Every time I make my way up into the majestic High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, I am struck by the incredible diversity of wildlife and nature that surrounds me. From rugged mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls, to arid deserts, this region is a true oasis of biodiversity.
One of the key species to look out for in the High Atlas Mountains is the Barbary macaque, a primate found nowhere else in the world. These charismatic creatures are highly social and can often be seen playing and grooming one another in large groups. They are also known for their cleverness and have been observed using tools to extract food from hard-to-reach places.
Another iconic species that roams these mountains is the Atlas mountain viper, a venomous snake with distinctive patterns and colors. While their venom is highly potent, these snakes are generally shy and avoid human contact. So much so that the guides rarely spot one, although they will point them out when they do.
In addition to these unique species, the High Atlas Mountains are also home to a variety of birdlife, including the rare and endangered northern bald ibis. These majestic birds, known for their distinctive bald heads, were once widespread throughout North Africa but are now restricted to a few isolated populations. The High Atlas Mountains represent one of the last strongholds for this species and efforts are underway to protect their habitat and increase their numbers.
As I trek deeper into the mountains, I am also struck by the incredible flora that blankets the landscape. From vibrant wildflowers to towering pine trees and junipers, the High Atlas is a botanist's paradise. Visitors to the region should keep an eye out for the Atlas cedar, a species that can live for up to 300 years and is highly valued for its fragrant wood.
Overall, the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco are a true gem of biodiversity, home to a stunning array of unique species and ecosystems. We may travel here for the mountain adventures, but it's the splendour of the natural environment that sticks with us long after that's over. Personally, this is what really draws me back, again and again.