Twenty years ago I went on a lads surf trip to Taghazout, and it’s still in my top 3 surf trips ever. So when I got the chance to go back there I jumped at it.
Taghazout has changed less than I thought. It’s still cheap to travel and stay there, the weather and water is warm all year round, waves are consistently good and the local cuisine is fantastic. But there’s a big change in progress…
The Moroccan government, tourist board and private investors have joined forces to transform Taghazout Bay into a premium resort. I can hear you groan, but this little diamond in the rough is about to get cleaned up and will shine brightly.
Surf trips to Morocco can be ruined by awful accommodation, dirty beaches, absence of alcohol and limited surfer support. Luckily I stayed at Sol House surf resort in Taghazout, which has addressed all of these issues and more…
Traditionally accommodation in the Taghazout area is close to the beach and relatively cheap, but it will be crowded and basic at best.
Here’s some typical accommodation in Taghazout:
Traditional accommodation will meet your bare-necessities, but if you prefer ‘boutique hotel room’ over what looks like someone’s spare room, Sol House is a great option.
Here are the basic bungalows at Sol House:
Sol House’s basic bungalows have all the modern facilities including TV, WIFI, fridge, safe, etc. They all have verandas looking out to sea, equipped with table, chairs and a hammock. Perfect for watching the sun go down after a hard days surfing.
So you’d expect Sol House to be way more expensive right? It’s not!
For a full 7 night surf package including transfers, accommodation, surf lessons (or guiding), equipment, food and travel to surf spots – £420 (see Errant Surf Travel).
Obviously if you’re on a tight budget and happy slumming it, a cheap traditional room will do the job. But if you’re fussy where you sleep, travelling with family or on holiday with your partner – I’d recommend Sol House.
Beaches near civilisation are usually dirty and derelict. However take a short drive away from developed areas and you’ll find unspoilt African gems.
Taghazout Bay developers are well aware of the need to keep their beaches clean. They have already cleaned up the bay area and have positive environmental plans for the future.
When I visited 20 years ago you could only get alcohol in Agadir (45 mins drive). So I was pleasantly surprised to find Sol House had a fully stocked bar with Moroccan lager on tap (Flag). But this is an exception, and not the norm in Taghazout or Morocco.
Morocco is a moderate Islamic country, and Muslims are forbidden to drink alcohol. But sensible alcohol consumption in hotels and in private is tolerated.
Tadenga surf village is part of the Sol House resort and managed by two of the coolest, friendliest and most professional surfers I’ve met – Camille and Younes. Camille runs his own local surf brand Moors with an innovative, stylish line of surfboards, leashes, surf clothing and accessories. Younes has a long history in tourism, so knows how to keep visitors happy and makes sure you have everything you need.
Tadenga Surf Village boasts a choice of 200 surf craft including soft boards, shortboards, mini mals, longboards, skimboards, SUPs, windsurf equipment and small sailing boats. There’s also a modern fully equipped gym, yoga studio, lookout terrace (for surf checks), shaping bay (for custom boards), lockers, showers, changing rooms and more to come.
They also run a surfing academy where local school kids get surf lessons and coaching, in the hope they’ll discover and nurture the next Kelly Slater.
Fully qualified instructors are on hand to help you use all this gear or you can simply hire, here’s some of the rates:
Suitable for everyone
Morocco was traditionally a destination for hippies and hardcore surfers. When I was here last, there were just a few dusty dedicated surfers and some stoned campervan lifers.
Nowadays, the mix of tourists is the same as the Mediterranean. I saw several solo women getting surf lessons, families having fun in the sun, couples canoodling whilst sipping cocktails and lads on a surf trip. The warm water and wide choice of waves has made Taghazout a popular place for surfers of all abilities.
Sol House have tapped into the surfing source and cater for all, with shared rooms for groups, bungalows for singles or couples, plus master cabanas for families. They also have a mouth watering buffet restaurant, Italian restaurant, bar by the pool, spa and kids club.
What to wear
It’s warm in Morocco all year, so you’ll be tempted to strip off on arrival but you’ll offend the locals if you do! Moroccans are hospitable and tolerant, whilst not every Moroccan is a strict Muslim they do respect Islamic traditions. So avoid wearing skimpy clothes, kissing and cuddling in public, also eating or smoking in the street during Ramadan.
Women should dress modestly in public. Keep the body covered, in loose fitting clothes from ankle to shoulders to wrists. If you don’t you are likely to attract unwanted attention.
Men should also dress respectfully, and keep covered from shoulders to below the knee. Luckily t-shirt and board shorts does the job, but I’d advise against singlets or wondering around in Speedos (anywhere in the world). For more information on dress codes and etiquette, visit the Rough Guide or other travel advice sites.
If you do want to strip down to swimwear and get a tan, then you can usually do so in the confines of your resort. It’s best to check with staff, but you can certainly relax, sunbathe and enjoy a cocktail by the pool at Sol House.
The T Word
The ignorant and mainstream media appear to find it impossible to say ‘Islam’ without ‘terrorism’ in the same sentence. The UK government do warn of a ‘high threat from terrorism in Morocco’, but let’s put that in perspective. According to Mi5 (UK security service) the current threat level for international terrorism in the UK is SEVERE. So it’s probably safer to go to Taghazout than stay in the UK!
From the lookout at Tadenga Surf Village you can see Anchor point, Hash point, Panoramas and Taghazout bay.
For the hardcore chargers, take a short drive to legendary point break Killers, gnarly Boilers and ghoulish Draculas.
For beginners, there’s plenty of easy going beach breaks including Anza, Crocodiles and Taghazout Bay. I rode all three and grabbed good waves at each.
My favourite session was supposed to be a SUP lesson at Taghazout Bay in front of Sol House. The gods had mercy on me and sent a strong, hot, red dusty wind straight off the desert which meant SUPing was dangerous and impractical. So we grabbed some skim boards and played on the shore instead. Within half an hour the wind eased to a gentle offshore. We ran back to the surf village swapped our skimboards for longboards and enjoyed 2ft glassy waves in nothing but boardshorts. Magic.
My top tip if you’re an experienced surfer is hire transport and find good waves by yourself. Or hire a surf guide with some friends of equal surfing ability. If you’re in a guided group of mixed ability, you’ll be taken to spots that suit the least able surfer. It’s the safest and most sensible option for guides and instructors.
Unless you have a sacrificial travel board, I’d advise hiring from Tadenga. It costs £44 to hire a surfboard for 5 days (at time of posting), and you can swap boards as often as you like.
Not only do you have a massive quiver to choose from they’re all great custom boards made for the local waves. If you visit soon, they’re also nearly new! If you really want a bespoke board to match you and the waves, pre-order a custom board from Moors. Tadenga have a shaping facility, local board shapers and they’re cheap compared to UK.
Tadenga surf village also offer surf guiding, tuition and performance coaching from qualified professionals.
I flew with Royal Air Maroc which is affordable and comfortable.
But I strongly advise going direct to Agadir, as Casablanca is a chaotic, armpit of an airport with terrible facilities and service. As you can probably tell I did go via Casablanca, and I missed my connecting flight due to delays.
If you’re happy to fly Easyjet, then a return flight direct to Agadir from Gatwick can be as little as £120 (November 2016, flights on a Thursday). Bargain.
You can hire a car, but driving is nerve wrecking. For a more relaxed option, arrange transfers and get a surf guide to drive you to the best surf spots.
Dirham is the local currency, and I’d recommend taking a little for convenience. Or at least have some sterling or Euros in your pocket for emergencies. However, resorts and many shops will take cards.
Arabic and Berber are the official languages, but many Moroccans speak fluent French and good English. The majority of resort staff speak very good English, but a few basic Arabic phrases are well worth learning.
After twenty years, I’m amazed Taghazout hasn’t developed more. It’s got busier in the water and in the town, but little has been done to improve the area for locals and visitors. That’s why I believe this new development will benefit rather than ruin the area.
Development means different things for different people, but here’s what I think:
• For the surfer: Taghazout still offers great waves, warm weather, fine food and affordable accommodation.
• For the traveller: Taghazout still retains it’s rustic charm and traditional attractions.
• For the tourist: the new Taghazout Bay development offers better facilities for a broader range of visitor.
• For the locals: thousands of jobs have been created. Opportunities for the youth have improved and the local environment has been respected.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts, questions and Taghazout travel tips in the comments below.
(thank you in Arabic)