Choosing a Hiking Company
Because Journey Beyond Travel is on the ground and employ a team of locals for the treks we do, the money you pay for a trek goes directly to those involved in ensuring your hike goes well. Having a dedicated team who are used to working together can be instrumental to ensure your time in the mountains goes smoothly. While we invest in superb gear, eco toilets, top-rated sleeping bags, mats, cooking ware, and tents, we leave it to our local counterparts to really make your trek shine. All of this means that our treks are not budget oriented – we prefer to have amazing staff and invest in superb gear to make your time memorable and worthwhile. If you want local expertise and a team (whom earn salaries well above the average) with more than a decade of experience, then you’ve come to the right place! You can be sure to contact us to initiate a conversation, download our brochure to get superb insider details, and read more about our Atlas treks and our trekking opportunities in Ait Bougmez.
When hiking in Morocco, it’s important to dedicate some thought to minimum impact trekking. The local Moroccan government (to some extent), NGOs, and the Peace Corps have all worked to attempt to spread the word that those who visit Morocco for outdoor pursuits in more remote areas should keep their ecological and cultural footprint as light as possible. When preparing for your trek, consider what you can do to lessen your environmental and cultural impact for the length of your outing. We recommend several pointers to help you with the process (and something we practice on both our custom and group treks): Waste: Keep waste to a minimum. When it comes to human waste, be sure that it is disposed of properly, far from villages, water sources, and human/animal traffic. Most trekking companies carry the basic essentials (such as a small garden shovel), while others pack along eco-toilets where waste is disposed in designated areas. Avoid leaving waste and hygienic materials out in the open without burying or burning it properly. For non-paper based materials such as batteries and plastics, ensure no trash is left behind. Before your trek, remove items from unnecessary containers and carry some small bags to carry refuse out with you. Group Size: Groups of 20-50 persons trekking Morocco together are not considered ecologically or culturally sensitive. When looking through various Morocco hiking companies, choose those who focus their energy of small-group excursions, which is a more intimate and fun way to explore. Deforestation: Throughout your trek, you’ll notice local Berbers making fires for tea and meals. It’s best to avoid using wood in the region since it’s so hard to come by. Your guides will have gas bottles for the heating of washing water and meals, but avoid starting your own fire with local wood sources. Water Purification: On this same token, avoid using wood (or even gas) to boil drinking water. Better methods include bringing along your own water filter, a UV Steri-Pen, and even using water treatment tablets. This will ensure that local resources are not overly used by visitors. At Journey Beyond Travel, we are a part of TAP (Travelers Against Plastic). In this, we promote not bringing loads of new water bottles for drinking purposes (or anything that is not reusable or that will be thrown away later). Refer to the above ways to enjoy clean drinking water throughout your trek; water spouts from various springs all year long, so you do not need to worry about running out of sources.
Cultural Considerations when Trekking
Minimum impact trekking in Morocco also includes being culturally sensitive. Throughout your trek, feel free to mingle with any locals who might have interest, but avoid showing off too many of your gadgets, giving out medicine, money, or food. Keep things simple and enjoy the local hospitality without trying to be the focal point of all attention. Photographing: When photographing in the mountains, be careful not to offend anyone by taking their photo without asking permission. This is a massive problem currently since locals feel that their photo will be used in media or for other purposes without their being aware. It’s much better that you get to know locals first and then ask your guide if you might grab a photo of the scene. You’ll be surprised what spending a few minutes (or more) with a local shepherd will get you in terms of amazing photographic opportunities. If someone gestures that they do not wish to have their photo taken, respect it. Another tactic is to mention that you’ll send them a copy of any photos you take. Be sure to follow through with this promise; simply ask your guide when he passes through once you’ve mailed him the photos to ensure each person receives their copy. Giving Goodies to Children: While little Berber children are some of the most adorable on Earth, avoid giving them anything when walking through villages. It’s taken a generation to change a system instilled by the French who would give candy, notepads and pens, and money to children chasing beside them through villages. This is no longer as prevalent as it once was, so do not contribute to the practice. If you do wish to donate or give items, do so to your guide’s family or others who you may befriend. On the same note, avoid playing doctor and giving out medicine on treks. Most likely the medications will not be taken properly which could endanger someone taking them.
Trekking with a Guide
Like switchblade scars made at random, the Moroccan Atlas ranges cut through the country in various fashions – from the Anti-Atlas (southwest of Marrakesh), to the High Atlas (Toubkal National Park, south of Marrakesh), to the Central High Atlas (near Beni Mellal) all the way to the north of the country to the lush Rif Mountains (located nearer to Chefchaouen). Trekking any of these regions can be done without a guide, but is much more worthwhile, safe, and culturally in-depth with a local, professionally certified guide. Our head guide named Omar is a distinguished expert on treks here and you can read about him on our team page. In Morocco, a lot is to be said for hiking with support. As mentioned above, having a professionally certified guide truly enlightens the experience and means you will be in good hands throughout your walk – whether it is for one, two, or multi-days. If you haven’t arranged your trek before your arrival (which is highly recommended to do since it means you’ll be able to compare quality options and means your trek will be properly prepared), you can do so at the ‘gate of the Atlas’ in a roadside installment known as Imlil (not really a ‘classic’ village by any standard as it arose from tourists coming here to arrange their journey). When using a local guide, be sure he has proper credentials and is properly trained for the job. Going with false guides can be dangerous as they are not trained and have not undergone the somewhat grueling training becoming an official mountain guide requires. Not only does a certified hiking guide mean better safety, it also means that you’ll be in the hands of someone who knows how to ensure you have a good time, understands the network of trails and paths, can handle basic emergencies in terms of health and weather, and can communicate (and interpret) with locals throughout. Plus, having a local by your side really adds to the overall enjoyment of your trip.
Mules and Muleteers
On our trekking excursions, we use local means to get baggage and supplies from one point to another. This is best done with mules as they are both robust and well trained for the job. With each two to three mules, a dedicated person known as a muleteer is responsible for taking care of the animals, helping to set up camp, and even aiding in the preparation of meals as necessary. Using local help in your trek is seen as a positive way to encourage and maintain local employment. While you can feel free to carry a day bag for gear, snacks, and water, do not feel that you need to carry your own rucksack – leave it to the pros and enjoy the scenery before you. If an emergency occurs, having a trusted muleteer and their sturdy steed by your side is crucial. They can navigate over the mountains to any number of villages much faster than the average person can walk given the terrain and altitude. Having this sort of support is a local tradition that should be respected. The mules will be loaded with gear, backpacks, tents, and other items. Do not fret as the muleteers have it in their interest to ensure their animals are properly cared for. They know what each animal can and cannot carry and will adjust loads accordingly. Do not hire a local muleteer to be your guide. Even the most in shape power mountain trekker won’t be able to keep up the pace of either the mule or muleteer. Attempting to keep your trek cheap by doing so can put you in danger and will mean various frustrations and communication barriers along the way. Muleteers lead their mules out of a camp last and will arrive first to any site. And, do not avoid hiring a mule and muleteer in hopes that you could pay your guide to carry your pack. This is culturally insensitive and an insult. Along with your trek a local professional cook, known as a cusinier, will be hired to join you for your journey. This profession takes years to master and is regarded as a high rank in local culture. A proper cook can make a trip, while not having one (or trusting others to do it who are not trained in hygiene and meal preparation for foreigners) is not recommended. This local expert not only prepares meals, but plans them carefully, calculating exactly what is needed for everyone to be happy and to have enough energy to exert through some tough days of hiking. By going through a company, all of your food and provisions will be provided (or should be). If you are arranging things on your own, you’ll be expected to pay for the food for everyone on the trip, including the muleteer, guide, and cook(s). With all of this, we at Journey Beyond Travel make our Morocco treks inclusive – so you won’t have to worry about these details. If you join one of our group hikes, it will all be taken care of for you. In either case, even if you arrange a private or custom-date trek with our team, we’ll ask you about your dietary preferences and will bring plenty of food along. We also provide ‘dining tents’ which are used for you to enjoy eating within to avoid wind and possible rain. Our team takes great pride in providing you with superb meals, proper cutlery, chairs, tables, and facilities to make each camp as comfortable as possible. You may think you would rather not trek this way, but feedback suggests that clients very much enjoy it especially after the fact (once they’ve seen how rugged and even difficult some of the trekking can be).
Local Guesthouses and Camping
Our treks combine staying in local guesthouses with camping. We almost prefer camping since it means we have more control over the actual environment and know some amazing places to set up camp. However, in certain locations (and if the weather turns for the worse), we utilize established rustic local guesthouses that can vary from someone’s home to an actual mountain lodge hotel (although still mostly rustic). Some of these places have running water and most sleeping is done in one room as a group – although this can also vary. Each itinerary we outline on our website indicates whether that night’s accommodation will be camping or in a local establishment. Enjoying both styles is important as some areas are more remote, so camping is required, and other areas offer worthwhile accommodation options that will give you a break from the tent lifestyle.