8 days – 9th October – 16th October 2023 – NOW FULL.
8 days – 11th October – 18th October 2024
Please note: this set-departure tour is also available as a private or custom tour on request. Please submit an enquiry with your preferred dates and group size.
€1,600 for 8 days – price includes all accommodation, meals, guiding, transportation, ferries, taxes and entrances but excludes flights.
€220 single supplement
Legend has it that Hercules used his incredible strength to separate the continents of Europe and Africa, creating The Straits of Gibraltar. The Inglorious Bustards are all set to use our outstanding local knowledge and expertise to bring them back together for you! This is our feature specialist tour, and our experience of the area and local contacts mean we can take you where other guides fear to tread.
The point at which Africa and Europe meet is also the epicentre for one of the world’s most spectacular bird migrations. Every year, millions of birds make the 14 km journey across The Straits of Gibraltar, making use of uplifts and thermals rising off the Rock of Gibraltar and the stunning Moroccan peak of Jebel Musa. An estimated 250,000 raptors pass over this rugged terrain during these periods, as well as untold thousands of other journeying passerines and seabirds.
On this trip we will experience the very best of two continents from cracking locations in both Spain and Morocco. As well as being at the heart of the thrilling migration spectacle, we will look for Moroccan Marsh Owls, Northern Bald Ibis and Barbary Macaques as well as the seabirds and cetaceans of The Straits on a boat excursion and Moroccan specialities in both mountain and wetland sites.
There’ll be plenty of time to really enjoy the cultural differences too – one day you’ll be sharing tapas by the sea, the next you’ll be sipping mint tea on a rooftop!
About The Straits of Gibraltar
The 14 kilometre-wide stretch of ocean that separates Europe and Africa has served as both a barrier and bridge between cultures throughout history. With the land on both sides changing hands repeatedly between Spanish and North African hands, the influences of both cultures can be felt strongly on each side, resulting in the culture, food and outlook being a unique mix of the two continents.
What both sides have in common is a relaxed attitude to life, and a pride in extending a warm welcome to visitors, ensuring that your stay around The Straits will be a hugely enjoyable and amicable – not to mention fascinating – experience.
Africa looks tantalisingly close across The Straits so we include a three-night stay in Northern Morocco, giving a different birding experience as well as a cultural element to this tour. We should have great views of the beautiful Moroccan Marsh Owl, and other specialities such as the stunning Moussier’s Redstart and Levaillant’s Woodpecker too.
The Straits may be just 14 kilometres wide, but for wildlife, and humans, it is a significant barrier. We will enjoy these differences, both avian and cultural, throughout the tour. After crossing to Africa, tapas and Rioja give way to the aromas of spicy street food and mint tea, and familiar European birds become African Chaffinch, African Blue Tit and Maghreb Magpie.
As well a boat trip into The Straits with some great marine life including whales and dolphins and of course a number of seabirds, this tour will also include a fascinating insight into the urban birds of Spain and Morocco.
A massive migration event is in progress at this time of year, and we hope to see tens of thousands of raptors including Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, alongside huge flocks of White and Black Storks and European Bee-eaters. Resident Spanish specialities include Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Crested Tit, Griffon Vulture and Northern Bald Ibis. On the Moroccan side we will look for Moussier’s Redstart, Little Swift and Moroccan Marsh Owl. Visits to wetlands should yield Red-knobbed Coot, Brown-throated Martin and Moustached Warbler as well as a host of waders including Kentish Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling and Little Stint. The inter-tidal lagoons may yield good Gulls and Terns with Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls largely certain and Caspian, Little, Sandwich and Whiskered Terns in abundance perhaps joined by a Lesser-crested or Royal Tern!
Our boat trip should give us views of Cory’s and Scopoli’s Shearwaters as well as Long-finned Pilot Whales, Common, Bottlenose and Striped Dolphins. Scarcer possibilities may include Sperm Whale, Fin Whale and even Orca!
We meet you at Gibraltar airport or other agreed arrival point and transfer to our delightful eco-resort in tranquil woodland, the centre of birding in the Straits. Our base at Huerta Grande is ideal for watching the migration as it is located between two natural parks in the hills above The Straits of Gibraltar, amongst lush Cork Oak forest. We should witness many hundreds of migratory birds making the crossing to their wintering grounds in Africa, including Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Black Kites and both Black and White Storks.
We will take a boat excursion, weather permitting, into The Straits to witness the seabird passage and cetaceans. We will be on the lookout for Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters and European Storm-petrel among other species, plus the three species of resident dolphin (Common, Bottlenose and Striped) and the resident pods of Long-finned Pilot Whale. Following our boat trip we will engage in some urban birding around the old town of Tarifa where we can encounter Common Bulbul and Lesser Kestrels. Simply by looking up we will encounter migrating raptors and storks crossing over this historic town.
We may also have a look at the high rocky cliffs of Sierra de la Plata. Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, and Rock Bunting are all likely to be encountered here but the main attraction here is the chance to get fantastic close views and experience the eerie screeching of the Griffon Vulture colony, where Rüppell’s Vultures are also now frequently recorded.
We next make our own crossing – to Northern Morocco by ferry – before beginning our exploration of the African side of The Straits, visiting a variety of coastal and inland sites.
We will visit the estuary of Merdja Zerga, a sweeping wetland on Morocco’s Atlantic coast south of Tangiers. Merdja Zerga is famous amongst birders as the last known winter haunt of the legendary Slender-billed Curlew, a bird now sadly presumed extinct. None have been seen here since 1995, but the beautiful drawings of those who journeyed here in the early 1990s can still be seen in the cherished bird log on display in a quiet estuary-side café. Despite the demise of its Slender-billed Curlews, Merdja Zerga is still a magnificent wildlife site. Here a variety of terns stop to feed and breed, while waders probe the mud in their thousands, amongst them Greenshanks, Spotted Redshanks, Whimbrels and Avocets. We’ll stay until dusk, for then we have a chance of seeing the extremely rare Moroccan Marsh Owl.
Our first night will be in the historic city of Larache, where breeding Little Swift and Pallid Swift will whizz overhead and Common Bulbul and House Bunting should be encountered.
We will visit some nearby wetlands where we’ll look for Moustached Warbler, Brown-throated Martin, Red-knobbed Coot, and Marbled Duck and White-headed Duck, before heading to our next base in the delightful blue city of Chefchaouen, where we’ll stay for two nights. This ancient city at the edge of Talassemtane National Park gives spectacular views of the Rif Mountains and offers some of the best urban birding on the planet!
En route we will spend time in the Forest of Bouhachem in the Rif Mountains where there is a small population of Barbary Macaques. The Barbary Macaque lives mainly in mountain ranges in north-west Africa and is the only species of macaque found outside Asia.
The Talassemtane mountain range offers brilliant and easily accessible mountain birding with several species of raptor likely to be encountered such as Atlas Long-legged Buzzards, Peregrine Falcons and Bonelli’s Eagles amongst raptors migrating through the mountain ranges. There are smaller jewels to be found, such as the stunning Moussier’s Redstart, Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush. Amongst these specialists are generalists that take on new meaning such as the gorgeous African Blue Tit and African Chaffinch, giving quite a twist on familiar species.
Today we´ll take a pre-breakfast stroll from our accommodation to see a little of the surrounding countryside. Here amongst the fields and streams we’ll look out for early morning pastoral delights such as Common Bulbuls, Black-winged Kite, Cirl Buntings, Serins, Moroccan Wagtail, Levaillant’s Woodpecker, the algeriensissub-species of Great Grey Shrike and maybe even Black-crowned Tchagra.
After a final delicious Moroccan breakfast and some time to relax and pack, we’ll make our way back to Tanger Med port to catch our ferry back to Spain. During the crossing we’ll again look out for Common, Bottlenose and Striped Dolphins, and perhaps even the distant blow of a passing Sperm Whale. In the rich feeding areas, we can hope for views of Northern Gannets, Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters.
Arriving in Spain we´ll make the short journey to Huerta Grande, where our evening meal will await.
Today we will make a visit to a nearby nature reserve created on the site of disused salt pans. This area offers a fantastic selection of waders which change every day, but we will especially hope for encounters with Kentish Plovers, Eurasian Stone-curlews, Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stint as well as eye-catchers like Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo and Western Osprey.
Also close by is the town of Vejer de la Frontera, where a successful reintroduction programme of the Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis took place in 2004. The local population now numbers around 80, and we should be able to see these engaging and quirky birds at their nesting colony or grazing on surrounding farmland.
We may also visit the farmland and wetlands of La Janda, a huge farmland area which was once a vast wetland on a par with Doñana National Park in terms of its ecological importance. On the post-harvest rice stubble, we will look out for many hundreds of White Stork and Glossy Ibis, Purple Swamphen, Marsh Harrier, Black-winged Kite as well as a chance of Spanish Imperial Eagle and Bonelli’s Eagle.
We should again find ourselves in the midst of the Autumn raptor migration, and will take our final chance to sit back and relax with a picnic and a glass of wine at a raptor watchpoint as the spectacular birds drift overhead.
After a week’s exciting birding it will be time for you to leave this avian highway bottleneck and make your own journeys home, with great memories of the spectacular flow of birdlife over The Straits and some special species from both Spain and Morocco.