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Marsa Abu Dabbab

Updated: Jun 19

Marsa Abu Dabbab is a natural u-shaped bay at the mouth of the Abu Dabbab valley, it is situated 35km north of the city of Marsa Alam and is a must-visit along this coastline. With enticing azure waters and a beautiful sandy beach, it holds host to an exceptional array of marine species including turtles, dolphins and dugongs.

Marsa Abu Dabbab | Ariel view - Photo courtesy @ Blue Ocean Dive Centers & Resorts

Marsa Abu Dabbab | Satellite Image CNES - Photo Courtesy @Google Earth


Marsa Abu Dabbab is named after the Abu Dabbab valley, with marsa signifying natural bay. The center of the bay has a combination of sandy seabeds and sea-grass meadows, with fringing reefs to both the North and South which serve to protect against strong currents and waves. The Bay itself is relatively shallow, ranging between 3 and 18 meters, yet, once you move further off-shore the seabed slopes towards a steep drop, descending around 30-40 meters deep. Where the shallow waters are perfect for snorkelers and swimmers, these deeper waters are left to divers to explore, both can discover for themselves the rich biodiversity of species found in the area.

The hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)


The Coral Reefs


Both the coral reefs to the North and the South provide rich habitats that sustain the diverse array of multicolored reef fish, with hard and soft corals contributing to these valuable ecosystems. The reefs are home to so many fish, not limited to triggerfish, barracuda, clownfish, lionfish, angelfish, moray eels, damselfish, butterflyfish, stonefish, parrotfish, scorpionfish, pipefish and seahorses. The corals vary in shape, size and color, the most common in the area include fire, star, bubble, brain and leather corals, as well as gorgonians. Maybe even more exciting are the the Hawksbill turtles who feed, rest and swim within the area, with a high chance of observing one or two of these majestic creatures all year around.

Lion Fish Pterois volitans


The sandy seabed between the reefs and seagrass meadows is home to several species, including the the Halavi Guitarfish (Glaucostegus halavi), the Cowtail Stingray (Pastinachus sephen), the Blue-spotted Ribbontail ray (Taeniura lymma) and a local mother and daughter spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari).

The halavi guitarfish - Glaucostegus halavi

The cowtail stingray - Pastinachus sephen


Sea-Grass Meadows


Sea-grass meadows are one of the most important ecosystems on our planet. Maintaining and providing habitats, nurseries and food for the rich diversity of marine species, they contribute to improved water quality, nutrient recycling, sediment stabilization, as well as oxygen production and climate change mitigation. Though appearing as grasses, this 'grass; is in fact a flowering plant (also known as an angiosperm); it lives fully submerged in the shallow depths of our oceans using the sun's energy to photosynthesize. Their pollen is transferred by water movement, generated by currents, winds and tides, however, they also have the ability to reproduce asexually (without pollen transferal). Propogated horizontally, they plant their seeds in the surrounding sandy seabed. Sea grasses are not only more productive than agricultural land, but are also closely linked to coral reefs, serving as nurseries for many species of crustaceans and fish, turtles, sea cows and molluscs also feed directly on the epiphyctic algae that grow on these beds.


Sea Cow - Dugong dugon - in Marsa Abu Dabbab

The Sea Cow (Dugong dugon) feed primarily on sea-grass meadows.. Recent studies indicate that these fussy eaters prefer sea-grasses higher in nitrogen and lower in fibre such as Halophile ovalis, manipulating the environment to encourage regeneration of these fast-growing pioneer species.

Sea-grass meadow survey | RED SEA MARINE ECOSYSTEMS PROJECT™


From surveys, seven species of sea-grass meadows have been recorded in the Marsa Alam region, the most widespread appearing to be Halophila stipulacea which forms extensive mono-specific meadows in waters between 6 and 45m. Other species of sea-grass consumed by dugongs in the Red Sea include: Halophila stipulacea, Halodule uninervis, Thalassodendron ciliatum, Cymodocea rotundata and Syringodium isoetifolium (Lipkin 1975).


Seagrass species found in the Marsa Alam region:

o Thalassia hemprichii

o Thalassodendron ciliatum

o Halophila stipulacea

o Halophila ovalis

o Halodule uninervis

o Cymodocea rotundata

o Syringodium isoetifolium


Green Turtles


Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) are known to travel incredibly long distances during their lifetimes, with some individuals travelling across entire oceans from their feeding areas to nesting beaches located in the tropics and sub-tropics. These incredible ancient creatures, use the earth's magnetic field as an invisible map to navigate across the oceans and throughout their migrations.


Marsa Abu Dabbab is home to more than 120 Green Turtles and most are considered resident turtles, sighted on regular basis.


As part of the RED SEA TURTLES PROJECT™ we collect data on turtles - sighting locations, measurements, sex, activity and habitat use. This marine turtle monitoring program features an Artificial Intelligence research program, using the patterns on the turtles cheeks and back to identify individuals with the highest level of accuracy.

The green sea turtle Chelonia mydas

Turtle monitoring and conservation program | RED SEA TURTLES PROJECT™


Effective marine conservation for marine turtles relies heavily on information about their habitat use and distribution of turtle populations. Using photo-identification allows us characterize individual's body parts, helping to understand their movements, where they are sighted and informs us on how to best implement conservation methods. Through our citizen science program, we have developed a method whereby you too can help with these identifications, reporting your sightings when snorkeling, diving or swimming within the area.


The Sea Cow - Dugong dugon


Marsa Abu Dabbab is a home to several resident dugongs. These mammals are peaceful and tranquil animals and though they appear over weight, they are in fact fusiform (meaning they're form is wider at their middle, with smaller circumferances at either end of their bodies). They are hydrodynamic, highly muscular and reach up to 3 meters in length, weighing up to 500 kg. They are exclusively bottom feeders, primarily feeding on sea-grass and aquatic vegetation which they uproot by digging furrows in the seafloor with their snouts. The species' preferred habitats include warm and shallow coastal waters, with healthy ecosystems that supports their required large amounts of vegetation.

Dugongs (Dugong dugon)

Sea-grass meadows are an essential food source, with dugongs feeding on whole plants, they excavated a telltale grazing trail. Measuring the feeding trails helps us understand their preferred diet, movements and activities. | RED SEA DUGONG PROJECT™

Dugongs regularly surface to breathe, yet a dugong can hold its breath for up to 11 minutes, diving to feed, explore, rest or travel. One of the most common Dugong monotoring techniques is surface survey | RED SEA DUGONG PROJECT™


Our knowledge of the social behavior of dugongs is fairly rudimentary. Their habits and habitats make them difficult to observe, with the lack of distinct size class or obvious sexual dimorphism limiting the data obtained from direct observation. The only definitive long lasting social unit is the cow and her calf.


Dugongs are believed to be the most endangered large mammal on the African continent, and in East Africa, there is growing concern that they are in grave danger of local extinction unless immediate conservation measures are taken. Dugongs are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and classified globally as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ due to a population decline of at least 25% in the last 90 years (IUCN, 2000). Their habitat requirements and slow rate of reproduction render them particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic activities, and they are threatened by hunting, incidental net captures, pollution, coastal development and disease. If you are lucky to swim or dive with them please follow the code of conduct and best practices below.



Code of Conduct and Best Practices:


Over the past few months we've been working hand on hand with the directors, dive operation, management team and professional divers of Blue Ocean Diving Centers & Resorts, Hilton Nubian Resort Marsa Alam and Abu Dabbab Beach and Abu Dabbab Lodge to design and implement a comprehensive environmental management plan, and to set an updated measures to insure the protection of Marsa Abu Dabbab's biodiversity.

The professional dive team members, both instructors and dive guides have completed their training and are now including the updated code of conduct and best practices in their day to day activities through environmental briefings and by providing guests with digital environmental awareness materials in 12 different languages. The training included new and innovative approach to protect the ecosystems and key species through education and citizen science.

By offering their local knowledge and by directly involving themselves in the citizen science program, monitoring and protecting our natural resources the professional divers will play an crucial role in marine environmental protection, bringing education on this subject to a whole new level.


Code of Conduct and Best Practices

Download your FREE copy in High-Resolution of the digital conservation tools from our E-Library

DO

  • Knowledge is key, learn about animals behavior, ecology and conservation.

  • Read the instructional signboards.

  • Participate in marine conservation programs and Listen carefully to environmental briefings; your local guide will let you know what to expect and how to react.

  • Wear life jacket and stay safe.

  • Take plenty of pictures and Report Sightings

  • Limit your observation to a maximum time of 30 minutes. Spend shorted duration If you feel the animal is distressed.

  • During turtles nesting season (April - October) Follow the Code of Conduct and Best Practices in Turtle Nesting Areas.

DON'T

  • DO NOT attempt to touch, ride, or chase the animals.

  • Avoid flash photography which can scare the animals.

  • Avoid using Selfie-Sticks specially when you are at close distance to the animals.

  • DO not throw litter onto the beach. Use the bins provided.

  • All methods of fishing are NOT allowed in the area.

  • Avoid the use of underwater acoustic signaling devices.

  • Limit the use of sun-screen and use environmental friendly products.

  • DO NOT feed the fish or animals.

Marsa Abu Dabbab is home to several endangered species such as Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles and Dugongs. This makes it one of the few locations where you can experience special encounters with these animals. The presence of these animals, as well as, the wide array of biodiversity and essential ecosystems present makes this bay a focus point of marine conservation in the Red Sea. To ensure that it remains this way, it is necessary to follow the code of conduct, failure to do so will lead to irreversable damages to the ecosystems, threatening the health and well-being of these key species.


We would love to thank Blue Ocean Dive Centers & Resorts for supporting the "From A to Z operational logistics" to our team. Special thanks to diving team, Gigi and the operation management team, Captain Tawfik and his crew. We are incredibly thankful to the support of Hilton Nubian Resort Marsa Alam, Abu Dabbab Beach and Abu Dabbab Lodge.


Last but not least, We would like to extend our sincere gratitude and appreciation to Mr. Khaled Hamed - CEO of Blue Ocean and to the board of directors of Abu Dabbab Group for their direct involvement and continuous support to our marine conservation work.


Authors:

RED SEA PROJECT™



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