Ichkeul National Park (World Heritage)

The water of the Ichkeulsees and the surrounding wet meadows southwest of Biserta are habitat for a multitude of plants as well as a nesting place for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds such as ducks, geese, storks, ospreys and flamingos. The lake is the last of numerous coastal lakes in North Africa.

Ichkeul National Park: facts

Official title: Ichkeul National Park
Natural monument: a former hunting area of ​​up to 126 km² in the rainy season; permanent brackish water lake and wooded massif Djebel Ichkeul; 85 km² of water and 28 km² of marshland and wetlands; From 1996 to 2006 on the »Red List« of the endangered world heritage because of dam construction, which promoted the increasing salinization of the water – 38-45 g / l in the summer, because of the loss of reed and because of the dramatic decline and failure, among other things. of purple hens and white-headed ducks
Continent: Africa
Country: Tunisia
Location: southwest of Bizerte
Appointment: 1980
Meaning: the last lake of a once existing North African chain of lakes and an important resting and nesting place for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds
Flora and fauna: 229 animal species and 500 plant species; Carob trees, mastic trees, milkweed plants, cyclamen, olive trees, pistachio bushes, fig opuntia; Habitat for Egyptian vultures, kestrels, calenders and redstart; the bodies of water and wetlands wintering place for numerous species of ducks such as pochard, whistle, pintail, gadfly and tufted ducks, for cow, gray and little egret, osprey, flamingo, snipe and stilt; among the mammals observed, jackals and water buffalo

Where the water buffalo is also at home

Hundreds of thousands of years ago a chain of lakes spread across North Africa. One of their remains is the Ichkeulsee, which is up to two meters deep and in which fresh and salt water are in perpetual competition. The great European traveler of the 19th century, the landscape gardener Hermann Fürst von Pückler-Muskau, wrote about this natural phenomenon: »The younger Pliny said of this lake that it was now higher, now lower than the sea and therefore the lake alternately in the Sea drains off or receives inflow from it. ”And indeed – so it is. In summer, with increasing drought and evaporation, the water level of the lake can drop below sea level and more salt water flows in. In the rainier autumn and winter months, on the other hand, when the streams from the Mogod Mountains pour into the Ichkeulsee, the water level rises, the water flows over the Tinja Canal into the Lac de Bizerte and from there into the open sea. It is precisely at this time that the Ichkeul presents itself as a fascinating intermediate realm between land and water, as a partially submerged world. Large areas of the shore zones are then flooded and have turned into a blooming landscape, so that the viewer may feel like Hermann Fürst von Pückler-Muskau: »I have never regretted not having a botanist with me who is here without a doubt would have got out of one delight into the other.

The bright yellow flowers of the swamp sword lily and the purple heads of the wild gladioli sway gently in the wind, reeds and Spanish reed form green carpets in the swamp, pink and purple water lilies put colorful dots on the glittering surface of the water, and the pink, sometimes purple leeks flow off an intense garlic odor. A special eye-catcher in this wet biotope is the Djebel Ichkeul, a “dark blue mountain in a bold line,” which gave the lake its name, which is partly covered with Mediterranean maquis, rock roses and wild olive and pistachio trees. Pückler-Muskau was almost overwhelmed by the sight of the »mountain series, which (…) shone across the water from afar in the most beautiful blue, framed by the sun with a gold border.«

A visit to this impressive marshland, an extremely important resting and wintering place for European water birds, is an unforgettable experience for nature lovers, especially in the months of October to March. It is the lush green and the mild Mediterranean climate in northern Tunisia that magically attracts the feathered travelers from the north and south, so that they take a break on their way to East Africa or spend the winter here by the lake and the watercourses. They find enough food in the extensive meadows of pondweed and in the reed thicket, where flocks of pochard and pintail find enough worms, mussels and crabs. Teal and shoveler head for this wet zone with wild chatter and settle on the lake and in the surrounding marshland. Well-traveled guests include white-rimmed and purple hens, redshank and common woodcock. But the days have passed when up to 400,000 birds were counted. The sight of flamingos, which form a pink line in the sky in flight, has also become rare.

According to indexdotcom, the misunderstood star among the creatures in the national park, however, is the shaggy water buffalo, with a height of 1.80 meters and a weight of up to 1200 kilograms, Tunisia’s largest mammal, which prefers swampy riparian zones. Scholars argue about whether the Bubalus bubalus – its Latin name – was introduced by Turkish beys and kept as game or was already at home in northern Tunisia at the time of the glorious Carthage.

Ichkeul National Park (World Heritage)