Inscription year 2016 Country Sudan

Sanganeb Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay - Mukkawar Island Marine National Park


The two national parks that constitute the property are both located along Sudan’s Red Sea coastline. Although they are separated by 125 km of coastline, they both contain some of the best natural history in the central Red Sea. Sanganeb atoll is a unique coral fringed structure that descends to a depth of around 800 metres. The atoll contains 13 different biophysiographic reef zones and several species of conservation concern such as sharks, manta rays and sea turtles. To the north, Dungonab Bay contains a globally important population of dugongs as well as several bird species. The property represents the only World Heritage site found to date in the Red Sea, which hosts exceptionally rich coral reefs.




Sanganeb Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay - Mukkawar Island


2016: Inscribed on the World Heritage List under natural criteria vii, ix and x


The UNESCO World Heritage Committee issued the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value at the time of inscription:

Brief Synthesis

The Sanganeb Marine National Park (SMNP) and Dungonab Bay – Mukkawar Island Marine National Park, Sudan (DMNP) is located in the northern part of the Red Sea and lies within the Far Western Indo-Pacific biogeographic region. The property’s marine systems, fauna and flora are from an Indian Ocean origin, however, due to its semi-enclosed nature, it has developed unique and different ecosystems and species not found elsewhere. Thus the property is distinctive and unique because of its high number of species, diverse number of habitats, high endemism, and remoteness. The property contains impressive natural phenomena, reef formations and areas of great natural beauty and is relatively undisturbed. The area serves as a standard to assess the health of the central Red Sea’s regional ecosystems. As an excellent example of a coral deep water offshore reef, Sanganeb provides an outstanding example for comparative studies with similar systems in other regions including the Indian and Pacific Oceans and a place to understand the interactions of biota and environment. Located within the Red Sea’s centre of biodiversity the remarkable clarity of the water makes it one of the best diving sites in the Red Sea and indeed the world. The two components of the property are connected by a coastal stretch extending 125 km including mersas, inlets, fringing reefs and off-shore reef formations, and the whole serial site is geologically and ecologically connected via the open flows that facilitate the exchange of biotic and abiotic elements within the marine ecosystems of the Red Sea. It encompasses a large bay that contains islands, several small islets and some of the most northerly coral reefs in the world associated with species (including seagrass and mangroves) at the limit of their global range and evolutionary expansion, which are therefore important from a scientific and conservation perspective. Sanganeb atoll is the only atoll-like feature in the Red Sea, and a submerged and overhanging predator dominated coral reef ecosystem. It consists of 13 different biophysiographic reef zones, each providing typical coral reef assemblages, supporting a wealth of marine life and breathtaking underwater vistas, hosting at least 361 fish species with numerous endemic and rare species. Besides providing important nurseries and spawning grounds for key species, it also hosts resident populations of dolphins, sharks and marine turtles, which use the atoll as a resting, breeding and feeding area. Dungonab Bay, including Mukkawar Island and other islands, contains an array of habitat types, such as extensive coral reef complexes, mangroves, seagrasses and intertidal and mudflat areas which all enable the survival (breeding, feeding and resting) of endangered dugong, sharks, manta rays, dolphins and migratory birds. The Bay exhibits overlying fossil reefs, sometimes up to 150m high, and contains fish and coral communities more usually separated by several hundred kilometers.

Criterion (viii): The property contains impressive natural phenomena, formations and areas of great natural beauty and is a relatively undisturbed area that serves as a standard to assess the health of the central Red Sea’s regional ecosystems. As an exemplary example of a coral deep water offshore reef, Sanganeb provides an outstanding opportunity for comparative studies with similar systems in other regions including the Indian and Pacific Oceans and a place to understand the interactions of biota and environment. Located within the Red Sea’s centre of biodiversity the remarkable clarity of the water makes it one of the best diving sites in the Red Sea and indeed the world. Sanganeb is an isolated, atoll-shaped coral reef structure in the central Red Sea, 25 km off the shoreline of Sudan. Surrounded by 800 m deep water, the atoll-like coral reef systems are part of the northernmost coral reef systems in the world. Sanganeb is a largely pristine marine ecosystem providing some of the most impressive underwater vistas resulting from the very high diversity of physiographic zones and reefs characterized by an extraordinary structural complexity. Dungonab Bay and Mukkawar Island is situated 125 km north of Port Sudan and includes within its boundaries a highly diverse system of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, beaches, intertidal areas, islands and islets. The clear visibility of the water, coral diversity, marine species and pristine habitats and colorful coral reef communities create a striking land- and seascape.

Criterion (ix): The property is located in an ecologically and globally outstanding region, the Red Sea, which is the world’s northernmost tropical sea, is the warmest and most saline of the world´s seas, and is a Global 200 priority biogeographic region. The serial site is also located in a priority marine province, the Gulf of Aden. The property is part of a larger transition area between northern and southern Red Sea biogeographic zones and contains diverse and mostly undisturbed habitats which are outstanding examples of the northernmost tropical coral reef system on earth. The property and its surrounding area include reef systems (13 different bio-physiographic reef zones in Sanganeb Marine National Park (SMNP)), the only atoll-like feature in the Red Sea, lagoons, islets, sand flats, seagrass beds, and mangrove habitats and display a diversity of reefs, from living reefs to ancient fossil reefs. These habitats are home to populations of seabirds (20 species), marine mammals (11 species), fish (300 species), corals (260 species), sharks, manta rays and marine turtles, and the site provides important feeding grounds for what is perhaps the most northerly population of endangered Dugong. SMNP is an important larvae source area and hosts spawning sites for commercial fish species.

Criterion (x): Dungonab Bay – Mukkawar Marine National Park (DMNP) supports a globally significant dugong population, given that the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf host the last remaining healthy populations of this species in the Indian Ocean. The whale and manta ray seasonal aggregations in DMNP are unique to the entire Western Indian Ocean Region and the marine park is internationally recognized as an Important Bird Area for both resident and migratory birds. DMNP is also unique as a home to species from different biogeographic origins: both northern and southern Red Sea species. SMNP lies in a regional hotspot for reef fish endemism. The property generally supports a higher than average subset of endemics found in the Red Sea, including the richest diversity of coral west of India and a number of coral species which are at the limits of their global range.


The property is an outstanding marine ecosystem that sustains an intact ecological setup and interacting biological processes, and is in need of long-term conservation support for its unique diversity and endemism. It covers both shallow habitats and reef formations and deep-sea areas that are ecologically interacting by natural exchange. The property’s size is adequate to contain most of the attributes that convey Outstanding Universal Value and meets the requirements of integrity. It maintains a high level of intactness through long-term conservation of its biodiversity. The total area of the property is 199,524 ha (SMNP: 692 ha; DMNP 198,832 ha). The property is surrounded by a buffer zone with a total size of 401,136 ha which consists of a marine area of 321,983 ha and a terrestrial buffer zone of some 79,153 ha. Sanganeb atoll is relatively remote from landbased activities and the traditional artisanal fishing around it is under the control of the Fisheries Administration of Sudan. Dungonab Bay marine waters are protected by Wildlife Administration and Fisheries regulations. If these regulations are not promptly enforced, Dungonab Bay is likely to suffer negative impacts on the biota from the activities of the two villages at the coast, from major land use changes, salt exploitation, oyster farming, and potentially pearling. Species which are likely to be affected are coral and fish species, turtles, manta rays, sharks, dolphins, dugongs, and birds. The property has not shown any invasive or non-resident species as yet.

Protection and Management Requirements

The Government of Sudan has a legal commitment at both the National and State levels towards the protection and conservation of resources within its coastal waters through its comprehensive National Strategy. Several laws and regulations are in place and Sudan has signed regional and international protocols and conventions. Both SMNP (1990) and DMNP (2004) have been declared as marine protected areas by Presidential Decrees. Both are the responsibility of the Government of Sudan and various pieces of national legislation pertain to the property including the Federal Environmental Law (2001); State Environmental Law (2006); Wildlife Conservation and National Park Act, (1987); National Parks, Sanctuaries and Reserves Regulation, (1939); and the Game Protection and Federal Parks Act (1986). Other laws govern matters related to wildlife protection, fisheries, shipping and water quality. It is noteworthy to mention that the property has also been internationally recognised as a Ramsar site since 2003. The management plan for Dungonab Bay and Mukkawar Island Marine National Park is already updated while the management plan for Sanganeb Marine National Park is currently in the process of being updated. However, an integrated Management framework for the property is under discussion at national level to complement the two individual management plans in the near future. Local communities’ participation and other stakeholders are consulted by the management authority during the updating of the two management plans. This community participation will be a corner stone for the development of the integrated management plan. The management authority acknowledges the importance to monitor the impacts of tourism on ecosystems and on local communities through the implementation of a Tourism Strategy.


2009: Dongonab Bay – Marsa Waiai Ramsar Site, Wetland of International Importance is designated.

2016: Sanganeb Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay – Mukkawar Island Marine National Park is inscribed as a World Heritage Site under natural criteria vii, ix and x.




Eastern Sahel (3.13.7)


The property is located in the central Red Sea Wilayat state of Sudan. It is split into two component parts: Sanganeb Marine National Park (SMNP) and Dungonab Bay – Mukkawar Island Marine National Park (DMNP). SMNP is situated approximately 30 km north-east of Port Sudan, and DMNP is found 125 km to the north of Port Sudan. The two component parts are linked by a stretch of Sudanese coast of about 125 km which is littered with small islands, such as the Taila Islands and coral reef complexes (Sheppard et al. 1988).


1950: The construction of the modern lighthouse in SMNP begins;

1970s: SMNP gains increased recognition as an area of biological importance regionally;

1990: Sanganeb Marine National Park is gazetted, becoming Sudan’s first marine National Park;

2004: Dungonab Bay – Mukkawar Island Marine National Park is gazetted;

2005: The African Parks Foundation (APF) begins working in collaboration with the Sudanese Wildlife Conservation General Administration (WCGA) to manage the property.

2016: Sanganeb Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay – Mukkawar Island Marine National Park is inscribed as a World Heritage Site under natural criteria vii, ix and x.


All component parts of the property are owned by the Federal Government of Sudan.


The property is divided into two component parts:

Component part Area (ha)
Sanganeb Marine National Park 692
Dungonab Bay – Mukkawar Island Marine National Park 198,832
Total 199,524

Additionally, there is a 401,136 ha buffer zone surrounding these component parts.


Mukkawar Island is the highest point within the property at 100 metres above sea level (a.s.l.), though the majority of islands within the property rise to only about one metre a.s.l. The waters within the property go to a maximum depth of 800 metres, though the property is predominantly much shallower (Sheppard et al. 1988).


The property is almost entirely marine, with only 5% of the property’s area being terrestrial. The Red Sea was created as a result of the gradually increasing separation of the African and Arabian tectonic plates (Galil & Zenetos 2002). The warm waters of the Red Sea are some of the most saline of any water body on the planet, predominantly due to little freshwater runoff, a high rate of evaporation and limited connectivity to the Indian Ocean. The Sudanese coast is known for having some of the most diverse reefs in the Red Sea, with fringing reefs one to three kilometres wide separated by deep channels from a barrier reef 1 to 14 kilometres wide. This outer barrier reef can drop to several hundred metres in depth.

Sanganeb atoll, the only known atoll in the Red Sea, can be found in SMNP. The atoll is characterised by steep slopes and terraces with occasional spurs and pillars. The atoll represents a diverse habitat that is comprised of 13 different biophysiographic reef zones, each with different assemblage of coral species. Coral cover within the region is highly varied but cover as high as 85% (for both hard and soft corals) has been recorded on the reef slope of Sanganeb Atoll (Spalding et al. 2001). DMNP has some coral features but is also characterised by mangroves, seagrasses and intertidal mudflats. The bay itself is south facing and contains Mukkawar Island in its northern-most and shallowest part.


No climatic data is currently available for the property. The lack of meteorological data is an issue for effective management and monitoring of the property. The property’s management authorities intend to establish a weather station at the lighthouse within SMNP in order to record the temperature, wind speed and direction, atmospheric pressure and precipitation. Additionally, there are a series of marine monitoring stations planned to measure seawater temperature. Rainfall on the Sudanese coast is on average 111 mm per year and falls predominantly between November and December. The temperature of the ocean at Port Sudan ranges from 26.2oC to 30.5oC but can be higher in very shallow or enclosed coastal waters (Sheppard et al. 1988).


The Sudanese coast is interspersed with mangroves, typically in localised stands within tidal inlets and creeks (Spalding et al. 2010). The vegetation within SMNP has been poorly studied, and there is no published information regarding seagrasses within SMNP directly, though other authors have studied seaweeds along the wider coast (Osman & El-Tigani 2010).

DMNP has a widespread distribution of seagrasses, with seven species being particularly abundant: Thalassia sp., Thalassodendron sp., Halophila stipulacea, H. ovalis, Halodule uninervis, Cymodeocea sp. and Enhalus sp. Three more species: Thalassia hemprichi, Cymodocea rotundata and Syringodium isoetifolium were also recently recorded. In total, it is estimated that there is approximately 12 km2 of seagrasses at DMNP. The area surrounding DMNP is also known for its mangrove communities, which are found along creeks, or mersas, and are often in dense, low-stature stands (Spalding et al. 2010). The mangroves are largely in good condition and located in three main localities: the southern tip of the Dungonab peninsula, the southern end of Mukkawar Island and on the mainload coast at Mersa Inkefal.


The abiotic conditions in the central Red Sea are well suited for coral growth and reef development, with over 200 species of coral being recorded, of which 6% are endemic. However, the Red Sea has been poorly studied compared to other areas of the world (Berumen et al. 2013), with the majority of the studies that have been undertaken focussing on corals. These studies demonstrate that the Red Sea contains a broad diversity of coral species, with a particular abundance of stony and soft corals on Sanganeb (Reinicke et al. 2003; DeVantier et al. 2000). The central Red Sea does not experience the lower winter temperatures to the north or the higher rates of bioerosion experienced in the south. These environmental conditions have led to a higher coral species richness than either the northern or southern Red Sea. From a biological perspective, the region nevertheless has many similarities with the more northerly reefs, despite being less exposed to extreme winter cooling and changeable salinities (Spalding et al. 2001). Additionally, hundreds of benthic algal species are thought to occur in the Red Sea and approximately 170 species of Echinoderms (Sheppard et al. 1992). Endemic fish species are also known to be present (Spalding et al. 2001).

SMNP is thought to support six bird species, including the regionally endemic white-eyed gull (Larus leucophthalmus; NT). SMNP harbours in the region of 250 fish species. These fish species span reef fish, as well as a large number of pelagic fish such as tuna, barracuda, manta rays (Manta birostris) and sharks, such as harbour whale sharks (Rhyncodon typus) (Sheppard & Wells 1988). Some of the more threatened fish species within SMNP include the bump-head parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum; VU) and the Napoleon (bump-head) wrasse (Cheilinus undulates; EN). Hammerhead sharks are common around the atoll in the winter months between November and April and there have been anecdotal references to turtles, though these are now uncommon. There are no turtle nesting sites within SMNP. There are further anecdotal observations of cetaceans within the property, namely humpback whales (Megaptera novaengliae) and pilot whales (Globicephala spp.), also in the winter months. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) have also been sighed.

There are approximately 360 fish species listed as being present within the property overall, of these, around 25 are listed as being important for fishing around DMNP. Shark species such as blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) and Hammerheads (Sphyrna sp.) have been noted around Mukkawar Island. Based on discarded egg shells found within DMNP, it is thought that there are three species of turtle nesting around Dungonab. There are anecdotal reports of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) sightings within the property, and a survey along Mukkawar Island highlighted 409 turtle nest pits. A total of 20 bird species have been recorded with the property as a whole, including charismatic species such as the goliath heron (Ardea goliath), flamingos and the sooty falcon (Falco concolor). Dugongs (Dugong dugon; VU) have been sighted in three locations around Dungonab, being attracted to this part of the property by the abundant seagrasses. In addition to the bottlenose dolphins found in the southern part of the property, DMNP also supports common dolphins (Delphinus delphis).


The property has been identified by several studies as a particularly important marine area in the whole Red Sea, a very important marine region where there had been no natural World Heritage sites so far (Bertzky & Kenney 2011; Thorsell et al. 1997; Smith & Jakubowska 2000; Magin & Chape 2004). Furthermore, DMNP overlaps with an Important Bird Area (IBA) – the Mukkawar Island and Dungonab Bay IBA (BirdLife International 2016), and SMNP has been listed as one of the most important coral reefs in the Red Sea (IUCN CNPPA 1983). Despite the lack of up-to-date analyses on the property’s species of conservation interest, there is evidence of the presence of many species of conservation interest, most notably coral species.


Communities along the coast have historically been reliant on mangroves for oyster aquaculture and for camel grazing (Spalding et al. 2010). Sanganeb Atoll has been used as a safe anchorage for millennia, perhaps since the earliest navigation of the Red Sea.


According to the IUCN Evaluation, there has been little opposition to the inscription of the property as a World Heritage site by the local population, despite limited awareness raising and consultation. The local population seem to have expressed interest in the management and conservation of the property and a hope that it may bring increased levels of tourism to the region. There are two major villages in the buffer zone of DMNP and a small temporary camping site for nomads north of Dungonab village. In total, the population for both villages is approximately 8,000, with estimates for the whole property not exceeding 10,000 individuals.


There are regular boat trips to Sanganeb whereby visitors, mainly from Port Sudan, can visit the property. Occasionally, visitors approach the property from their own personal yachts. Dungonab Bay on the other hand is rarely visited, and although there is a paved road to the bay, the facilities and infrastructure would benefit from some additional support.


The lighthouse in SMNP contains a small laboratory for Red Sea University researchers. There are also two research stations in DMNP – the Fisheries Research Station and the Red Sea University station. Broadly speaking, the Red Sea has been shown to experience significantly less research than other coral reef systems around the world (Berumen et al. 2013), with little of the research that has been undertaken focusing on the coast of Sudan, in part due to capacity issues (Gladstone 2008).


Management of the property is undertaken by the Wildlife Conservation General Administration (WCGA). The state established a committee in order to develop a strategic program for the protection of the coastline by a ministerial decree (Decree 5, 2014). This committee includes membership of several relevant authorities, such as the Directorate of Environment and Tourism, Fisheries Research Centre and Wildlife Administration, amongst others. In addition to state and national organisations, representatives from the Dungonab local community are also part of the committee. The two component parts of the property have separate management plans, both of which are focused on sustainably managing the property – with particular focus on sustainable financial income, maintaining species diversity and conserving habitats, promoting sustainability and education, and involving local communities in the management of the property. Several management activities such as monitoring are hoped to be implemented. Monitoring will be carried out monthly for oceanographic variables such as temperature, and every four months for coral cover and certain fish stocks. In addition to the management plans for both component parts of the property, several regional management plans focus on the conservation of certain taxa, for example turtles, breeding birds and mangroves. A combined management plan for both parts of the property is under discussion.


Some of the major threats to the property stem from fishing, e.g. anchor damage within coral areas, or species of conservation concern getting caught in fishing nets. The Sudanese coast also has some of the highest recorded bleaching and coral damage values in the Red Sea (PERSGA 2010). Coral bleaching is considered a threat which could become more serious in the coming years with the increasing threat of climate change, which some authors think may already be starting to show (Riegl et al. 2012). Other current human based impacts include the over-harvesting of mangroves as fodder for camels, the expansion of the road network along the coast, increasing numbers of oil tankers passing the property and inappropriate fishing techniques. Future human threats include the possible construction of a power plant in the Arakyai mersa, though this is strongly opposed by many institutions involved with the property.


There were 35 rangers for the management of both SMNP and DMNP in 2015. In addition to this, the national parks have in the past trained recent graduates to help in the management. For example, in 2012, seven biology graduates were trained as park wardens.


The Sudanese Federal Ministry of Finance supports the WCGA with an annual budget for running the day to day management of the property. However, in recent years, additional funding is required to improve the property’s infrastructure and monitoring capacity.


UNESCO – Chair on Marine Biology and Oceanography, Khartoum, Sudan. Tel : +249 912440084

General (Police) Abdalhafize Osman Eljack, Director, Protected Areas, Directorate, Wildlife Conservation General Administration (WCGA), Tel : ++249 912391671


The principal sources for the above information were the original nomination for World Heritage status, the IUCN evaluation report and the site’s management plan.

Bertzky, B. & Kenney, S. (2011). African Natural Heritage: Possible Priorities for the World Heritage List, Cambridge, U.K and Gland, Switzerland.

Berumen, M.L. et al. (2013). The status of coral reef ecology research in the Red Sea. Coral Reefs, 32(3): 737-748.

BirdLife International. (2016). Mukawwar island and Dunganab bay. Available at:

DeVantier, L. et al. (2000). Coral communities of the central-northern Saudi Arabian Red Sea. Fauna of Arabia 18: 23-66.

Galil, B.S. & Zenetos, A. (2002). A sea change—exotics in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. In Invasive Aquatic Species of Europe. Distribution, Impacts and Management: 325-336.

Gladstone, W. (2008). Towards conservation of a globally significant ecosystem: the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 18(1): 1-5.

IUCN CNPPA (1983). The world’s greatest natural areas: an indicative inventory of natural sites of world heritage quality. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Magin, C. & Chape, S. (2004) Review of the World Heritage Network: Biogeography, Habitats and Biodiversity. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, UK.

Osman, N.A. & El-Tigani, S. (2010). An update and review of the seaweeds from Sudan. Egyptian J. of Phycol. 11(172).

PERSGA. (2010). The Status of Coral Reefs in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Technical Series 16, Jeddah.

Reinicke, G.B., Kroll, D.K. & Schuhmacher, H. (2003). Patterns and changes of reef-coral communities at the Sanganeb-Atoll (Sudan, central Red Sea): 1980 to 1991. Facies 49(1): 271–297.

Riegl, B.M. et al. (2012). Red Sea coral reef trajectories over 2 decades suggest increasing community homogenization and decline in coral size. PLoS One 7(5): e38396.

Sheppard, C., Price, A. & Roberts, C. (1992). Marine ecology of the Arabian region: patterns and processes in extreme tropical environments.

Sheppard, C., Wells, S.M. & Jenkins, M.D. (1988). Coral reefs of the world. Vol. 2: Indian Ocean, Red Sea and gulf. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, UK.

Smith, G. & Jakubowska J. (2000) A Global Overview of Protected Areas on the World Heritage List of Particular Importance for Biodiversity. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, UK.

Spalding, M., Kainuma, M. & Collins, L. (2010). World atlas of mangroves. A collaborative project of ITTO, ISME, FAO, and UNEP-WCMC.

Spalding, M., Ravilious, C. & Green, E.P. (2001). World atlas of coral reefs. Prepared at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. University of California Press, Berkeley, USA.

Thorsell, J., Ferster Levy R. & Sigaty T. (1997). A Global Overview of Wetland and Marine Protected Areas on the World Heritage List. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.


December 2016.