Rosh HaNikra is a natural geological feature found on the border of Israel and Lebanon along the Mediterranean Sea coast in Western Galilee. Simply known as Hanikra by the local people, the formation is basically a white chalk limestone cliff with an opening facing the Spectacular grottoes. Historically, the geographical formation is described in various ancient books among them the Bible. Both the books of Joshua and Maccabees describe the existence of the feature in Israel. The Rosh HaNikra Grottoes served as a passage route for traders and armies between Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, and Israel. At the height of Second World War, the South African Troops blasted the railway tunnels built across the feature and later in 1947 it was completely attacked and destroyed by 21st Battalion under the command of Palmach. However, in 1968, a new tunnel was constructed by the British to enable the Haifa- Beirut railway line pass through. The newly constructed line connected the Grottoes with each other.
The Rosh HaNikra Grottoes conservation efforts began in 1965 due to various threats to the feature and the surrounding area. The reserve which includes a 6.5 kilometers long beach was under human threat which endangered the marine life. Pollution though at lower degree has been experienced from human activity such as the railway construction to cable car installation. Previous war activities along the formation posed a threat to this magnificent feature. The reef system and limestone were prone to human mining activities necessitating conservation efforts. Global warming and extreme weather adjustments are accelerating erosion on the Rosh HaNikra Grottoes.
The marine ecosystem encompasses a coral reef system which is a natural home to many sea creatures. The region is a habitat for nesting birds especially the Nachlieli species. The conservation efforts that led to the creation of national parks and reserves across the Rosh HaNikra Grottoes have led to conservation of the marine Flora and Fauna. The holes and caves are home to octopus, Crabs, sponges and various fish species. Loggerhead turtles, Rays, dolphins, Pufferfish and few species of sharks are found in the ecosystem. The marine part made up of numerous bays and partially submerged tidal pools attract different fish species which breed herein.
The Grottoes are unique in that there are multitudes of caves and tunnels along the shore with one of the natural tunnels measuring 10 meters tall. Splashing water creates natural fountains that are a sight to behold. Caves and holes created therein are breeding ground for various rare marine organisms. Some of the world most renowned dive sites are on the Rosh HaNikra Grottoes.The Rosh HaNikra Grottoes are unique historical points in that on this site, the Israeli and Lebanese governments negotiated and concluded the famous Armistice Agreement of 1949. The agreement was significant in ending the war that had been fought between the two countries famously referred to as the War of Israel Independence. The UNIFIL personnel normally use this border route across the Blue Line. The incredible geological creation has a unique landscape as a result of both work of the sea and man-made activities that make the wave-sculpted caves a site to view.
A cable car was built on Hanikra to enable visitors to have full access to the tunnels and explore the feature. The Cable takes tourists down from the top side of the cliff into the tunnel. The movement of the cable car is enabled by the 60 degrees gradient which makes it very attractive since it is ranked as the steepest in the globe. The cable car as manufactured in Australia by Doppelmayr Garaventa Company attracts tourists from across the globe. The region around Rosh HaNikra Grottoes is a major tourist’s attraction site due to the availability of national parks and nature reserves. The main parks are the Rosh HaNikra islands which were declared in 1965 and measures 311 dunams. In 1969, the second reserve was legislated while a third was declared in 1996. The two covers an area of 500 dunams and 765 dunams respectively. The famous Rosh HaNikra beach was declared in 2003. The beach which is a unique tourism site is 230 dunams and people who love nature and water diving can visit the site. The Betzet Beach is only 5 kilometers away and one can access it through bikes as availed at the ticket window. The National park is home to magnificent rare Flora and Fauna.For one to enter the site, they must pay a fee that can be combined entrée fee to other sites to the region such as Akko. The site is opened to the public every day of the week except Sundays. On holiday eves, the site is only opened up to midday and then closed in preparation for the holiday. The grottoes have facilities such as restaurants and other tourist facilities such as hotels for accommodation which can be booked in advance for foreign visitors.
The Rosh HaNikra Grottoes were formed by the action of sea waves on soft chalk rock. Geologists believe that a series earthquakes that took place in the area ripped gaps into a previously intact cliff. Powerful waves from the sea hit the rocks for thousands of years, eroding some of the parts and leaving the unique feature. The Cavernous tunnels are approximately 200 meters long. The formation branches off in numerous directions and some have interconnecting segments. A tunnel for the Haifa-Beirut railroad was built by the British and a second one dug in 1968. The two tunnels connect the grottos with each other, allowing access between the routes. The tunnel built in 1968 has a cable car which was built to take visitors down the cliff to the tunnel. The cable car is regarded as the steepest in the world. At the Rosh HaNikra Grottoes, the sea produces unusual sounds as the jagged rock force the sea water into different directions. As the water is splashed into different directions, the carved formations create beautiful, spectacular and eerie shapes.
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