Tourism in Sistan and Balouchistan, the Assets of an Arid Land
Among the ecotourist attractions of Sistan-o-Balouchistan, the rocky coast south of the city of Chabahar occupies an important place. Named Gandou by locals, the crocodile with short snout is perhaps the most famous animal species of Sistan and Balouchistan.
Soon, capitalism and globalization will force no region on earth to be out of reach of the ever-growing wave of tourists. The north and south poles, the Gobi desert, the thick Amazonian rainforest and hundreds of other "immaculate" corners of the world have now become home to thousands of travelers. Even space is no exception to the rule. With art and means, the hundreds of tourists who are already on waiting lists will soon be sent to the galactic immensity. However, there are still discrete places on the ground, potentially capable of attracting the tourist in need of novelty, to become in this way, an economic pole for the country concerned. It is well known that Iran is one of those countries. With its attractive geography and the richness of its past, it is a popular destination for art and nature lovers. Some Iranian regions are sadly out of touch with the large visitor movements, and, as time goes on, they are almost diluted in space and time, and, because of the heat, they are literally dried up. Yet, their authenticity and originality is surprising to potential travelers. Especially since some of them were cradles of human civilization, namely, the provinces of Khuzestan, Shiraz and Sistan and Baluchistan.
The latter saw the birth of the first city (in the modern sense of the term) of the history of humanity, 5,200 years ago. Thanks to its cultural and natural wealth, the province of Sistan and Balouchistan could, as we will see, develop its tourism based on its geography, history, folklore and handicrafts.
Regarding its geography, the Sistan and Balouchistan is the province both the largest and the least populated of Iran. From the north, it is bounded by alluvial deposits of the Helmand River (Hirmand) (which empties into the largest lake of freshwater in the world) and from the south it meets the Arabian Sea and benefits from a mountainous climate. In the center, the volcanic mountain of Taftan creates a diversified climatic situation. It is also influenced by winds from the Indian peninsula and seasonal rains in the Indian Ocean. Of the one thousand two hundred vegetable species of Sistan and Baluchistan, seventy have pharmaceutical virtues. The region is also the main center for growing young fruit trees in warmer regions, including date palm, banana, mango, pistachio and resin. Being located in the desert zone of Iran, its agriculture is ensured only by the passage of the rivers Bahoukalat, Bampour, Kadjou and the river Karvandar. It is thanks to its surface and its climatic diversity that it possesses a beautiful variety of plants and renewable natural sources. All of these features have made this province a good place for the development of eco-tourism.
Among the ecotourist attractions of Sistan-o-Balouchistan, the rocky coast south of the city of Chabahar occupies an important place. The waves against the rocks sometimes rise to a height of five meters, leaving many crabs and turtles on the rocks. The advancing water along the rocky coast of Chabahar and the erosion of the rocks has created a most attractive natural architecture. This magnificent landscape stretches from the port of Chabahar to the Gulf of Gavater in south-eastern Iran. Boasting a pleasant climate in winter, this marine area also serves as a winter destination for a wide variety of migratory birds including the pelican, flamingo and slender-billed curlew. On the road of Chabahar-Gavater, the pond of Lipar is the habitat of rare species of shrubs as well as that of various birds including gray heron, partridge and ciconiidé. On the way to Chabahar-Gavater, Chabahar-Kahir and Chabahar-Iranshahr, the mountains gradually eroded by the action of nature also offer a beautiful panorama to travelers. Carved irregularly, these high hills and mountains are normally called "Martian hills" by locals.
In the northwest of Chabahar, in the small village of Kahir, a large mud hill draws the attention of passers-by. This phenomenon, which exists only in four countries in the world including Iran, is the result of the eruption of gas and gray and cold mud from inside the hill. Around this gigantic hill, no vegetation can survive. This unusual hill attracts every year a large number of travelers who travel a long way only to see closely the natural phenomena generated by and on the hill.
Named Gandou by locals, the crocodile with short snout is perhaps the most famous animal species of Sistan and Balouchistan. It lives in Sarbaz River near a city of the same name and is one of the world's rarest crocodiles. Its habitat can be transformed (with the usual ecological precautions) in eco-tourist destination of importance for the amateurs, as for the specialists.
The mangrove of Hara is another peculiarity of this province. These underwater trees and shrubs extend from the shores of the Arabian Sea to the Persian Gulf and are the last underwater forests of southwestern Asia. Their feet are rooted in the sea, these shrubs are subject to tides. When the water rises, they disappear completely, and when it comes down, they reappear to the roots. In spite of a little varied flora, these forests offer a certain diversity of their fauna largely due to their geographical situation: they are the fruit of the cohabitation of the salty water and the ground. These underwater forests are the most important resources of ecotourism in Iran.
The cave Ladiz is another natural attraction of Sistan and Balouchistan. It is located a hundred kilometers from the city of Zahedan and has a good quality of water, to the point of having once served as qanat (natural source). Even today, it replaces drinking water and serves to irrigate fields and farms. In addition to the natural beauty of the cave, the rich tamarisk landscape accentuates the tourist appeal of the place.
In the case of wildlife, the presence of the black bear, which is a mammal specific to the south-eastern regions of Iran, including the provinces of Sistan and Baluchistan, Kerman and Hormozgan. He often lives in mountainous and forest areas. It is rather omnivorous and normally feeds on insects, honey, invertebrates, small vertebrates and fruits. According to the classification established by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) this species is in danger of extinction because of its very slow pace of procreation. This species is currently preserved in the Pouzak Forest Reserve in Nikshahr Province.
The plains of Rossignols, Samsour, Rebat and Abkhan Khasht are the home of a rare and precious bird, the Houbara bustard of Africa, that number is decreasing day by day. This bird lives in sandy and bushy areas and in deserts. It nest on the ground and does not live in one place permanently.
The Sistan and Balouchistan have many other natural wonders. These include the striped chipmunk, the Ban Massiti caves, andjir-e ma'abed (which means "the fig of the temples"), the Bahoukalat river, the Beris wharf - a gateway to the ocean - the Gulf of Gavater and its lighthouse located in the extreme south-east of Iran, the Kenarak wharf, Mount Taftan or Mount Chebeltan (Mount of forty), the salt hill, the hot spring of Bazman, the source of Moussa mineral water, Chah-e Nimeh, the village of Tamine and the Daman river. The list is obviously not exhaustive.