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Wadi El Gemal National Park

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

Wadi Gemal National Park covers an area of about 4,770 km2 of land, in addition to about 2,000 km2 of marine waters. The Park reaches from the jagged ridges of the Eastern Desert through a network of sheltered wadis to the aquamarine depth of the Red Sea. It represents an integrated land and sea ecosystem containing a wide variety of habitats.

Wadi El Gemal itself is the third-largest wadi in the Eastern Desert draining into the Red Sea, and one of the best vegetated wadis, with an estimated watershed area of some 1476.7 km². Several other important wadis are encompassed in the Park such as Wadi Abu Ghosoun, Wadi El Ranga, and Wadi El Reada.

Wadi El Gemal is home to a huge diversity of birds, seldom found in any other part of Egypt. In fact, this area is unique amongst Egypt’s national parks in maintaining a very high species richness of birds of prey, including one globally threatened species (Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus) and one rare and declining species (Lammergeyer Gypaetus barbatus). Wadi El Gemal Island hosts the world’s largest known nesting colony of sooty falcon.

Wadi El Gemal Island range from 3 to 7 km from the mainland. They are low-lying with sandy beaches and raised fossil reefs, with fossilized coral and carbonate rocks. The entire region around the islands is a shallow water area with rugged bottom morphology and is surrounded by well-developed shallow fringing coral reefs bordered by a sloping sandy bed. Beyond the shallow reef-flats and inter-tidal areas, the reef slope drops away and is replaced by sand, sand with sea-grass, or sand with coral patches.

Wadi El Gimal Island - CNES©

This is the largest drainage basins and probably the best vegetated Wadi in the Eastern Desert. The area is inhabited by the Ababda who maintains their sustainable and traditional lifestyle. 

The Ababda are the northernmost Beja tribe and live in central/southern Egypt. This area is bounded, as with other Beja tribes, between the Red Sea and the Nile River.

Their traditional “Gabana” coffee is a must-try in Wadi El Gemal. Gabana is made by roasting coffee beans over a wood fire, which Ababda name “Rakia,” adding herbs including ginger and cardamom, then boiling it in a clay or metal pot, and adding sugar in the end.

There are five islands in Wadi El Gemal National Park. Wadi El Gemal Island is largest and the most famous one. it's right off Ras Bughdadi at the north end of the Park. Extending northeast from Hamata is the Qula’an archipelago-sometimes called the Hamata Islands. The archipelago consists of four islands: from north to south, Siyal, Shawareet, Umm al-sheikh, and Mahabis Islands. A fifth, small islands lies off the Hamata mangrove, which is periodically connected with the mainland at low tide. The coral reefs found here are among the most spectacular in the world in terms of abundance of life and diversity of species. 

Wadi El Gemal National Park covers 60km of the Egyptian Red Sea coast and includes both water and land features. Along the coast are the Wadi Gemal Islands, very healthy coral reefs, mangroves, sea-grass beds feed the endangered dugong, and green turtle, which nests on the coast and islands. At the mouth of Wadi Gemal, a flowing freshwater stream mingles with seawater forming a low-salinity marsh that supports reed-beds and Dôm palms. Inland is Gebel Hamata (1977m), where ibex and gazelles are still found.  

Wadi el Gemal National Park is one of the most celebrated and thriving national marine parks in Egypt. It is well protected by a series of strict environmental laws. The dive sites, once the realm of liveaboard divers only, are now easily reached by daily diving boats from Hamata and Wadi El Gemal. These include the Hamata Islands, Sha'ab Makhsour, Abu Galawa, Malahi, Satayah, and Sha'ab Claude.


Author : Ahmed Fouad

Pictures © Ahmed Fouad

Dolphis courtesy of Khaled Said©

Lion Fish courtesy of Salvatore Alesci©



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