The first time I saw them was in a 2013 calendar given to my friend. It was an entire year – 12 months of Goats in Trees.
Initially I assumed the calendar was created by a guy who thought it’d be funny to Photoshop goats into trees. Goats are naturally funny, so it was a quirky but brilliant moneymaking scheme.
I later learned that goats climbing trees was a real occurrence within a particular area of Morocco. I was already thinking about a trip here, but upon this revelation, seeing tree-climbing goats had turned into my number one priority. I was on a mission.
Why are Goats in Trees?
Goats don’t climb just any tree. This particular southwestern region of Morocco is sparse in food for goats to eat, but covered with Argan trees. In turn these clever goats have learned to climb the low hanging branches to eat the Argan tree’s berries. The branches start low enough to the ground for the goats to hop onto the first one, and then walk up the tree until they the branches can no longer support them. They’ve become quite skilled at this technique over time and teach their baby goats to follow suit. Their proud “Check Me Out” stance upon their perch makes me think they are certainly aware they’ve tackled a rare feat. They have extremely good balance, however, they have been known to fall from time to time, (so embarrassing).
What are Argan Trees?
The Argan tree produces a nut with a berry or seed inside you can extract the oil from. This Moroccan Argan oil has become quite popular in Europe in North America in recent years for its health and beauty benefits. The essentially fatty acid is of an even higher quality than olive oil and has a rich nutty flavor making it popular as a salad dressing, bread dip, and more. And due to the great skin and hair benefits, the cosmetics industry has gotten on the luxury oil’s bandwagon primarily as a moisturizer.
How is Argan Oil Produced?
This area of Morocco is home to several woman’s co-operatives who perform the labor-intensive process by hand. After drying the nuts, they crack each one between two stones to remove the soft seeds inside. The seeds are then rubbed into a paste which oil is then hand pressed from. From there it is filtered, bottled and ready to be sold.
And because the goats are eating up this valuable commodity, nuts are also being extracted straight from their poop so none goes to waste. I’ll try not to think about that as I’m putting it on my face!
Where to see Goats in Trees
Head to Marrakech then take a day trip to the coastal town of Essaouira. You can hire a private car service or reserve a spot on a group tour bus. I booked the trip through my hotel and it was approximately 300 dirhams, or $36 U.S. This included round trip transportation but no arranged activity or tour upon arrival. A complete tour of Essaouira can be purchased for a slightly higher price.
The drive may include seeing the goats but if you aren’t sure, ask the driver if you can stop. The goats can be found right along the main highway so it’s not out of the way.
Note that there may be another route where you can find goats in trees, but this is the only one I’m aware of.
How I almost didn’t see them!
Most people book their trip to Essaouria specifically to see this seaside town, however, my main intention was to see the goats. Because of this, I was being particular on which company I booked transportation with. I wanted to use a company that specifically stated on their website they we’d stop to see Goats in Trees. Unfortunately, the 3 websites who noted this were already booked or they would only book in groups of two – which is not cool for solo travelers.
I proceeded with great hesitation to book a reservation through my hotel -the Concierge didn’t sound very promising about seeing goats. When I asked, all he would respond with was “its just transportation”. I decided to risk it.
The next morning after a 45-minute wait in the hotel lobby bad news was delivered…the tour guide had forgotten to pick me up. I was devastated. This was my only day to make the trip and dreams of seeing goats in trees were flashing before my eyes. Upon seeing my disappointment, the hotel manager felt really bad and called to have another driver come to pick me up. As I was leaving, he asked if there was anything else he could do to make me happy. Now was my chance – “I’ll be happy if we can stop to see the Goats in Trees”, I said. He was amused and arranged it with the driver.
So not only did I get to see Goats in Trees, which was everything I wanted it to be, I got to see them on my own without a larger tourist group. Success!
And by the way, the town of Essaouira also made for a good day as the quaint town was a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. I wouldn’t find it necessary to spend multiple days there, but it is perfect for a day trip.
- The public bus to Essaouira is cheaper but it won’t stop to view the goats.
- You could travel from Essaouira to Marrakech but the goats will be on the wrong side of the highway making it less likely for a stop.
- Book your day trip 4-5 days in advance- that’s when tour companies seemed to book up.
- En route to Essaouira you will stop at one of the Women’s Co-Operatives that make argan oil. It’s interesting and worthwhile to support the trade, however, the products are a bit pricey. If you’re on a tight budget, I would stay outside. Because they give you a short tour, I felt pressured into purchasing a small bottle even though I really didn’t need to spend $30