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De-stress, Have a Breather at Must-see Exotic Garden

The spring is around the corner and the days are getting sunnier. People are starting to look for outdoor places, chasing greenery and scenery. We did the same and went to the Exotic Garden or “les Jardins Exotiques”, located in Bouknadel, between Sale and Kenitra (north-western Morocco), to enjoy the splendid weather and fresh air.

Director of the Exotic Garden, Dr. Brahim Haddane, said the place was built by horticultural engineer Marcel François back in 1951. The Frenchman made several trips to different countries before Morocco steals his heart with its beauty, weather, and water abundance in Maamoura’s water tables where the garden is located.
The botanical garden was initially private, but late King Mohammed V opened it to the public in 1961. It was closed for quite some time before the Mohammed VI Foundation for Environment Protection reopened it in 2005. Now, it receives 120,000 visitors per year.
The aim was to gather various plants from different regions in Africa (Congo and Savanah), Latin America (Peru, French West Indies, Brazil, Mexico), Polynesia, and Asia (Japan, China, Medieval Asia). The dream took concrete substance and become true as this national natural heritage is currently home to 320 types of plants, and 100 types of animals (reptiles, insects, and fishes).
The garden starts with Africa’s zone, precisely the Congo’s part where stunning huts are erected, with one towering over the rest, representing the house of the tribe chief. A nearby gushing waterfall makes the visitor believe that he is actually in central Africa.
On the way to the African Savanah, the visitor comes across a large cage full of different specimen of birds, representing richness and biodiversity. The colorful view is mesmerizing and the birdsongs are music to the ear.
The Savanah is characterized by its aquatic plants and giant trees that exceed 20 meters. It comprises labyrinths leading to waste recycling spots.
Latin America’s path begins with caves that offer an unusual, intriguing sight. Next to these caves, there are Peruvian, Brazilian, Mexican, and West Indies zones, wrapped up in blooming trees like Calodendron, Eryhthrina, and Casimiroa, and rare Latino flowers like Brugmansia Arborea.
The zone features many rope bridges to facilitate movement from one site to the other, especially for curious visitors who seek to enjoy the view from the top.
At the heart of the garden there is a small vivarium containing different types of snakes, giant lizards, turtles, amphibians, and tarantulas… The unusual setting shows the secret life of reptiles, the strangeness of their habits and the variety of their species presented in conditions close to their natural habitat.
The walk in the Japanese garden begins with a passage on stones laid on the translucent water, where aquatic plants of all hues form the Water path.
The colorful landscape contrasts perfectly with the ever-green trees and bushes. Beneath the hill there is a bench where the visitor can stop and relax, blending nature’s work with human craft.
Two slightly arched bridges lead to a steep slope with two rocky heaps forming a door. This is the entrance to the green gully garden.
A bamboo bridge crosses the garden followed by a steep slope. The visitor can see that the enormous trees are casting their gigantic shadow all over the green space. As the superb panorama begins shifting, the visitor will notice that he has moved to the South Asian Garden and the Andalusian Garden, the only artificial garden onsite.
In the Chinese area, embankments are flanked with plants, trees and shrubs, drawing an admirable landscape. The visit concludes by one last stopover: Polynesia and its wonderful basin.
Marcel’s house was turned into a museum, exhibiting pictures of the garden during his life, some of his articles and books, and maps showing the plants’ origins.
The exotic garden hosts educational programs for students on the protection of the environment, recycling and fertilizer production, in addition to Damascus roses and orange blossom distillations, said Haddane.