Start/end Marrakech • £890 + bike rental + flight
Dates and availability • Back to the front page
Significantly updated November 2018
What am I paying for exactly?
All food (including bottled water), fuel and accommodation in Morocco for seven days, plus guiding and 4×4 support for whatever problems may occur.
What is not included?
Return flight to Marrakech. Cost of getting to and from Marrakech airport to our hotel. Cost of the rental bike of your choice for six days (currently from 3100dh). Costs of bike damage, should it occur (rare). Alcoholic beverages where available (rare). Souvenirs. Travel insurance. Suggested flight timings are given once you return the booking form.
So what will the tour cost me in total?
The tour price plus flights (from £100 return) and a bike (from £250) and travel insurance. So call that around £1300.
Do I need travel insurance?
Yes. And it needs to cover you for renting a motorcycle in Morocco. If you have trouble finding such insurance I can give you some suggestions.
Is Morocco safe?
People mistakenly regard all ‘Arabic’ countries as one place, but Morocco is a long way from Saudi, Iraq or even Libya. Factoring in the huge volume of tourism, Morocco is exceedingly safe. And by avoiding the popular tourist spots, for us it’s safer still.
Is this tour for me?
It is if: you have a few years experience riding motorcycles, including abroad; you’re not looking for an off-roading challenge; you are fit enough to ride six days without alcohol, and you’re interested in more than just bombing around on motorbikes.
Are there any restrictions?
Yes: you must have held a motorcycle licence for at least three years and be under 68 years old.
What sort of motorcycles are available?
The rental agency I work with rent several machines from scooters up to 1200GSs, but I’ve always recommended the Honda XR250 Tornado (left).
Tornados are no longer imported into Morocco and the agency’s half-dozen XRs are showing the years. For 2018 they are planning to refresh their fleet with the BMW G310GS (right). They will cost 25% more to rent than the XRs and will be a heavier, but will have much lower seats.
It’s hard to think any replacement will be as durable as the air-cooled Tornado. Part of the reason is they’re unusually well maintained by African standards, with special attention to tyres, chain sets and wheel/head bearings. The typical low-speed spill will break no more than a mirror. A Tornado can sit on 100kph and be effortless to ride by off-road beginners on the sorts of trails we ride. These tracks may well be manageable on 650s or even 1200s, but lighter is just more fun and much less tiring. For first-time trail riders, this matters.
What sort of tyres and other equipment do these bikes have?
The tyres are all-road (trail) and as long as conditions stay dry and you ride appropriately, they’re fine on the piste because the bikes don’t have to power to break away; knobblies just encourage you to go in harder which ends badly. Most rental bikes have engine- and handlebar guards. Some have small racks and bar risers. This means your typical low-speed spill won’t cause any damage that would be chargeable. On the last eight tours the repair bill has come to three broken mirrors. Actual failures included a gearbox sprocket oil seal, rear wheel bearing and an overheating engine (old Husky Terra).
How do I organise the bike rental?
I reserve six small bikes for the dates given on a first come, first served basis. These bikes are insured for road riding, but not for any damage that may occur. You submit a credit card deposit for 10,000dh which gets handed back when the bike is returned in good shape. You also pay for the bike with a credit card.
Is the tour suitable for pillions?
No. The added weight would make the bikes unmanageable and exhausting to ride on the pistes.
What is the riding like?
Getting clear of Marrakech (and getting back in) is the biggest stress so keep close or get left behind! (I always stop at junctions to wait for the group to catch up). After that we’re on backroads, including exposed switchback mountain roads and tracks where you must anticipate what may be round the next blind corner: loose gravel; mud; a ford; a taxi overtaking a bus, zombie goats on roller-skates – it’s all happened! The stony pistes can get gnarly, but we rest often and it’s just an hour or two of effort at a time.
We aim to do no more than half a day of off-roading at a time. If that sounds lame, you may not think so by the end of the week. Some days there may no off-roading at all, but even normal backroads are often being repaired or are washed out, potholed and so on.
What are local driving standards like?
I find the deep south much more laid back than the rest of Morocco; traffic is light and drivers less aggressive. Nevertheless this is Africa so you must be ready for unpredictable manoeuvres, wandering pedestrians, contrary signalling and potholed roads. The best thing to do is ride at a speed that’s complementary with the local traffic, your bike’s abilities, road conditions and an understanding of the scant availability of medical support. When overtaking on busy roads be sure you have sufficient speed, power, space and visibility to do so safely.
Do I need to be experienced off-road?
No, but several years road biking will stand you in good stead. You need to know how to handle a bike on the road. On this tour we don’t ride the dirt all day, we just use it to see- or get to nice places.
All previous tours have included riders with negligible off-roading experience or who’ve barely ridden in years. They all managed fine and had a brilliant time because the trails, the pace and the bikes make it all achievable. But you do need a bike license and at least three years and 6000 miles of riding experience – primarily to be confident in traffic and on exposed mountains roads.
It will also stand you in good stead if you’ve done your own multi-day trips abroad on a bike, so you’re familiar with what- and how little you need to pack.
Some new-to-dirt riders also like to take off-road training courses back home before the tour. Whether you do or not, but the end of the tour you will be much more confident about handling a bike on loose terrain.
Do we ride every day?
From the morning we pick up the bikes, yes – so that’s six days.
What will a typical day be like?
We’ll get up, have breakfast, gear up, check water and ride off around 9.30am, stopping here or there for coffee, photos, repairs or rests. We pull in for a light lunch somewhere, then carry on as before, getting to our lodgings with some daylight to spare. We will then repose or otherwise occupy ourselves until the evening meal, after which we are again free to do as we wish.
Note that the schedule can go to pieces for any number of reasons (usually punctures/breakdowns or bad weather), requiring longer unplanned days, quick-stop lunches in roadside cafes, or unscheduled stopovers. But for 2018 the pickup will greatly reduce such delays.
What will the weather be like?
November in Marrakech can be hot and sweaty or rainy, but once over the Atlas the desert climate and greater elevation means and the days are usually sunny and warm. This was what we got in 2015, 2016 and 2017 – barely a cloud for seven days. But in November 2014 one group spent three days flood-bound in a hotel. Bring a book.
Will we visit Erg Chebbi?
No. And there’s little more than 6 metres of sand and no dune riding on this tour. Until you’ve tried it, it dune bashing sounds fun, but in my experience – car or bike – all the biggest accidents occur in the dunes, so I avoid them.
I’m not from the UK, or even the EU, is that a problem?
No, as long as you hold a full motorcycle licence and fit the other criteria. But for insurance reasons it is no longer possible to accept riders from North America.
Is there a support vehicle?
Yes, it’s me following you in a pickup, carrying tools, tubes, water, your bags (in the cabin) and the other most likely items needed to keep the tour moving. Our itinerary is configured so that we’re never more than a day from Marrakech if the rental agency needs to bring out a replacement bike. This happened once.
What gear do I need to bring?
You must bring basic riding gear: helmet, gloves, boots, as well as a light daypack with a water bladder (CamelBak, etc). The bladder means you are able to drink easily on the move, and not keep getting off to get water out of the car or get dehydrated. This is important. Once you’re signed up Kriega offer discounts on their gear, including something like the R15 pack and hydrator (right). Your main bag goes in the car. You can leave other stuff at the rental agency’s secure lock up or at the Marrakech hotel.
You don’t need bike tools, puncture repair kits, compressors and so on; I have all these. A fuller list of gear is supplied as the tour fills up.
What should I wear?
Some young riders have turned up in jeans, a ‘fashion’ leather jacket, hiking boots and a full face helmet. Other rock up with full MX armour, MX boots, MX lids and MX goggles over a brightly-colour MX jersey. Wear whatever you feel comfortable in and are happy to crash in. I find the important things are foot-and-ankle protection without resorting to full-on MX boots, a functional jacket with vents and pockets, thin, comfy gloves and a helmet with good visibility. Elbow, shoulder and knee armour is reassuring, but won’t stop broken bones or bruised limbs. High Atlas mornings may be chilly, desert afternoons may get warm. Rain will be wet.
What’s the accommodation like?
A mixture of basic desert and mountain lodges, most with en-suite rooms which are shared by two or three people. The hot water may take time to arrive, the plumbing may be ropey and the towels unfluffy and there may be no soap. Bring soap. You must understand this is southern Morocco, not Palm Springs or even a luxurious Marrakech riad. South of the Atlas Morocco is much more ‘African’, which works both ways. It feels wilder but is also much poorer and less well served by amenities you may consider commonplace. If you’re not prepared for some discomfort or inconvenience, this tour may not meet your expectations. If you prefer your own room that can be arranged if available (almost always, as long as everyone doesn’t want one) but will cost an additional £150 on top of the tour price.
I am a vegetarian or have other dietary requirements. Is that problem?
No, though you may get tired of omelettes and vegetable tajines by Day 5. If you’re gluten intolerant you need to take special care to avoid getting ill.
How about alcohol?
Once out of Marrakech, at most of the lodgings it’s not available. It’s best not to count on getting any.
Or if I hurt myself and can’t ride?
Arrangements will be made for the recovery of you and your bike, as well as hospitalisation if necessary. This is where your travel insurance is essential. The pace and nature of this tour is such that this has not happened yet, but we’ve come close.
What happens to our tour in the event of such a delay?
It’s happened elsewhere and the entire group became involved in the recovery and accepted it as part of the experience.
Can I leave the tour at any time?
Riders have left early, but it will be your responsibility to return the bike to Marrakech when your time is up. There are no refunds you if you leave the tour early.
Do I need any inoculations?
What is the water like?
Tap water will be fine, but most welcome the bottled water I supply free or pour into the car’s water tank.
What happens if I get the runs
In my experience this usually occurs in more touristy restaurants where food isn’t prepared freshly or is re-used. We don’t visit these places where possible, and even then, it’s not usually bad enough to affect your riding, so just keep drinking, keep riding, keep taking the blockers and keep a toilet roll handy. I carry pharmaceutical rehydration sachets as well as Imodium-like ‘blockers’ which are also easily bought from local pharmacies.
Will my mobile work?
In more places than you think. You can buy a local SIM card for as little as 20dh which includes 20dh of credit. Some have found the local 4G or wi-fi did not work on their smart phones and others inadvertantly left their phones on roaming and got notified of a £100 bill before even leaving Marrakech. Sort your settings out.
Is there lightning-fast wi-fi at the lodgings?
In most places we stay or stop at there is wi-fi, but south of the Atlas it tends to be hit and miss and slow, especially if we all try and use it at once. Some mobiles seem to hook up better than laptops and tablets.
What routes from your Morocco Overland guidebook do we follow?
I tend to mix it up in the MA and MS regions.
What is our route?
I don’t have fixed itineraries and like to make it up as each tour proceeds, depending on the ability and preferences of the group, as well as the weather. We head south out of Marrakech follow an anti-clockwise loop and return over the Atlas from Ouarzazate six days later. Or we may go in the other direction.
Do I need a GPS and a map
Also not needed, but some like to keep track of their location.
Is ‘sahara-overland.com’ a registered tour company?
No, it’s just the name of my website. The booking form includes a disclaimer that you’re undertaking this tour at your own risk.
What guarantee do I have that you will not just run off with my money?
None, but with my prominence on the Internet and in travel publishing this would be a short-sighted move.
When will I know if the tour is confirmed?
When there are at least four bookings. The booking status is here.
If I have to cancel late in the day can I get my deposit back?
Yes, as long as it’s before the balance has been paid. See the booking form for levels of refund once the balance has been paid.
My question is not addressed here?
All the info that I can think of is on these web pages which get updated from time to time. Please email me with other questions.
I’m up for it. What do I do next?
Email me and I’ll send you a booking form. Send me your completed form and make arrangements to pay the £390 deposit (plus single room supplement). If all is in order you’ll get a confirmation email, telling you when the balance of £500 is due. Please note, I reserve the right to decline your booking and return your deposit without reason, most probably because you are too old, lack sufficient motorcycling experience or are from North America (all as explained above). If the tour is cancelled by me (most likely due to security issues) your deposit and balance (where paid) will be refunded in full.
Why is the deposit so high?
The internet makes it easy for people to buy things on a whim, thinking there’s little to lose if they change their mind. For tours this has resulted in a false impression of interest followed by late cancellations at a time when it’s too late to fill places. Although there are cancellations every year, I set high deposits to discourage this. A high deposit is an attempt to separate those who are genuinely interested and have a real commitment to the tour – something which always improves the experience, especially when things go wrong.