To the outside world, discussions about Saudi Arabia often conjure up images of stunning desserts and sand-colored terrains, but with the easing of travel restrictions to this year, many will get the chance to see another side of the Kingdom that has been well-preserved and enjoyed for years by locals.
On the Red Sea, off the coast of the port city of Jazan, are the Farasan Islands, an archipelago comprising 84 islands boasting stunning coral reefs and pristine stretches of shoreline. Its main island is called Farasan as well.
According to travel portal Splendidarabia, Farasan Islands “has beautiful coastlines to spend silent hours and rich marine fauna to quench the thirst of a sea diver. 160 nautical miles (298 km) southwest of Farasan lies the Eritrean port of Massawa.”
Every year visitors make the journey using the free daily shuttle service or speed boats departing from Jizan to the main Farasan Island, to enjoy its clear blue waters, white beaches, abundant marine life, stunning terrains, and historical sites.
Known for its temperate weather, the main island is indeed picturesque. Its nature, wildlife, and marine life are rich and diverse. Its waters offer divers a superb setting to explore the depths of the sea’s corals and creatures.
The other islands are home to a large number of birds including the osprey, sooty falcon, pink-backed pelican, red-billed tropic bird, white-eyed gull, crab plover, flamingos, and many others. Some of the smaller islands are uninhabited, making them perfect breeding sites for birds, while the main island is a natural reserve for Arabian gazelles.
If you’re looking for a more active way to enjoy the island, Farasan hosts the Hareed Festival between April and May each year. The Hareed, or parrotfish, is a type of fish that swims to the shallow parts of the coast each year. Locals celebrate its arrival with folk songs and other heritage-related activities, according to Arab News. During the same period of the festival, whale sharks swimming in from the Indian Ocean can be spotted at the mouth of the archipelago.
According to Saudi Gazette, over 57,000 visitors have made it to the island so far this year, to enjoy sea surfing, fishing, and scuba diving. Farasan Governor Hussain Al-Hazmi commented on the number of tourists, saying, “Farasan Islands are known for their clean beaches, glistening waters and perfect weather. People visit any day of the week for scuba diving, to fish or simply enjoy the landscape.”