Farasan Islands Holiday

Farasan Islands
The surprise holiday destination in Saudi Arabia, Farasan Islands where the visitors can go scuba dive, see rare gazelles, bird watching, visit ancient Roman and Ottoman garrisons.

Located off the southwestern coast of Saudi Arabia in the Red Sea. The Farasan Islands form an archipelago comprising 84 corral islands, of which only three islands are permanently inhabited.

The Archipelago that forms the’ Farasan Islands’ is one of the world’s unlikeliest and most pleasantly surprising beach destinations.

With the Kingdom opening up for tourism, the world is getting to know the many still hidden gems. That tourist can explore and experience adventure.

Asir region, where the Archipelago is located. It has, among other popular tourist destinations, the historic village Rijal Almaa and the city of Jizan. This city of Jizan is where tourists take a 40 km boat ride to these Farasan Islands, which is an experience. 

The almost entirely flat Archipelago, and 1996 it was designated as the “Farasan Island Marine Sanctuary.” Which covers approximately 3,310 km2 encompassing Eighty-four islands. Furthermore, 18 shoals with pristine beaches, crystal clear water, and natural mangrove forests. Surprise eh?

The government created this marine sanctuary significantly to help protect the rich birdlife living on the small islands here. For the bustling sea life that makes it home around the corals of the Farasan Islands.

The marine sanctuary has been studied to be home to 231 different fish species. In addition, the rare and critically endangered hawksbill turtle too.

This Farasan Island Marine Sanctuary is home to at least 49 types of corals. Further, dugongs, lobsters, Manta rays, three species of dolphins. And the real excitement for snorkelers and divers is the Whale Sharks visiting the island waters in April and May.

Currently, there are no dive centers in the Farasan Islands. Secondly, you are required to carry your own snorkeling gear if you plan to go diving. This is a situation that the authorities will surely fix as they open up more options to tourists.

The local boatmen, too, will learn about identifying good snorkeling spots. The water around the Farasan archipelago is almost entirely unexplored from a scuba diver’s perspective. So bring your snorkel gear, and you could be the first person ever to explore some of the reefs. Dive, explore and discover; that’s an adventure.

The main island has a small harbor, from where you charter your boat to go around the Archipelago.

Your holiday to the islands will be one of peace and tranquility. On the other hand, only three of the 84 islands in the Archipelago are permanently inhabited. Peace and calm extend to the wide variety of birds, too, that nest on these desolate islands.

Here to a birdwatcher’s delight, they will see Saunders Little Tern, White-Eyed Gull, and Crab Plover. Furthermore, Flamingos, Osprey, Pink-Backed Pelican, Red-billed Tropic Bird, and the Sooty Falcon.

The Archipelago has a superstar attraction. A Gazelle named after the Archipelago, the ‘Farasan Gazelle.’ The Farasan Gazelle is found only on the main island.

It is unfortunately on the brink of extinction, primarily due to the rampant hunting of these animals. They are now believed to be fewer than 700 Farasan Gazelle’s remaining.

Soon as you are done with your diving adventure, the beach, and the wildlife. The Farasan Islands take you on a short ride into history.

In history, the Farasan island has been known as Portus Ferresanus; this was way back during the 1st century AD. There is a Latin inscription dating back to 144AD found on the largest island in the Archipelago. That records the presence of a Roman garrison on the island at that time.

The Archipelago is believed to be the maritime transit port. It is between the ancient Arabian kingdoms of Sheeba and Himyar and the ancient African kingdom of Aksum.

Al Qassar Village.

The islands also have many heritage sites, and of these, the sandstone village of Al Qassar. It is believed to be the oldest inhabited site on the islands. The town is considered to be dating back from Roman times. Today the village has been reconstructed in its ancient image. To show tourists how the ancient people lived on these islands. Nobody lives in this village today.

An old Ottoman fort on the island

The Ottomans too constructed a small fort on the main island during the 18th century. This fort still stands today but is not open to the public presently.

One of the highlights of a trip to the Farasan Islands is the Beit Al Refai house. A particularly spectacular house located on the main island and dates back to 1922. 

This house was constructed and owned by one of the wealthiest traders on the island, Beit Al Refai. A well-known pearl merchant of his time and his house is considered the perfect representation of Farasani architecture.

The house, made with coral stones and plastered with gypsum, has windows that are beautifully engraved ornaments. There isn’t another house like this in the whole of Saudi Arabia. It’s a pity that time has not been kind to this beautiful house. And is now in desperate need of protection and repair.

Getting To and from the Farasan Islands.

It is pretty simple; you hop on board the generously provided FREE public ferry from Jizan with departures twice every day.

The first ferry leaves Jizan at 7 AM and the second at 15.30. Ensure you are at the terminal around 6 AM for the morning ferry. And by 14.30 for the afternoon ferry for registration and security checks. The security check here is similar to the ones at the airports.

The officials will check your passport and compare its details to your ticket. 

As the ferry leaves the Farasan island, another is headed back to Jizan from the port. The Jizan and Farasan journey takes approximately one hour.

There are simultaneous ferry departures from the island and the coast every day; the boats leave their respective ports simultaneously. The ferries also carry cars to the island and back, and for free. To avail of this free car transportation. You will have to reach the port at least 2 hours before departure. To ensure you get a spot for your vehicle on the ferry.

Foreigners must be present at the port a day before the planned departure to get their tickets. Make sure you bring your passport; this is a must for the boat registration.

Places To Stay in Farasan Island.

The Archipelago currently houses four hotels, and none of these appear to offer online booking from outside the country. There are more hotels under development.

Farasan Park Hotel is the best hotel on the island, with its pristine private beach.

Farasan hotel is a budget option. Pretty basic, but the staff is friendly and speaks decent English.

There are also the Tansim Palace Hotel and the Hotel Saso Suites.

This is a holiday made in heaven for those who love nature, wildlife, sand, sea. Above all the history, all rolled into one short holiday.

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