Farasan Islands

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Geographical Aspects

The Farasan Island group is a large archipelago of Red Sea coral islands lying 40 km offshore from Jizan, with many low-lying islands and islets. Some islands are bare and surrounded by coral, while others are sandy. The largest island is Farasan Kabir, being 66 km long and 5-8 km wide, and the highest point does not exceed 72 m. It has the greatest biological diversity of any site in the Saudi Arabian Waters of the Red Sea.

Millions of years ago, geological upheavals in what is now the Red Sea caused salt domes to push up existing coral reefs until they became the Farasan archipelago. Local fishermen form the core of permanent human inhabitants of the largest island, Farasan Al Kabir. Since most of the island's surface is composed of limestone rock, and rainfall averages less than 10 centimeters (4") a year, the land is ill-suited for agriculture. Nevertheless, soil accumulates in the ravines, and some residents nurse crops in rare, irregular patches.

Location:

16o20´ 17o20´N, 41o24´ - 42o26´E in the southern Red Sea.

Area:

696 km2

Flora:

There are several dense stands of mangrove, mostly the black mangrove, Avicennia marina and red mangrove, Rhizophora mucronata, seven species of sea grass is present in the surrounding waters. The important plant communities include Commiphora, Acacia and Salvadora.

Fauna:

231 species of fish, 49 species of reef building coral, 3 species of Dolphin, wide diversity of molluscus, crustaceans, large numbers of breeding seabirds as well as populations of breeding Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) and Sooty Falcons (Falco concolor) are also of considerable importance. A remnant population of endangered Dugong (Dugong dugon) and the only known confirmed breeding site for Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola) on the red sea coast of Arabia. The Islands include the largest wild population of gazelles, (Gazella gazella farasani), an endemic subspecies of the idmi gazelle.

Other Statistics:

Cousteau, in his book The Living Sea, speaking of diving on the Farasan Bank, describes this area as one of the most interesting coral ecosystems in the world. It is isolated, surrounded by sea and desert and relatively unaffected by tourists, fishing or pollution.

Cousteau, describes the Farasan bank note,(not just the islands) of the Saudi Arabian Red Sea. The 'Bank', is an extensive shoal of coral reefs that runs about 320 miles from west of the coastal town of Al Lith down to Kamaran Island. It is a shallow area where extensive reefs have created beautiful coral gardens.

The richness of these iridescent green waters include, a fairy-tale landscape of corals of all shapes, brightly coloured soft coral trees surrounded by schools of fish that swim among them in long flowing processions, like streams of molten silver. Bright sunlight reflects from the fish, forming a glittering curtain of light. Attracted by this activity, schools of hunting jacks and barracudas can be seen. Parrotfish, blue spotted stingray lying on the sand, small coral fish grazing on algae and octopus are frequent. Bigger sights to hope for, are pilot whales, which communicate in high whistling sounds. Manta ray, harmless plankton eaters, one of the largest of the Red Sea's fish that can grow up to five meters from wing tip to wing tip and weigh several tons. Their mouths wide open, funneling plankton-laden water through the gills. In front of their its cavernous gape will probably be pilot fish and on their white belly sucker fish. Grey reef shark, the most common species on central Red Sea reefs averaging about a meter to two meter in length.

Overall a most exciting area to dive and to investigate.

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