In the heart of the Maghreb, you’ll find the Atlas Mountains, a natural marvel with snow-covered peaks that can reach more than 13,000 high in elevation and covering 1,600 square miles of land, taking over portions of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. While hiking the mountains is strongly recommended, it’s not the only way to explore Africa’s own version of the Grand Canyon. Many visitors are surprised by the fact that you can, indeed, go rafting in the Atlas Mountains.
Most visitors will stay in nearby Marrakech in Morocco for convenient access to the Atlas Mountains where there are plenty of guided tours offered by locals and small companies. Outside of Marrakech, you can find Berber Rafting Adventures, a privately-owned touring company with English, French, and Arabic speaking guides. The company offers different packages from day trips to five-day trips where paddlers can camp out overnight in the mountains.
The Ahansal River is the go-to spot for rafting and has several sections in the water for beginners to advanced paddlers. Families will be pleased to find that rafting is a kid-friendly activity in designated areas where the water is calm and they can kick back to relax and enjoy the surrounding nature. The water is plentiful, thanks to the snowy winters in the region where the snow and ice eventually melt from March to late June. Paddlers will disembark from the iconic site, Cathedral Rock and float for 1.5 hours through the canyon until they arrive at Tillouguite village.
Advanced and seasoned paddlers may want to consider the three to five day long rafting tour, where they’ll face challenging gorges with their guides. Throughout the rafting adventure, paddlers will get a chance to dismount from their rafts to go on hiking expeditions to explore the land, pitch their tents and fall asleep under the stars. It’s common for adventurers to spot local wildlife in the midst of the red canyons like Barbary sheep, Barbary stag, Barbary macaques and occasionally the very rare Barbary leopard.
Another outfitter to look for is the Morocco Rafting touring company that takes guests to brave the Ahansel River as well as the Oum Er Rbia, Ourika and the Nfiss rivers. Paddlers will be picked up from Hotel Islane where they’ll be taken to their inflatable rafts and given life jackets, helmets and other safety equipment to start their three-day river journey. On the first day, paddlers will float by Mount Toubkhal, the highest mountain in North Africa that has its own breathtaking waterfall. There, rafters will take a break for a picnic while nearby macaque monkeys inspect them. The second day is the most challenging as guests will tackle the biggest rapid, giving them the adrenaline-pumping adventure they’ve been looking for. If you are pressed for time and cannot commit to a few-day rafting trip, Morocco Rafting also offers a half-day tour on the Ourika River. Guests can also choose between group rafting or paddling in individual kayaks. Morocco Rafting bills itself as being the best guided trip for large groups, making it popular for work retreats, large families, and large groups of friends seeking a thrill. For those who are nervous about attempting their first rafting trip, the company has its own kayaking school where guests are taught basic intros into tackling the rapids.
The best time to book your trip is anytime from March to May (April being the most ideal month) and the water will remain approximately 30 degrees so paddlers are encouraged to dress warmly for the trip. This includes articles of clothing made from synthetic materials, wool and fleece (no cotton). Bring your own hygiene kit and sleeping bag and the rafting companies will take care of the rest for you.
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