Posted by: nuweiba | May 17, 2008

A day in the wild- Ras Mohammed

Tired of the Red Sea Riviera? Looking for something differently exotic than glamorous Sharm El Sheikh? Well Ras Mohamed got it all…and even more.

Located 30 km south of the Red Sea gem known as Sharm E Sheikh, this 850 km2 area was declared a National Park back in 1983. It is Egypt’s very first National Park.

Spending a day in Ras Mohamed National Park, I started with the Visitors Centre in Marsa Gazlani, where a very helpful ranger aided me with tons of information and patiently answered to my never-ending flow of questions. He even showed me a short documentary featuring the national park; a special screening, just for me.

Not all the park is opened for visitors as some areas are closed for scientific research. Nonetheless, areas open for visitors are well connected with dirt roads, in addition to well-informative signs that guide you through your visit; no need to worry, you won’t get lost. With its location at the meeting point of the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba, the underwater world is simply unreal, with more than 200 species of corals, soft and hard, in addition to a 1,000 species of fish. If you are a diver you will be fascinated by Ras Mohamed’s unique diving sites, don’t miss; whether its most famous Yolanda and Sharks Reefs or rather its eel infested Eel Garden. Don’t get frustrated, if you are less adventurous, not really into diving or just like me, with a compulsory fear of sharks, snorkelling would be a good compromising solution. Trust me; even if you are a snorkeller, Ras Mohamed knows know how to treat you best with its amazingly beautiful sites, unparallel elsewhere on the Red Sea Coast.

Enough water, I want to breathe some air. And no air fresher than that of the Mangrove Channel where Avicennia Marina mangrove thickets brush the scenery with a stroke of lively green. Mangrove plays a key role in the environment acting as a resting and nesting place for migratory and residing birds. Not only but also it provides a shelter and nursery grounds for a number of marine organisms. In addition, Mangrove forms natural wave-breaker that slow down the speed of tidal waves (tsunami) and helps in protection against coastal erosion.       

With its strategic location, Ras Mohamed National Park is en route of bird migration. If you are an avid bird watcher try to make it to the park in either spring or autumn when hordes of birds flock the area in thousands. While White Stork and various water fowls are among the migrating ones, endemic White-Eyed Gull piscivor Osprey are among the all year round residents. Birds are not the only creatures by the seashore, go to the beach and stay put for a minute or two, you will certainly be greeted by other residents like Ghost Crab.

Camping is also an option, so if you feel you have not got enough of the park, you can actually spend the night there. A certain area is designated for camping, where you need to pay the related fee at the main entrance gate and check into the camping area before sunset. Camping in the wild is absolutely prohibited in Ras Mohamed National Park.     

Box 1: Useful Tips

– Ras Mohamed National Park admission fee costs 5 LE per vehicle, 5LE for Egyptians, 5$ for foreigners.
– Several tour operators arrange for one day excursions to Ras Mohamed National Park, in addition to diving centres arranging for boat dives.
– As Ras Mohamed National Park lies in sector “A” (according to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty) “Sinai Only Visa” is not applicable. It is a two weeks free visa obtained upon arrival permitting you into the eastern part of Sinai (sectors B, C & D); for instance it allows you to go to Sharm El-Sheikh but not west of it.

Box 2: Key National Parks Regulations
– Take picture, leave footprints other than that taking any material, living or dead, i.e. corals, fish, shells, plants or fossils is not tolerated.
– Please adhere to the designed roads, don’t astray from the marked tracks.
– Walking on reef is not allowed, it has disastrous implications on the ecology.
– Feeding or catching fish is not allowed; no need to worry they will have lunch.
– Other than campers, all visitors are amiably required to leave the park by sunset.

By Mohammed El Hebeishy
http://www.dailystaregypt.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=13732

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