advertisement

Morocco is a prime destination for the active and adventurous traveler. Throughout the country, you'll find ways to experience Morocco's diverse culture and natural landscapes and, at the same time, enjoy a wide range of sports and activities. Morocco's compact size affords travelers the luxury of catching a wave before breakfast, heading up to the mountains for a prelunch hike, and finishing the day astride a camel on the edge of the Sahara.

Within Morocco is a well-established adventure-travel industry that is run by both international and local operators, and offers a range of both "soft" and "hard" options. Whether you want adventure travel to be the focus of your trip or you want to treat it as an extra to a more conventional holiday, there are a number of ways to approach it.

This guide outlines everything from tour operators offering combination or special-interest packages to the best locations in Morocco to enjoy specific activities. Some activities -- such as bird-watching and mountain trekking -- are located within Morocco's underfunded national parks and nature reserves. Although the government has recently created four new national parks, the total protected area within Morocco is less than 1%. Of that miniscule amount, much of the land is still used by bordering communities for grazing and firewood, and information centers or other visitor facilities are practically nonexistent. By far the country's most visited park is the Toubkal National Park in the Western High Atlas, and there's talk that the government may begin charging an admission levy (there are no entrance fees to any of the country's protected areas) on visitors, a move already agreed to in principle by many trekking operators, so long as the funds are used toward the park itself.

Ballooning -- In the late 1990s, Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson chose Morocco as his departure point for an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to circumnavigate the globe by balloon. The country is tailor-made for ballooning, one would think, with its scenic mountains, largely unspoiled coastline, and sweeping seas of Saharan sand dunes. It's taken awhile, but there is now one sole outfitter operating balloon flights in Morocco. Ciel d'Afrique (tel. 0524/432843; www.cieldafrique.info) is the passion of exuberant Frenchman Maurice Otin. His Marrakech-based operation offers scenic flights of the wide plains around (but not over) Marrakech and Ouarzazate, with the Western High Atlas as a backdrop. Hour-long flights start from 2,050dh per person (half price for kids 9 and under), with additional extras offered such as a champagne breakfast and video footage. It's best to contact Maurice as early as possible so that weather conditions can be taken into consideration.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.