National parks in Egypt, frequently referred to as protected areas, are a relatively new, but rapidly growing development. Though Ras Mohamed, located on the very southern tip of the Sinai is an older park, many of the others have only been added in the last few years.
Some of Egypt’s national parks are very remote and receive very few visitors, while others, such as St. Catherine’s, receive many tourists who may not even know that they have visited one of Egypt’s national parks. Some of the parks may be readily visited, while others will require special permission.
Egyptian national parks may be found from the upper tip of Egypt down to its southern most border. They are very diverse, ranging from mountainous areas in the Sinai, underwater regions, desert areas and Nile Islands.
Gebel Elba Mountains
Here are my top ten national parks:
Ras Mohamed is located in the south of Sinai at the southern extreme of the Sinai Peninsula, overlooking the Gulf of Suez on the west and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east. The area is full of sea gulls and many rare species like sea turtles, dolphins, water turtles, or even sharks. There is a mangrove canal, a rare plant that can be found in only four places around the world. It absorbs salt out of the water and produces it again in its leaves.
Ras Mohamed national park
Ras Mohamed’s marina
Ras Mohamed is one of the best diving sites worldwide
Coral reef in Ras Mohamed nature park
Ras Mohamed is famous for its 150 different coral reefs. It hosts species of birds like falcons, herons, storks, and a lot of mammals like foxes, hyenas, wild rabbits, deers and mountain goats.
Ras Muhammad nature park is home to 150 kinds of coral reefs
Ras Mohamed nature park
Blue Spotted Ray in Ras Mohamed
Snorkelling day trip to Ras Mohamed National Park
It has a collection of the most ancient fossils in the world aged from 75,000 to 20 million years.
(Valley of the Camels) national park, lying to the south of Marsa Alam, has been nominated as a bio-sphere reserve. The marine part of the protected area encompasses a strip of coastal marine waters featuring patches of mangroves, as well as a number of marine islands. The presence of mangroves on the islands makes it a perfect habitat for hundreds of shore and sea bird species.
Wadi El-Gemal is an excellent spot for birdwatching
A beach in Wadi El-Gemal
The eastern desert’s spectacular scenery and wildlife are a popular attraction. Animals that inhabit the wadis include many rare species like the Nubian ibex, and the hyrax. Wild donkeys, camels, and gazelle are also abundant in the region and feed on the vegetation of the desert
The St. Catherine national park in the south of Sinai is located at the outskirts of El-Tur Mountains, 120 km from Nuweiba, at the foot of Mount Sinai. The views from the highest mountains in Egypt are spectacular, and there are many other natural sights in the wadi system. There are springs, creeks, water pools, narrow canyons, steep wadis with huge boulders, amazing rock formations and barren plains with islands of lush vegetation.
On the top of the mountains there are many interconnected basins with a unique high altitude ecosystem, home to the world’s smallest butterfly.
St. Catherine national park
St. Catherine national park
Several species are unique to St. Catherines, including two types of snake and about twenty plant species, such as a beautiful native primrose. Around 1,000 plant species, representing almost 40 per cent of Egypt’s total flora are found in this region.
The Sannur cave reserve in the Beni Suef governorate is situated 10 km south east of the city of Beni Suef. There are several quarries in the area, some of them were anciently discovered and utilised at the time of pharaohs and others are modern.
The Sannur Cave in Bani Sueif
The most important feature of the cave is the quality of its natural formations that are the rarest in the world. They are also important to researchers for conducting detailed comparative studies with regard to variations of ancient environmental conditions.
Wadi Sannur Cave
Ashtum El Gamil is located 7 km west of Port Said and covers an area of 180 km, overlooking El Manzala lake. It was constructed to protect the rare species of animals and birds in the area, and for those who love bird watching, Ashtum El Gamil is a perfect choice as you will see various kinds of birds that you will never see elsewhere, such as the cormorant, grey heron and coot. This area contains a spectacular collection of plants including reeds and pondweed.
Ashtum El Gamil (photo: tropiland)
Ashtum El Gamil (photo: gate.ahram)
Abu Galum is one of the most picturesque nature reserves in the country. With its high mountains, narrow sinuous valleys (wadis), freshwater springs, coastal sand dunes, raised fossil coral reefs and low lying salt flat, it is not surprising that this small area of the Sinai peninsula houses 165 plant species. Of these, 44 species are only seen in this reserve and tend to increase in density towards central and northern Sinai.
The coastal area contains undisturbed coral reefs with high diversities of coral reef fish and associated fauna and flora. Evidence of the richness of the area can be seen on the shorelines covered with shells of various mollusc groups.
The reef at Abu Galum supports an active Bedouin artisanal fishery. The reef can be viewed at marked, safe-access entry points.
Wadi Degla lies in the northern part of the eastern desert and runs east to west for 30 km to drain into the Nile valley at Maadi, south of of Cairo. Wadi Degla is one of the most important valleys in Egypt. It passes through the limestone rocks that have remained in the marine environment in the eastern desert for 60 million years, it is therefore rich with fossils.
The height of these rocks alongside the valley is around 50 metres. There are groups of animals, including mammals like deer, mountain rabbit, red fox, the feather-tailed bat and the little free-tailed bat.
Eighteen species of reptiles have been recorded. The rain water dropping from the waterfalls affected the limestone rocks along the years and formed the so-called Canyon Degla, which resembles the Grand Canyon in the US.
Taba is in the northern area in South Sinai with desert landscapes, steep-walled wadis and high mountains. This park is located just a few kilometres southwest of the city of Taba. It is 3,590 square km in size and is in a mountainous area that features cave formations, as well as mountain passes and a network of valleys. It is one of the most untouched areas in South Sinai and includes critical environments such as freshwater springs. Nawamis (ancient stone tombs), the oldest stone-roofed buildings in the world, are found here.
The Sinai leopard, the bearded vulture, and the black eagle breed here. Twenty-four species of reptiles and 480 species of plants are also found in Taba.
Lake Burullus is on the northern coast east of Alexandria situated north east of the Rosetta branch of the Nile. It is considered the second largest natural lake in Egypt. The reserve aims to encourage environmental tourism and conduct scientific and applied research and maintain natural resources.
Sunset from the boat on Lake Burullus
The White Desert is a national park and is located 45 km north of the town of Farafra. The desert centre-piece is its rock, coloured from snow-white to cream colour. It has massive chalk-rock formations which have been created as a result of occasional sandstorms in the area.
The chalk-white landscape is strewn with alien shapes, boulders of brilliant white which thrust up from the surface of the desert, intensified by the clear light of noon, shimmering gold at sunset or blackened and shrunken in a cloud-filled sky.
Many visitors choose an overnight camping safari to witness the drama of both sunset and dawn.
The White Desert
White Desert Mushroom
The White Desert
It can be expected that more protected areas will be established in Egypt, but the current variety of these parks may provide interesting trips for tourists, and will be of extreme interest to nature lovers of all ages.
They actually do not constitute a new type of tourism, for there have always been a few visitors exploring these regions for many years, particularly the bird enthusiasts.
What they provide to others is a bit more variety in a land that invites the world to see its antiquities and culture of all periods, and visit its wonderful sea resorts along the mainland coast and in the Sinai.