Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve in Morocco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. The vast region is spectacular and extends across heavily forested regions, urban areas and agricultural grounds.
The huge intramontane area is flanked by the Anti-Atlas and High Atlas Mountains. As its name suggests, the extensive reserve is covered in Argan trees, endemic to the area. The reserve’s claim to fame is that it produces Argan oil, a world-renown oil used in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes. This part of Morocco is where visitors flock to see the tree-climbing goats and to explore the forested areas for birds, primates and other small mammals.
Ideally located close to Agadir and Essaouira, the biosphere covers a massive stretch of landscape worth exploring. There are several accommodation options in these two major towns bordering the biosphere.
In the more densely forested areas, it’s quite possible to spot caracal and the rare Barbary sheep. The biosphere is not a sought-after wildlife viewing region but does hold great importance because of the Argan trees. The most commonly spotted animal - and one of the reasons for touring the area—is to spot the wild tree-climbing goats.
Birds commonly spotted in the area include the Bonelli’s eagle, black-shouldered kite and the black wheatear. Osprey is a raptor that’s also a common resident of the area. Endemic species include the Abduction Eagle and the dusky goshawk. The Argan forests support a few bee species, one of which is the endangered Saharan bee.
The best time of year to visit is from May to September in the northern stretches of the biosphere. In the southern regions, the peak time to visit is October to December. The reserve does experience extremes in temperatures, with heavy rainfalls and flooding to extensive periods of drought.
The Argan forests provide the perfect challenging hiking experience for keen trailblazers. Various trails through different forests lead to all types of wildlife sightings—from small forest-dwelling creatures to goats in trees and exquisite birds of prey.
The main road that intersects the biosphere reserve hugs the coastline, which means an easy self-drive route. The route through the reserve offers incredible views of the Atlas mountains, coastline and plains dotted with Argan trees. The bustling colourful seaside town of Essaouira is located close to the biosphere reserve and offers respite from the hardy mountain desert landscapes of Arganeraie.
The biosphere spans several small parks and reserves, and coastal regions. The reserve has a heavy infrastructure geared towards tourism. Most visitors choose to stay in the main city of Agadir or the touristy seaside town of Essaouira.