Sometimes, stepping out of your comfort zone makes for mega awesome travel experiences. Which is why this November, I decided to go all out and book myself a long weekend in Taghazout, Morocco, to try and learn to surf. Eek.
For the record, I’d never been on a surfboard in my life. I mean, I’ve done windsurfing, once, but I managed to knock myself out in the process and have therefore avoided it since. But hey, if you’re gonna learn, do it somewhere awesome – so I booked up Stoke Travel’s Morocco Surf Camp trip, packed up my carry on with swimwear and suncream and hopped on a plane for some fun in the sun. And plenty of falling into the sea…
Taghazout is a small village on the South West coast of Morocco, and a popular destination for surf fiends. The closest airport is Agadir, and I hopped in a cab from there to get to Taghazout itself. It cost €30 for the transfer from the airport which is a bit pricey if you’re on your own, but there’s also a public bus service you can get.
Honestly? My first experience of exploring Taghazout wasn’t 100% positive. I’d arrived at my hostel around 9pm, to a friendly welcome and a BBQ dinner. Which was a pretty awesome way to arrive. I was getting pretty thirsty, so decided to go down into the village itself to pick up a coke, and as soon as I’d got onto the main street, three locals decided to shout at me from across the road to ‘come with them’. Not the best start, so I did feel a little on edge as I walked down to the shop to grab a drink and back up to the hostel. As a result, I spent the first night feeling pretty apprehensive and homesick, wishing I’d managed to convince someone to travel with me.
But it got better. During the days that followed, I branched out into the town a little more to explore, and didn’t encounter any further issues. As I ventured further from my hostel (granted, during the daylight hours), I found a maze of streets that were different to anywhere else I’d visited before. I discovered hodge-podge streets filled with colourful facades and friendly shop owners, who I chatted away to, and bartered with for sunglasses. Even the more ‘derelict’ looking streets I stumbled down were striking.
My source of bed, food and hangouts for the weekend was Adventure Keys Surf and Yoga Hostel.
I’ve stayed in hostels before, so I wasn’t too fussed about sharing a dorm with three other travellers – there weren’t many girls in the hostel when I arrived, but sharing with guys isn’t something that phases me either. I threw myself onto a top bunk, and it was pretty darn comfortable – I definitely had a few great nights’ sleep there after busy days.
On the top floor of the hostel, there’s a comfy roof terrace, with an awesome view out over Taghazout bay. Each morning I grabbed some Nutella and banana pancakes and tucked into them while staring out over the ocean. And at night, I tucked into tagine, or BBQ, or pasta, as the sun set. It truly was a stunning view – and the food was really good too. As well as breakfast and dinner, the hostel provided packed lunches to take to the beach with us. Moroccan chicken baguettes and plenty of fruit were happily scoffed while we watched the camels stroll by. More about the beach in a moment…
The terrace was also a great place to meet people, and I spent the nights chatting away with travellers from Germany, Greece and even as far away as Canada. You can’t actually get booze in Taghazout (like, it’s just, not really a thing in Morocco), but taking a break from holiday drinking was actually really refreshing. The hostel also organise trips into Agadir if you fancy a night out!
Time to talk surf. Before heading out, I found myself a wetsuit and grabbed a board (hire of these is included in your stay), and jumped into the van for a 5-10 minute journey down the road to the perfect surf spot. With sand stretching as far as the eye could see, and medium-sized waves for beginners, it’s definitely an awesome place to learn to surf. As part of the Stoke Travel Morocco Surf Camp, an introductory surfing lesson was included. I was the only new surfer – so it was basically a one on one session!
The first steps into the world of becoming a Pro Surf Babe (ha) involved staying on dry land, and working out the technique of catching a wave and riding it out. Which I turned out to be pretty alright at when I hit the water, and soon found myself whizzing along the whitewater. Okay, still lying down. But baby steps. Next up, I managed to pull myself onto my knees, and managed to sort of get the hang of that too. Easy, eh?
Well, not quite. The part I definitely struggled with was getting up from my knees to a standing position. I fell in the water A LOT. Eventually, I got pretty close to standing up but didn’t quite manage it, but still enjoyed just splashing about and riding the waves. Guess I’ve got an awesome excuse to go and try again another time, right?
On my second day, I decided to take it a bit easier and give the surfing a break, and instead opted for some full on beach chill. Our surf spot was about an hour’s walk along the beach from the main village of Taghazout, and I decided to take a stroll in the sunshine.
So worth it. I could probably walk along beaches for hours – although, granted, my feet were rubbing quite a bit in my $3 Walmart flip flops by the end. Along the way I encountered camels, dogs and lots of surfers. Oh, and on the subject of dogs – they seem to have a lot of stray ones (and cats too) casually wandering the streets in Morocco. Mostly, I was actually amazed at how healthy and cared for they looked, despite not being owned by anyone. Apparently the local mosques feed them, which is pretty awesome.
Once I reached the end of my walk, I took a climb onto the rocky point to take in mega panoramic views of the beach (Re: the ‘rocky point’ description: I’ve looked this up on Google and I’m not sure if it’s big enough to count as a ‘cape’ so I’m trying to avoid calling it that. But it was kinda basically a very small cape. Yeah.)
Seriously, those views. I probably could have stayed up there even longer just watching the surf and the sea and staring out, but I was also mad thirsty from my walk so took a dawdle back down to the beach.
After I’d made it down to our spot, I kept an eye peeled for something I’d been wanting to do since I arrived. I went for a CAMEL RIDE, BABY. My camel was called Boomboom (yep, I was definitely singing along to the Vengaboys with my head on that one). Boomboom and his owner took me for a nice little stroll along the beach, and it was an amazing feeling to take in the sights of the beach as we adventured along.
I spent the most of the rest of the afternoon lying down with a book, just enjoying the sun and doing some people watching. I hadn’t bought a towel with me, so I haggled one of the beach vendors to sell me a snazzy purple blanket for 120dh (80 less than his original asking price. Bartering rocks). It’s huge, and now I’ve washed the sand out of it, a great souvenir for the living room sofa!
Vendors selling their wares wandered up and down the beach all afternoon, selling everything from clothes and souvenirs to fruit and drinks. I grabbed a cup of mint tea with honey – a popular drink in Morocco. And it was SO VERY good. Really sweet and minty, I wouldn’t normally think to opt for a hot drink on the beach of all places, but it was also very refreshing. If you’re in Morocco, seriously try some. I’m not even a big tea drinker and I was definitely a fan.
In general, I had an amazing time in Taghazout and Stoke Travel provided a fantastic way to experience it. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’d advise this for female travellers who perhaps haven’t ventured out alone before, as there were a few moments throughout the trip where I felt a bit nervous being alone. If you’re a dude, you’ll be fine – but the culture towards women in Morocco is definitely very different to here in the UK – with more catcalls, and being approached by locals quite a bit.
However, I began to quickly realise that if you ignore the comments and keep on walking, they don’t go any further. Like anywhere, you do need to keep your wits about you a bit – although beachwear is totally fine on the beach itself, in the evenings I felt much more comfortable with my legs and shoulders covered. And a lot of the people I did speak to were genuinely friendly and open minded. If they weren’t, I found telling them I was married made them disappear very quickly…
The hostel was an easy place to make friends, and if you’re comfortable with solo travel and want to learn to surf, it’s definitely a great affordable adventure. Taghazout is definitely a part of Morocco that’s a little more unusual than the usual sights of Marrakech, Tangier and Fez. Plus, the surfing itself was so fun and the beach was absolutely gorgeous. Despite the slight caveats above, it’s such a lovely place to get to know.
I also spent some time haggling for bargain souvenirs in the souk market in Agadir…but that’s another post entirely…coming soon!
*I was invited for a free stay including meals and surfing by Stoke Travel. Opinions and wipeouts, all my own.