Last update:
19 June 2015
2 Ramadhan 1436

Tripoli's Palm Islands Natural Preserve

An Offshore Model for Nature Conservation
Some of the information and photos appearing in this page are courtesy of The Committee for Environmental Guidance (Tripoli)

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The Palm Islands Park and Natural Reserve

The Palm Islands Park is a unique and integrated natural marine basin in the eastern Mediterranean that was declared as a reserve in 1993. Its surface area is about 5 Km2 (1.4 x 1.08 nautical miles). This maritime park lies 6 nautical miles (11 Km) north-west off the shores of el-Mina in Tripoli (Latitudes: 34d 29m - 34d 30m 30s N and Longtitudes 35d 44m 30s - 35d 47m E). These flat rocky islands include the Palm (or Rabbit) island, Sanani island, and Ramkine (or Fanar) island.


Sanani Island

It is mainly rocky with a partially sandy shoreline. It has an area of 4 hectares (380 meters long and 100 meters wide) and is located at 0.27 nautical miles (500 meters) south-east of the Palms Island. The islad is frequently visited by sea turtles for laying eggs.


Palms Island

Also known as Nakheel (Palm) or Araneb (Rabbits) Island, is the largest island and one of the farthest from the coastline of Tripoli. It has an area of 20 hectares (560 meters wide and 460 meters wide). It is flat without major reliefs (highest point, 6 meters). Its earthen middle separates a rocky shoreline extending from the north-west to the south, and a sandy beach lying from the north to the east. The name "Araneb" (rabbits) comes from the great numbers of rabbits that were grown on the island during the time of the French mandate early in the 20th century. It is now a nature reserve for green turtles, rare birds and rabbits. Declared as a protected area by UNESCO in 1992, camping, fire building or other depredation is forbidden. In addition to its scenic landscape, the Palm island is also a cultural heritage site. Evidence for human occupation, dated mainly to the Crsader period, was uncovered during 1973 excavations by the General Directorate of Antiquities. An old salinas and a water-well can also be found.


Ramkeen Island

Also known as Fanar (lighthouse) Island, is the farthest island away from the Lebanese mainland (approximately 10 kms). It has an area of 1.6 hectares and lies at 0.32 nautical miles (600 meters) north-west of the Palms Island. It is highly relieved with rocks that also contour the shoreline. The island is home for an old light-house built during the 1960's.


Choice of the Islands

With their surroundings waters,

  1. the islands, previously subject to over-hunting and dynamiting, form an integrated marine nature unit and an important fish breeding area of 5 km square, unique in the Mediterranean and close to Lebanon's shoreline.
  2. The islands are also a source for temporary fresh water lasting from October to May and drying up during the summer.
  3. The reserve is relatively far from all mainland sources of pollution, as well as, from disturbance.
  4. The relatively great biological diversity of the region, established by preliminary studies, in addition to ecologic conditions favorable to the proliferation of life.
  5. The islands lie in the path of water currents that provide continuous nutrient replenishment.
  6. The continuous plateau beneath the islands, with an average depth of 10 meters, is characterized by much relief. This enhances the abundance of life forms and facilitates diving for research and for sight-seeing purposes.
  7. The islands are mentioned in the GEF document (1997) as one of the most important resting and/or nesting grounds for migratory birds (seven of which are in danger of extinsion world-wide) especially that such sites of the mainland have been virtually destroyed.
  8. Based on the GEF documents of the Protected Areas Project (1997 and 1999), the islands are still a refuge for the threatened Audouin's Gull. It is one of 10 species of resident birds that frequent the region. These include: Eleonora's Falcon, Barbary Falcon, Little Owl, Rock Dove, Kingfisher, Lesser Pied Fisher, Little Grebe, Palm Dove, etc..
  9. The islands are chosen as spring-summer nesting sites by 10 recorded species of migrant birds, including: Little Ringed Plover, Common Tern, Sand Martin, Little Crested Tern, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black-Winged Stilt, etc..
  10. The islands recieve 24 recorded species of winter-visiting fowl, including: Manx Shearwater, Cory's Shearwater, Peregrine Falcon, Little Stint, Red Shank, Marsh Hawk, White-Tailed Eagle, etc..
  11. The islands are visited by many migrating birds. Among the 14 recorded species are: Ruff, Snowy plover, White-Winged Black Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black Tern, Osprey, Ruddy Turnstone, Sociable Plover, Sanderling, Gull-Billed Tern, Pied Avocet, etc..
  12. Scientific observations report that the sand beaches of the islands (especially Palm and Ramkeen islands) are egg-laying sites for sea-turtles: The Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas mydas), and the Leatherback. They also speak of the sea caves and shore rocks of the region as vital shelters for the protected Mediterranean Monk Seal, (Monachus monachus), etc..
  13. The three islands are breeding sites for bats and endemic species of lizards and snakes.
  14. The reserve teems with a variety of marine plants and 70 types of wild flowers, many species of which, like the Rosin Cress, (Cressa cretica), have not been previously known to grow in Lebanon, and some others are medicinal plants.
  15. The reserve is considered an ideal place into which the rare and endangered mainland littoral flora could be transplanted. The fact that it has a variety of suitable substrates makes it a potential natural botanic garden and scientific, cultural, scenic and touristic resources, unmatched on the mainland.

At present, the Palm Islands are managed and monitored daily by the Environment Protection Committee and its team, with two rangers keeping intruders at bay. The islands were first opened to the public between June and September 1999, where ferries operated by local fishermen provided them with additional income. A project for making the islands a bird-watching center is underway.


Regulations applied on the Islands
  1. It is forbidden to carry on any activity that may compromise natural balance in the reserve, or that may, cause any disturbance, deform the natural scenery or damage any of its resources.
  2. It is prohibited to harm, remove, or cause damage to any living or nonliving constintuent of the reserve. Any activity must be permitted by the authority of the reserve, provided it aims at scientific research only.
  3. All sorts of fishing and hunting are outlawed within the protected area. Lingering and camping are not allowed on its grounds. All visits must be guided.
  4. All present and future decrees, as well as, all the international agreements and declarations concerning the protection of the environment or the safeguarding of marine resources, natural sites, and the beauty of nature, shall herewith apply.
Photo Album
Aerial view of Ramkeen (bottom), Palm (center left), and Sanani (center right) Islands. Background also features the city of Tripoli (right) and Turbul Mountain (left).

A ferry boat transporting visitors to the islands.

High resolution satellite image of Sanani Island
High resolution satellite image of Sanani Island.

A view at Sanani Island.

High resolution satellite image of Palm Island
High resolution satellite image of Palm Island.

A map of the Palms Island.

A view at Palms Island.

A view at Palms Island.

Trigloporus lastovisa (Streaked Gurnard).

Sterna albiforns (Little Tern).

Pancrantium maritimum (Sea Daffodil); a protected plant in the Palms Islands Natural Reserve.

High resolution satellite image of Ramkeen Island
High resolution satellite image of Ramkeen Island.

A view at Ramkeen Island (in the background is Palms Island).

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