Based on the abundant resources of nature and the landscape, especially its exceptional Geology, a Geopark was established in the Western part of Qeshm Island. Qeshm Geopark possesses an area over 32000 hectares on Western side of the Island. Qeshm Geopark as the only Geopark in the Middle-East has been registered by the Global Network of Geoparks (GGN) in Paris, 21st March 2006. Of course this variety is not limited to geological phenomena. There are other varieties in ecology, archeology, environment, wild nature etc.
There is a mountain range across Qeshm Island whose height is rarely more than 300 meters. Its length, however, is almost as much as the island and about 110 km.
Mountains of Qeshm have a special situation. They are formed of horizontal and parallel sedimentary layers, and only at two points, the parallel disposition of layers has been disrupted due to presence of salt domes.
On the western side of the island, there is a salt dome, which is locally called Namakdan Mountain. Its height measures 395 m. and the rest of the mountains are not higher than 200 m. They are topped by a plateau with good vegetations. The mountains are surrounded by high walls which have been shaped into exquisite forms due to erosion resulting from wind and rain.
The plains, valleys, coasts and mountains of Qeshm Island are unique in terms of fauna and flora and display rare geological phenomena.
The western part of the island houses most valuable habitats as well as rare geological phenomena.
In addition to singular fauna and flora, that part of the island is also a display of unique geological phenomena which are of high value and beauty.
Natural statues and carvings, amazing mountains and folding of the Earth’s crusts, plateaus topping the mountains, columns formed by erosion, as well as various shapes carved out of the natural entities as a result of the work of natural elements have created beautiful natural statues in the form of a turtle, dog, lizard, hippopotamus, and even an angry man screaming.
On the southern coasts of the western side of the island from the fishing port town of Salakh to Kani village (that is about 30 km of the island) there is no village, farm, or any other form of human activity. On the western part of the island, human presence as well as livestock breeding and agriculture has been rare since old times and is not remarkable even now. This part of the island is house to mangrove forests, salt domes, salt caves, spas, Chahkouh pass, Aali Pass, valley of statues as well as dozens of cliffs with strange shapes.
Due to natural beauty and richness of the island, especially its western part, serious measures have been taken to protect it and about 500 square kilometers have been set aside as a geopark.
The geological features of Qeshm Island and presence of rare geological phenomena was a good reason for officials to protect the western part of the island in the form of a geopark.
The amazing Chahkouh pass near East Chahou village will amaze all visitors with its corridors as well as surprising shapes on its walls. Similar geological phenomena have been found only in Germany, Britain, China, the United States and few other countries.
Chahkouh pass is the result of the erosion of sedimentary stones and has been less visited by tourists because it is still relatively unknown.
Chahkouh pass or ravine is located at Shahab district of Qeshm city and has 100 m deep. It is a display of sedimentary stones. The ravine is located 70 km from Qeshm city near East Chahou village on the western side of the northern coasts of the island and is considered one of its most important tourism attractions.
The amazing ravine is located at the heart of a stone mountain which looks like multiplication sign. Chahkouh is first wide and surrounded by high walls, but then becomes so narrow that it is difficult to pass through while the walls still remain high.
The ravine includes four straits where the walls nearly meet and are only about 0.5-2 m apart. It seems that the ravine and similar ravines around it have been formed through collapse of a big anticline which has also created the salt dome which is known as Namakdan (saltshaker).
Stones forming Chahkouh are mostly sedimentary limestone which are similar to Zagros Mountains range and are among three major stone categories present in the nature.
Water erosion has created long creases in the walls of Chahkouh ravine and has caused various pits which look like lens, spoons, and spheres. Presence of those creases and pits as well as stone carvings at the bottom of the ravine has made it into a natural wonder. Designs and shapes formed on the walls of the ravine are like dreams and look like the works of art.
Wind, rain, and heavy precipitation are the main factors which have created a lot of pits in the walls of Chahkouh. Stones forming Chahkouh are mainly made of lime or calcium bicarbonate which have been dissolved in the rain water and have given rise to small pits which have enlarged in millions of years and formed interesting corridors.
Near Chahou village, there are two perpendicular valleys with high walls. At the bottom of one of those valleys which runs roughly from north to south, there are shallow and semi-deep pits which look like wells where water is stored and used by locals.
The entrance of the valley is wider on the north with less slope and looks like “u”. As we move toward the south, the valley narrows and its slope increases so that, at the end it is v-shaped and difficult to pass and this proves that the valley has been made by floods.
There are many parallel creases on the walls of the valley some of which are deeper and look like spoons or funnels.
The walls are mostly made of weak limestone and signs of serious erosion and dissolution are evident, so that, there are many big and small pits across the whole walls. It seems that shallow water holes which are used by locals have been dug by man, but they are continuation of it which had been originally worked out due to dissolution of limestone. In fact, man has finished nature’s work. Along the main valley and the one perpendicular to it, there is a narrow water canal which has been apparently made to guide water from inside the valley into the water holes.
Since the valley has vertical and relatively high walls, presence of creases and lines resulting from erosion as well as semi-spherical and semi-ellipsoid pits have made it especially beautiful.
In conclusion, it should be useful to explain about naming of Chahkouh. The reason it has been called Chahkouh (meaning mountain of wells in Persian) is presence of water wells at the beginning of the valley. The locals have dug shallow wells and canals to channel water, which have doubled the beauty of the valley. Since this is an arid and warm region, storing fresh water is of high importance and those wells are used to store rainwater. The wells are old and have been used from ancient times to supply potable water to people living in that part of the island.
Hara Protected Area
Hara Protected Area (85,686 ha) was established in 1973 to protect the most extensive stands of natural mangrove forest on the south coast of Iran. It was upgraded to National Park in the mid-1970s, but subsequently downgraded to Protected Area again in 1980. The Protected Area was designated as a UNESCO (MAB) Biosphere Reserve in June 1976, and was identified as an ‘Important Bird Area’ by Birdlife International in 1994. The importance of the mud-flats and mangrove areas along the North Coast of Qeshm Island for migratory water birds has long been recognized, and was one of the principal reasons for the establishment of Hara Protected Area in 1973 and designation of a Ramsar Site in 1975. Water bird surveys and censuses have been carried out in the Protected Area and Ramsar Site by personnel of the Department of the Environment in most winters since the early 1970s. However, it is only since the establishment of the Environmental Management Office that the full importance of the mud-flats along the north-east coast of the island, between Qeshm town and Dargahan, has been recognized. This site has recently been designated as a Bird Sanctuary.
Abundance and variety of Coral Reefs
Totally, there are 21 species of coral reefs under a group of 8 families in three considerable sites i.e. Naz Islands, Hengam Island and Zeitoon site around Qeshm Island. Across the coast of Zeitoon site, corals of Poritidae family can be seen which are known as dominant species, and on the other side, another family of corals (Faviidae) in the Naz Islands, have also been identified as dominant species. Across the coast of Hengam where the transparency of sea water has given it a wonderful landscape; coral reefs can be observed so clearly. Considering the fact that coral reefs are highly enriched in these three coastal areas, several species of ornamental aquarium fish, turtles, and soles can abundantly be seen there. Furthermore, along the Coast of Hengam Island, Humpback and Bottlenose dolphins can also be observed in that site which has created a beautiful portrayal to the Island. Humpback dolphins have been identified as migrants from the ocean. Annually, a large number of tourists are attracted to visit the site.
Geopark Wild Life:
In 2003, the Environmental Management Office submitted a proposal for the establishment of a Bird Sanctuary on the North-East coast of the island, to include the broad expanse of inter-tidal mudflats between Qeshm town and the village of Dargahan. This was approved by the QFA administration. The sanctuary extends for about 11 km from east to west, and 500 metres out to sea beyond mean high water mark. It also includes a strip of land 120 metres wide above the mean high water mark (giving a total area of about 680 ha). This is one of the most important areas for migratory water birds on the island, regularly holding large numbers of Dalmatian Pelicans, Greater Flamingos, Eurasian Spoonbills, herons, egrets, shorebirds, gulls and terns. It is also an important fishing area, with about fifteen permanent fish traps. These will be unaffected by sanctuary status, but the construction of further fish-traps will be prohibited. It is hoped that it will be possible, in the future, to construct a research centre with accommodation for students in or adjacent to the sanctuary.
The waters around Qeshm Island support a rich and divers marine fauna, including extensive coral reefs off the south coast. Important marine resources include a major shrimp nursery in the Khuran strait off the north-coast of Qeshm, and important nursery areas for bottom-dwelling and pelagic fish off the south- east coast. The inter tidal mud flats, Mangrove area and coral reefs provide suitable habitat for a wide variety of annelids, mollusks, crustaceans and fish which form an important food source for larger fish, water birds, marine turtles and marine mammals. The exceptionally high productivity of coral reefs and mangrove ecosystems have been well documented in many parts of the world, and is widely acknowledged on Qeshm Island, where over the last 11 years, the QFA and local communities have been engaged in Program of mangrove planting in other areas of mud flat around the Island.
Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) is known to occur in Qeshm Island waters through the year. It seems this turtle has chosen around the Island as its foraging place. But it has no nesting in Qeshm Island. According to several interviews with local fishermen of Qeshm Island; they stated existence of the Green turtle nesting that used to be found in abundance in southern beach and in the skirt of Qeshm town.
Hawk's bill Turtle
Hawk's bill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata bissa): Environment Management office, Mr. Bijan Darrehshouri, who is known in Iran as Marine turtle reviver, of Qeshm Free Area found out the nesting of Hawksbill Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) in Qeshm Island and for the first time in Iran, it began protecting and studying on these animals. Each year, an estimated 200 Hawksbill Turtles come to lay their eggs in the soft sand above high water mark on a 25-km stretch of beach between Direstan Gulf and Suza town, on the south coast of the island. With the efforts of the Environmental Management Office and at the request of the GEF Small Grants Program, this stretch of beach, including a strip of land 120 meters wide above mean high water mark, has been declared a protected area for the turtles to help conserve the habitat. For the past six years, the Environmental Management Office has been working with the people of Shibderaz village in this project to protect the nests and eggs of the turtles. The project includes awareness rising by conservation and art work, developing a community based eco-tourism plan including income generation activities, and preparation of CDs, booklets and videos on the lessons learned for wide dissemination. Five to seven local youths are employed for five months each season to find the turtle nests, remove the eggs, and rebury them at the main project site, where they can be protected (by wire mesh) from predation by dogs and foxes until they hatch. The hatchlings are then allowed to make their own way into the sea. Details of clutch size, incubation period and hatching success are meticulously recorded, as well as details of temperature, humidity etc. Adult females individually mark with permanent tags, and it has been demonstrated that some females will visit the beach three times in a season to lay eggs. The Tags are prepared by Australian Embassy office in Iran. Two small huts with power and water supply have been constructed by the Environmental Management Office at the main project site near Shibderaz, to serve as a base for the project employees. The project has been extremely successful, not only in terms of improving the hatching success of the turtles, but also in involving the local community in an important conservation project. The success of the turtle project is now clearly a source of some pride to the villagers of Shibderaz, who are frequently requested to show their turtles to visiting dignitaries. A grant has been provided through the UNDP GEF Small Grants Program to Shibderaz village council and the Environmental Management Office. For centuries, Qeshm women, who have been involved in art works and fine handicrafts businesses, have quickly empowered themselves in authentic Kilim-weaving and art works. Over the last seven years, successive training courses held and led by Mrs. Darrehshouri in Qeshm villages. Each training course is for 3 months and an average of 15 local girls and women have been trained. Meantime, the significance of protecting hawksbill turtles has increased among other local residents. Community Weavers have also been inspired to create turtle motifs on their Kilims and other products to help increased the families’ role in protection of the environment and saving the endangered turtles. The currently woven Kilims in Qeshm Island are characterized by exclusively local identity bearing unprecedented design and motifs.
Source: http://www.iranreview.org/, http://www.geopark.ir/