Wadi El-Gemal National Park (WGNP) includes marine and terrestrial components. The terrestrial component encompasses a substantial segment of the Red Sea hills and coastal desert. Wadi el-Gemal and its delta are the focal attraction of the PA, which encompasses the entire watershed of the wadi. However, the PA takes in other adjacent desert and marine habitats, which complement the wadi, both ecologically and functionally (i.e., in terms of representing a meaningful management unit).
Wadi el-Gemal is the third largest wadi in the Eastern Desert, draining into the Red Sea, and one of the best vegetated, with an estimated watershed area of some 1476.7 km². The wadi watershed includes the northern flanks of Gebel Hamata in the south, as well as the southern flanks of Gebel Nugrus in the north. Several other important wadis are encompassed in the PA such as Wadi Abu Ghusoon, Wadi el-Ranga and Wadi el-Rada. Several important peaks are included such as Gebel Hamata Gebel Nugrus, Gebel Hafafeet, Gebel Hamamid, Gebel Sartut, and Gebel Sikait.
The shores of the region are heterogeneous in nature, encompassing rocky, sandy, and muddy beaches. The coastline has several important landmarks such as the headlands of Ras Baghdadi and Ras Honkorab, Sharm el-Luli, and Qurat el-Hartway bay. The marine component of the PA encompasses a strip of marine waters of an average width of 15 km. This component includes all the important coral reefs in the region, as well as five marine islands (the Hamata archipelago and Wadi el-Gemal Island, plus several minute sandy islets).
Coral reefs are perhaps WGNP’s most distinctive and sensitive habitat, supporting by far the greatest biodiversity in the PA. The Red Sea has some of the most attractive, intact, well developed, and biologically diverse coral assemblages in the world. There are at least 11 coral assemblage types from the Egyptian Red Sea and defined them by the dominant coral genus or genera, exposure (windward/leeward) and topography. In the PA, four assemblage’s types are widespread: windward Acropora assemblage, Acropora dominated patch reef assemblage, the leeward Porites assemblage, and Millepora current assemblage.
Sea grass meadows are amongst the most distinct habitats of WGHPA, supporting similarly distinct communities of benthic fauna and fishes. Sea grasses are important food items for globally threatened Dugongs Dugong dugon and Green Turtles Chelonia mydas.
Only Avicennia marina is found in WGNP, however the PA supports a significant proportion of the mangrove resources of Egypt. Nine mangrove stands and many isolated individual trees are recorded from the PA. Included in this list is a stand of dwarf mangroves recently discovered in a location 1 km north of the Shams Alam Resort (Wadi Araeir). In addition, two stands are located on offshore islands.
There are four marine islands included in the PA (Wadi el-Gemal Island, and three islands in the Hamata group), in addition to two very small sandy islands, which are said to become inundated occasionally and one island which is tenuously attached to the mainland (in the Hamata area). Marine islands offer an important habitat for many organisms. Seabirds and marine turtles (see details below) intensively use these islands for nesting, due to the lack of predators and disturbance. Biogeographically, each of the islands represents a unique natural evolutionary experiment, which has evolved over millennia and could provide important insights into the ecological past of the region.