes or sandals for the trip, make sure you break them in first!
During the day—Wide-brimmed hats are a good choice for sun protection off the river. Ball caps are also useful since they fit under helmets, which are required attire when paddling our whitewater rivers.
In camp—When the weather is cool, you’ll want a beanie-style hat to wear in camp. They are the perfect remedy for bed-head as you rise from your sleeping bag to secure your morning cup of coffee or tea, or for retaining warmth in the evening hours after the sun sets.
To Avoid Being Cold
Synthetic or merino wool long underwear is a must-have on river trips. It can be worn under shorts, rain gear, T-shirts, etc., then stripped off when the chill of the morning has worn off. It keeps you warm even if it’s wet (which can happen easily) and dries quickly. It can also be layered under your wetsuit. Be aware that cotton items, once wet, do not insulate; only synthetic and wool materials will keep you warm during cool, wet weather.
Something warm for your top & bottom
You need to be prepared for inclement weather. Bring a good fleece or wool top and bottom, along with a warm hat and gloves. You’ll want to double up on your base layers so that you’ll have a set to wear in the boat and a set of warm, dry clothes for camp.
Raingear protects you from rain, wind and the splash of the rapids. It is one of the essential items that all passengers should have no matter what time of year you are traveling. Look for jacket and pants that are 100% waterproof, not just water resistant. A hooded jacket is recommended as well, with secure closures around your head, neck, wrists and ankles. Do not bring a rain poncho as it cannot be worn under your PFD.
Protecting yourself from the sun should be taken very seriously. A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are a must. In many cases, a long-sleeve shirt is the best method for preventing sunburn on your upper body. Light-weight long pants may also be appropriate to protect your legs. Be sure to bring a good hat that offers full coverage, such as a wide-brimmed hat.
Bugs & Mosquitoes
Bugs and mosquitos are not usually a problem, but it’s a good idea to come prepared with insect repellent, just in case.
SUGGESTED PACKING LIST
Equipment and Personal Items:
☐ Water bottle: durable and reusable if you have one; an empty soft drink bottle works fine if you don’t
☐ Headlamp or flashlight (consider bringing extra batteries)
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized) with securing strap and a spare
☐ Small, quick-drying towel
☐ Toiletries including biodegradable soap (such as Campsuds or Dr. Bronner’s)
☐ Sunscreen and lip protection: waterproof & SPF 30 or higher (aerosol sprays not recommended)
☐ Moisturizing lotion or cream
☐ Insect repellent
☐ Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
☐ Personal first aid kit (Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, moleskin, eye drops, stomach medication, etc.)
☐ Any medication you may be taking
☐ Spare pair of glasses and/or contacts
☐ Cash & credit card for gratuities, select meals, souvenirs, alcohol, etc.
☐ River shoes or sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco)
☐ Athletic shoes, casual shoes or sandals for hikes, in camp and travel
☐ Hiking socks
☐ Long-sleeved shirts: lightweight and light color for sun protection (old dress shirts work well)
☐ Long pants: lightweight and light color for sun protection
☐ Shorts: 1-2 pair
☐ T-shirts/tops: 2-3
☐ Base layers (tops and bottoms): light to mid-weight merino wool or polypropylene
☐ Fleece or insulated jacket (medium to heavy-weight)
☐ Swimsuit / Trunks: 2-piece suits recommended for women. Tankinis are a great option
☐ Socks: 2-3 pair for on the water (neoprene or wool); 3-4 pair for travel and camp.
☐ Shade hat or visor with securing strap—flexible enough to fit under your helmet
☐ Warm hat and gloves
☐ Rain jacket & pants: waterproof (not water resistant) A hooded jacket with secure closures is recommended
☐ Camera and accessories
☐ Long skirt or sarong for women to cover their legs while in the company of locals. A sarong can be useful for sun protection/changing clothes. Long pants are also acceptable for coverage.
☐ Bathing wipes: pre-moistened disposable towels
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Binoculars (small)
☐ Paddling gloves
☐ Plastic bags and zip-locs of assorted sizes for sorting wet clothes and organizing
☐ Lightweight cord and clothespins for drying clothes
☐ Reading and writing materials
Packing Your Gear
We recommend traveling as light as possible without compromising your preparation for inclement weather and cooler temperatures. Soft luggage or duffels are preferred versus hard suitcases, as they’re easier to load into our vehicles. Excess baggage can be a burden to you and to support personnel. On the international flight you are normally allowed two pieces of luggage, but please check your specific airline for current weight limitation—it changes from carrier to carrier.
We recommend you take only what’s absolutely necessary. Keeping gear to a minimum ensures it will fit into the waterproof bag we supply for the river and reduces unnecessary packing and unpacking in camp. You will be given your waterproof bag at the pre-trip meeting in Marrakech. Your travel luggage, with any items that you don’t need on the river including valuables, will be taken to the Hotel Widiane to be kept secure and returned to you immediately after you get off the river.
Morocco is safe for traveling, but still there is no point in carrying lots of valuables. Avoid carrying large sums of money on your person or in one place. Be mindful of beggars or others who may be attempting to distract your attention—our destination does not exclude pickpockets. Keep purses and bags closed and avoid placing valuables in purses and bags. Items placed on the chair next to you, hung on the coat rack, or placed on the back of a chair are more easily stolen or pilfered.
Regrettably, tourists are among the most easily targeted, so please exercise some caution. We also recommend that you check your personal insurance policy before traveling to ensure that you are covered for theft and loss while traveling. As a safety precaution, do not travel with excessive amounts of cash or jewelry if it is not necessary. We recommend that you leave your valuables at home.
If you feel your guides have provided a very special trip for you, you may leave a gratuity with the trip leader to be shared among the crew. This tip is entirely at your discretion, though we recommend a general tipping guideline of anything between a thank you to 15% of trip cost. A tip of 5-10% of a restaurant bill is appropriate.