FAR OUT: "Completely out of this world" was the first thing that came into Mohamed El-Hebeishy 's mind as he first laid foot in the beautiful protectorate of Nabq.
Totalling 600 square kilometres in area (marine and coastal areas included) Nabq was declared a natural protectorate in the early 1990s with mangrove conservation as the main objective. Nabq engulfs the largest Mangrove thicket in Egypt.
Mangrove plays a vital role supporting the surrounding environment. It desalts saline water and turns it into brackish. It has this unique ability of naturally filtering salt out of water, first through its roots, then through its leaves, playing a second line of defence. Mangrove thickets and bushes act as a natural habitat for small fish and crustaceans; such creatures form the main food source for some migratory and breeding birds. Avifauna representatives like egrets and herons are attracted to Mangrove areas not just for the abundance of food they can find but also for the natural habitat Mangrove thickets constitute.
From a long list of visiting and residing birds that can be seen in Nabq, the white-eyed gull is a very special entry. It is endemic to the Red Sea area with the largest breeding population estimated in Egypt. Nevertheless, it is classified as Near Threatened according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
So important is Nabq that the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency and Egypt's Natural Protectorates have established a mangrove cultivation project in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture to help protect the site.
Located less than a 10-minute drive from Sharm El-Sheikh (northward in the direction of Dahab), Nabq can be easily visited in one or even half-day trips.