Five (ecologically) beautiful things about the Red Sea

It’s the saltiest sea in the world and renowned for blood-red sunsets, but if you’re going on a Red Sea cruise in 2013, how much more do you need to know to enjoy the landscape? There’s an ecological beauty that attracts divers and photographers to witness the uniqueness of the Red Sea year after year. In addition to the bright coral and diverse marine life, there is coastal flora and fauna that contributes to this incredibly fragile and beautiful ecosystem:

Photo Credit: Creative CommonsEssential mangroves: despite their beauty, these saltwater plants form an important part of the ecology of the coastline and are protected by law. Forming a wave, tide and storm break, they can grow up to 8 metres in height and keep the inland from salt saturation, providing shelter, nutrients and nesting areas for numerous marine and terrestrial animals, including the juvenile blacktip reef shark.

Blue algae that turns the sea red: It is said that the Red Sea may have earned its name from an algae that every few years dyes the water an orange-red. It is also suggested that the name comes from the beautiful colours of the coral (which are easy to view even if you’re not a diver because the sea is relatively shallow and arranged in shelf breaks). Another suggestion is that the name derives from the sun setting over the ocean – a magnificent sight!

Photo Credit: Creative CommonsHome to Nemo, the brightly coloured clownfish: this popular reddish clownfish is just one of countless species of fish that live among the reefs in the Red Sea. According to the BBC, about 20 per cent of the fish species found here are not found elsewhere in the world and include the sailfish, silky shark and scalloped hammerhead shark.

Coastal wadis: Another unique feature of the Red Sea is that no rivers flow into it; instead, it has a number wadi or dry riverbed. Several wadis are in protected areas and occasionally they bring coastal sediment into the sea through wind and rain.

Rare species of birds: For birdwatchers, visiting the Red Sea is a bucket list item as it’s home to numerous endemic birds and acts as a migratory stopover as well. White Eye Gulls, Ospreys, White Storks, White Pelicans, Flamingos and even Sooty Falcons can be seen in this part of the world.

Have you made up your mind to visit? The Red Sea is well worth it, particularly as the coastline is under threat owing to urbanisation and pollution. Promote awareness and conservation of this unique corner of the world.