Until the 50s of the 20th century, the monk seal could be seen in the grottoes, but later became a rather rare visitor on the Mediterranean shores. In the grotto ceilings, live the fruit bats while in the cliff crevices the rock pigeons and swallows nest. Throughout the visitors site, the hyrax live and reproduce.
Near the water's surface one can watch the seagulls collecting the food so plentifully found on the coastal rocks and along the sea coast one can also see the sea anemone, seaweed, fish, octopuses, squids and sometimes the giant sea turtles coming to lay their eggs along these coasts.
You are invited to learn a little more about the many varied wildlife at Rosh Hanikra...
The common hyrax lives in rocky areas. The hyrax is a sociable animal living in a group in which there is a dominant male, an additional number of males and a great number of females. The zoological origin of the hyrax – amazingly enough – is from the elephant! The hyrax feeds on plants and lives and reproduces in the rock grottoes of Rosh Hanikra. It is possible to see the hyrax in the early morning hours warming itself on the rocks, with the dominant male strategically placed, supervising all the group members.
Look for the hyrax on the rocks at Rosh Hanikra, in the parking lot and at the southern exit of the train tunnels...
The Fruit Bat
Bats, which live in colonies, have a life expectancy of around 20 years. The fruit bat has normal vision and does not become entangled in human hair! When stopping in the big grotto, on a quiet and peaceful day, you can hear the squealing of bats which feed on the ripe and scentful fruit found in the area.
The bats leave the cave searching for food at dusk, returning at the first break of dawn. In nature, the female gives birth to a single offspring twice a year which she carries on her body for 2 to 3 months.
The fruit bats serve as pollinators and as important distributors for the baobab and fruit trees in Israel.
The Monk Seal
Up until the 1950s the monk seal lived in the area of Rosh Hanikra. Sadly though, those generations of monk seals did not leave surviving offspring. There is no connection between seals (in Hebrew known as "sea dogs") and common land dogs, in spite of the common family name.
The monk seal is a mammal, belonging to sea carnivores which are suited to living in the sea. It evolved from a land carnivore which adapted to life in the sea. The source of the name is from the dark skullcap on its head, reminding one of a monk's habit.
Its body length is around 2.5 meters, and the males can reach a weight of up to 400 kilograms (the females are smaller). It has a small head, big eyes and tiny ears which have no outer ear or auricle. Its coat color is black or brown on its back, and grayish on its stomach. A white patch on its stomach is a way to distinguish between the sexes.
The monk seal is a social animal living in small colonies, and is active both day and night. It feeds on fish and octopuses. To hunt their prey, they dive to a depth of up to 30 meters. Usually, they live on rocky coasts or near cliffs. They are particularly fond of dark caves, especially those caves that can be accessed only by diving. They do not live in the watery depths, but are capable of diving and spending up to 15 minutes underwater.
We are still hopeful that one day we will succeed in reestablishing this species of monk seals to the grottoes.
The Giant Sea Turtle
The breeding season of the giant sea turtle begins in summer when the males and females meet in the area of Rosh Hanikra in order to reproduce.
After a while the females arrive at the sandy nearby coast to lay their eggs.
The female digs a pit into the sand to a depth of up to half a meter, laying between 40 and 150 eggs in it, covering it well with sand and disguising the whereabouts of the nest from predators by brushing clean any traces and smoothening and sculpting the sand covering the nest with her hind legs and paddle-like arms.
About 60 days after laying the eggs, at the end of the summer, the baby turtles hatch from the eggs and within seconds find their way to the sea. The researchers think that the baby turtles find their way to the sea by the sparkle of the seawater, and it is therefore forbidden to place many lamps or torches along the coast that would confuse the tiny turtles.
The females among the baby turtles that survive into adulthood will always return to this area to lay their eggs in turn.
The nearby sandy coast is one of the only places in Israel - and for that matter in the whole Mediterranean area - where the giant sea turtles go to lay their eggs. On the Batzet Beach there is a special closed and protected place where the eggs lain by the sea turtles are guarded, lest they be damaged or destroyed by man.
The Flora at the Visitors Site and Surrounding Area
The coastal flora is special and unique because it must cope with strong solar radiation and porous, leaky soil that create dry conditions, as well as strong winds, high salinity of the ground and the salty sea spray.
Therefore, most of the plant life has fleshy and/or hairy leaves in order to conserve the water within, most of which are low-lying and spread out, as well as having a unique root system, adapted to taking advantage of each and every drop of water.
For the most part, blossoming takes place in the late afternoon and at night, and the floral colors are mostly white or yellow.
The coast boasts some floral species which grow only here, such as: the Rhus Pentaphylla, Sea Lavender, along which there also grows Beach Morning Glory, Limonium, Sea Daffodil, Evening Primrose, Red Squill and many more.