Miankaleh Peninsula ‒ A Heaven For Bird Watchers
The Miankaleh Peninsula is a peninsula located in the Caspian Sea in Iran. It is considered one of the most important and unique ecosystems in the world due to its rich biodiversity, diverse habitats and unique species.
Miankaleh is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a wetland of international importance. It is home to a wide variety of species, including over 300 species of birds, more than 70 species of fish, and many mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Some of the most famous species living in the Miankaleh Peninsula are the Caspian seal, the Mediterranean monk seal, and the critically endangered sturgeon species.
The Miankaleh Peninsula also serves as a crucial stopover point for migratory birds along the East Asia-Australasia Flyway. It is estimated that more than two million birds from over 200 species use the area as a migration stopover or wintering site each year.
Where is the Miankaleh?
Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge is located at the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea, the Miankaleh Peninsula separating the Bay of Gorgan from the Caspian.
The entire bay and its adjacent marshes along with the peninsula, an area of about 68,000 hectares (263 square miles), was declared a Protected Region in 1970 and a Wildlife Refuge in 1974.
Why is the Miankaleh Important?
Miankaleh is a shelter for a quarter of a million waterfowl, including especially the greater flamingo, greylag goose, lesser white-fronted goose, red-breasted merganser and the rare white-headed duck.
Within the Miankaleh Peninsula, however, excessive grazing of domestic stock, hunting and the cutting down of most of the forested areas had all but exterminated the once profuse and diverse wildlife.
But by the time the reserve was declared a Wildlife Refuge, the reappearance of wild boar, fox, jackals, jungle cats, as well as pheasants and black francolin, gave promise of recovery of the peninsula’s fauna.
Of even greater importance is the undisturbed regeneration of the peninsula vegetation, as this is perhaps the only sizeable area of the Caspian coastal ecosystems to be afforded protection.
The Miankaleh reserve remains the finest refuge in Iran for very large numbers of migratory waterfowl.
Breeding birds, in years when there has been plenty of rain in early summer, include many heron Ardeidae species.
The Pratincole Glareola pratincola nests in large colonies and along the shores Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus and Little Terns Sterna albifrons are the characteristic breeding species.
The wetland is extremely important for a wide variety of waterfowl and other birds during the migrations and in the winter, including Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber and many species Of Ardeidae and Ana- tidae, including various swans and geese, notably the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus.
The Lapoo-Zagmarz Ab-bandans consist of a group of muddy-bottomed fresh- water lakes and marshes, fed by irrigation canals, rainfall and run-off.
Flooding takes place in autumn and winter and the water level fluctuates considerably but is to some extent controlled, the water flowing sluggishly eastwards into the marshes at the western end of the Gorgan Bay.
Phragmites reedbeds are the dominant feature Of the vegetation but there are stands or scrubby areas of reedmace Typha, willow Salix, Currants Ribes, berries Rubus and pomegranate Punica and an abundant submersed vegetation.
Besides the Ardeidae and a few Anatidae nesting in the pond area, there is a large colony of Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida.
It is also important for migrating and wintering species, especially Red-crested Pochard Nerta rufina and Coot Fulicaatra; more occasional visitors are swans Cygnus spp. and White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala.
How To Get to and Around Miankaleh?
To visit Miankala, you need to obtain an entry permit from Iranian tour operators and you must enter the protected area with a guide and a ranger. SURFIRAN is one of the companies that can help you arrange the permit and provide a guide and ranger for your visit.
To get to Miankaleh, you can fly from the Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran to the Sari Dasht-e Naz International Airport, From there, you can take a taxi or a private car to get to the reserve and it takes about 1 hr 30 min (60.0 km).
Another option would be to take a bus from Tehran to the nearby city of Sari (5 hr 30 min – 280 km), and then hire a taxi or a private car to get to Miankaleh.
Once you are in Miankaleh, you can explore the area on foot or by bike. Some tour operators also offer boat tours of the wetland. It is necessary to hire a local guide who can help you navigate the reserve and spot wildlife.
When’s the Best Time to Visit Miankaleh?
The best time to visit Miankaleh depends on what you would like to see and do there.
For birdwatching, the best time to visit is from October to March when migratory birds are in the area.
For general wildlife viewing, spring and autumn are the best times to visit, as temperatures are mild and vegetation is lush.
For water activities, the best time to visit is from May to September when the water level is high and conditions are suitable for boating and other water-based activities.
Miankaleh is a wetland and wildlife reserve, so there are many activities and things to do in the area. Some of the popular activities are:
- Birdwatching: Miankaleh is home to a wide variety of migratory and resident bird species, making it a popular destination for birdwatching.
- Wildlife viewing: In addition to birds, you can also spot a variety of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians in Miankaleh, including the Asiatic cheetah, the goitered gazelle, and the roe deer.
- Boating: Miankaleh is surrounded by water, and you can take a boat tour to explore the wetland and see its wildlife from a different perspective.
- Hiking and biking: There are many trails in Miankaleh that are suitable for hiking and biking. These trails offer a great opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the area and observe its wildlife.
- Photography: Miankaleh is a photographer’s paradise, with its stunning landscapes, abundant wildlife, and unique flora.
Essential Gears for Your Journey to the Miankaleh
Here is a list of essential gear that you should consider bringing on your journey to Miankaleh:
- Binoculars: Binoculars are essential for birdwatching and wildlife viewing.
- Camera: A camera is a must for capturing the stunning landscapes, abundant wildlife, and unique flora of Miankaleh.
- Sun protection: Sun protection is important, especially during the warm months, when temperatures can be high. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- Insect repellent: Insects can be a problem in Miankaleh, especially during the warm months. Bring insect repellent to keep bugs at bay.
- Comfortable clothing and shoes: Wear comfortable clothing and shoes that are appropriate for hiking, biking, or other outdoor activities.
- Water and snacks: Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and fueled during your journey.
- First aid kit: A basic first aid kit is always a good idea, especially when traveling in remote areas.
- Cash: Cash is useful for purchasing permits, hiring guides, and buying souvenirs.
- Map and compass: A map and compass can be helpful in navigating the area, especially if you are planning to hike or bike.
- Trash bags: It’s important to keep the environment clean, so bring trash bags to properly dispose of any waste.
Staying in and Around the Miankaleh
Local homestays: Some nearby villages offer homestays, which can be a great way to experience local culture and hospitality. Our suggestion is Miankaleh Guest House. You can find the contact details by searching on google or contact the SURFIRAN to make a reservation.
Hotels in nearby cities: If you prefer more comfort and amenities, you can stay in a hotel in a nearby city, such as Sari. From there, you can hire a taxi or a private car to get to Miankaleh for the day.
How Many Days Should You Plan to Spend in the Miankaleh?
The amount of time you should plan to spend in Miankaleh depends on your interests and the activities you would like to participate in. Here are some suggestions:
- For a quick visit: If you are only interested in a brief overview of the area, one day might be enough.
- For birdwatching: If you are a birdwatching enthusiast, you might consider spending 2-3 days in Miankaleh.
- For nature lovers: If you are interested in experiencing the natural beauty and diversity of Miankaleh, you might consider spending 3-5 days in the area.