Despite the fact that South Sinai's wilderness offers scarce water resources, the desert is home to a diverse eco-system. Many varieties of plant and animal life have adapted to the most severe form of ecological pressure - lack of water. Sinai's various life forms are great examples of efficient resource utilization and boast some of the best illustrations in lesser consumption.
The gazelle, ibex, fox, hyrax (a rabbit sized rodent and distant relative of the elephant), and Hyena are just some of the mammals that make up the fauna of South Sinai. It also includes many species of reptiles. Their adaptation to the rugged desert environment is impressive. The gazelle for example does not drink, and survives by eating plants rich in water. The visitor to south Sinai may not encounter any of these species, for most have systems of concealing themselves, either through camouflage, quick escape or merely nocturnal activity. Birds however are easier to spot, not only because they occupy a more diverse habitat, but also because Sinai is a migration crossroads for species such as the quail and stork.
The flora is just as impressive with a variety of plants, including some rare species only found in this part of the world. There are close to 1000 different plant types in Sinai, making up 45% of Egypt's flora. Of these, 419 species only occur in and around the high mountains in the South. The vegetation has had to adapt to become amazingly efficient in its water consumption. Some species have very short lifecycles, flourishing only immediately after sporadic rains. Many of the flowers and shrubs are used by the Bedouins for medicinal purposes.
South Sinai has an area of 1,300 square kilometers, with an elevation ranging from 1,500m to 2,665m. It is the most diverse region on the peninsula where some of the world's oldest rocks are found. Granites and volcanic materials combine to create the rock formations, some as old as 600 million years! The most characteristic rock is red granite but some areas are overlaid with younger darker rock associated with volcanic activity about 10,000 million years ago. These form the distinctive black lines weaved into the mountain sides. Red and black rock types create different environments. In darker areas, a hotter and harsher environment, plants germinate and complete their life cycle earlier than in the red ones.
With its winding wadis providing passage around impassable mountain barriers, South Sinai is a landscape like no other. The climate, with its high altitude and additional rainfall (in comparison to the surrounding desert lands) creates an ecological island combining species from parts of South West Asia and North East Africa. For this reason, the South Sinai, especially the high wadis region, has become the focus of many environmental studies and research.
As you pack note the climatic extremes in this region- from December to early March temperature can drop to just below freezing at night in St. Catherine and up to 10 below in the mountains.