Morocco

Ouzoud Waterfalls, Morocco: Chocolate Waterfalls and Cheeky Monkeys

We knew we wanted to experience as much as we could on our six-day trip to Morocco. This day trip to Ouzoud Waterfalls, an oasis in the desert, combined with visiting the Barbary Macaque monkeys in the wild, was an amazing experience. It was a complete contrast to the madness of the Marrakech Medina.

On our six-day trip to Morocco we wanted to fit in as much as we could. We stayed at the riad, Dar Touyir, in the Marrakech ‘Medina’ (or ‘old town’) and wanted at least a couple of days further afield to get more of a feel for Morocco.

Two grey sofas facing three wooden chairs under a green plant covered pergola
Breakfast area of our riad, Dar Touyir

We ended up booking two different day trips away from the city; one to Ait Ben Haddou, to visit the renowned Kasbahs in the Sahara desert, and one to Ouzoud Waterfalls.

The Ouzoud Waterfalls Day Trip

There were many online tour agencies to choose from and we were slightly wary because we had heard of scam sites, particularly in Morocco, where you pay and then no one turns up to collect you for your tour. Therefore, we researched carefully, read reviews and finally booked through a company called Easy Transfers.

When we received a reminder email the day before the trip, we felt more at ease. Pick up was confirmed at 8.00am for the following morning. The helpful staff at our riad organised an early breakfast for us and true to form, we were picked up exactly on time. It was refreshing to see that the minibus was near new.

As we left Marrakech and headed North East towards the Ouzoud Waterfalls, we began passing the rolling hills of the countryside and could see the snow-covered Atlas Mountains in the distance.

green and brown gently rolling hills with sparse bushes and the Atlas Mountains in the background covered in snow
Atlas Mountains in the background – covered in snow

The drive to Ouzoud Waterfalls, in the Azilal province, was about three hours long but we stopped about halfway for a coffee and toilet break. I thought that the drive may have been boring but it was far from it. The scenery was really interesting, passing through many old villages, olive groves and orchards.

As we neared the village of Tanaghmeilt where Ouzoud Falls are situated, the landscape colours changed, with the red soil of the area becoming much more apparent.

red and brown hills
Azilal Province landscape

Market Day

Just as we neared the village of Tanahmeilt,  we could see a market in the distance. This explained why we were suddenly passing quite a few local people either walking and riding on the road. Some were riding bikes, others in carts and some were on donkeys and mules. We learnt that the market comes only once a week. Therefore, the villagers from all around the area need to buy or trade all their needs for the upcoming week.

When we arrived at the village there were some donkeys tied up waiting for their owners to load them up and head back to wherever they had come. Many of the people live in villages which are inaccessible by vehicles so they have to travel to and fro by donkey.

Donkey with a pink blanket like saddle tethered to a tree
Donkey waiting for its owner to load it up with the weekly shopping

Arriving at Ouzoud Waterfalls

There was a guide waiting in the car park to take us on to the falls. It was optional as to whether you went with him, but for a cost of €3 each, I would definitely recommend it. Our guide was legally registered and undergoes annual testing for fitness and competence.

Our guide, Ali was exceptional. His knowledge of the area was outstanding, as was his English. Ali told us later that he had never been to school but had gone on tours with his older brothers since he was young and learnt to speak other languages just by listening to tourists. He spoke: Arabic, Berber, French, German, English and Spanish. Not bad for no schooling! Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to write but he didn’t seem too perturbed about that – he was happy, cheerful and loved his job.

Ali, man on left wearing black jacket black cap and sunglasses with arm around woman ( Michelle)with white jumoer and blue scarf
Our guide for Ouzoud Waterfalls, Ali

As we headed towards the falls, Ali gave us a lot of information about the area and was happy to answer any questions. The first thing that we noticed as we passed the river was the brown colour of the water. Ali explained that the rain in the last few days had caused the red soil to be washed into the river. Apparently, it had not rained for the previous six months so the villagers were extremely happy.

Passing the Olive and Fruit Trees

As we walked along a shaded path of olive trees we came to a clearing. Across the valley were old troglodyte caves in the side of a hill. I took a photo and I had just started listening to more on the caves but quickly became distracted when a farmer and his little group of sheep and goats passed us. There was a little baby goat with its mum, needless to say, I missed the rest of the information on the caves and was busy watching the baby goat! (Sometimes I think if you left me at a farm with baby animals I’d be happy for months!).

red soil ground in forground with caves in green hill on other side of valley
Troglodyte caves are in the hills across the valley near Ouzoud Waterfalls

The short route to the Ouzoud Waterfalls took us past many fruit and olive trees. There were various colours and numbers on most of the trees which we found out were symbols of the owners. If there were two colours on a tree this meant that one family owned the land and another family owned the tree. In this situation, the fruit of the tree is shared between the two families.

Trunk of olive tree with blue and green coloured marking on the bark
Olive tree showing two different painted marks. One representing the landowner and the other the tree owner.

The olive trees have been in this area for millions of years and some of the petrified roots can be seen on the path down to the Ouzoud Waterfalls.

brown coloured petrified roots of an olive tree. The roots are exposed on the side of the path
Petrified roots of the olive trees surrounding Ouzoud Waterfalls

Ouzoud Waterfalls

It would be fair to say we had never seen anything like the sight that greeted us as we came to the top of the falls. We have seen quite a few waterfalls on our travels but never like this. Thanks to the recent rains, we were greeted with what seemed like a giant chocolate waterfall! It certainly didn’t look like the advertised photos showing blue waters but for us, this made for an even more fascinating spectacle!

The top of Ouzoud Waterfalls with about five separate gushes of falls
Looking at Ouzoud Waterfalls from the top

Moving down to the bottom of the falls is a little steep but manageable – the red soil colour is extremely accentuated here.

two people walking down a steep red soiled path towards the Ouzoud Waterfalls base
Walk down to the Ouzoud Waterfall’s base

Crossing the River

At the bottom of the waterfalls are many pools and some stepping-stones that you can cross to get to the other side. Due to the recent rain however, these were partly submerged so we needed to take one of the colourful rafts across. Some of the tourists took a ride on the rafts to the waterfall base but we chose to take photos from the other side as we had a grand view. You may need some type of waterproof jacket if you raft to the base.

Pools of brown water at the bottom of the Ouzoud Waterfalls with three brightly coloured rafts
The pools and base of Ouzoud Waterfalls
Three tiers of the Ouzoud Waterfalls- the water is brown and the overall drop is about 100metres. At the bottom are two colourful rafts with about 8 people in each with a rower at the front of each.
Ouzoud Waterfalls in all their glory

I couldn’t help but feel I was in a scene of the movie ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’! The chocolate coloured water and the bright coloured rafts created a whimsical scene which reminded me of the displays of scrumptious lollies around the chocolate river in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

On the other side of the river overlooking the Ouzoud Waterfalls are a few restaurants. Our guide recommended one and we enjoyed a three-course meal of salad, beef and vegetable tagine, fruit and mint tea, all for €10. The meal was delicious and the fairytale view set the scene for savouring this traditional Moroccan dish.

Monkeying Around

After lunch we continued up the steep hillside. Almost immediately we were greeted by cheeky little monkey hands seeking some nuts. Here you will likely come across locals selling nuts. Although at first, they give you some as if for free but this is not the case. We, however, came prepared with some almonds for this very purpose.

Small monkey clinging to man's leg
This little chap wasn’t shy and knew what he wanted!

 

a mum and baby monkey sat on a railing with the falls in the Ouzoud Waterfalls in the background.
Barbary Macaque Monkeys with Ouzoud Waterfalls in the background

It was a surprise to find that these monkeys were so interactive. Although you need to be careful, as with all animals in the wild, these seemed calm and relatively passive. Even so, watching the antics and movements of these gorgeous animals you get the sense of a strong hierarchy among them.

Two monkeys sat about half a metre away from each other. One has his back turned slightly and is eating an almond. The other is watching over its shoulder.
Not about to share!

There is something so intriguing when interacting with these little creatures because they have so many little human-like mannerisms. They were also quite wise! One little fellow that I was giving nuts to realised that I had more in between my curled fingers and he gently unfurled them to get the nuts!

The highlight of the day for me was to see the tiny, five-day-old monkey. Watching the mum with her little one was just awesome. She was protective, calm and she made sure the baby didn’t move further than her arms reach.

Mum monkey with her five day old baby. The mum is light brown and the baby is a dark brown colour.

At one point dad comes over to lend a helping hand.

The waterfall itself was spectacular. However, spending time with the monkeys absolutely made our day. The baby monkey was just so incredibly cute!

One of the smaller monkeys jumped up on to Lars to escape one of the larger ones who had chased him. He settled down on Lars’ shoulder for quite some time, obviously feeling much safer up there. He may have thought Lars was an alpha monkey because he started picking through his hair for mites! Luckily, it didn’t look as though he found any!

Brown smallish monkey on man's (Lars) shoulder
Safe haven on Lars’ shoulder!

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Reluctantly, we had to leave these cuties and the Ouzoud Waterfalls behind us and head for home.

The drive back was captivating as we caught odd snippets of insight into life in the Moroccan desert. Swapping email addresses with some of our day’s companions we jumped out of the minivan and back to the riad.

By now it was about 6.30pm and we were more than ready to relax and have dinner at the riad. The day’s experiences were simply amazing. It was so different from the hectic life of the Marrakech Medina.

We will be going back in the future to explore more of this exotic country. Let us know in the comments if you have any recommendations or have any shared experiences. We’d love to hear it!

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A pinterest pin with a picture of mother and baby monkey with the brown waterfall in the background


Michelle

Author: Michelle

After finishing my Law Degree I decided to become a teacher. I am passionate about teaching, learning and most of all, about inspiring others. Now, as a writer and blogger, I love sharing our travels and our musings on life’s journey. I hope, through these, we can play a part in inspiring you to do whatever ‘satisfies your soul’.

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