Thousands of years ago, when the ice age was coming to an end, many geological upheavals came to place; such as the one that caused the Red Sea to deposit salt domes to push up against existing coral reefs creating the Farasan Bank. Let’s break this down slowly so no one gets confused; the Farasan Bank is a shoal 100 kilometers wide and 800 kilometers down the length of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast. The Bank is made out of 100 coral islets and 20 large islands. Among them, is the famous Farasan Archipelago which includes the largest island: Farasan Island. See? Not confusing at all.

Taking a plunge off the coast of Farasan Island, is not only a really good way to cool off this summer but also a mesmerizing experience that some even call a philosophical experience and not only a dive. The famous Jacque Cousteau noted an overwhelming underwater life which he described as “one of the most fascinating areas (explored) during our first Red Sea expedition. Only a few westerners have seen it and even fewer have dived there. To learn about Farasan’s reef structures and marine biological richness would take a lifetime.” Diving here has become extremely addictive to many who enjoy being exposed to such a wide variety of underwater life; sharks, manta rays, hawk fishes, moray eels, and many more call this home. Imagine looking at the flashlight fish, which has a sac-like organ under each eye containing light-producing bacteria. The sac is even equipped with its own eyelid, allowing the fish to turn off and on the light. Be sure to be on the lookout for the lionfish with its lethally poisonous dorsal spines. Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to touch or provoke this fish as a sting can be lethal. Local fisherman would tell you that the only remedy for the sting is a red-hot iron whose heat would be capable of breaking down the protein-based poison.

There is as much reef in the Farasan Islands as there is along the entire coastline of Saudi Arabia. As such, this makes the Farasan Island is one of the most attractive and popular diving spots in Saudi Arabia and a favorite destination for Saudis and international visitors. Fauna of the Farasan Island include 231 species of fish, 49 species of reef building coral, 3 species of Dolphin, crustaceans, large numbers of breeding seabirds as well as populations of breeding Ospreys (Pandion Haliaetus) and Sooty Falcons. A remnant population of endangered Dugong and the only known confirmed breeding site for Crab Plover (Dromas Ardeola) on the Red Sea coast of Arabia are protected on Farasan Island.

In addition, the Farasan Island is home to the special nature reserve, which was established in 1989. It is overseen and mandated by the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development. As a result of the protected status of the nature reserve, the Farasan Island now holds the largest gazelle population in Saudi Arabia. On the main island there are more than 500 gazelles, which roam freely. Can you imagine the photo opportunities?! For land lovers, this article would not be complete without mentioning that the Faifa Mountains merit a trip for the opportunity to see some unique rock formations and lush green meadows in Saudi Arabia. And for those who enjoy history, a smaller island not far from the main Farasan Island holds the ruins of an old German-built Fort used during World War II. It is said that this fort had been a secret storage location for ammunition during the war.

Getting Here

Getting to Farasan Island is easy and enjoyable. The nearest airport is located in the far south-west port city of Jizan servicing flights from all key cities in the Kingdom. From Jizan, modern ferry services routinely go between the Jizan Harbor and Farasan Island. The Jizan Harbor is a picturesque site complete with the old traditional wooden fishing boats called dhows and which remain in use today.

Where to Snooze

The Farasan Hotel is a centrally located hotel on the main island of Farasan where many Saudi and international visitors choose to stay. This modern full-service hotel equipped with all amenities is a seven-minute drive from the main port. The hotel’s Almurjan restaurant is known for serving guests with freshly caught delicious sea food meals.