Part 4 of 6
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A lot of people imagine Morocco to be a vast barren desert. Before I came here I also thought that finding lush forests and waterfalls in this country would be nearly impossible. It’s true that the southern part of the country is quite arid. There are beautiful sand dunes in Merzouga and the canyons near the Todra Gorges are really fun to explore. The northern part of the country, however, is much lusher than I had initially imagined it to be.
In fact, high in the Atlas Mountains after passing through Berber villages and beautiful scenery is the Ouzoud Falls, the second highest waterfall in Africa. They are located about 100 miles northeast of Marrakech and empty into the El-Abid River gorge. It’s a huge touristic destination and one of the most visited and photographed natural sites in Morocco! The falls are most dramatic from March to June when there’s more water due to snowmelt from the Atlas Mountains.
The name of the falls actually derives from the Berber culture meaning “the act of grinding grain.” Visitors can walk around the falls, while enjoying the sights and sounds of the falls’s permanent residents—a troop of macaque monkeys. There are rafts available for the adventurous hiker near the bottom. A trip to the Ouzoud Falls is perfect for enjoying the wonders of nature and the serenity of the cascading falls.
There is no entrance fee for the Ouzoud waterfalls but if you want, you could always hire a local guide to show you around (although it’s absolutely not needed as the path is well marked and it’s almost impossible to get lost). A few parts that overlook the waterfalls, however, could be dangerous, especially near the top of the great cascade not too far from the entrance of the site. Although the paths in Ouzoud are easy to walk on, I still suggest wearing a good pair of walking shoes. Also, bring some sunscreen and don’t forget your camera.
Our visit to the falls began in the car park where a local guide was waiting for us. He took us past olive groves that have been in this area for millions of years and then along a shaded path until we came to a clearing. Across the valley were ancient troglodyte caves in the side of a hill. the word, ‘troglodyte’ comes from the Greek Language and means ‘cave dweller’. Troglodyte caves were dug vertically into the ground to protect the occupiers from the heat in summer and the intense cold of winter. These underground dwellings would have been created around 800 years ago.
Once down below, the falls look even more impressive as the water crashes down, foaming at the pool below and sending clouds of mist in the air. We decided to get closer so we jumped onto a small boat (well, more like a floating platform with chairs) and let a local Berber man row all 6 of us closer to the falls (20 dirhams each).
We struggled to hear each other over the roar of the waterfall and the guy pretended to row straight under it before pulling us out of the vortex at the last minute. We gazed up at the wall of water before us, squinting from the sun and the spray. If you do go on that boat ride, be prepared to get wet. I would suggest bringing a rain jacket and a water-resistant camera to enjoy the experience to the fullest.
After about 15 minutes, we climbed out of the boat and headed up to a restaurant perched on the side of the cliff and plonked down in the plastic chairs. We had a prime spot on the terrace overlooking the falls and we enjoyed our chicken kebab skewers and tagines in the warm afternoon sun whilst being almost hypnotised by the falling water.
One of the main reasons so many people visit this site apart from the beautiful waterfalls is the presence of wild Barbary monkeys. Before you reach the top you will find monkeys that would love to befriend you. If feeding monkeys is your thing, then make sure you stop here and give some beans or nuts to this hairy fellow over here. I mean, look at him. Can you really say no to him?
One even climbed straight onto my head and proceeded to shell peanuts all over my clothes. This has to be one of my favourite photos from the trip to the falls. The Ouzoud Falls were spectacular but spending time with the monkeys absolutely made our day. However, after some time, we reluctantly had to leave these cuties and the amazing Ouzoud Waterfalls behind us and head back to Marrakech.
Thanks to Take a Break Travel, I got to witness a world class waterfall attraction featuring that rare combination of a waterfall cutting through contrasting reddish cliffs and green vegetation clinging to life in the desert climate. This trip to the Ouzoud Falls was definitely another highlight of my 8-day tour around Morocco!