Monday, August 23, 2010

Rabbit Island

After a month without beach, my Muizenberg-accustomed body was aching for sea water to touch its feet. That's why Sahabte's invite got me packing my beach bag as fast as you can say 'wave'.

'Would u care to go to the palm island in z north?' read the SMS. Here I sat scratching my head, thinking that Sahabte was loosing her marbles by inviting me to a party in Ibiza for the weekend. Little did I know that the north of Lebanon, just off the coast of Tripoli, is home to some super-tiny, and one not-so-tiny islands. Jazeeret al Araneb (rabbit island), as it is better known, is about 11km and a half-hour ferry ride from the coast. It's a tiny, sandy island that can be walked around slowly in 10 minutes, as it's only 560m x 460m.

Sahabte and I joined some of her colleagues and their family and friends, making up a group of about 20 to hit the quiet island. We sheltered our goods under the shade of the primitive straw umbrellas built on the shore, and dived straight into the rather warm yet refreshing water. It was incredible to swim in such clean water in this country where sewage is usually yours and Nemo's neighbour along the coastal-town beaches. But being so far away from the mainland means that the water is clear and the beach is rather tidy (I won't go into the little episode of the stranger throwing his beer can into the water!).

There's nothing on this island besides a broken windmill, a wooden cabin that was probably once used as a lookout point, and some foundations from the Crusader period that were uncovered in the 70s. Apparently this island was also used by the Palestinians who fled from Palestine - as a stopover point and hideout en route to Lebanon.

Although I didn't see any form of life besides us humans, I read that this network of islands welcomes many migratory birds, seven species of which are nearing extinction. I can see why they'd go there instead of Ibiza - there's nothing but nature; no restaurant, no toilets, no guy selling lollies to make you jolly. Only two guys hiring chairs and tables on which you can enjoy the goodies you carry with you across the Med.

Now let's hope no wise guy decides to open a cocktail bar...

Leaving the mainland.

Island style, here we come!

Gorgeous, sandy beach and a dream-blue sea.

A sign of life once lived here. Now no camping is allowed, so ferries shuttle day visitors back and forth from Tripoli.

A ferry like ours passing one of the other (rockier and tinier) islands. Note the Lebanese flag waving from the roof. Ever the patriots.


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