Moulay Bousselham

A Haven For Wildlife

At the end of this post, why not enjoy the 2 minute video of our boat journey through the lagoon.

Sometimes an insignificant little dot on the map, conveniently positioned for a stop over during a journey, reveals itself as a magical destination. And so it was with little Moulay Bousselham.

A display boat outside the fish auction at Moulay Bousselham.

The campsite is verdant and huge. Motorhomes and tents park where they want, in a random muddle. Electricity points are everywhere and none of them look as if they should work, but they do. The service water is cold, except in the showers where hot water prevails!

As if all this was not a miracle in a country where campsites are usually closed, closed down, or so well hidden they might as well be either of the former, this site overlooks a stupendous marine view; a staggeringly beautiful and vibrant wonder. Our road map had indicated, by dint of a tiny blue splodge, that there was a largish body of water here, slightly set back from the sea; probably a lagoon. In terms of wildlife, a lagoon is always worth a look.

The moment our little tent was up and filled with our bedding, we were off. The sight that greeted us as we strolled the one minute from our tent to the shore, was of sparkling blue and and glistening damp, golden sand, with red parasols dotted about. Yellow striped boats were coming and going and some had been hauled safely onto the shore. A large gang of rowdy gulls were wheeling about, crazily screaming at each other and fighting any bird that had so much as a scrap of food. A great number of people had gathered under the parasols, some were stooped and deep in conversation, others were milling about. Everyone was here for one purpose, the buying and selling of the freshly landed fish. Boxes and buckets of fish arrived with every little boat that made it’s way into this stunning safe haven. The surf, about a convoluted, sand-barred mile away, was clearly in an aggressive mood and yet these tiny boats are perfectly able to cope. They are a design classic. Their high, curved bows punch their way through the breakers as they leave the safety of the lagoon and then ride the waves, pell-mell, towards the strait that joins the two bodies of water. There is a rip area that appears from time to time; lucky the crew that catches the tide at this time, as the waves part allowing an easy channel from the breakpoint to the lagoon entrance. The large outboard engines easily power the little craft up onto the plane and they zip over the water as if weightless. I’ve never wanted a boat more then I want one of these.

A diverse range of fish was landed. We saw sharks; four feet long, tiny pilchards and all sizes in between. Shell fish were also present in high numbers.

A couple of sharks, to be purchased right here on the beach by any passer by, or taken to the fish auction behind the beach.

We needed to get out on the water, and with no boat, we had no choice but to hire.

The local, surf riding, wave punching, sea going craft. All you need add is an outboard and courage.

Having pottered around the little town, where a market sold everything you could possibly need; please note, I did not say want. As in Fes there were eels for sale, seemingly a commonly available food source . The sight of eels on sale surprised me as these European Eels (Anguilla Anguilla) are in massive decline in the UK, becoming a red list species. They were sold for eating, both as glass eels and chopped up adults. We sauntered back towards our campsite and were accosted by a chap who was keen for us to take a boat ride around the lagoon to see the flamingos. Sounded good to us and a couple of days later we joined our guide for a nautical treat.

Our guide to the wildlife and work life on the lagoon.

We set off in late afternoon in order to make the most of the tide, and I suspect, to allow some of the frenetic water traffic to subside. Bird life was evident immediately, Sandwich Terns and Mediterranean Gulls were present in large numbers on the sandbars, along with the usual range of other gulls.

Mainly Spoonbills in this fuzzy shot.

It is a big lagoon, with almost every part of the terra semi-firma worked by people. A scene reminiscent of old travel accounts unfolded as we pushed deeper into the furthest recesses. Territories were haphazardly observed by the inhabitant wildlife, Spoonbills worked alongside Little and Great Egrets and Heron, with Cormorants holding their own court in another area. Flamingos shimmered, pom-pom like, above ground level in the miraged distance. People had their work zones, where whimbrel, curlew, Redlegs and Turnstones padded about amongst them, wary, but keenly sharing the hunting grounds.

A few Little and Great Egrets

The people bent to their work, which was varied according to their prey. All were muddy and wet and pursuing their tasks relentlessly. Drag nets and eel nets were in use in the water and on the land, as were draw hoes, mattocks, forks and bare hands. I could not grasp the sheer scale of the plundering that must go on here, by both the wildlife and the people. And yet this shimmering, monochrome landscape appears to support both colonies. It doe not seem possible.

People digging for bait

Overhead Golden Plover repeated flashed silver then dark as they careened about the sky in a roller coaster gangs’ day out. An Osprey tantalised us with a distant flypast. Then a Hen harrier, and a Marsh Harrier followed by that Osprey agin, this time languorously wafting low and slow over us, making sure we could not miss a single detail; this was not a moment for a pair of binoculars, or breathing. Time stood still.

At about £30 for the two of us, the boat trip was expensive for a Moroccan excursion, but well worth it. The journey lasted a couple of hours and our guide offered us binoculars and he had a couple of English language guide books, but no Collins Guide. If we pass this way again, I’ll gift them a few Collins Guides, as the boat handlers are all keen birders, spending moments with their binoculars up to their eyes, enjoying, what to them is an everyday experience.

Shell fish pickers.

In terms of wildlife, we did not see anything that was new to us. What we did see was something so achingly gorgeous, as a visual spectacle, and raw in witness, to the extraordinary lengths people will go to in order to live decent lives: and that has to be worth £15 of the boundless wealth of any Northern European. 


Don’t miss the short video at the bottom of this page.

We’d not long arrived in Moulay Bousslham after a day sitting on our bikes and we needed a walk. We headed for the lagoon, which is beside the campsite, followed by a breathtaking walk. After no more than an hour, we found ourselves on the end of a sand spit, with the wild Atlantic on one side and the serene lagoon on the other. A fast flowing channel joined the two.

As we meandered about, picking up shells and watching the little fishing boats ride the surf and then the narrows to return to safe harbour, a man caught my attention. It was Omar, who had spent the day line fishing and wanted me to take a picture of him with his meagre catch. He spoke as much French and Spanish as me; so, not much!

We exchanged phone numbers, so that we could send the photos to his smart phone, which he kept at home. That evening, after a great meal in one of dozens of fantastic and cheap restaurants here in town, we sent off his photos.

Our evening meal, overlooking the sea.

The next day dawned misty and cold and we headed off to a small town an hour away for a huge local Sunday market. Two hours later we arrived, but that’s another story. When we got back we checked our messages to find Omar had invited us to his home the following day. After a couple of WhatsApp video chats, everything was set. He would pick us up at 9.00am, we would buy food, eat at his home, look at his village, go to Larache, a beautifully elegant seaside town, and then be returned to our campsite. It was a risky opportunity and we accepted graciously. We were now ‘Omars Amigos’.

The campsite service vehicle, emptying the bins.

The next day went to plan. We were picked up, we shopped in Omar’s local town for fish, vegetables and fruit and then whizzed off to chez Omar, deep in the Moroccan hinterland.

Shopping in Omar’s nearest town

His little village; cart wide mud tracks, no tarmac, well water, jury rigged house electricity, small junior school and a small mosque, buildings limewashed in pinks, sand and blues. The whole place feels like a warren of tunnels. Behind the ubiquitous 2m high, walls and double steel gates, was the milk seller, behind others, their father, brother, cousin (mi prima/o), uncle. Suddenly the lanes dissolve into a clearing and there is a tiny shop, bustling with buyers, and someone repairing a vehicle, horses and carts ply their trade; and then we squeeze back into the maze. It all flashed by so fast.

Omar’s uncle’s house.

Here the horse and cart rule. For Omar to own and run a car is a status symbol and a source of income. He ferries people to and fro within the dirt track system that he calls home. It is a place no ‘Petit Taxi’ dares to enter, for fear of the damage that would be done to the cars suspension.

The more usual transport here, horse and cart.

We had to wait for the food to be cooked by the women of the family. The men and I chatted and drank tea and water, in a pristine sitting room, as Omars mother presided. Mum and I wandered in and out of the man space and gave a hand with the food preparations. It was a chance to meet every one else.

Dancing in the kitchen with the women and children.

After our meal, eaten with no cutlery, in a different, equally beautiful room, whilst sitting on softly upholstered, ground level seats, at low level tables, I was dragged away by mum. The women and children had cleared the kitchen and it now it became a disco. And we danced.

Locally grown strawberries.

Soon Omar turned up and dragged me away from the party; I seem to be popular in these parts. It was time to head off to Larache and then afterwards back to the campsite.

We recommend Larache. The influence of the French is evident. This place has it all, sandy beaches, fishing port and market, ancient Spanish fort and a fading charm that is hard to resist.


We were returned to the campsite to find the Chinese Emperor and the German couple gone. We now have a new neighbour. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.