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Wadi al Gamal Nature Reserve

Listed under National Parks in Egypt.

  • Photo of Wadi al Gamal Nature Reserve
  • Photo of Wadi al Gamal Nature Reserve
  • Photo of Wadi al Gamal Nature Reserve
  • Photo of Wadi al Gamal Nature Reserve
  • Photo of Wadi al Gamal Nature Reserve
  • Photo of Wadi al Gamal Nature Reserve
  • Photo of Wadi al Gamal Nature Reserve
  • Photo of Wadi al Gamal Nature Reserve
Photo of Wadi al Gamal Nature Reserve
Photo by Jenny Fowler
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High waterless mountains, a wadi alternately dry and flash-flooded, an area of mangroves, a salt marsh, sand dunes, a beach with crabs scuttling in the waves, a coral reef, a sea-grass bed, an offshore island; Wadi al Gamal National Park contains a diverse range of ecosystems supporting a wide variety of plants and animals.

The reserve is on the Red Sea Coast of Egypt, about thirty miles south of Marsa Alam. You can visit the beach and mangroves from the coastal road, or take an organised trip by camel or four wheel drive to see the wadi and the mountains. The scenery is spectacular and a surprising amount of wildlife lives here.

I visited the reserve with Fustat Wadi el Gemal (spellings are variable from Arabic). This is a tented camp offering guided tours and overnight trips into the desert. I took a camel ride into the wadi, guided by local Bishari workers who are expert camel handlers.

The camp staff work to give visitors an insight into the desert environment and also into traditional survival skills. We rode across sandy desert and into a valley where green plants and bushes were growing. We got off the camels and they rested on the sand. In the shade of a large bush, a group of men from the Ababda tribe showed us how coffee is brewed over an open fire and bread baked in hot ashes in the sand. After lots of tiny cups of strong coffee, we walked further along the dry valley. Cracked mud and a tangle of tree trunks showed the force of the flood here last time rain fell. All around were tall bare mountains. As we rode the camels back, the sun set and a crescent moon appeared in the clear desert sky. Back at the camp there was dinner and a campfire with traditional songs and circle dancing under the stars.

I wanted to see more and took a longer trip by four wheel drive, which can sometimes be arranged though numbers are kept low to reduce environmental impact. Our guide Hassan was expert at tracking animals. Starting early in the morning we saw Dorcas gazelles feeding on bushes, and tracks of the Nubian Ibex which had been there earlier. Two falcons soared at the cliff which edged the valley. Camels grazed on acacia trees, which protected their leaves with vicious thorns.

Deep into the park we reached ruins dating from thousands of years ago when the ancient Egyptians had emerald mines here and the wadi was on a trade route from the coast to the interior. It was very atmospheric; the ruins are just lying there without any intrusive signs or interpretation boards. I felt a real sense of the past, looking at carvings and inscriptions in ancient columns and lintels. We explored a temple cut into the rock of the valley side. Through the heat haze I could just see the foundations of houses nearby and imagined people living long ago in that remote dry place.

As we drove up the wadi it became narrower, leading up into the mountains. High up in a rocky area I was surprised when Hassan showed us a deep crevice in the rocks with fresh water at the bottom. We had seen a small herd of goats foraging and tracks showed they drink at this well. A bright blue lizard with a yellow head, a Rock Agama, watched us from the rocks nearby.

Returning from the wadi, we stopped by the sea to visit the mangrove and saltmarsh areas and the beach where crabs ran in and out of the waves, an egret was fishing, and delicate tracks in the sand showed that lots of lizards were hiding nearby. The biodiversity of the park makes it a really interesting visit, and it should stay like this as it is protected from all development.

Written by  Jenny Fowler.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Hi, Jenny Fowler! you discuss here Wadi al Gamal natural reserve which is under National Park of Eygpt. Your article is very informative we can't deny but you described only your trip time, Its could be more helpful for our community ( if you described full guide how to visit there any seasons what training need for the primal survival. Anyway thanks, Mr. Jenny Fowler for an excellent article.

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