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OUZOUD FALLS: DAY TRIP FROM MARRAKECH

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

Ouzoud Waterfall, an oasis in the Moroccan desert, combined with visiting the local Barbary Macaque monkeys was a complete contrast to the madness of Marrakech. 

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

OUZOUD FALLS DAY TRIP VIDEO

Choosing a Marrakech to Ouzoud Falls Tour

There were many online tour agencies offering a day trip 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.

The Atlas Mountains in the background – covered in snow

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 of the area dominating the landscape.

red and brown hills
Azilal Province landscape, Morocco

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 explained the many locals along the side of the road. Some rode bicycles, others were on 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 have to travel to and fro by donkey. When we arrived at the village there were some donkeys tied up waiting for their owners to load them up and head back to the mountains.

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

OUZOUD FALLS GUIDE

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

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

His youth had been spent watching his older brothers take tours and he had learnt 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.

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

CHOCOLATE RIVER AT OUZOUD CASCADES

As we headed towards the Cascades d’Ouzoud, 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. The rainfall 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.

TROGLODYTE CAVES AT OUZOUD FALLS

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

Ouzoud-caves
Troglodyte caves are in the hills across the valley near Ouzoud Waterfalls

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, which were symbols representing the owners.

If there were two colours on a tree this meant that one family owned the land and another family, the tree. In this situation, the fruit of the tree is shared between the two families.

The 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.

Trunk of olive tree with blue and green coloured marking on the bark
This olive tree at Ouzoud Falls shows two different painted marks. One represents the landowner and the other the tree owner.
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 Falls

OUZOUD FALLS — A CHOCOLATE WATERFALL

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 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 showing azure blue waters, but for us, this made for an even more fascinating spectacle.

Ouzoud-falls-from-the-top
View of  Ouzoud Waterfalls from the top

Moving down to the bottom of the  Falls is a little steep, but entirely manageable. You can see why they had turned the rusty-brown colour when you see the abundance of red soil in the area.

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

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, due to the recent rains, the stepping-stones were partially submerged. This wasn’t a problem as there were plenty of colourful rafts to ferry you across.

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

You will need some type of waterproof jacket if you decide to take a 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 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

On the other side of the river, overlooking the Ouzoud Falls were a few restaurants. 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.

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.

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.

Ouzoud-falls-monkeys sat on railing aboove the Ouzoud waterfall
Wild Barbary Apes with Ouzoud Falls in the background
This little chap wasn't shy and knew what he wanted!
Monkeys were jumping on passers by in search of nuts and food
These guys learn the tricks fast!
The wild apes have become habituated to scrounging for food from tourists

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

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

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

But in hindsight, by feeding the Barbary apes at Ouzoud falls, we ourselves were playing a part in reinforcing the changed habituation of these animals.

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 handouts of food they lose their natural fear of humans and may become aggressive and bite.
  • A plentiful supply of food can sometimes cause overpopulation and can cause territorial aggression.
  • With the animals becoming accustomed to humans, they are more easily captured and illegally traded or kept as pets.

Watching the antics and movements of these gorgeous animals was captivating but we now realise the human interaction 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.

READ MORE about the France Barbary Ape Monkey Sanctuary Here

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

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.
‘No- I’m not sharing!’

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

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 arms reach.

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

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

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.

monkey on Lars shouder near Ouzoud Falls Morocco
Barbary macaque near Ouzoud Falls, Morocco

DAY TRIP TO OUZOUD FALLS: RETURN TO MARRAKECH

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.

You can book the Dar Touyir riad here or find other deals on accommodation in Marrakech on Booking.com here.

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

OTHER DAY TRIPS FROM MARRAKECH

There are several Tours to other places in Morocco from Marrakech. Here are a few that may take your fancy.

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 in the comments if you have any recommendations or have any shared experiences.

We’d love to hear from you. 

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