This tour can start in either Casablanca or from Marrakech.
Morocco is a fossil rich country with a wealth of specimens from as far back as 600 million years and before. Once an ocean, a tropical forest, then a savannah and now, a desert, the southern parts of the country hold the most diverse and interesting locations. The Atlas Mountains span the width of the country from the Atlantic to the border with Algeria and its many folds and layers hold more fossils. Minerals are also unimaginably diverse and are still being mined under strict guidelines. Morocco is perhaps one of the world´s largest sources of Trilobites and they too are still being found.
Day 1; Arrival
Our tour starts with airport pickups in Casablanca and Marrakech with an overnight in the UNESCO medina of Marrakech.
Day 2; Marrakech - Ait Benhaddou - Ouarzazate
We depart from the Red City and drive towards the High Atlas Mountains which we cross at the 2260 metre pass at Tizi n´Tichka. On the way we stop at Sidi Rahal to look at the agate mine which is in Triassic lava. These mountains have layers in many eras: Cambrian, Ordovician, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous and on the far side, we take the Ounila Valley off road route to discover Jurassic, Cretaceous and Eocene layers as we follow the salt route where salt is still being mined, to reach the 17th century UNESCO site of Ksar Ait Benhaddou. This adobe fortress is perhaps best known as the film set for the movie The Gladiator, it still has a handful of families living in it and is an interesting example of kasbah architecture. We continue to reach Ouarzazate; the Hollywood of Africa and here we will spend the night.
Day 3; Ouarzazate - Alnif
From Ouarzazate we visit a site with 600 million year old stromatolites and then travel along the Draa Valley to an Ordovician layer containing giant cold water trilobites which are found in the lower layer of the Fezouta Shale; they can be 20 to 30 cms in length and are still being discovered in this mine. We turn off past the Ksar of Tamnougalt and take the road towards Tazzarine to visit the Saredrar Orthoceras quarry. This quarry contains cephalopods that have straight shells and are perhaps the predecessors of the ammonites. Much of what is found in this site are taken to Erfoud to be processed into beautiful and functional items. We will be visiting Erfoud later on the tour. Alnif is one of the main trilobite fossil sites in Morocco and we will spend the night here among the many fossil shops in a typical hotel.
Day 4; Discovering Alnif and its trilobites
Today we will have time to browse the fossil shops to see complete examples and then visit several of the sites to look for Cambrian Paradoxides and Cambropellas trilobites and the Tiskaouine mountain where Ordovician Neseuretus, Colpocorypte and Flexicalymens trilobites are mined. We return to the same hotel in Alnif.
Day 5; Alnif - Mharech
Following some of the old Paris Dakar Rally routes, we cross this ancient landscape and our first stop is Bou Did; a Devonian limestone area with an extensive formation called the Tazoulait Formation and nearby another area of many fossils scattered on the surface. Another Devonian formation called Atchana is where Dicranurus monstrosus, and Paralejurus spatuliformis trilobites are mined at the Ihandar Formation. It is likely we will meet fossil miners in these sites and you can meet with them and ask questions. We journey deep into the Sahara here to the Mharech oasis where we overnight in a typical adobe kasbah Hotel.
Day 6; Mharech - Merzouga
In the near distance, there is a pyramid structure, this is Guelb el Mharech, an isolated 45 metre remnant of a volcano formed by hydrothermal vents; this is our focus this morning where corals, trilobites and crinoids are plentiful. Very rare finds of placoderm fish have been discovered here. The Maider basin has several sites including Jbel el Mrakib where brachiopods in Devonian layers can be seen. We follow the Dakar tracks to reach the main road at Taouz where there are some petroglyphs and overnight in a Kasbah hotel near the dunes of Erg Chebbi.
Day 7; Kem Kem Beds and Filon 12
Today, we return to Taouz and from there to the famous Kem Kem beds where the rocks are from the Cretaceous period. Spinosaurus and Carcharodonosaurus teeth and bones have been found here and the site is rich in crocodiles, dinosaurs and fish. Another site near Taouz where Silurian, Devonian and Ordovician layers are closely folded and have criniods with their labolith. The Filon or Vein 12 mine was once a lead mine, it is currently mined for Vanadinite, Hematite and Byrite amongst other specimens and is one of the most mineral rich sites in Morocco. We return to Merzouga to the same hotel. We have an option here to spend the night in a desert camp with a sunset camel ride.
Day 8; Merzouga - Rissani - Kem Kem - Erfoud
Leaving the golden dunes of Erg Chebbi, we travel north in the vicinity of Rissani where we stop at a site of upper Devonian age where orthoceras and ammonoids can be seen in the massive slabs of red limestone. We also visit Kem Kem or Hamar Laghdad which are Devonian cold seep mud volcano mounds on which rich coral reefs once grew. Next we visit some bell pits where crinoids are mined and after a lunch break, on to Erfoud; the capital of fossils. The quarry at Erfoud has Orthoceras slabs with goniatites and rocks from the Devonian period. In the city, we will visit a factory where the slabs are processed into many functional and visually pleasing items. There is also a museum of minerals and fossils including dinosaur bones, here you will see many impressive examples of the fossils we saw on our tour around Alnif. We will spend the night in Erfoud.
Day 9; Erfoud - Todra Gorge - Dades Gorge - Oasis Fint
Leaving Erfoud, we follow palm groves and villages to reach Tinghir and take the road up to reach the gorge of Todra; 300 metre high walls of the Jurassic period were carved by the waters of the river making it a favourite with international rock climbers. Returning to the city, we take the Dades Valley and visit another gorge on a detour from Boumalne Dades. This gorge has unique geological features which have evolved from erosion forming interesting shapes. We return to the valley and follow the Dades River as it flows through ancient kasbahs and fields of roses and crops. After a lunch break, we continue to Skoura Palm Grove and the cinema city of Ouarzazate. We can stop to visit one of Kasbahs and then take the road to Oasis Fint for the night.
Day 10; Oasis Fint - High Atlas - Marrakech
After a relaxed breakfast, we depart for the High Atlas Mountains to cross the high pass at 2260 metres, passing many small villages, fields and pasturelands. We arrive back in Marrakech where you are free for the remainder of the day. Overnight in the medina.
Day 11; Marrakech and departures
Today, depending on departure times, there is an option to have a walking guided tour of this ancient medina. Airport transfers to Casablanca and Marrakech.
What is included:
• Private A/C Vehicle+ fuel
• English/ speaking driver during the tour
• Pick up & Drop off at your Marrakesh/Fes accommodation
• Accommodation with evening meals/ breakfast
• Camel Trek to overnight in nomad desert bivouac with a guide (Private tents)
• Free time to explore the sites such as Ait Benhaddou, Kasbah, Walks, Canyons, Breaks for photos,...Etc
• Sand Boarding
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We are very approachable and we would like to talk to you. Do not hesitate to call, send us an e-mail or simply fill out the application form.
+212 667 879 247