Ouzoud Falls Monkeys: Chocolate Waterfalls and Barbary Apes

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A day trip to Ouzoud Falls and the troop of Macaque monkeys that call it home.

Ouzoud Waterfall, an oasis in the Moroccan desert, and visiting the local barbary macaque monkeys were a complete contrast to the madness of Marrakech. 

On our 6-day trip to Marrakech, Morocco, we wanted to fit in as much as possible. We stayed at the marvellous riad, Dar Touyir, in the Marrakech ‘Medina’ (or ‘old town’) and used a few days to visit further afield. 

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Ouzoud Falls … this chocolate waterfall is aptly nicknamed ©Lifejourney4two

Ouzoud Falls Day Trip Video

Ouzoud Falls Day Trip

Choosing a Marrakech to Ouzoud Falls Tour

There are many online tour agencies offering day trips to Ouzoud Falls. We were slightly wary because we had heard of many scam sites, where you pay and then no one turns up to collect you for your tour. Therefore, check reviews and book through a reputable company.

These tours on Get Your Guide are highly rated:

Most of the tours arrange to pick up at around 8 am.

Ouzoud Falls Map

Marrakech to Ouzoud Falls

As we left the madness of Marrakech and headed northeast towards Ouzoud Waterfalls, we began passing the rolling hills of the countryside with the sensational snow-covered Atlas Mountains in the distance.

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The Atlas Mountains in the background – covered in snow ©Lifejourney4two

The drive to Ouzoud Falls, in the Azilal province, took about three hours, passing through traditional old villages, olive groves and orchards.

As we neared the village of Tanaghmeilt, where the Falls are situated, the landscape colours changed, with the red soil dominating the landscape.

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Azilal Province landscape, Morocco ©Lifejourney4two

READ MORE: A Day Trip to Ait Ben Haddou in the Sahara Desert

Market Day Near Ouzoud  

Getting closer to Ouzoud Falls, we could see a market in a field in the distance. This explains the many locals along the side of the road. Some rode bicycles, others had a horse and cart, and many rode donkeys.

We learnt that the market happens only once a week. Therefore, the villagers from all around the area need to buy or trade all their needs for the upcoming week.

Many of the people live in villages that are inaccessible by vehicles, so they travel to and from by donkey. When we arrived at the village, some donkeys were tied up, waiting for their owners to load them up and head back to the mountains.

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Donkey waiting for load of weekly stores, Ouzoud Falls ©Lifejourney4two

Ouzoud Falls Guide

Our local guide, Ali, met our tour bus at Ouzoud.

Ali was an exceptional guide. Although he had never been to school, his local knowledge of the area and his English were outstanding. In fact, he could not only speak English; he also spoke Arabic, Berber, French, German, and Spanish.

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Our guide, Ali, has time for a pic with Shelley, Ouzoud Waterfalls ©Lifejourney4two

His youth was spent watching his older brothers take tours, and he learned to speak other languages by listening to tourists. 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.

Chocolate River at Ouzoud Cascades

As we headed towards the Cascades d’Ouzoud, Ali provided us with extensive information about the area and was happy to answer any questions.

The first thing we noticed as we passed the river was its brown colour. The rainfall in the last few days had washed the red soil into the river, which had not rained for the previous six months, so the villagers were extremely happy.

Troglodyte Caves at Ouzoud Falls

We came to a clearing as we walked along a shaded path of olive trees. Across the valley were ancient troglodyte caves on the side of a hill.

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Troglodyte caves in the hills across the valley near Ouzoud Waterfalls ©Lifejourney4two

The word ‘troglodyte’ comes from Greek 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. 

Olive Tree Ownership at Ouzoud Falls

The short trail to the Falls took us past orchards of fruit and olive trees.

Interestingly, many of the trees had various colours and numbers painted on them, symbolising the owners.

If a tree had two colours, one family owned the land, and another family owned the tree. The tree’s fruit is shared between the two families in this situation.

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This olive tree at Ouzoud Falls shows two different painted marks. One represents the landowner, and the other the tree owner ©Lifejourney4two

Olive trees have been in this area for millions of years, and interestingly, some of the petrified roots can be seen on the path down to the Ouzoud Falls.

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Petrified roots of the olive trees surrounding Ouzoud Falls ©Lifejourney4two

Ouzoud Falls

It would be fair to say that we had never seen anything like the sight that greeted us as we reached the top of the falls.

We have seen 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 Ouzoud Falls day trip photos, which show azure blue waters, but this made for an even more fascinating spectacle.

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View of  Ouzoud Waterfalls from the top ©Lifejourney4two

Moving down to the bottom of the Falls is a little steep but entirely manageable. The abundance of red soil in the area explains why they had turned a rusty-brown colour.

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Walk down to the Ouzoud Fall’s base ©Lifejourney4two

Ouzoud Falls: Crossing the River

At the bottom of the Ouzoud Falls, you’ll find pools, mini waterfalls and stepping-stones to get you the short distance to the other side. However, the stepping stones were partially submerged due to the recent rains. This wasn’t a problem as there were plenty of colourful rafts to ferry you across.

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People line up for a water taxi ©Lifejourney4two

Some tourists rode on the rafts to the waterfall base, but we chose to take photos of them from the other side instead.

You will need a waterproof jacket if you decide to take a raft to the base.

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 Water taxis ply tourists across the base of Ouzoud Waterfalls ©Lifejourney4two
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Close-up photos from the water taxi of Ouzoud Falls ©Lifejourney4two

I couldn’t help but feel I was in a scene from the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The chocolate-coloured water and the bright-coloured rafts created a wonderfully whimsical scene.

Traditional Lunch at Ouzoud

A few restaurants were on the other side of the river, overlooking the Ouzoud Falls. 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.

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Chocolate falls … the stuff of dreams ©Lifejourney4two

Ouzoud Falls Monkeys

After lunch, we continued up the steep hillside. Almost immediately, we were greeted by the Ouzoud Falls monkeys, cheeky monkeys with hands out asking for nuts.

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Monkeys chasing food ©Lifejourney4two

Here, you’ll likely find locals selling you nuts to feed the monkeys.

However, it is not recommended to feed the monkeys as they are wild animals and feeding them encourages changed behaviours.

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Wild Barbary Apes at Ouzoud Falls ©Lifejourney4two

It was a surprise to find that these indigenous Barbary apes were so interactive because we thought we would be watching them from afar. 

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The wild apes have become habituated to begging for food ©Lifejourney4two

I have to admit that we weren’t particularly aware of the detrimental effects of feeding these animals at the time, but we have since gained increasing awareness of the problems involved with this kind of tourism.

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Monkeys were jumping on passersby in search of food ©Lifejourney4two

At the time, this kind of tourism seemed so much more ethical than the many traders in the centre of Marrakech who had pet monkeys with chains around their necks and where tourists were paying money to have their photos taken with the monkeys. This seemed awful to us.

But in hindsight, by feeding the barbary apes at Ouzoud Falls, we ourselves were reinforcing their changed habituation.

Our later visit to the Monkey Forest in France, a rehabilitation and breeding protection program for Barbary Apes, played a large part in educating us and changing our view on this situation.

Why We Shouldn’t Feed The Ouzoud Falls Monkeys

  • If wild animals become accustomed to food handouts, they lose their natural fear of humans and may become aggressive and bite.
  • A plentiful food supply can sometimes cause overpopulation and can cause territorial aggression.
  • As animals become accustomed to humans, they are more easily captured and illegally traded or kept as pets.
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Handfeeding is to be discouraged ©Lifejourney4two

Watching the antics and movements of these gorgeous animals was captivating, but we now realise that human interaction with and feeding of the Ouzoud Falls monkeys should be restricted. 

They have obviously grown used to being fed and surrounded by tourists. It’s undeniably not the best situation, but at least these Ouzoud Falls monkeys are not in captivity and are free to roam.

If you love monkeys, you will also enjoy reading about and watching the videos on the various monkeys at:

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‘No- I’m not sharing!’ ©Lifejourney4two

There is something so intriguing about watching these little creatures because they have so many human-like mannerisms.

The highlight of the day was seeing the tiny, five-day-old barbary ape. Watching the mum with her little one was just awesome. She was protective and calm, and she made sure the baby didn’t move further than her arm’s reach.

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Mum and bub at Ouzoud Falls ©Lifejourney4two

The video shows the dad coming over to lend a helping hand.

Cuteness Overload .. Macaque Monkey - Mum and Bub, Ouzoud Waterfalls, Morocco

One of the smaller monkeys jumped upon Lars to escape, being chased by one of the larger ones. 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.

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Barbary macaque flea-ing me at Ouzoud Falls ©Lifejourney4two

The Ouzoud Falls were spectacular. However, spending time with the monkeys absolutely made our day. Reluctantly, we had to leave these cuties and the amazing Ouzoud Waterfalls behind us and head back to Marrakech.

The drive back was captivating as we glimpsed odd snippets of insight into life in the Moroccan desert. The perfect escape from the hectic life of the Marrakech Medina.

Marrakech Good to Know

Marrakech Accommodation

We stayed in the Medina in Marrakech at a riad called Dar Touyir.

We would highly recommend it. The service was excellent and the staff could not do enough for you.

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Breakfast area of our riad in Marrakech, Dar Touyir ©Lifejourney4two

Other Day Trips From Marrakech

There are several Tours to other places in Morocco from Marrakech.

Ouzoud Falls, Morocco … That’s a Wrap

We will be going back to Morocco in the future to explore more of this exotic country.

Let us know if you have any recommendations or have any shared experiences.

We’d love to hear from you. 

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For a more thorough list, visit our Travel Resources page here.

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Shelley

Shelley, a former primary school teacher with a law degree, and her husband Lars co-own Lifejourney4two. Their adventure began in Perth, Australia, and has since taken them through Europe and Africa in motorhomes and bush campers. Shelley's travel guides combine practical advice with engaging stories, mirroring their shift from 'One Day' to 'Day One'. Together, they aim to inspire others to embark on their own travel dreams.

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