© All CONTENT & PHOTOGRAPHS G.J. VERSPUI 2017 ©
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My 3rd trip to Morocco, this time to the north and again in an other time of year, after herping in the south in spring 2015 and summer 2016 it was time now to go in winter. With a little bit of luck and some hard work it should be possible to see some Moroccan Amphibian species.
This time I went with my herping buddy Bobby Bok (NL), his wife Laura (DE) and Dominik Hauser (DE), Frank Deschandol(FR) and his (girl)friend Morgane (FR) were already in Morocco at the time that we arrived.
This trip I had 3 species that I really would like to see: The Moroccan Midwife Toad, the Moroccan Spadefoot Toad and the North African Fire Salamander.
When we arrived in Casablanca Dominik was already waiting for us, so after picking up the rental car we were ready to drive towards Kenitra, the weather was perfect, around 18 celsius and sunny, at Kenitra Bobby booked a hotel south of the city, so after dinner we could drive to the amphibian ponds in the Mamora forest as fast as possible.
In the afternoon we visited some spots that were totally destroyed and the only things we found were a Large Psammodromus and a Moorish Gecko.
So first to the hotel and have some dinner before we get out again.
After dinner we got back in the car and started it, or at least we tried, the battery was dead, so from that moment on every time we had to start the car we had to push it and my lazy passengers all loved it, especially my lazy co-driver.
The Moroccan Spadefoot Toad was my target species for this night and after searching around some ponds we finally found them, Bobby found the first and after that we all found one I think, so that was one less on my most wanted list!
We also found some big and good-looking Mauritanian Toads and when we were almost ready to go back to the hotel, Frank and Morgane showed up and were also very happy to see the Spadefoot Toads! A good example of being in the right place at the right time!
The next morning we searched in a coastal dune area close to Kenitra and did not find much, Morgane was the only one finding something nice, it was a Checkerboard Worm Lizard, a species I did not see before.
From Kenitra it was around 250 km to Tetouan, most of it being highway, so we were lucky, close to Tetouan we searched on a slope and found some Moorish Gecko's and a False Smooth Snake.
When we arrived in Tetouan we first went to a location where Fire Salamanders and Midwife Toads can be found, after turning some stones and logs for a while Frank found the first salamander which looked a bit pale and had a granular skin and I was lucky too when I found 2 salamanders under 1 log.
Before it got dark we searched for a hotel and found a good one with very friendly and good-looking staff...At night I think they only wanted one thing and although we had such a thing we still went into the mountains to look for tiny amphibians..
The activity was low at the small stream, we found some Green Frogs and some Moroccan Painted Frogs, but no Midwife Toad... after some hours Dominik showed us he was not only a smooth talking german teacher, but also a good herper by finding the only Moroccan Midwife Toad of the trip.
Frank & Morgane french kissed Dominik as a big thank you and the family Bok were also very very happy I think....I looked away from that scene.
So when everybody was all over Dominik I grabbed the toad and made some photos.
The next morning we enjoyed a very good breakfast and there was a little boy who became my friend, the biggest reason for that is because he managed to make Bobby's grumpy morning face look even grumpier...he loves kids...
After that we photographed and released the animals where we found them.
The next thing to do was drive to Ceuta and find some more salamanders, on the way we stopped at some beach and sanddunes areas and hoped for some skink species, but only a Mauritanian Toad and some Moroccan Painted Frogs showed up. At the beach I gave my walnut some time to enjoy itself in the sun, it looked like a beautiful place, but the tide would come in and people will step on it, so it was her last moment of fun ever.
Around Ceuta we did not find anything except a Vaucher's Wall Lizard.
The area we searched in was very beautiful one with Cork Oak Trees everywhere, but no salamanders.
When we were ready to drive back we choose to look at a location close to the coast, but that area was a garbage dump and no salamanders were seen, Frank and Morgane checked out an other spot and did find some salamanders.
Back in Tetouan we had dinner and they all went out into town because it was the last day of the year, I was f*cked from all the driving and wanted to sleep, at least, that is what I told the others, in stead I did my sweaty power yoga exersises naked on Dominiks bed.
Happy New Year!
Good morning and happy new year, today we drive 100 km south to an area where an other subspecies of North African Fire Salamander can be found, the 100 km on the Moroccan roads is at least 2 hours of driving, when we were almost at the place we wanted to go we saw some waterholes and a cistern so we decided to check them out, in the water we found salamander larvae.
A couple of minutes later Bobby and Laura found 2 adult salamanders and I found 2 more, 1 of them was in the concrete cistern trying to climb up the wall, when I reached as far as I could, Laura holding my legs, I was just able to grab the salamander and save it from a certain death.
Other species found in this great place were Stripeless Tree Frog, Bibron's Agama and Viperine Snake.
After all the saving, catching and photographing I enjoyed the sun a bit, after all there are not many days in winter that you can call color-scheme-day.
When the others were finally ready with photographing the animals we drove to an area where Midwife Toads were supposed to be.
We did not see them, but we did find some time to make a very important group picture, I always hate these stupid shit, but I must admit that it turned out ok. Thanks Laura!
Before we drove 42 km back to Chefchaouen in one hour we found a big Painted Frog with stripes, so quickly some pics and than that horrible road back.
In Chefchaouen we searched for a hotel first in the center, but that was a very bad idea and luckily we found a nice one on the edge of town.
After a cheap dinner I went to bed and some others went to the salamander spot, but the temperature was below freezing point and there was no activity.
Fez & Azrou
From Chefchaouen it was around 200 km to Fez, but before we left we said goodbye to Frank and Morgane, it was around 08:30 and an angry man asked us why we were so loud..."this is not a bar" he said, so we gave him a tissue for his tears and went away. Frank and Morgane were going home later today, so see you later amigos!
Driving to Fez meant sitting some hours in the car, this is normally not a big problem, but every 30 min there is somebody on the backseat making very weird noises with her nose, it sounded like an elephant that tries to play some bad music....because of this we did some short stops for some herping, close to Fez we found some tiny Banded Lizard-fingered Geckos and a Spur-tighed Tortoise. When we drove through Fez we saw Sebastian Voitel, who was walking there with his wife Katja. On the hills north of Fez we found the same and Moorish Gecko, Bibron's Agama and a Tangier Worm Lizard. The next day we wanted to see the Barbary Macaques at Azrou, so we drove as fast as we could through Fez and headed for Imouzzer Kandar where we found a hotel and some tajines.
The next morning we left early, bought some breakfast and Laura made it while I was driving, at our first stop at the oldest cedar tree in the world (which was dead) we already saw some Barbary Macaques, they were enjoying the sun. Some people needed almost an hour to photograph fake wildlife monkeys, I did it in 2 minutes, let's see how great those results will be...fast is smooth, smooth is fast.
Close to where the monkeys are you can also find some nice herps, but with the temperature below freezing point we did not give it a try.
Now as fast as possible into the direction of Rabat.
Casablanca & Oualidia
Close to Rabat we left the highway and took a small and very long road through the southern parts of the mamora forest, here we found a Sharp-ribbed Newt and some Moorish Terrapins, a lot closer to Casablanca we had dinner and after it we checked out some ponds, here we found Viperine Snake, Sharp-ribbed Newt and Stripeless Tree Frogs. The last place we visited was very close to a village, so within minutes there were some people coming to see what we were doing and again they were very friendly, searching with us and even offering us some wading boots so we could go in the water.
Al we needed to do now is find us a place to sleep, south of Casablanca we found Gite Nadia, a very nice place.
In the morning we had a good breakfast at Gite Nadia and after that we drove towards Oualidia with the Cure coming out of the speakers, here we stepped out of the car and started to flip stones and give blood to the many mosquitoes. This place turned out to be a good one, we found 10 species there and some were new for this trip and even new for me. I think we all found at least one or 2 Checkerboard Worm Lizards, so for that species it was a very good place, unfortunately there were also species there that we didn't find, the Berber Skink was probably hiding a lot deeper than where we searched, some people cried because of that, I will not mention which married couple did this..
When it got dark we had dinner at a restaurant where you can buy meat per kilo and it was very good, after dinner we searched for chameleons and found 5 of them, 3 juveniles and 2 adults.
This was a good way to end the trip, now back to Gite Nadia, it was more than an hour so we had to put in the Katy Perry cd again and sing our self-made songs....when we arrived we could finally sleep, the next morning we only had to clean the car and go back home.
At least, for Bobby, Laura and me, Dominik's flight was cancelled so he was lucky and stayed an extra night in Morocco.
An other week in Morocco, but totally different from the first 2 trips, the north is fun also, but I prefer the south, the thing that is not different is the hard work you have to do to find animals, almost al species we found were found in low numbers and that with 6 people searching.
I was also hoping to see some more Skink species, now we only found one, but we searched at several known spots for other Skink species as well without results.
Again I was blessed with a bunch of retards who share the same interests as I do, most we did was looking at the beautiful Moroccan women and Mrs Bok was the one who was in charge of this, In every hotel she stole away my bellydancers.
Dominik seemed a very serious young teacher, but when the monkey came out of the sleeve he turned out to be one dirty sick guy (he is German, so not really surprising), so I still think it was karma that cancelled his flight back home.
Oh and Mona, if you read this, Dominik promised us to be the co-star in one of your videos soon, if you are ok with that.
The Moroccan people are almost everywhere that you step out of the car, I was already used to that, but again they were nothing but very friendly, helpful and interested in what we were doing, even the cops were ok this time, they wanted to give me a ticket, but somehow they did not, maybe it was because I asked for an original written ticket..
The driving in Morocco is not always fun, short distances take a lot of time, but my sick herping buddies with their "Katy Perry sing along as dirty as you can" cd's made sure I was able to stay awake. Thanks!
Also thanks to the people who gave us information, Wouter Beukema, Abdellah Bouazza, Arlo Hinckley and Alberto Sanchez Vialas.
Make sure to check out Bobby's report as well!
1. Moroccan Midwife Toad - Alytes maurus
2. Moroccan Painted Frog - Discoglossus scovazzi
3. African Green Toad - Bufotes boulengeri
4. Moroccan Spadefoot Toad - Pelobates varaldii
5. Mauritanian Toad - Sclerophrys mauritanica
6. Stripeless Tree Frog - Hyla meridionalis
7. North African Green Frog - Pelophylax saharicus
8. Sharp-ribbed Newt - Pleurodeles waltl
9. North African Fire Salamander - Salamandra algira ssp tingitana & splendens
10. Moorish Terrapin - Mauremys leprosa
11. Spur Tighed Tortoise - Testudo graeca marokkensis
12. Moorish Gecko - Tarentola mauritanica
13. Morocco Lizard-fingered Gecko - Saurodactylus brosseti
14. Banded Lizard-fingered Gecko - Saurodactylus fasciatus
15. Bibron's Agama - Agama impalearis
16. Mediterranean Chameleon - Chamaeleo chamaeleon
17. Voucher's Wall Lizard - Podarcis vaucheri
18. Fringe-fingered Lizard - Acanthodactylus 'lineomaculatus'
19. Large Psammodromus - Psammodromus algirus
20. Mionecton Skink - Chalcides mionecton
21. Tangiers Worm Lizard - Blanus tingitanus
22. Checkerboard Worm Lizard - Trogonophis wiegmanni
23. Viperine Snake - Natrix maura
24. False Smooth Snake - Macroprotodon brevis ibericus
25. Western Montpellier Snake - Malpolon monspessulanus