Spanning 400 square kilometres of coast along the Gulf of Aqaba is the postcard-perfect Abu Galum Protected Area in Egypt. The cobalt blue waters of the Gulf of Aqaba are located at the tip of the Red Sea, just north of the Sinai Peninsula. The landscape is defined by desert and beaches, with areas of sparse vegetation.
The protectorate was set-up to conserve the colourful coral reefs and ecologically diverse mangrove forests. Imposing mountains outline the coral laden coastal waters and give rise to narrow valleys with freshwater springs, alluvial fans and salt flats. The varied biosphere supports a wealth of species, including dense populations of mammals and marine life. Abu Galum is a favourite spot for divers, snorkelers and hikers.
Apart from being one of Egypt’s most picturesque destinations, the main attraction of the area is the infamous Blue Hole. The blue waters of this mysterious hole were created by the shift of two continental plates—a fascinating geographical phenomenon.
Abu Galum is located off-road between Sharm el-Sheikh and Taba. It’s only two hours from the international resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, but the closest town is Dahab (the pearl of the Gulf). The only way to reach the remote area is by camel, boat or jeep.
Although the Abu Galum Protected Area is a mere two hours from the international resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, the only way to reach the remote area is by camel, boat or jeep.
Bedouin guides are on hand to offer camel rides, a popular way of exploring the protected area. Camel safaris are normally around two hours long.
Wildlife is quite diverse in this natural sanctuary that boasts several micro-habitats. Close to the shoreline, there are high numbers of reptiles, often spotted sunning themselves. Venomous snakes are widely distributed in this area, in particular Burton’s carpet viper, horned viper and black cobra. There are 10 species of snakes and lizards in the area.
The protectorate supports a high concentration of Ruppell’s fox, rock hyrax, striped hyena and Nubian ibex. In the coral reefs, there are a variety of fish species such as electric eel, clownfish, barracuda and massive turtles.
The abundance of wadis and mangroves create the perfect habitat for a wealth of waders and shorebirds. It’s an important flyway area for migrating birds and sustains 68 rare species such as osprey, sooty falcon, black-winged pratincole, Barbary falcon, avocet, black stork and the western reef heron.
The winter season is from November to March, and the temperatures are relatively mild. The inland temperatures can drop drastically during the night. During the summer it is incredibly hot and dry. Winter season is ideal for game viewing as wildlife congregates on the lower altitudes during this time of year.
Any time of year is ideal for diving activities. However, the warmest waters occur during July and September, with an average temperature of 28 degrees celsius.
The exquisite Abu Galum protectorate is characterised by wide valleys, mountains and narrow wadis. The ecosystem is home to a wealth of wildlife, and there are plenty of activities. The main activities in the area include hiking and diving. For visitors interested in hiking, hiring a local guide is recommended. It takes on-the-ground-knowledge to navigate the high granite mountains. Most visitors sign-up for a jeep safari and combine it with a hike.
The mangrove forests are ideal for birdwatching, an area which is explored on hiking excursions. A camel safari led by a Bedouin guide is yet another popular way of exploring the protected area. Camel safaris are normally about two hours long and end at the hypnotic Blue Hole, where visitors can snorkel. The coast is another perfect place for diving and snorkelling trips. Visitors can expect to spot clownfish, barracuda, turtles and more.
Diving trips for highly-experienced technical divers can be arranged at the Blue Hole. However, this is highly risky. About 60 metres below the surface, there is an archway that leads into the open sea.
The only accommodation available in the protectorate is the simple beach huts and camping facilities on the shores of the Blue Hole. Visitors can stay overnight under the stars in typical Bedouin lodging. Most visitors choose to stay in Dahab, the pearl of the gulf region. There are plenty of contemporary hotels in Dahab.