Farasan Kebir’s Wild North Coast

By the bridge to the second largest island of Al-Sajid there are deep green, fringing mangroves and a range of migrant waterbirds along the muddy banks including small numbers of bar-tailed godwits, dunlin, Kentish plovers, slender-billed gulls and various herons. A female brimstone appears to lay eggs on the mangroves.

We travel back east towards the port then turn north on a dusty track that cuts rather crudely through the mangroves that choke a long inlet. We cross a barren landscape of old quarries before reaching the north coast. Here there are neat rows of shell mounds that sit atop the raised coral ridges along the coastline; they appear to have been dropped by a lorry only yesterday but apparently they are about 6,000 years old. The entire archipelago is comprised of ancient raised coral reef and people must have lived by the sea and eaten a very healthy diet.

As we drive further west along a rough track, the coast becomes wilder; along the narrow beaches there are old turtle eggs probably scavenged by foxes; ravines hold breeding ospreys and Egyptian vultures and a pallid harrier sweeps through. Best of all is a goliath heron that stands motionless on a cliff ledge before begrudgingly moving off just a few meters as we pass; it possesses an enormous dagger like bill and looks almost prehistoric as it flies.

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