Hengam Island, a small but stunning island nestled in the Persian Gulf, offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. With its unique beaches, vibrant wildlife, picturesque landscapes, and charming marketplace, Hengam Island has become a haven for Iran nature tours enthusiasts. Accessible by boat rides from Qeshm Island, this hidden gem near the Strait of Hormuz has a rich history and a warm hospitality that will make your trip truly unforgettable.
Location and Access
Hengam Island is a small island spanning approximately 36.6 square kilometers in the Persian Gulf. It is located about 2 kilometers southeast of Qeshm Island and is part of the Qeshm County. To reach Hengam Island, travelers must first make their way to Qeshm Island. Ferries from Shahid Bahonar and Shahid Haghani wharves in Bandar Abbas and Bandar Pol in Khamir County provide transportation to Qeshm Island. Alternatively, there is an international airport on Qeshm Island for those who prefer to fly. From Qeshm, organized tours with a tour leader can be arranged to explore Hengam Island, providing a unique and memorable experience in southern Iran.
A Glimpse into History
Hengam Island holds a significant and strategic geographical position near the Strait of Hormuz and Qeshm Island. Throughout history, it has attracted foreign powers, with the Portuguese occupying the island during the Safavid era. However, it was the British who had a lasting presence on this island, recognizing its military and geopolitical importance. They stationed their military forces on the island, effectively preventing Iranian governance. The British government diplomatically acknowledged Iran’s ownership of Hengam Island while maintaining their military presence. This situation persisted until Reza Shah came to power, and in 1930, the Iranian government asserted its sovereignty over Hengam Island. The British were eventually compelled to leave, and the island was handed over to the Iranian government.
Villages of Hengam Island
Hengam Island is home to three villages: New Hengam (Mashi), Ghil, and Old Hengam (Kohneh). These villages are closely situated and connected by a main road, offering a glimpse into the local way of life.
New Hengam Village
New Hengam, also known as Mashi, is an ideal docking place for boats. Its sandy land is complemented by modern facilities such as a pier, police station, desalination plant, post office, and school. This village serves as a gateway for visitors arriving on Hengam Island.
Situated in a valley between New and Old Hengam Villages, Ghil Village derives its name from the accumulation of water in the area. With a population of 200, Ghil Village is home to Sunni and Shia residents who speak Arabic and Persian. The village relies on wells and rain for its water supply and is known for its agricultural products, particularly grains. Fishing and farming are the primary livelihoods of the villagers.
Old Hengam Village
Old Hengam, also referred to as Kohneh, has a smaller population compared to Ghil and New Hengam Villages. Located 4 kilometers away from the other two villages, Old Hengam is characterized by uninhabited houses. The villagers primarily earn their living through fishing, with a particular focus on shark fishing.
The People of Hengam Island
The original inhabitants of Hengam Island belong to the Al Bu Falasah tribe, which also includes the ancestors of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. Before the Pahlavi dynasty, Sheikh Juma bin Obaid Al Falasi Al Maktoum, the uncle of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, ruled over Hengam Island. Presently, the majority of the island’s residents are related to one another and are primarily engaged in fishing activities. With a population of approximately 615 people living in 141 houses, the locals make a living through various means, including selling seashells, fish farming, shrimp farming, guiding tourists, and participating in the local island market.
Wildlife of Hengam Island
Hengam Island’s rich biodiversity attracts nature enthusiasts from around the world. The island provides a habitat for various animal species, some of which are rare and endangered. Keep your eyes peeled as you explore Hengam Island for a chance to spot these fascinating creatures.
One of the notable animal species on Hengam Island is the Jebir, a type of deer native to the Indian subcontinent and Iran. Resembling the Iranian gazelle but smaller in size, the Jebir has a lean body, and both males and females possess antlers. However, spotting a Jebir on Hengam Island requires luck, as these animals are extremely shy and can run at high speeds.
Egyptian Spiny-tailed Lizard
The Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard, a reptile from the lizard family, is another unique species found on Hengam Island. This lizard, which can reach a length of 76 centimeters, was once a food source for nomadic Arabs. While its meat is rarely consumed nowadays, its skin is still used to make high-quality leather. Sadly, the Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard is rapidly declining worldwide, and Hengam Island serves as one of its few remaining habitats.
Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Hengam Island is home to the hawksbill sea turtle, a rare and endangered species. This valuable turtle species is one of the four sea turtles found in the Persian Gulf and one of two species that lay eggs on Iranian shores. With an average weight of about 80 kilograms and a length of up to one meter, the hawksbill sea turtle comes to the coast of Hengam Island to lay eggs from Esfand to Ordibehesht (according to the Iranian calendar). If you visit Hengam Island during this time, you may have the opportunity to witness this incredible natural phenomenon.
Other Animal Species
In addition to the Jebir, Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard, and hawksbill sea turtle, Hengam Island is home to various bird species such as Grey Egrets, Hoopoes, Herons, Sea Swallows, Broad-billed Sandpipers, Large Reed Warblers, as well as shellfish and crab-eaters.
Dolphins of Hengam Island
One of the main attractions of Hengam Island is its playful and mesmerizing dolphins. These intelligent creatures grace the waters near the island, captivating visitors with their acrobatic displays. While Iran’s waters are home to 13 out of the 40 known dolphin species, Hengam Island predominantly hosts Bottlenose dolphins.
To catch a glimpse of these enchanting creatures, tourists can embark on boat rides from Qeshm Island to Hengam Island. While there is no specific time guaranteed to spot dolphins, the best chances are during cool weather and calm sea conditions. Locals believe that the early morning hours offer the best opportunity for dolphin sightings. Don’t forget your camera to capture these unforgettable moments against the backdrop of Hengam Island’s natural beauty.
Attractions of Hengam Island
Although Hengam Island may be small in size, it boasts numerous attractions that will leave you in awe. From stunning beaches to unique natural phenomena, here are some of the must-visit sites on Hengam Island.
Hengam Beach is a mesmerizing destination where you can immerse yourself in the beauty of the Persian Gulf. With its pristine shores and dancing waves, this beach offers a serene and picturesque setting for relaxation and exploration. As you traverse the 50-kilometer coastline, you’ll encounter a mix of rocky shores and sandy beaches, each offering a different perspective of Hengam Island’s natural wonders.
Hengam’s Silver Beach
Among Hengam Island’s many attractions, Silver Beach stands out as a true gem. With its coastal cliffs and sparkling sands, this beach is a sight to behold. Unfortunately, due to the value of its soil, tourists are no longer permitted to set foot on Silver Beach. However, organized tours from Qeshm and Bandar Kandalu can take you on boat rides that allow you to witness the beach’s unique sparkle from a distance, creating a memorable experience.
Kolah Khamasi Beach
For those seeking adventure and excitement, Kolah Khamasi Beach offers an exhilarating experience. This rocky beach allows visitors to jump into the water from cliffs, swim alongside sea cucumbers, and marvel at sea anemones. Embrace the thrill of exploring the underwater world of Hengam Island as you soak in the breathtaking views.
Located on the eastern side of the island, Khenizi Beach is a hidden gem known for its untouched beauty. With a pair of swimming goggles, you can witness the fascinating marine life that inhabits the waters surrounding Hengam Island. Take a dip and explore the wonders beneath the surface.
Hengam’s Glowing Beach
At certain times of the year, Hengam Island’s beach takes on a magical glow during the night. Marine phytoplankton, tiny creatures that emit light when agitated, create a mesmerizing effect, turning the water a shiny blue color. This natural phenomenon can be observed on the coasts of some of the world’s most beautiful destinations, including Hengam Island.
Red Soil of Hengam
Hormuz Island may be renowned for its red soil, but Hengam Island also boasts this unique feature. Known as “Gilak,” the mountains and red soils on Hengam Island have various applications, including ornamental stone industry and construction. The locals utilize the island’s red soil to prepare a local dish called “Soragh,” which is a delicious culinary delight. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste this delicacy or observe the locals preparing it in the market.
Aquarium Fish of Hengam Island
A visit to Hengam Island would not be complete without exploring the underwater world of the island’s aquarium. Located near Hengam Island, this underwater oasis is home to colorful and free-roaming fish. The crystal-clear waters offer a window into the vibrant marine life, allowing you to observe corals, jellyfish, and a variety of colorful creatures. Bring some food to attract the fish to the surface and witness their captivating show.
The local market of Hengam Island is a vibrant and colorful place that offers an authentic glimpse into the island’s culture and traditions. As you stroll through the market, you’ll encounter vendors selling handmade shell crafts, spices, oils, and various souvenirs. This bustling marketplace is an excellent opportunity to interact with the locals, listen to their stories, and immerse yourself in the island’s rich heritage. Don’t forget to indulge in the local cuisine, such as shrimp samboosa and Tomoshi bread, for a truly authentic experience.
Small Fishing Village
Overlooking the main beach of Hengam Island, the small fishing village is a charming spot to savor fresh seafood. With simple tables and chairs, this village offers a chance to taste local dishes cooked with fragrant spices. From shrimp samboosa to crab delicacies, the fishing village provides a unique culinary experience for those eager to explore the island’s gastronomy. To reach the village, take a boat from Shib Daraz and enjoy the scenic journey by sea.
Hengam’s Palm Groves
Palm groves are synonymous with the south of Iran, and Hengam Island is no exception. The island boasts beautiful palm groves with towering palm trees that exude tranquility and serenity. These palm trees not only provide a picturesque backdrop but also yield delicious dates, primarily used for personal consumption. Some of these dates find their way to the local market, allowing visitors to savor the island’s natural bounty.
Colonial Remnants on Hengam Island
Hengam Island’s intriguing history is reflected in the remnants of its colonial past. The Portuguese shipwreck, a reminder of their occupation during the Safavid era, can be explored as tourists watch aquarium fish and capture captivating photographs. Additionally, remnants of the British presence can still be seen on the island, including port facilities, coal warehouses, and telegraph houses. These remnants serve as a testament to the island’s geopolitical significance and the enduring legacy of colonialism.
Recreation and Activities
Hengam Island offers a plethora of recreational activities for visitors to enjoy. From interacting with wildlife to engaging in water sports, there’s something for everyone on this idyllic island.
Watching the playful dolphins near Hengam Island is an absolute delight and a favorite activity among tourists. These intelligent creatures arrive in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf in mid-autumn to reproduce, captivating onlookers with their acrobatic displays. They remain in the area until mid-spring before migrating towards the Oman Sea and beyond. To catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures, take a boat ride from Qeshm to Hengam Island and keep your eyes peeled. The best time to spot dolphins is during cool weather and calm sea conditions, preferably in the early morning hours.
For those seeking an underwater adventure, diving in Hengam Island’s pristine waters is a must. Explore the vibrant marine life and marvel at the colorful corals and underwater rock formations. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a beginner, Hengam Island offers various diving spots suitable for all skill levels. Experience the tranquility and beauty of the underwater world as you create lasting memories.
Immerse yourself in the local culture by getting a henna painting on Hengam Island. Local artists can create beautiful and intricate designs on your skin using henna, a natural dye derived from the henna plant. This traditional art form allows you to embrace the island’s heritage while adding a touch of beauty to your journey.
Embark on a fishing tour and experience the traditional way of life on Hengam Island. Join local fishermen as they cast their nets and teach you the art of fishing. Engage in a hands-on experience, learn about different fishing techniques, and savor the taste of freshly caught seafood.
Other Recreational Activities
Hengam Island offers a range of additional activities to cater to all interests. From snorkeling and banana boat rides to bird watching and exploring the island’s palm groves, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Unwind on the pristine beaches, take in the breathtaking views, and let Hengam Island’s natural beauty captivate your senses.
Amenities and Accommodation
While Hengam Island may lack extensive amenities and accommodation options, it offers a unique opportunity to disconnect from the modern world and immerse yourself in nature. There are no hotels or guesthouses on the island, but visitors have the option to rent local houses or camp. If you choose to camp, be sure to bring your own camping gear and cooking equipment. The island has shops where you can purchase supplies and local ingredients, allowing you to experience the island’s authentic lifestyle.
Best Time to Visit Hengam Island
The best time to visit Hengam Island is from mid-autumn to mid-spring, when the weather is moderate and pleasant. However, if you want to witness the magic of dolphin sightings, plan your visit for the months of Azar and Dey. It’s worth noting that the Nowruz holidays, marking the Persian New Year, attract a significant number of tourists to Qeshm and Hengam Islands. Tourist numbers remain high until the first half of Ordibehesht, but decrease with the onset of summer.
Important Tips for Traveling to Hengam Island
- To make the most of your trip to Hengam Island, keep the following tips in mind:
- Wear suitable walking shoes and bring sun hats, sunglasses, and other protective gear.
- Carry cash as card machines are limited on the island.
- Respect the environment and refrain from littering. Dispose of trash properly and help preserve the island’s natural beauty.
- Respect the local community and their traditions. Ask for permission before taking photographs of the island’s residents.
- Be cautious while swimming and watch out for sea urchins and crabs. If stung by a sea urchin, any resulting pain will typically subside quickly.
- Support the conservation of marine life by refraining from collecting shells or other marine products.
- Stay hydrated and carry necessary supplies such as water and general medications.
- Embrace the slower pace of life on Hengam Island and relish in the opportunity to disconnect from the modern world.
Hengam Island, a hidden gem in the Persian Gulf, offers an escape to a world of natural beauty and tranquility. With its stunning beaches, diverse wildlife, and rich history, the island has something for every traveler. Whether you’re exploring the vibrant underwater world, interacting with playful dolphins, or immersing yourself in the local culture, Hengam Island guarantees an unforgettable experience. So pack your bags, set sail for this enchanting island, and let Hengam’s natural wonders captivate your heart and soul.