By Mohamed El-Hebeishy
BEACHES jammed with sun worshipers; divers facing underwater traffic; a nightlife which attracts thousands. Popular Sharm El-Sheikh can sometimes be too much. Mohamed El-Hebeishy heads for a break in the wild. Located less than 20 minutes by car from Neama Bay, Nabq is a perfect choice if you are looking for an adventurous experience of a different kind. Away from the hustle and bustle of Egypt's top Red Sea attraction, Nabq offers a great outdoor experience of natural beauty and an adrenaline rush.
The 600 square kilometre marine reserve, dubbed Nabq Natural Protectorate, has a diverse terrain which varies from an interior dotted with high mountains, to a coastal stretch which is home to Egypt's most northern Mangrove thicket. Mangrove plays a pivotal role in the surrounding environment, by acting as a nesting habitat for several bird species and a natural nursery for small fish and crustaceans alike. In addition, Mangrove is a natural wave breaker which protects coasts from erosion and possible tsunamis.
Close to the mangrove is a shipwreck locally known as Al-Gharqanah (the sunken), which is visible from the shore. In low tide, it can even by reached by foot by wading through the mangrove thickets -- be sure to wear appropriate footwear.
Of course, diving comes with a wild twist. Try Ras Tantur or Nakhlet Al-Tal for some unforgettable Red Sea dives. But if you don't want to get wet and prefer a more subtle encounter, then grab your binoculars and be ready for an enriching bird watching experience. An array of different birds can be seen in Nabq; from herons and gulls, to plovers and terns. They are either resting during their annual migration, or call the place home.
Further inland, enchanting Nabq still has more to offer. Hire a quad and go on a safari -- just be careful not to step out of the designated area; the ecology of the protectorate is quite fragile and the wheels of your quad or four-wheel drive can destroy the blossoming desert flowers.
photo: Mohamed El-Hebeishy