Ras Muhammad National Park
The southernmost tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Ras Muhammad is an 850 km² fossilized coral headland that lies between the rich coral reefs of the Red Sea and the inland desert that was declared as a protectorate in 1983. Home to an abundance of wildlife such as the Sea Turtle, Clownfish, Giant Moray Eel, and the Sooty Falcon. Ras Muhammad enjoys a unique set of ecological and geological features, along with a thriving mangrove forest that have made it a popular destination for decades.
On the northern coast of the Sinai Peninsula lies the beautiful Zaranik Lagoon. A favourite location for migrating water birds, this unique lagoon contains small inlets that support dense vegetation. Bordering the eastern end of Lake Bardawil, the Zaranik Lagoon is a migratory haven for threatened bird species like the Corncrake and Pallid Harriers. Endowed protected status in 1985, this 230 km ² lagoon also hosts small populations of the threatened Egyptian Tortoise and the Loggerhead Turtle species
El Ahrash Protectorate
The Ahrash Protectorate sits along the Mediterranean coastline, distinguished by 60m-high sand dunes and plenty of vegetation, including a range of herbs, grasses, and Acacia trees. In order to feed their livestock and maintain sand stabilization in this desert landscape, local Bedouin communities consistently cultivate this area. Due to its high coastal sand dunes and fragile ecosystem, this area was declared a protectorate in 1985.
Elba National Park
Nestled between two tropical and arid regions, Elba Protectorate is known for its unique location and microclimate. The area’s main attraction, Gebel Elba, or Mt. Elba, measures approximately 1,437m high and enjoys plenty of mountainous precipitation. In turn, this moisture-rich region flourishes with rich flora and fauna. Home to rare bird species and sub-Saharan mammals like the Zoril and the Aardwolf, this massive 35,600 km ² protectorate hosts exceptional biodiversity.
©Dina Aly & Rafik Khalil
El Omayed Biosphere Reserve
A vast coastal desert along the Mediterranean Sea, the Omayed Biosphere Reserve is renowned for having the richest, most abundant flora in Egypt. Divided into sections, half of this 700 km² reserve is dedicated to small-scale farming, with the rest free for activities and exploration. Endowed with protected status in 1986 for its diverse collection of flora and fauna, and later designated by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve, El Omayed attracts biologists and geologists alike for the area’s unique research opportunities. The topography of this region includes coastal dunes, limestone ridges, depressions, and an inland plateau
Saluga and Ghazal Protectorate
The last remnants of Nilotic vegetation, which dominated the Nile Valley for centuries, is preserved here in the Saluga and Ghazal Protectorate located in the Aswan Governorate. These two small granite islands house over 94 species of flora, including five different kinds of Acacia tree species. This rich vegetation also provides welcome refuge for wintering birds like the Pintail and the Grey Heron. Endowed protected status in 1986, this wetland landscape boasts exceptional natural heritage.
St. Katherine Protectorate
Religious and cultural history of the St. Katherine Protectorate is revered across all Abrahamic traditions. Inhabited by Greek Orthodox monks, St. Katherine Monastery is the oldest continuously occupied monastery in the world. The peak of Mount Moussa, long a site of pilgrimage for many, remains a popular destination for visitors today for its strong cultural and religious significance. The level of biodiversity covering almost 4,300 km ² in St. Katherine is quite simply incredible, as the Sinai Wild Rose and Acacia Tree flourish there. Also, the Sinai Blue Baton Butterfly, the world’s smallest butterfly, the Caracal and Striped Hyena can be spotted roaming freely around the region. The St. Katherine area was declared as a protectorate in 1988
Ashtum El Gamil Protectorate
The Ashtum El Gamil Protectorate is located on the eastern end of the sandbar dividing Lake Manzala from the Mediterranean Sea and was given its status mainly to protect the resident fish species who regularly pass in and out of the lake. The 180 km ² area is one of the most important wetland landscapes for wintering birds, hosting up to 250,000 birds annually. Among these bird species are the Wigeon and the Ferruginous Duck. The Ashtum El Gamil Protectorate also provides food, shelter, and a sustainable reproductive habitat for a range of resident fish.
Lake Qarun Protectorate
Almost half of Egypt’s 431 bird species have been sighted and recorded at one point or other at Lake Qarun, a vital wintering destination for migrating water birds and every birdwatcher’s dream come true! Here you can catch a glimpse of the Flamingo and the White Pelican. Known for both its natural and cultural heritage, Lake Qarun Protectorate spans 1,385 km ² and is home to a number of Pharaonic, Roman, and Coptic archaeological sites. Then don’t miss out on a visit to the Jebel Qatrani Open Air Museum, located at the Qatrani Mountain! This area was announced as a protectorate in 1989.
Wadi El Rayan Protectorate
Featuring whale fossils over a million years old, Wadi El Rayan Protectorate features a notable UNESCO World Heritage Site. Announced as a protectorate in 1989 and spanning over 1,700 km ², mountains in this area make for great hikes, and clear, expansive skies perfect for birdwatching as well as stargazing. This area features
an array of wildlife, ranging from Ruppell’s Sand Fox to the rare Sandgrouse. Surrounded by cascading sand dunes, the Magic Lake here is peacefully picturesque and a stay at any one of the nearby ecolodges provides welcome escape from the bustle of neighbouring Cairo.
Wadi El Alaqi Protectorate
Covering 30,000 km ², the massive Wadi Al Alaqi Protectorate lies between the western Red Sea mountains and the Nile Valley. With unique geological features and strong ecological importance, the Wadi Al Alaqi Protectorate hosts plenty of Nile Tamarix plants and serves as a wetland for wintering wildfowl. Declared a protected area in 1989, this park is also home to the Nubian Wild Donkey, the Nile Crocodile, Nile Monitor, and the Nile Soft-Shelled Turtle. What an exciting array of animal species!
©Dina Aly & Rafik Khalil
Wadi El Assuti Protectorate
Running through the Eastern Desert’s limestone plateau and passing up through the Nile Valley, Wadi El Assuti is a largely undisturbed protected park, covering 35 km ² of rich vegetation and wildlife. An arid area with limited water supplies, Wadi El Assuti carries unique ecological significance because it allows for the survival of endangered wildlife species like the Nubian Ibex, the Caracal, and reptiles like the Spiny Agama.
El Hassana Dome Protectorate
The geological result of tectonic shifts and contortions that occurred around 135 million years ago, the Hassana Dome stands alone in a plateau just north of Cairo. As you observe this domed structure, keep an eye out for texture inconsistencies that reveal the impact of these contortions on the rock and are clearly visible along its surface. This rock structure also houses a number of special marine fossils. Although located in a quite arid region, the protectorate supports some vegetation, lizards, and the famous White-crowned Black Wheatear species.
Petrified Forest Protectorate
Here lie the remnants of a forest that flourished 35 million years ago. Moderately vegetated and home to a diverse collection of wildlife, residents of this protectorate include bird, rodent, and reptile populations. Visitors to the Petrified Forest Protectorate are often impressed to learn that the impact of ancient geological movements, which separated the African and Arabian tectonic plates from one another, can be observed here and render the park a truly remarkable place to visit.
Sannur Cave Protectorate
Within the Sannur Cave Protectorate you’ll find a one-of-a-kind karst cave, created as a result of groundwater seeping through Eocene limestone from the Galala Plateau. This natural phenomenon is caused by water percolating gradually downwards to form spectacular rock structures in various shapes and sizes. The Sannur Cave Protectorate is therefore testament to water’s awesome capacity to shape and distort neighbouring landscapes, both above and underground.
Covering 600 km², Nabq Protectorate offers access to the Red Sea, with plenty of stunning coral reefs and an exciting array of marine life. Announced as a protectorate in 1992, this area’s desert topography features dense mangrove forests, hosting a diverse selection of rare birds and other animals. Nabq is home to the Grey Heron, the Steppe Eagle, and the Dugong. For history buffs, the 1956 Maria Schröder cargo shipwreck is an intriguing excursion.
Abu Galum Protectorate
Home to the globally renowned Blue Hole and Three Pools dive sites, Abu Galum is a tourist favourite, especially because of its proximity to the city of Dahab. Abu Galum covers an area of 500 km², and was declared as a protectorate in 1992. This region boasts a collection of coral reefs unlike anywhere else in the world, also housing the infamous Blue Lagoon, a stunning natural saltwater pool surrounded by climbable mountaintops. With foxes, vultures, and ibexes, Abu Galum’s rugged terrain provides the ideal environment for a lively collection of wildlife. The surrounding mountains are also home to various other reptile, bird, and fish species such as the Sinai Agama, Grey Heron and the Giant Moray Eel.
The northernmost protected area in the Sinai Peninsula, Taba Protectorate covers 3,595 km² and is characterized by steep-walled valleys and particularly high mountaintops. Long considered by experts to be one of the most well-preserved regions in Southern Sinai, Taba is home to the infamous Nubian Ibex. Declared a protected area in 1998, Taba also boasts an incredible selection of wildlife, including 24 reptilian species and up to 480 different kinds of plants. Visit Taba for an unmissable experience of traditional Bedouin heritage and the opportunity to roam around a number of cultural and archaeological sites. Nawamis, one of the world’s oldest stone-roofed buildings, can be found here – just a taste of what Taba has to offer!
Lake Burullus Protectorate
Located east of the Rosetta branch of the Nile River, the Lake Burullus Protectorate stretches over 460 km², making it the second largest lake in Egypt. Containing around 50 small islands and one sea-bound connection, water salinity in Lake Burullus can be quite high in some parts. With abundant aquatic vegetation, Lake Burullus was declared a protected area in 1998 and is also an important wetland for wintering waterfowl like the Wigeon and Ferruginous Duck species.
Nile Islands Protectorate
The Nile Islands Protectorate is made up of 127 islands scattered along the river, which support an attractive habitat for wintering Fowl and Wading birds. Seasonal changes in this area cause water levels to rise, which leads to mudflats and sandy banks. These topographical changes foster rich bird habitats and support various amphibian and freshwater invertebrate species to thrive.
Wadi Degla Protectorate
The Wadi Degla Protectorate is particularly renowned for its spectacular limestone terrain, which includes deep, winding canyons formed by ancient Nile River floodwaters. Declared as a protectorate in 1999 this 60 km² protectorate runs northwest to the Nile valley and South of Cairo. The valley enjoys strong natural heritage, home to several marine fossils that date back to the Eocene epoch. With vegetation during rainy seasons and a reasonable amount of wildlife, Wadi Degla Protectorate is home to a number of unique bat species.
Siwa was declared as a protectorate in 2002, a well-preserved natural ecosystem and expansive landscapes, this region is every explorer’s dream come true spanning around 7800 km² of pristine desert landscape. Particular points of interest in Siwa Oasis include the elevated Shali Fortress, which provides stunning views over the surrounding areas and carries key historical and cultural significance. Inside the protected area, Shyata Lake is also not to be missed, a salt lake in the middle of this grand oasis and an occasional pit-stop for migratory flamingo birds. In the surrounding areas, the Dorcas Gazelle can be seen leaping across the desert landscape.
White Desert National Park
Roam around the pristine Crystal Mountain and explore the White Desert landscape’s uninhabited oases and mini-depressions. Spanning over 3,000 km², this area is a sure-fire hit for geologists, ecologists, naturalists, artists, or simply curious adventurers looking to be wowed by the White Desert’s unusual landscape formations. Announced as a protectorate in 2002, this arid landscape is home to several unique animal, reptile and bird species such as the Fennec Fox, the Saharan Horned Viper and the Sooty Falcon.
Wadi El Gemal National Park
Declared as a protectorate in 2003, and perhaps one of Egypt’s best-kept secrets. Wadi El Gemal National Park covers an area of approximately 7,636 km² of stunning views all year round along with pristine marine life and a dense mangrove forest. With Hankorab Beach’s crystal-clear waters and Qulaan’s beautiful scenery, there are several relaxation spots all over. For a deep dive into local culture, don’t forget to visit the Ababda House cultural museum and explore the ancient ruins at Sakit. Round off your trip with a visit to Abou Ghosoun and Hamata, where you can witness local tribeswomen produce unique handicrafts, perfect for gifts!
Red Sea Northern Islands Protectorate
The islands scattered along the northern Red Sea coastline constitute a vital element of Egypt’s environmental mosaic. In addition to supporting flourishing mangrove clusters, these islands are an important breeding site for birds and endangered Sea Turtles. Underwater, seagrass beds feed Green Turtles and the surrounding coral life hosts dolphins and several other fish species. With this in mind, you can understand why the Red Sea Northern Islands are a magnet for thousands diving enthusiasts from all over the world. Visit this area to explore a wide range of endangered flora and fauna, and maybe even spot dolphins playing in offshore waters!
©Dina Aly & Rafik Khalil
El Gilf El Kebir National Park
Spanning 48,523 km², the Gilf El Kebir National Park is one of the world’s largest conserved areas and Egypt’s largest protected site. Despite this area’s extremely arid climate, it hosts plants and animals from surrounding landscapes, including the Egyptian Gecko, and various insectivorous birds. Despite relatively low biodiversity, Gilk El Kebir’s few surviving elements make this an extremely fragile and sensitive ecosystem. It is also here that you will find the famous Cave of Swimmers, which contains wall drawings and carvings estimated to have been made during the Neolithic era, around 8,000 years ago!
©Dina Aly & Rafik Khalil
El Dababya Protectorate
Only recently declared a natural reserve in 2007, the Dababya Protectorate is located just south of the historical city of Luxor. With a particularly unique geological makeup, the Dababya Protectorate contains features from the modern Paleocene and Eocene epochs, commonly estimated to have been between 56 and 33 million years ago. Even though remnants from these eras exist in various places all over the world, overlap between the two is rarely found in a single area, rendering Dababya a truly special place to visit.
El Salum Protectorate
The Gulf of Salum is a marine protected area, lying on the western edge of Egypt’s Mediterranean coast and close to the Libyan border. Considered one of the most pristine areas along Egypt’s northern coastline, the Salum Protectorate is characterized by abundant biodiversity and a unique cultural identity. With sandy white dunes cascading down to clear blue waters, the Salum Protectorate is as photogenic as they come!
El Wahat El Bahariya Protectorate
Endowed with protected status in 2010, El Wahat El Bahariya acts as a bridge between Siwa in the North and the White Desert in the South spanning an area of approximately 2,000 km². Here a number of flora and fauna can be found, among which is the Olive Tree. Considered a teand dinosaur fossils. It was here that scientists discovered fossils from the world’s second largest dinosaur, which are still there today!
Mount Kamel Meteor Protectorate
Forged by the fall of a meteor, this pelvic-shaped crater is around 45 meters wide and 16 meters deep. Researchers flock to the Mount Kamel Meteor to study the variety of elements found in the Earth’s core and many of the other planets in our solar system. With remnants from an asteroid region between Mars and Jupiter, the Mount Kamel Meteorite Protectorate is an area of rich astronomical heritage and therefore significant for those studying the components characterizing meteorite formations.
Help Preserve Our Natural Heritage
To take or capture nothing, but photographs
To eliminate or kill nothing, but time
To leave or discard nothing, but memories
For your safety remember that:
– A permit from military or governmental authorities is required to access a number of protected areas, so make sure you have it before starting your adventure.
– Before starting your adventure, hire a knowledgeable and experienced guide as it is highly recommended for visiting desert areas.
– In remote areas, make sure to travel in convoys of at least two 4×4 vehicles.
– Make sure you are fully equipped and prepared with enough food and water supplies, as travelling time through the desert can often be deceivingly long.
– Before setting out on your journey, alert someone to your whereabouts and when you expect to be back.
– Make sure to bring appropriate clothing and an insect repellent.