Lebanon is home to several islands of various sizes, extending from north to south. Perhaps the most popular of those is Tripoli‘s Rabbits Island.
Rabbits Island, which is another name for Palm Island, is the largest of 3 flat islands that constitute the Palm Islands Nature Reserve in northern Lebanon.
It is located 5.5 km off the shore of El-Mina in Tripoli, where it sits to the northwest of Sanani Island and southeast of Ramkine Island (also known as Fanar Island), the 2 other islands of the reserve, which encompasses a total area of 4.2 square kilometers.
The reserve’s islands shelter endangered turtles and monk seals, in addition to being a resting and nesting site for migratory birds that come from Europe.
Rabbits Island acquired this name due to the presence of a large number of rabbits on it. The island’s rabbit population was seeded in the early 20th century when Lebanon was under the French Mandate.
At the time, the French consul in Lebanon introduced rabbits to the island to practice his hobby of hunting. The animals continued to reproduce well after the French left the island and Lebanon with the end of the mandate, and the island retained its popular name.
Rabbits Island has a total area of 180,796 square meters, and its terrain is mostly flat, 6 meters being its highest point above sea level.
It has both rocky and sandy shores, the former extending from the northwest to the south, while the sandy shoreline runs along the northern and eastern edges.
Rabbits Island’s significance not only lies in its ecosystem but also in its rich history. It has remains of a church built during the Crusades, in addition to an old freshwater well that has been restored and is used today to irrigate the island’s 300+ palm trees.
The church was built when King Bohemond of Antioch decided to have his son marry the widow of the Prince of Cyprus, Hugh Zul, according to geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi.
The island is believed to have been inhabited by the Phoenicians and other ancient civilizations.
The islands of the Palm Islands Nature Reserve have been protected by law since March 1992. In 1995, the reserve was designated as a Mediterranean Specially Protected Area under the 1995 Barcelona Convention.