North Africa may not enjoy the same popularity for its national parks as some of the other renowned spots spread across the continent, but that in no way should be a deterrent to visit. The countries which constitute a major portion of the Sahara desert are home to some of the most stunning landscapes and regions of natural biodiversity that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
So set out on a journey with us to explore these areas of lush green wetlands, rugged mountains and some of the most fascinating flora and fauna in some of the top national parks of North Africa.
Toubkal National Park, Morocco
Standing tall at 4167 metres, Mount Toubkal, set in the beautiful Atlas mountains is the continent’s highest peak outside East Central Africa and is the main feature of this extremely popular national park of Morocco. The area is ideal for nature enthusiasts and hikers looking to spend a relaxing time in this attractive heritage spot from late spring extending to late autumn.
The park is home to more than a hundred species of birds, reptiles and other mammals. Some of the remarkable animals found here are the mountain sheep. Birdlife includes the Royal Golden Eagle, the Bonelli’s eagle, booted eagle and the short-toed eagle.
While hiking, keep your eyes peeled to the ground for porcupine, mongoose, the Atlas viper and the thorny eyed gecko. Toubkal National Park certainly makes for one of the best wildlife holidays in North Africa.
Jebil National Park, Tunisia
Situated in the Sahara desert, the 150,000 hectares Jebil National Park is the largest of all in Tunisia. Consisting mostly of desert vegetation, the place is home to a large variety of wildlife which include the Barbary sheep, a species which is endemic to the region.
Other animals found here are the fennec fox, cobra, horned viper, gazele and jackals. Birds which have made this place their home are bustards, larks and ravens. The park offers a perfect opportunity to view the natural world of Tunisia as other regions of the country focus mainly on ruins and towns.
El Kouf National Park, Libya
Access to this wonderful park is limited due to the political instability in the country, else the El Kouf National Park should be on the must visit list of any tourist to Libya. Enjoying a picturesque setting just off the Mediterranean coast, the park is known for its rich flora and fauna.
Shrubs, sand dunes and limestone hills form the predominant landscape here which in turn is home to rare animals like the striped hyena, the Egyptian wolf, red fox, crested porcupine and the tiny spotted Genet. Important birds spotted here include the golden eagle, barbary partridge, houbara bustard, black and white storks, sandgrouse and a variety of waders. Hopefully with passage of time visitors will be allowed to appreciate the unique ecosystem of El Kouf.
Banc d’Arguin National Park, Mauritania
Due to its strategic location extending to the Atlantic coast, the topography of the park consists of mainly shallow waters, coastal swamps and sand dunes resulting in a contrasting desert environment. This has resulted in throwing up a unique and diverse marine zone of important natural significance.
The vast marshy expanses attract millions of migratory birds from places as far as Europe and Siberia. Great white pelican, greater flamingo, caspian tern,reed cormorant, eurasian spoonbill are a few of the species found here.
The park also houses a number of varieties of turtle, notably green sea turtle, apart from the bottle nosed and humpback dolphins. The only predominant mammal found here is the Dorcas gazelle. Virtually free from tourists this UNESCO World Heritage site is a very peaceful place to visit in a country off the tourist radar. Some airlines let you book now, pay later.
Ifrane National Park, Morocco
This 500 sq km park is boundaried by the Azoru National Park on one side and few Berber villages on the other. Home to wolves, wild boar and the highly endangered Barbary macaque, Ifrane is also known for its exceptional birdlife. Some fine species include marbled teal, common kestrel and red kite. The two Ramsar wetland areas harbour brahminy ducks and common coot.
The forests of the park are pretty alluring and the region is splashed with lakes among which Dayet Ifrah and Dayet Aoua support a large colony of birds.
Ahaggar National Park, Algeria
Dominated by the lofty Ahaggar Mountain range, the massive park covers an area of almost 450,000 square kilometres and lies in the Saharan Algerian Region. Even though rainfall in this area is scanty, an excellent number of animal species, some now extinct, roamed across these volcanic landscapes. Due to its location, plants and vegetation grow abundantly here, thus making survival of animals easy in the otherwise harsh conditions of the desert.
Nomadic herders have confirmed regular sightings of the critically endangered Saharan cheetah, once thought to have perished. Other important wildlife found here is the Dorcas gazelle and the endemic Barbary sheep.
Ichkeul National Park, Tunisia
Named after the lake which lies within its borders, the park is one of the most vital wetland reserves in Tunisia. A dam constructed upstream of this UNESCO World Heritage site has left the ecosystem in a balance, but thankfully conservation efforts have made it to survive.
The park forms a passage for migratory birds and ample numbers if geese, ducks, storks and flamingos make a halt here during the season.
Tlemcen National Park, Algeria
The Northwest part of Algeria is home to this park and lies near the city of Tlemcen, from where it got its name. The park is rich in biodiversity and nearly 141 species of animals have been recorded here along with almost 100 different varieties of birds, 18 reptile species and 7 amphibian types.
Historic sites found inside the park like the Beni Add caves and the Zariffet and Ain Fezza woodlands are of significant importance. The conservation efforts which have been undertaken ensure that the flora and fauna are well preserved.
The extraordinary ecosystem has resulted in spotting exotic species such as – turtle Greek and common chameleon. Raptors make up for more than half of the bird population and migratory birds such as the white stork make up the rest. Mammals found here are forest cat, squirrels and Barbary sheep.
The large number of National Parks in North Africa are a source of food and shelter to an amazing variety of wildlife within its boundaries. This is the only place where you can witness the beauty of the harsh Sahara region and at the same time support in the conservation of some of the finest flora and fauna which manage to thrive in these extreme habitats.