Many people think about Iran for its beautiful architecture and ancient past, but few people also know about Iran’s rich wildlife. From cheetahs to dolphins, many animal species are endemic to Iran and can be observed while visiting Iran. Hengam Island, in the south of Iran, is one of the best locations for that. It’s a small island famous for the many dolphins that inhabit its water part of the year. In this article, we’ll show you why you should definitely add Hengam Island to your travel list!
Where is Hengam Island?
Hengam is a tiny island in the Persian Gulf. It is located close to Qeshm island, just 2 kilometres away from Shibderaz village and Kandaloo port, which makes Kandaloo the main access to Hengam island. Hengam is only 36.6 kilometres, so approximately the same size as Hormuz Island. However, the two islands are very different. Contrary to Hormuz, Hengam doesn’t have much height and is rather flat.3
The island has only two small villages and almost no cars, which makes it particularly peaceful. Locals from Hengam have always been living from fishing and aquaculture, and nowadays, some from tourism. With crystal clear waters and virgin sandy beaches, the island’s coast is a paradise for those who want to enjoy the beauty the sea offers.
Hengam, home to wild dolphins
In Iran, Hengam is well-known for one thing in particular: its dolphins. The sea between Qeshm and Hengam shores hosts several species of dolphins that come for mating from fall to spring. Among these species, the most commonly found in Hengam waters is the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, a small-sized dolphin with a long rostrum.
This specie is unfortunately listed as “near threatened” by the IUCN. These dolphins usually live in small groups of 5 to 15 individuals, and are very playful. That’s why they can be easily observed in the bay of Hengam.
A few facts about Hengam’s dolphins
If you decide to go on a boat excursion in Hengam to observe dolphins, here are a few facts you may want to have in mind:
- Dolphins are talkative! They communicate with a large variety of sounds and each dolphin has a distinctive whistle.
- To breathe, dolphins need to go to the surface, but they have the ability to hold their breath for up to 10 minutes.
- Like apes and us, humans, bottlenose dolphins are one of the rare species to be able to recognize themselves in a mirror. Research has demonstrated that they are highly intelligent animals.
- When they sleep, dolphins turn off half of their brains and keep one eye open to stay alert and regulate breathing.
- Bottlenose dolphins are among the slowest dolphins, as they swim at about 3 km/h. Yet, they can sometimes speed up to 35 km/h for brief moments !
Gazelles and silver beach: the other wonders of Hengam
The beauty of Hengam resides in the fact that it has remained widely untouched, even though things are changing at a fast pace. However, until now, most parts of the island are inhabited, leaving plenty of space for the fauna and flora to flourish.
Besides dolphins, Hengam has a rich wildlife and one of the most iconic animals of the island is its endemic gazelle. This specie is called Jabeer, or Chinkara, also known as the Indian gazelle. Besides Iran, this specie can indeed be found in India, but also in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This beautiful animal is of small size, usually about 65cm for 20 kilos. Both males and females have horns.
These gazelles live in arid regions, and thus are able to live on very few plants and water. Not only are they capable of not drinking for long periods of time, but they also have the capacity to drink salty water. They are pretty shy and avoid human habitations, but in Hengam, you can easily observe them from close, as they roam freely in nature, far from houses and constructions.
Other notable animal species on Hengam island are the Egyptian lizard, and the Hawksbill Sea Turtles, also present on the shores of Qeshm island where they come to lay eggs from April to early June. As you enter into the transparent waters of Hengam, you can also see myriads of colourful fishes, which makes it a heaven for snorkelling passionates. At night, it’s sometimes possible to see phytoplankton illuminating Hengam’s shores, as there is little light pollution on the island.
But even during the day, Hengam’s shores can shine: on the “Silver Beach”, one of Hengam’s most famous beach, minerals makes the sand grey, shiny and heavy. Unfortunately, increasing visits from tourists and lack of protection have caused a decrease in the amount of silver sand, and it can be best appreciated on the neighbouring island, Hormuz.
When and how to see dolphins on Hengam Island?
Dolphins are one of the main attractions of Hengam island and a lovely spectacle not to miss. They are visible in Hengam as soon as the temperatures drop, around October and until late March. The best time of the year to watch dolphins is in Winter, during the mornings, when the probability of seeing pods is high. Of course, stay flexible as it also depends on the weather. In case of strong wind, making a lot of waves, it’s usually not possible to see dolphins.
To enjoy a boat excursion to see the dolphins in Hengam Island, you need to reach Kandaloo port, next to Shib Deraz village. In that port, during the tourist season, there are regular departures of one-hour tours to watch the dolphins. Yet, we highly recommend arranging a private trip with your local guesthouse to have a better experience. Indeed, these tour boats can be plenty at the same time in the sea, giving the feeling of chasing the dolphins, which also decreases the probability of seeing them from close.