Six Fantastic Reasons Why Morocco Should Be Your Next Study Trip Destination
Two adventurous teachers and their partners visited Morocco on our Hidden Gems trip at May half-term. Despite initial preconceptions about the country, they returned with glowing praise for both the destination and the wonderful people they met along the way. Discover the World Education caught up with the teachers to find six fantastic reasons why Morocco should be your next study trip destination.
1. On Morocco
Pre-departure, both teachers held several misconceptions on Morrocco, which were soon debunked on their arrival. ‘“I had some preconceived thoughts about what it would be like, with the main one about being a white English speaking female in a Muslim country. I could not have been more wrong; the people were honestly the friendliest bunch I have met in all my travels. They are such a proud and happy nation, who welcomed us with open arms, wherever we were.” SB
“We had many misconceptions of Morocco before we left for our trip: we thought we’d get hassled by people trying to sell us their wares constantly, that we’d probably get a bad stomach and that the country, especially Marrakech, would be frenzied and chaotic. This could not have been further from the truth. Moroccan people are genuinely some of the nicest I have met on my travels (and I’ve been lucky enough to visit a lot of different countries on various continents)”TB
2. The People
“My narrowed perception, clearly influenced by those who had never been to Morocco before, made me feel embarrassed. Moroccans are a warm and sociable people, who want nothing more than to help make your stay as enjoyable as possible. ‘In Imlil and the Atlas Mountains area especially, the locals say ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning. How are you?’ as you walk by. Bearing in mind we had never met these people, and were clearly tourists, we were humbled by their genuine friendliness and manners. In Marrakech, when we were approached by Moroccans asking us to go to their restaurants or peruse their stalls, they were welcoming and a simple ‘No thank you’ if we didn’t fancy visiting was enough to make them say ‘Ok. Have a nice day’.” TB
3. The Food
”The food was also incredible, whether you’re eating a tagine in a riad, sipping on fresh orange juice in Djemaa el Fna square or eating fragrant olives in a café. The dreaded stomach issues? They never materialised. Even my usually rather belly-sensitive partner was absolutely fine with anything and everything we ate (and the cuisine was so appealing that we ate a lot!).” TB
“They went to great efforts to ensure the food offered met my yeast allergy requirement, with plenty of delicious vegetables and fruit! I was so caught by how wonderful the food was that I bought my own tagine pot! Googling how to cure and cook in it, I was rather confused by conflicting reports and how food was cooked in saucepans/frying pans and only presented in the tagine. Mike was kind enough to let me loose in his kitchen to learn under the expert eye of Saied, where we cured and cooked my very first tagine! It was a wonderful opportunity that I will never forget! I actually cooked a lamb tagine following Saied's instructions when I got back, and my word...it was gorgeous!” SB
4. The Accommodation
”The Riad Siltrine was stunning… and the staff incredibly friendly. The accommodation had a rather romantic feel to the place. Dar Imlil was up another level - I don't think I've ever stayed in such fancy accommodation! Once again, the quality of our stay was seriously high, and the staff filled with good humour and smiles.” SB
5. The Itinerary
“The activities were pitched perfectly, and Mike was an outstanding host. He was very relaxed about what we wanted to do, and was keen to show us the different things Marrakesh and Imlill could offer. Not travelling for hours getting to various places was an absolute bonus. We had plenty of free time around the activities in Marrakesh to explore on our own, to try the different food, speak to people in the souks, and to chill by the pool. It was wonderful!” SB
“‘I spent longer at Education for All (a local charity whose goal is to provide education for girls in rural Morocco) whilst the others cycled, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the girls, learning about where they were from, their families, how much they love school and their aspirations for the future. What Mike has achieved with the schools is nothing short of inspirational, and it would certainly be a wake up call for many English students to see how grateful these girls are for the opportunity of an education. I was touched by their kindness and joy, and will not forget my time there.” SB
6. Morocco As A Study Trip Destination
‘In terms of potential for future study trips, we are still discussing the options. Morocco is now a contender and would have to be an outdoor classroom experience to enhance their understanding rather than coursework data collection. It might be that we conduct fieldwork local to us and use the residential as an experience instead. Doing it like this could put north Iceland back in the running, although after chatting to our students, they say they would much prefer to visit Morocco now!’ SB
‘I have a feeling we might change to visit Morocco in a few years when we are done with Iceland.’ TB
It’s clear the teachers had a fantastic time by praising Morocco for being a “brilliant country with great people”, and have now promised to return in the near future.
“I’ll be telling everyone I know about this gem of a country.” TB
“One thing is for certain; I will definitely be returning to this wonderful country myself for further exploration and to build more fabulous memories. Thank you, Sue, for putting together such a wonderful trip. If there are any other teacher inspection trips coming up, please do let me know.” SB
Earthquakes at Katla volcano, Iceland
A series of small earthquakes has hit Katla volcano in Myrdalsjokull on July 13th and 14th, up to magnitude of 3.1. This has caused no alarm but hit the news in Iceland.
Earthquakes are almost a daily occurrence in the subglacial caldera of the volcano. Earthquakes preceding an eruption are known to be much stronger than these recent ones, mostly of magnitude 4-5. The current seismic activity, along with other signs such as increased geothermal activity, minor flooding of rivers and displacements of GPS stations, does indicate that the volcano is in some kind of a pre-eruption state. Some of the earthquakes, over the past decade, originate at a depth of 15-25 km. They are thought to be signs of rising magma.
Katla has an active magma chamber that is thought to have been injected by magma since the late 1990s; a slow process that may ultimately result in a volcanic eruption that breaks through the ice, showering the environment with ash and pumice as well as causing a very large flash flood, as experienced in 1918.
The annual melting season at the Myrdalsjokull ice cap lessens the ice load on Katla and increases the water discharge in the glacier. Coupled with the tectonic forces, the water pressure changes and water flow can possibly explain the known increase of seismic activity in Katla from each year's summer ablation peak to early autumn the same year. The monitoring system around Katla is well developed, so that a pending eruption will not come as a surprise.
The green star denotes a quake of magnitude above 3.
Why do we recommend that you go to the Secret Lagoon instead of the Blue Lagoon?
If you were visiting Paris for the first time, the first thing you would want to see is the Eiffel tower; if you booked a tour of New York and didn’t catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, your tour would not feel complete and imagine going to Sydney and not being able to take a selfie with the iconic opera house?
Iceland is home to some of the largest geothermal plants in the world. Once geothermal power plants have generated the steam and hot water to make electricity, they send it to the place where it is used. The geothermal plant then has to get rid of the waste water with minimal risk to the environment.
In 1981 people started bathing in the pool of excess water from the Svartsengi geothermal power station. As a result of the growing popularity and benefits offered by this by-product in treating psoriasis, The Blue Lagoon, owned by the geothermal power plant, was established and in 1992 the baths opened to the public.
The thermal pool is an accidental wonder, but this doesn’t make it any less special. Who wouldn’t enjoy bathing in warm waters in the heart of the Icelandic countryside and try out the mud mask that does wonders for your skin?
It is no surprise that bathing in outdoor thermal pools in Iceland has become the number one thing to do when visiting Iceland.
There are about 169 recreational swimming centres operating in Iceland,138 of which use geothermal heat, as well as countless natural hot springs, the Myvatn Nature Baths located in the North, the Laugarvatn Fontana and the Secret Lagoon situated along the Golden Circle route.
However, it is The Blue Lagoon that is the most famous of them all. It is attracting a record number of visitors and the luxury brand is so well known that 60% of all tourists that visit Iceland go to The Blue Lagoon, where the water is replenished every two days.
Whilst The Secret Lagoon does not have the same milky blue waters of the Blue Lagoon it is just as stunning, giving you that magical Icelandic experience. It was established in 1891 and is the oldest bathing pool in Iceland.
A natural hot spring feeds the lagoon with 38-39°C water that bubbles up from deep within the earth, constantly replenishing itself so that there is a steady supply of fresh clean water in the pool at any given time. There's a wooden walkway that goes around the baths, several geothermal spots and a little geysir which erupts every 5 minutes.
The Blue Lagoon entrance fee is in the region of £40 per person whilst the Secret Lagoon is approximately £10 per person with one free teacher per 10 students (current rates June 2016).
The Blue Lagoon is in proximity of the airport so to ensure a smooth run of your tour, we will always try to schedule your bathing session on your day of arrival or departure. However, because of the Blue Lagoon’s popularity, if you miss your allocated entry time you could end up queuing for a lot longer or in exteme circumstances even being denied entry.
The Secret Lagoon will be included in your Golden Circle tour and as it is a lot less popular these risks are eliminated, giving you peace of mind whilst offering a similar experience.
At the end of the day the choice is yours and you will have a great time whichever bath you choose.
So to answer the question of why we would suggest visiting the Secret Lagoon instead of the Blue Lagoon? At the Secret Lagoon you will enjoy an authentic Icelandic bathing experience at a fraction of the price without the crowds.