"This is your home" seems to be a possible arabian etymology of the word “Dahlak”, but the islands are hardly able to welcome, after decades of isolation due to the war of liberation of Eritrea from Ethiopia, and are only few tourists who successfully visit this pearl of the Red Sea. The upside is that the long isolation has preserved almost intact the nature and charm of inaccessibility. The sea, warm all year, allowing the visit to the islands in all seasons. Only in July and August are almost unbearable and then, more than ever in every trip to the islands is necessary to provide a good supply of ice. The waters, the most productive of the Red Sea,
and teem with life and just swim near the reef with mask and fins to get instead the impression of a dive in a giant tropical aquarium. Turtles, manta rays and dolphins are still common. No sharks, for the peace of many and the disappointment of some. Instead almost impossible to see the dugong (Dugong dugon), marine mammals that gave rise to the myth of mermaids. These animals feed on aquatic plants that grow in shallow water and muddy. This is not the kind of environment usually appreciated by tourists, but it is possible that in the future to develop recreational activities such as dugong-watching, as already happens in Australia. For those
who are not satisfied with the snorkelling, is possible to be led by expert guides of Eritrean Diving Center in Massawa, in the exploration of seabed, still unknown. Particularly interesting also the many shipwrecks resting on shallow or partially emerging, although at present time, two of the most interesting wrecks, the Italian ships Urania and Nazario Sauro are closed to the public. For scuba diving the summer period is most suitable because of the water clearer. In fact, the turbidity, caused mainly by the abundant plankton, reducing visibility to a few meters under water for most of the year. At first sight the islands, bare and lacking of
water, seem unattractive, but they keep for later many surprises: the gazelles of Dahlak Kebir, fairly confident due to the protection granted by the local populations; the large number of migratory or nesting birds, the archaeological remains of the Dahlak Kebir village, the priceless thrill to run into the obsidian splinters or shards of ancient amphorae. Currently there is only one hotel on the major island, opposite Nocra, where you can stay, but is planning to build some tourist facilities of low environmental impact. Remain unchanged in any case the opportunity for more adventurous and organized tourists to camp on some deserted islands, open to
tourism, and living a robinsonian experience of being the only inhabitants of a world still untouched.


A few years ago, the oil exploration platform that rose from the waters between the islands of DurGhella and DurGham was a tangible sign of hope that Eritrea had to find oil. The oil was never found, but remained the need for a productive development of the islands. The Dahlak get what it takes to help Eritrea, especially in fisheries, at present time in a phase of great expansion, and about tourism which aims at new destinations and experiences in close contact with nature. This development brings with it some risks. The exploitation of marine resources could be increased to the point to endanger the industry itself in case of uncontrolled
overfishing, as it has happened in so many areas of the world once full of fish. The first to suffer would be some much sought-after species such as sharks, or even incidentally caught with networks such as turtles and dugongs. Tourism brings with it risks of pollution related to the construction of complexes hotel, risk of local damage of the barrier reef, and is likely to fuel a harmful collection of marine organisms such as corals and shells. A reliable management of fisheries and the education of tourists and local populations are so fundamental to a perspective of long-term conservation of biodiversity and productivity of the islands, in view of
a desirable economic development of the few villages left. The Eritrean government has been cautious so far and environmentally sensitive, examining the projects about the development of the islands and has open only very few islands to tourism, pending more detailed studies indicating what needs to be developed and what is beter to be preserved. It’s important that at least some islands, the most interesting from a biological standpoint, are left untouched and institutionally and practically are protected in the hope that urgent economic needs do not sidelined the philosophy of sustainable development. Since the time of the ethiopians domination there was a
project for a marine national park that included some of the islands closest to Massawa, but unfortunately has remained a project only on paper. Now there's a huge project funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the Eritrean Ministry of Fisheries and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to study the biodiversity of the islands, the sea and the coast of Eritrea and to promote the conservation and sustainable use , the only hope for saving the Dahlak from reckless destruction that have plagued so many other archipelagos.

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