There are islands in the Red Sea, known for their remote serenity, quiet beauty and rich marine wildlife. They are some of the lesser visited wonders of the region, though they are also some of the most intriguing and spectacular places to explore and enjoy.
The Farasan Islands are a group of coral-islands that sit in the Red Sea, about 40 km offshore from the Saudi Arabian port city of Jizan. While the island group is often referred to as Farasan, this is actually only the name of the largest island in the group, which also includes other large islands such as Sajid and Zufaf Islands, with many other smaller islands making up a total 176 islands in the archipelago.
Home to the Farasan Island Marine Sanctuary (FIMS), this protected refuge is home to numerous unique and fantastic species and is a truly remarkable natural paradise. Established in 1996, the sanctuary was once home to the now extinct Arabian Gazelle, and today provides protection to a variety of wonderful creatures, from manta rays and whale sharks, to sea turtles, dolphins and whales.
The rich history of these important Red Sea Islands makes them as intriguing as they are beautiful. The islands were once a strategic location for the Ottoman Empire, and include the remains of Ottoman forts, in addition to historic villages, mosques and houses made entirely of Coral. While a good number of wonderful sites are available on the main Island, some sites worth visiting on the other islands are definitely worth the journey. Travel between the islands can be arranged privately with rented boats, though it should be noted that this takes some skill in finding – it’s all part of the excitement of the journey. In general, public transport on the islands are limited, and planning your transport before arriving is well advised.
The islands have, in recent times, become a paradise for scuba divers, snorkelers and anyone keen to enjoy the myriad marine life, warm waters and secluded beaches that the Farasan Islands offer. If scuba diving is your interest, be sure to prepare your gear prior to arriving, as there are limited (if any) dive equipment rentals available on the islands themselves.
Travel to the islands is fairly straight forward, with a ferry from Jizan sailing twice daily between the main Farasan island and the mainland. Again, given the relatively untouched nature of the islands, there are limited public services available, so it is advised to arrange your transport prior to arriving. While this main seem like a rather awkward part of a visit to Farasan, it is also one of the elements of visiting these pristine islands that makes it so memorable. The un-touched, unhurried and relatively quiet nature of the islands is one of their grand attractions, and you will feel you are visiting a truly unique environment. Careful planning of your transport, and pre-arranging any hotels or lodging beforehand will ensure your visit will be pleasant and memorable.
As time marches on, and more people discover the beauty of these incredible islands, more services and attractions are sure to pop-up, so it is a great idea to head to the Saudi Arabian Tourism site, and check out the latest news about life and adventure on the incredible Farasan Islands.