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Al Hallaniyyat Islands Proposed Nature Reserve

Date of Submission: 23/05/2013
Criteria: (x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of the Sultanate of Oman to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Sultanate of Oman
Coordinates: N 1942886 E 348015
Ref.: 5832

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The islands of al Hallaniyyat are located in the north east of Dhofar (South of Oman) and administratively under Wilayat Shalim and al Hallaniyyat Islands (see the attached maps). The proposed reserve consists of four main islands and a small island on the shape of two paramount called Shunais. Al Hallaniyyat is the biggest island among the other four and is occupied by 250 persons most of them fishermen. In this island there is an office for the Waliy deputy, a school, a health center, a power station, a desalination station and a fish factory. The islands are proposed to be designated as a nature reserve with the aim of conserving turtle nesting beaches, coral reefs and birds, and sustainable use of fish resources.

The Coastline of the island is characterized by a large diversity of coral reefs, fish and turtles that visit the island beaches to lay their eggs. Moreover, dolphins and whales can be seen daily. In addition, al Hallaniyyat is considered a safe place for birds to lay eggs where their food is guaranteed.

Reserve Resources

Physical Resources

The four main islands are generally hilly but with some flat areas, especially on the most easterly and most westerly islands. There are also some small, rocky islet. The terrain is very rugged in some islands, and there is a massive limestone cliff at the northeastern side in the largest island. The islands are characterized by rocky sub littoral mixed coral and phaeophyte, and coastal cliffs with predominantly sandy sub littoral.

Biological Resources


Much of the area is bare or supports only a very sparse low shrub layer. Occasional Tamarix sp. and Acacia sp. Occuring on the largest, central island (al Hallaniyya)  are Heliotropium sp. and some grasses and reeds at brackish water seepages. On the western side there is rare lichen Simonyiella sp.  Along the coasts, there is a good cover of Suaeda kuriense. Plants of special interest that are found in the islands are Suaeda moschatus, Heliotropium sp. nov., and Launaea off. espinosa.

Coral Reefs:

The shallow water of the islands is characterized by its virgin nature and high diversity of corals, sponges, seaweeds, alga, fish and other species. Different species and large population of fish thrive very well in the area since the few local fishermen refrained from using fish nets but only adopted safe fishing methods.
Spiny lobster Panulirus homarus abound.  A new genus and species of coral belonging to the family Oculinidae was recently discovered in coastal waters


Turtles are laying their eggs on sandy beaches of the islands. A partial counting survey shows that the islands support one of the most important nesting areas in the world for Loggerheads. The Green Turtles were observed as well in the sea and local people confirm that there are two types of turtles laying their eggs on this island.  However,  skulls found  near the beaches indicate that Hawksbills also nest in the island.

Dolphins and Whales:

The surrounding marine environment hosts several mammals such as dolphins and whales that can be seen most of the time. A report from the local fishermen revealed two types of dolphins (Spinner and Risso) were sighted together with nine humpback whales in one day. Though not well educated, local fishermen were able to identify dolphins and whales by their size, color, shape and breeding season.


Al Qabliyya Island provides the largest site for resting birds in the region.  The island is not populated and is free from predators. Sula dactylatra is spreading all over the island and lays its eggs everywhere.
The islands are the only known nesting site of Audubon’s shearwater (Puffinus iherminieri). Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus) and Crested Term (Sterna bergii) also nest here, the latter in a large colony.  Common Noddy (Anous stolidus) may nest although the last record was in 1973.


A number of archaeological sites such as tombs, houses and stores were discovered in various places in the island of al Hallaniyyat and al Sauda. These sites date back to the era before Islam. More excavations and research are needed.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Al Hallaniyyat Islands Proposed Nature Reserve encompasses natural habitats vital for the survival of large numbers of birds, marine turtles, corals, associated reef fishes and marine organisms.  The island’s archeological features are equally outstanding.

Criterion (x): Al Hallaniyyat Islands Proposed Nature Reserve meets criterion X as it encompasses natural habitats vital for the survival of large numbers of birds, marine turtles and many different species of coral reefs and associated reef fishes and marine organisms.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Existence of the few local fishermen in one of the islands appeared to have been in harmony with the island ecosystem. This is the case when human presence in the community of organisms had been compatible and able to harmonize well.  This is evidenced by having the islands and their surrounding marine environment still in its pristine state.  As such, it showcases a living ecosystem that is still in its original state where everything seems to be in balance with one another.

Comparison with other similar properties

The islands are dominated by their seabirds and, in this respect, are internationally important.  In particular, they provide the only nesting sites in Oman and the Arabian Sea for Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra). Other species include Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis), Sooty Gull, and Bridled Tern.  Socotra Cormorant is known to only breed on these islands and nowhere else in Oman.

Al Hallaniyyat Islands Reserve can be compared globally with the following sites:

  • Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island National Nature Reserves
  • Turks & Caicos Islands, Bahamas (not a good comparison, islands are inhabited and heavily used as a tourist destination
  • Fernkloof Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve of Australia's North-West Shelf occupies 583 square kilometres that includes two extensive lagoons, shifting sand flats and cays, seagrass meadows, and a large reef flat. Nearby Ashmore is Cartier Island Marine Reserve covers an area of 167 square kilometres. The area around the island.