Nature Reserves of Egypt
By Egyptian Government
Exquisite coral reefs attract skin-divers
from all parts of the world (Abu Galum Reserve)
Abu Galum is one of the picturesque nature reserves in the country. With its high mountains, narrow sinuous valleys (wadis), freshwater springs, coastal sand dunes, gravel alluvial fans, raised fossil coral reefs and low lying saline sabkha, it is not surprising that this small area of the Sinai peninsula houses 165 plant species.
Of these, 44 species are seen only in this reserve and tend to increase in density towards central and northern Sinai.
As a floristic frontier, Abu Galum reserve is a sensitive area that receives a high conservation priority. Access to regions without vehicle track systems can only be permitted where marked trails have been prepared.
The managed resource protected area at Aabu Galum, covering an area of 400 km square, protects varied coastal and mountain ecosystems unique on the Gulf of Aqba. The area differs dramatically from the other reserves on the Gulf. The coastal area contains undisturbed coral reefs with high diversities of coral reef fish and associated fauna and flora. Evidence of the richness of the area could be seen on the shorelines covered with shells of various mollusk groups.
The reef at Abu Galum supports an active Bedouin artisanal fishery. The fishery is now being regulated by Egyptian Environmental Affairs Authority (EEAA) to reduce damage to the coral reef. The reef could be viewed at marked, safe access entry points.
Dunes and Alluvial Fans
The combined actions of temperature changes, wind and rain have eroded mountain areas and transported rocks and gravels (alluvium) down wadi systems to the coast. The depth of alluvium in wadi beds can exceed 150m.
Reefs and mangroves
Coral reef and mangrove areas are often considered as distinct coastal ecosystems isolated from island ecosystems. In reality, they are closely linked, dependent on, or affected by natural events or human induced changes taking place inland. Mangroves require the organic and inorganic substances carried to them by rainstorms and floods.
High altitude deserts and wadis
The South Sinai reserves in general and Abu Galum in particular, contain varied ecosystems and habitat types Management of these areas is based on the premise that all contained habitats are linked by physical and biological processes.
High altitude deserts and connecting wadi systems form catchment watersheds, providing fresh water to habitats at lower elevations. The highlands provide for a multitude of micro-habitats supporting flora and fauna that are well adapted to this environment.
During infrequent winter rains, flash floods will wash through wadis transporting seeds and organic materials to lowland areas. Gravels and sands are also transported. These will be deposited in downstream areas often establishing new areas for plant growth. Small, shaded indentations on hillsides will retain water for extended periods and serve as water reservoirs for local fauna. When water and forage is scarce these animals move to lowland areas.
Terrestrial areas in Abu Galum nature reserve park are a stark contrast to the exuberance of colour and life seen on the coral reef. Seemingly devoid of visible life, they are in fact home to the desert fox, Nubian Ibex (in the mountain areas), numerous small mammal species, reptiles and insects. Most of this fauna is difficult to see given their noctural habits. Foxes are often seen in the vicinity of Yolanda Beaches. They are harmless if approached with care; they should not be fed but can be provided with water. Fox cubs could be seen at sunset in springtime. All other wildlife should not be approached.
The park is also home to important resident bird populations including Grey Heron, Goliath Heron, Reef Heron and their small relative, the Greenback Heron. At least 5 groups pf Osprey (a fish-eating falcon) are resident and breeding annually. In summertime thousands of White Stork stop over in the park during their annual migration to East Africa.