National Park of the Week: Ras Mohammad National Park, Egypt

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Overlooking the Gulf of Suez on the west and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east, Ras Mohammad National Park  in Egypt lies at the southern extreme of the Sinai Peninsula and offers waters that are considered to be the jewel in the crown of the Red Sea. The coastline, characterized by vertical overhangs at least 100m deep,  is surrounded by fringing coral reefs that emerged after a change in the coastline 70,000 years ago. Due to its location at the juncture of the two gulfs, the combining waters of varying salinity has lead to a magnificent array of reef and pelagic fish, diverse coral reef and luxuriant sea walls.

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Unrelated to the aquatic paradise that abounds in the parks waters, the name of the park was determined by local fishers for a cliff in the park that resembles a man’s profile, particularly, Prophet Mohammed, who was believed to have visited in the 7th century. Since I’m on the subject of above-ground features, the park covers 135 square kilometers of surface land, at which at the end of the headland is a small mangrove forest of 9 hectares, and 245 square kilometers of  water.

With more than 220 species of coral, over 1000 species of fish, dozens of varieties of star fish and sea urchins, and several sea turtles, this destination is a marine ecosystem lover’s paradise. The prized scuba diving spots are Yolanda Reef and Shark Reef, which offer an opportunity to witness every single species of fish of the Red Sea beneath the crystalline waters. However, other popular diving sites include Sha’ab Mahmoud, Beacon Rock, Jackfish Alley, Old Quay, and the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm.

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Diving can be done year round, with water temperatures ranging between 20 to 28 degrees Celsius and is for all diving levels, from first-time divers to experienced  pros. In other words, there is no excuse not to dive in and join the myriad of colorful fish – as long as you don’t touch the delicate corals and make sure to wear reef-friendly sunscreen, of course!

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