Looking for something exotic, yet different from the glamorous Sharm El-Sheikh? Ras Mohamed is the answer.
Located 30 km south of the Red Sea gem that is Sharm, this 850 km2 area was declared a National Park in 1983. It is Egypt’s very first national park.
Spending a day in Ras Mohamed National Park, I started with the visitors’ center in Marsa Gazlani, where a very helpful ranger provided me with tons of information and patiently answered 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 open for visitors, some areas are closed for scientific research. Nonetheless, parts accessable to visitors are well-connected with dirt roads, in addition to 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 1,000 species of fish. If you are a diver you will be fascinated by Ras Mohamed’s unique diving sites, whether its most famous Yolanda and Sharks Reefs or its eel-infested Eel Garden.
Don’t get frustrated – if you are less adventurous, not really into diving or just like me, with a compulsive fear of sharks – snorkelling would be a good compromise. Trust me, even if you are a snorkeller, Ras Mohamed knows know how to treat you best with its amazingly beautiful sites, unparalleled 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 resident birds.
It also provides a shelter and nursery grounds for a number of marine organisms. In addition, Mangrove forms natural wave-breakers that slow down the speed of tidal waves and helps protect 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. While White Stork and various water fowl are among the migrating birds, endemic White-Eyed Gull Piscivor Osprey are among the year-round residents. And 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 the Ghost Crab.
Camping is also an option, so if you feel you have not gotten enough of the park, you can actually spend the night there. There is a designated camping area where you ll need to pay the related fee at the main entrance gate and check in before sunset. Camping in the wild is absolutely prohibited in Ras Mohamed National Park.
– Ras Mohamed National Park admission fee costs LE 5 per vehicle, LE 5 for Egyptians, $5 for foreigners.
– Several tour operators arrange for one day excursions to Ras Mohamed National Park, in addition to diving centers 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-week 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.
Key National Parks Regulations
– Take pictures, 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 stray from the marked tracks.
– Walking on the reef is not allowed, it has disastrous effects on the ecology.
– Feeding or catching fish is not allowed; no need to worry, they will have lunch.