“This country is really underrated,” a German tourist told my tour guide friend upon seeing the fogy atmosphere around Arbe-Robue, a roadside village about 10 kilometers from Asmara on the way to Massawa. Around the months between November and March, it is a usual scenery while descending to the port city. This is just before finding out about the immensity of the content of the Red Sea and the history it bears.
The Red Sea being the first sea to be discovered by humans, according to archaeological findings, the Eritrean part of the sea, around the Abdur area in particular, is said to be where the first seafaring humans had dwelt. It is also home to several marine species, seaweeds and around 1100 varieties of fish including whales, dolphins, sharks, sea turtles and others. Out of these abundant species, almost 550 are exclusively found in the Eritrean part of the Red Sea.
Eritrea is endowed with over 1000 kilometers of coastline, which include a variety of seagrass, mangrove trees and coral reefs. The existence of mangrove trees along the coastal area provides a breeding habitat for many bird species such as flamingos and other migratory birds.
The coastline is also home to ecologically and historically significant peninsulas, such as the Buri peninsula, which is one of the most important storehouses of biodiversity and the Dahlak islands, which is very significant home to the spread of the first Arabic cuffic scriptures.
The Eritrean Green Belt found about an hour drive northeast of the capital, contains different kinds of vegetation like huge sycamore trees and animals such as antelopes, gazelles, leopards, panthers, hyenas, baboons and hundreds of spices of birds.
Although farming, drought and war are the main causes for deforestation and the migration of wild animals; with the concerted efforts of the Eritrean wildlife and forestry authority and the government, several species have been returning after Eritrea achieved its independence three decades ago. The reservation of the Green Belt as a national park has played a big part in this particular sector.
The mountainous landscape of most of the southern highland area of the country makes you enjoy cool breeze, with temperate climate in the settlements perched upon descending to the lowlands, which are mainly characterized by warm climate. Seeing is believing, and if you come and experience it first hand, you won’t be wandering why the tourism motto of the Eritrean Tourism Ministry is, “Three seasons in two hours”.
Speaking of the mountains, apart from being a habitat to the growing fauna of the country, they have played a significant role in the armed struggle for the independence of Eritrea. The hundreds of kilometers of trenches that spread from Nakfa served as a stronghold for the EPLF.
Animals such as the elephant, African wild ass, and ostrich are recognized among the large animals in the country. Most of us are not aware that our country contains small animals first described scientifically from Eritrea as long ago as the 1830s such as the Eritrea Clawed Frog and Side-necked Turtle. There is also the Asmara Toad, the only toad in the world with a scientific name that includes the capital city Asmara. Some of these are found nowhere except in Eritrea and thus are National treasures that must be studied and preserved.
When it comes to the marine biodiversity as we have mentioned it earlier, the Red Sea marine biodiversity pans from, the unicellular phytoplankton seedlings to the enormous wales. Over 1000 different species of fish, 250 types of corals are found in the Red Sea. Besides, invertebrates, mollusks and gastropods as well as marine plants, such as the three different types of mangrove trees are among the major resources of the Red Sea. According to studies conducted over the past 25 years of independence, it has been confirmed that the depth of the Eritrean Sea is also a haven to 11 types of sea grass, five types of marine turtles, as well as over 72 different marine bird species. Furthermore, 17 different types of sea cucumber with high economic significance are found in the Red Sea.
What Eritrea has got is nothing short of incredible and a lot of times, we, being inside of it, miss the incredibleness of it and fail to tell the rest of the world how beautiful Eritrea is.