Just finally processed enough images to put together a brief report on a trip to Morocco that I undertook with 2 mates (David Nixon and Ben Dalgleish) in October. Morocco had long been a dream destination of mine having seen so many of the European herping community come back with great finds and stories. On top of this, I had herped southern Spain many times and the UAE twice and missed a few species in both those regions that could also be found in Morocco.
Having landed at Agadir, we sorted our rental and drove straight to Sidi Ifni, a small coastal town popular with surfers. This was to be our base for the entirety of the trip.
Old Timer for an Old Town by Kris Bell, on Flickr
The first afternoon was spent roadcruising and walking a few dry river beds. We immediately spotted what was probably a horseshoe whipsnake but it disappeared sharpish. The horseshoe whipsnake is one species I had missed or found DOR many times in south Spain so this was a painful further lost opportunity with this species.
With no joy on the first afternoon, we started road cruising as it got dark and very quickly found a live, juvenile horseshoe whipsnake...result!
Horseshoe Whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis) by Kris Bell, on Flickr
After finding several more of this species we decided to walk one of the dry river beds we had walked during the day and within a few minutes I heard an excited call from Ben, who had spotted a massive puff adder. This was my personal #1 target of the trip and it was a superb individual so needless to say, I was a happy camper. It wouldnt stop hissing and lunging at us, getting its whole body airborne, no small feat for such a chunky animal. We kept it to take pictures of the following day in the hope it would calm down...it didnt.
Big Bitis by Kris Bell, on Flickr
Having found my #1 target my thoughts began to turn to other species such as Helmeted and Elegent geckos, and black cobras.
The following day we roadcruised a bit, walked a bit, and visited a fascinating place to the south and slightly inland called Fort Bou Jerif. After a delicious tagine (pretty much the only meal the seemed to serve in Morocco) we continued doing the same into the afternoon. During this time, while reptiles were thin on the ground, we amused ourselves by taking photos of numerous bird and mammal species.
Maghreb Wheatear (Oenanthe lugens) by Kris Bell, on Flickr
The endearingly named Fat Sand Rat
Fat Sand Rat (Psammomys obesus) by Kris Bell, on Flickr
My main birding target...Little Owl
Little Owl (Athene noctua) Stare by Kris Bell, on Flickr
Barbary Ground Squirrel (Atlantoxerus getulus) by Kris Bell, on Flickr
Roadcruising throughout the second night produced more whipsnakes, more puff adders and another of my top targets for the trip, the Helmeted gecko. These guys did not disappoint in the flesh and reminded me quite a lot of my favourite family of geckos, Carphodactylidae - that contain the knobtail gecko species.
Helmeted Gecko (Tarentola chazaliae) by Kris Bell, on Flickr
A few other shots from the Sidi Ifni region:
Fisherman by Kris Bell, on Flickr
Horseshoe whipsnake by Kris Bell, on Flickr
Sahara Frog (Pelophylax saharicus) by Kris Bell, on Flickr
Field of Dreams by Kris Bell, on Flickr
Puff adder (Bitis arietans) - Morocco by Kris Bell, on Flickr
On the third day we decided to try for some different species, and struck out inland in the direction of Guelmim, Tan Tan and beyond. On the way out we passed by a car that had pulled to the side of the road and where a bunch of grown men were huddled in a circle, crouching over and taking pictures of a piece of dirt. Of course we had to stop, and it turned out to be a group of herpers from Europe, one of whom (Matt Berroneau) I knew well from the online community. After introductions, note swapping, bragging etc (they had found a black cobra earlier that day!) we continued on our way.
We passed some pretty incredible landscapes on the way.
Parched Landscape by Kris Bell, on Flickr
A couple of top targets in these regions were the rare white bellied carpet viper, desert monitor, horned viper, and Uromastyx. We spotted a beautifully colored Uromastyx which got away but did manage to find almost a dozen saharan horned vipers, about 60% of which did not have horns. This individual had some nice blue-ish markings to it.
Saharan Horned Viper (Cerastes cerastes) by Kris Bell, on Flickr
We revisited these inland areas the following day and found numerous camel spiders, as well as this snake, which we originally mistakenly took to be another of the numerous horseshoe whipsnakes.
Mograbin Diadem Snake (Spalerosophis dolichospilus) by Kris Bell, on Flickr
Another very welcome find from our trip inland was the elegant gecko. This one was about as drab an individual as I have seen but it had amazing eyes and was a wonderful animal nonetheless.
Nothern elegant gecko (Stenodactylus mauritanicus) by Kris Bell, on Flickr
We had found several moorish vipers dead on the road in the inland regions and after coming across another DOR, we decided one of us would jump out to walk the adjacent drainage ditch that followed the road. Within 20 seconds we had found a live individual, cruising along the ditch.
Moorish viper (Daboia mauritanica) by Kris Bell, on Flickr
Into our final day and despite seeing about 40 snakes over the short holiday, time was running out to find a black cobra, the species that Ben most wanted to see. So you can imagine our joy when on our final run of what had been a particularly fruitful stretch of road, we came across a beautiful young black cobra. A very fitting end to a very successful trip.
Black Cobra (Naja haje) by Kris Bell, on Flickr
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Congrats on nailing most of your targets. Fantastic pics as usual. I really like your flash techniques and could learn from you, I am sure. I love the whiskers on the Fat Sand Rat. Thanks for sharing.