I went to Morocco with my Mum for a week to do nothing but relax by a pool, eat couscous and read as many books as possible. We started off well, with no alarms to set, no itinerary and nothing to do but exactly this. After a couple of days though, like I predicted we might, we started to get a little restless and needed a day away from the hotel. The Ouzoud Waterfalls had been mentioned a few times, so we decided quickly that it seemed like the ideal day trip to take.
Despite driving in Italy, America and various other European countries, I’ve never quite been brave enough to drive in Morocco. The roads are insane, people and children spill into them, they’re covered in pot-holes and I’m pretty sure I’d end up damaging the car or worse still, knocking over an animal, who have the right of way here, (yes really) or a moped driver (who seem to just drive in all sorts of directions and angles with no care for road safety).
When I want to book something easy and hassle-free my go-to tour site is always Viator. It’s available in pretty much every country and they work with the local, smaller independent companies local to where you’re staying. Plus, the prices were a fraction of what the hotel tour guide was asking and for £22 each we decided on a trip to The Ouzoud Waterfalls with the promise of a “great day-long escape from bustling Marrakech“. It seemed like the most perfect day trip we could find. (If you fancy the same trip, it’s here)
Our mini-bus arrived exactly on time at 8am and after twisting through the alleyways of the medieval medina, by 8.30 all 12 seats were full and we started our three-hour journey. Driving in Morocco isn’t like it is at home at all. Grab a window seat, even if it means you don’t sit next to each other as the sights and views are never ending with things you can only see in Morocco, and with no motorway on the route to The Ouzoud Waterfalls, it’s one epic adventure itself.
Driving through villages and markets, past crowds of locals shouting, selling, and laughing means aside from the standard “Bonjour”, “Hello” or “Hallo” the bus will be silent because everyone is so preoccupied with watching what’s going on outside.
Morocco isn’t the vast barren desert you may imagine it to be. In fact, it’s completely the opposite and the further you drive from Marrakech, the greener it becomes!
You’ll see donkeys loaded with stacks and stacks of hay on their backs, children playing games by the side of their parent’s fruit stands, ladies nattering in groups by the shops and hitchhikers jumping out to try and sell herbs (no joke) …or whatever else they think you’ll like! Camels crossing the road, many many skinny cats, chickens, and even goats in trees!
Olive trees, orange trees, and what looks like endless views of fields after fields between mountains means it’s quite a relaxing drive. The bus was air-conditioned, and the seats were comfortable. I even had a little nap before we stopped at some services to use the bathroom and grab snacks.
Located near the Moyen Atlas village, this 110m high waterfall in the province of Azilal, The Ouzoud Waterfalls is the tallest waterfall in Africa. It’s a huge touristic destination and one of the most visited and photographed natural sites in Morocco!
Whilst we were part of a group we were told when we arrived that we were free to go off independently if we wished. Both my mum and I preferred this option, so we wandered off only to hear something interesting and re-joined the group again! It was such a small group that it really wasn’t any bother and we liked the guide, so that helped.
Our guide, (Ibrahim) was entertaining, educational and he took no crap from the whiny lady in our group (there’s always one). He showed us around a traditional Berber home where we could see how they lived, where they ate, slept and spent time together.
Despite how hot it was outside, the temperature inside was lovely and cool. This is down to the very thick clay walls which apparently also keep the interior warm during the very cold winters. We didn’t stay too long, which was good as I could hear the family shuffling around upstairs and felt a little like we were intruding!
I did ask about this and Irabhim told me the families offer to do it as they get paid for letting people have a look around. He also told us that all the olive trees we passed in the field at the top of the waterfall belong to the Berber families. Each tree has a painted number to mark which tree belongs to which family. When you see more than one number on a tree that means the tree is shared as the daughter has married a son from another family!
It’s also tradition for sons to stay at home and when the houses are built they’ll have spare rooms added so when the sons get married, they have no excuse to leave! 🙂
It’s all quite surreal, but at the same time quite nice to hear and listen to. Completely different from how we live, and I admire the traditions and the way Berber families look out for each other.
Irabhim next showed us a female Argan Oil co-operative where we could see how the oil is made. All by hand, it’s a long and laborious process and kilos and kilos of Argan nuts are needed to just make one litre of oil, but the end result is worth it. My Mum and I certainly didn’t leave the little shop empty handed! I can’t ever begrudge paying a few dirhams to the local people here.
To get to the Ouzoud Waterfall you need to walk down a muddy dusty path where you’ll find lots of twisty corners and monkeys peering at you through the trees. The trees do however give you shade so it’s a little cooler and there’s orange juice stands set up by the locals to keep you refreshed.
Not just here but all over Morocco you’ll find orange juice stalls and once you’ve had it, English orange juice will just never live up! I drank it daily through my holiday here and it’s incredibly refreshing and juicy!
The path is well marked and it’s almost impossible to get lost. There’s only one way down!
A few parts that overlook the Ouzoud waterfalls, however, could be dangerous, especially near the top of the great cascade not too far from the entrance of the site. My mum and I didn’t realise you weren’t supposed to go so far forward on one part of the walk and Irabhim gave us a little tut and then politely helped us back around. Sorry, Irabhim!
Once you reach the end of the winding dusty path, the waterfall appears, and it will be like nothing you ever have seen! Well, for me it was. Better than the waterfalls I saw in Mostar, and more incredible than the ones I jumped off in Mexico. Nothing quite prepares you for when you turn the very last corner and suddenly, you’re greeted with the most thunderous sound and the most beautiful of sights. My Mum and I quietly gasped, looked at each other, then slowly wandered closer.
There are families sat on one side in the shade with children paddling and picnics being eaten.
There are small shops and cafes on the other side. You can cross on a makeshift set of steps or do something a little more fun and hop on one of the boats made from plastic barrels and wooden boards to get a closer look at the waterfall.
The boat looked lots of fun, so we went for that option. Be warned, you will get wet! It is however very welcome as it’s also so cold and I’d have absolutely regretted not going on if I’d have chosen to skip this. It costs 20MAD each (about £1.60) and despite the boats looking so ‘homemade’, it felt completely safe! A few tourists jumped off for a swim, others just gazed, and my Mum and I just lived in the moment, smiled and snapped away with our cameras.
Before we reached the other side and departed for some food and time-out our ‘driver’ let me have a little sit in the front seat, which was fun. I didn’t go far … just pretended like it was my boat 😉
After sitting by the side of the waterfall, drinking more orange and pulling faces with the Berber girl on the next table (who seemed to find my Mum and me very funny) we started the walk back up. It’s fair to say neither of us were really looking forward to it but it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.
About one-quarter of the way up there was another little ledge where you could walk to and see the waterfall from a different angle. Rainbows were collecting and shining at the bottom of this little pool and for a moment, the prettiness took my mind off how unfit I am right now.
About halfway up and with both of our stomachs now also beginning to rumble we were very happy with Irabhim announced we’d be stopping for some lunch.
The path back up is dotted with souvenir shops where things are far cheaper than in Marrakech and there’s plenty of cafes all serving very similar dishes.
We stopped at one which had tables overlooking the waterfall and where we could sit in the shade and drink watermelon juice, eat more couscous and vegetable tagines (or lamb in my Mum’s case) and nibbled on fresh Moroccan bread.
Here’s the only bad thing…the toilets. They’re awful! And not just a little bit awful, honestly truly awful! My biggest tip is to take some loo roll and use the toilets at services along the way or at the Argan farm at the top. Don’t be like me and learn the hard way! 😉
Before jumping back on the mini-bus to make the journey back to Marrakech we still had one more little treat in store.
Wild monkeys live in the trees here and they’re not shy! Buy a bag of peanuts for around 5MAD from one of the locals and they’ll even help you feed them.
I wasn’t going to do this and generally am more of the observer type, but somehow, with a little persuasion from Irabhim and the local (who really wanted my cash) I took a handful of peanuts, held them up in the air and a very friendly (also smelly), but surprisingly gentle monkey jumped on my shoulders, then my head and crunched his way through the peanuts dropping all the bits he didn’t want in my hair. Charming! 😉
It was a great way to end what was already an amazing day. We both laughed and knew the visiting The Ouzoud Waterfalls would be an experience we’d remember for a long time. Sleepy, a little bit sunburned, and both ready for the ride home where we could go back to gazing out the window until we were back in chaotic Marrakech.
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