Last-minute Israel

Hi all

I’m thinking about making a trip to Israel in two or three weeks time and was hoping for a bit of advice from any locals or anyone who has been recently.

I’m trying to not to spend too much (without this compromising chances of mammals of course), and thus weighing up costs of travelling by public transport and hiring a 4WD/driver at a couple of sites VS hiring my own vehicle for the duration and going out at night on my own. Any thoughts? Also, are many sites in the north accessible by public transport? I’m currently considering Kibbutz Lotan/Eilat, Ein Gedi and Jerusalem, plus whatever else is feasible.

Obviously I’ve picked up some great ideas from the site, but at present I’m not sure how much of the country I’ll be attempting to cover so any info would be much appreciated…

thanks in advance

cheers

Mike

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25 Comments on “Last-minute Israel”

  1. tomeslice Says:

    Hi Mike,

    I would suggest you rent a small car as opposed to getting around with public transportation. Public transportation will slow you down drastically, and there is no sufficient public transportation from Friday afternoon till Saturday evening because of the Jewish Sabbath (Shabat). Also, there is no good public transportation at night (if you want to spotlight or explore some nature at night and then return to civilization to sleep), especially in remote places, and especially in the North.

    And if you do decide to take my advice and hire a car, make sure to do it with a reputable company, check the car for dents and scratches before leaving the lot, and take all the standard precautions because in general (not only in Israel) car-rental agencies are a-holes.

    Are you after any species in particular? If you give me some specifics I can point you to the right places. Or are you just looking to see some scenic places and also hopefully catch some mammals?
    Either way, Eilat and Ein Gedi are very pretty, and Jerusalem is picturesque as well.

    I just talked to a guy from the Jerusalem Bird Observatory who said that the crested porcupines are still relevant, so I’m going to check it out over the next few weeks. I also think there are still mountain gazelles in the “valley of the gazelles” but I’m not 100% sure.

    In the Arava, somewhere between Ein Gedi and Kibutz Lotan you will likely come across some ibex.. Ein Gedi is also home to the Blanford’s fox which are considered pretty rare. This is a very good time to visit Ein Gedi because just after all the winter rains the streams and small waterfalls will probably be running… though I’m not sure what it’s going to be like in 2-3 weeks.

    I have a LOT of information about Israel since I live here and like to explore the country and mammal watch when I can, but it all depends on your interests, the time frame, etc.

    If you let me know how long you have here and what you would like to see (mammals, birds, landscape, culture, city life…) I can suggest a few preliminary logical itineraries.

    Keep in mind that if you do decide to use public transportation, you can pre-plan your trip with google maps, which knows well the local transportation and supposed departure/arrival times (of course buses are prone to traffic delay and an android/IOS application called Moovit will give you ‘live updates’)

    • mikehoit Says:

      Hi Tomer

      Great info re. transportation, thanks. I wasn’t sure if going out at night would be an issue without hiring a local – I know in many areas the authorities get a bit twitchy (to say the least) about strange men wandering about with strong torches.
      I’m generally only going to be looking for wildlife – I’ve got a couple of birds which I need to catch up & have pencilled those sites in. In terms of mammal targets, I’ve only really thought about the species mentioned in the reports and tried to work out where is worth going in a week to 10 days. It’s not a well thought out trip yet as I was just searching fr cheap flights for somewhere to go and Tel Aviv popped up! Species such as Jungle Cat & Jackal I’ve seen on previous trips so I guess I’d be after:
      – The two (or three) gazelles
      – Egyptian Mongoose
      – Blanford’s Fox
      – any hedgehogs
      – Porcupine
      – any rodents or bats I can rustle up
      – Striped Hyena, although I’ve a got a several chances at this in NW India later in the year.

      thanks again for all your helpful commenst
      cheers
      Mike

  2. SLahaye Says:

    I haven’t been to Israel, but maybe this helps to get some inspiration:
    http://israel.observation.org/waarnemingen_all_wg3.php?groep=2
    If you click on the blue “i” and play a bit with the map, you get a pretty good idea of where the species were seen.

    Good luck with your trip!

    • mikehoit Says:

      That’s really useful, thanks – I’d used that site for birds but it hadnt occurred to me to do the same with mammals!

  3. tomeslice Says:

    Mike,

    Here is a copy&paste from an email with my buddy Jason, about some local mammals and where they can be found: (He named the mammals he was after and I threw in my knowledge about each species)

    Caracal – I’m still searching.. Perhaps Shizef reserve (שמורת שיזף) is a good place. Me and Max are going there in March, and also to the Hai Bar (I will elaborate on the latter below). Also around the Ramon Crater (Makhtesh Ramon) there is a healthy population. **I just received a tip from a buddy of mine that caracals are now easier to spot in the Golan Heights. But my buddy said he’d get back to me about it, and hasn’t followed up with me yet. Since then there was also some turmoil in that area so it wasn’t a good place to go. I will follow up with him in March.

    Sand Cat – apparently extinct in Israel since the 70’s (but maybe they still exist in the Arava since nobody goes looking for them, and only records are from chance encounters, probably all during daylight)

    Jungle Cat – almost guaranteed in the Hula Lake (Agamon hahula) during the organized night drive. I saw one there easily

    Ruppel’s Fox – not sure about specific sites yet, but perhaps Shizef and around the Hai Bar are good places to look

    Blanford’s Fox – Apparently in the Arava desert, and particularly around the dead Sea. Ein Gedi reserve should be a good place to look, I think

    Fennec Fox – doesn’t exist in Israel, unfortunately.

    Striped Hyena – Also considered rare like the caracal, but Shizef, the Hai Bar and Makhtesh Ramon should be good places to look..

    Egyptian Mongoose – common everywhere in the “North” with just some luck. I see them once every few weeks on campus at my University. Also seen them during the day in Atlit, just in the public park.

    Marbled Polecat – still looking for tips on this species.. Currently I know nothing but really want to.

    Least Weasel – debatable whether they actually occur in Israel, and if so then probably around Mount Hermon, in higher altitudes

    Eurasian Otter – supposedly also in Agamon Ha-Hula but with luck and early in the morning. Also in the adjacent Hula Nature reserve with same stipulations

    Nubian Ibex – easy in Mitzpe Ramon before descending to the crater (Crater = Makhtesh), also seen around the dead Sea, Ein Ovdat and other desert locations

    Asiatic Wild Ass or Onager – reintroduced. I’m going with Max in March to a place that was recommended for this species – Borot lotz, near Har Ha-negev (Negev mountain) which is supposed to be fairly reliable. Also found in the Ramon crater but less reliable.

    Arabian Oryx – reintroduced, but I’m in touch with the Hai Bar via emails to see whether there are ones roaming the desert freely outside the enclosed area.

    Persian Fallow Deer – I was just looking at some info on those last week, but I have to do some more research as to where we can see them.

    Dorcas Gazelle – in the Arava and Negev deserts, I think the best places are Nahal Tzin (Tzin stream) in the “great streams reserve”, but probably also in Shizef, Makhtesh Ramon and other desert locations

    Mountain Gazelle – Valley of the gazelles in Jerusalem, not far from the bird Observatory

    Indian Crested Porcupine – as far as I know, still in the bird Observatory.

    Southern- White-breasted Hedgehog
    Desert Hedgehog
    Large-eared Hedgehog
    – Im really not sure about the different Hedgehog species. There are some you can see in the middle of tel aviv in grassy parks and playgrounds at night. But I never got into the different species. I recall one of them was also common at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, according to Jon.

    wolf – not uncommon in the Negev, where I was looking for caracals (around Sde Boker). Also in the Golan Heights, and probably in the same areas as the Onager,etc.

    stone marten – best around Mount Hermon and in the Banias reserve at its base. Also probably in the Golan Heights and Dan Stream reserve.

    golden jackal – ubiquitous in Israel besides big cities. I’ve seen them from my balcony in Haifa, in the Negev, in the north, when I was camping with my friends near Har Tavor, etc.

    red Fox – Also ubiquitous. I have seen them at the edge of cities and in the wild – all at night. Also in this small mini-reserve near Haifa University.

    gerbils, jirds, Jerboas etc. – not sure, but I think in the desert and also in the sand dunes outside Holon and Rishon.

    Leopard – Extremely rare and you won’t find it.. Better in India and Africa. But apparently there are some in the Negev desert, didn’t bother researching where though.

    Honey Badger – the RAREST mammal in Israel, so again, you won’t find it. But there should be some in the Shizef reserve or around the Hai Bar (Southern Arava desert).

    European badger – Not exactly sure where to find them.

    If you have a week I’d spend most of it circling the southern part of the country. You’re obviously starting in Tel Aviv, so then you’re driving to Jerusalem, spending 1 night there and going to the bird observatory and valley of the gazelles. From there you take Rte. 1 to the dead sea and then take 90 South towards Ein Gedi. There are PLENTY of awesome places to hike and search for wildlife in this part of Israel so you will probably spend 1 night in this area? Maybe around Ein Gedi or a little further South. While continuing south on 90, you will pass near Hatzeva (or Hatzeba) which is where Shizef reserve is. It also has a campsite, and is probably one of the wildest and best reserves in Israel, wildlife-wise. It’s also the best place for caracals I think, since I haven’t heard back about them in the Golan heights yet.
    Further South is Yotveta, where the Hai Bar is. They have reintroduced oryx and onagers but I’m still not sure if they are all in an enclosed area and being fed, or if there are some oryx also roaming the desert. But the area is also a good place for desert predators (hyena, caracal, wolf, jackal), of course better at night. From there, Eilat is really close.
    Perhaps on your way back up to Tel Aviv, take Rte. 40 instead of 90, so you get to see the Negev side (which crosses right through the middle of the country, south-north-wise) and visit Makhtesh Ramon, and if you want, also the Great Stream reserve on the way. Note that this reserve is an also a “heavy army activity zone” so visiting during the week (not on Friday or Saturday) should be arranged with the army. I’m not sure how easy or difficult it is to arrange that. Makhtesh Ramon is great for wildlife, especially at night. I went “spotlighting” (with a maglight not a real spotlight) between the main road and the Be’erot campsite, which is open area and is where I think I saw a hyena but didn’t get a chance to get a good look because of some annoying lost campers, who I helped.
    Spending the night at Mitzpe Ramon is probably a good idea too. In the town of Mitzpe Ramon, not only do you have one of the most amazing views in Israel IMO, but also are almost guaranteed to see the ibex. A bit north of Ramon on 40, If you veer about an hour to the West, on road 171, you will reach the Negev Mountain(s) reserve, and be’erot lotz which is where you are likely to see the onagers, but I haven’t visited it yet (March 14 I will). Some parts of the road may be closed because this is close to the border with egypt and there was some terrorist activity there in like 2010, but further south, on Rte 10 (don’t take that one, I think it’s closed anyway). 20 minutes north from Ramon, on HWY 40, Sde Boker is where Haim Berger runs the 4X4 spotlighting safaris. Maybe if you tell him I sent you (I won’t get any money from it, lol) he will know you are determined to find mammals, and try harder.
    Ein Ovdat is another reserve on the way a little further north from Mitzpe Ramon, on your way back towards Tel Aviv. It’s a great area and where leopards used to be easy to find in the 70’s… :-/
    Now it’s still a great place for ibex and probably other wildlife, but I think the reserve closes at 6pm or something like that.
    From there north to Tel Aviv there is not much that’s interesting, wildlife-wise.

    So that’s the “Southern Circuit” which will probably take you 5-6 days if you’re relaxed and not rushing through.

    I haven’t really worked out a “Northern Circuit” yet, but you would take Rte. 2 (כביש החוף) North from Tel Aviv, stop by Atlit for half an hour to see the Greater Flamingo if you’re interested, they’re still here, and I also saw the Egyptian Mongoose when I stopped by there last time (but email me so I can tell you EXACTLY how to get to the flamingos because it’s kind of confusing), continue through Haifa and cut right (East) via rte. 85 (or with your GPS) till you reach rte. 90 (same highway that goes through the Arava in the south). Take that North which passes though the Hula Valley where the Hula Lake (Agamon) and Hula Reserve are adjacent to each other. They’re really nice and EXTREMELY different than the scenery you see in the desert… If you are not interested, continue North till you reach almost the northernmost tip of Israel, and then turn right on rte. 99 toward the Banias reserve, the Dan Stream reserve, Hermon Reserve and Hermonit Mountain reserve are all along rte. 99 and then 98 south. I’m not very familiar with reserves and parks in the Golan Heights (Down rte. 98) but Gamla is good for several species of birds like egyptian vulture and eaurasian griffon among others, and is also probably good for rock hyraxes, foxes, wild boars and other stuff.. Caracals, martens, wolves, mongoose and maybe polecats all occur in the area. This is the end of your “circuit”. Sorry, it doesn’t go all the way around. lol. From here you will most likely circle the Kinneret (sea of Galilee) through Tiberias and take 77 back towards Haifa, at one point cutting south via 70 towards toll road 6 (only like 5Euros) which will take you back towards Tel Aviv. There are MANY reserve which I have not yet explored in the North. But the ones that are too close to the road are probably teeming with visitors especially on the weekends so I don’t know if I recommend them. But this should take you 3-4 days if you’re starting from Haifa, or another half-a-day to a day if you’re starting in Tel Aviv.

    You’re Welcome 😉

  4. tomeslice Says:

    Oh, and as far as “spotlighting”, yes it’s illegal in most places because it’s associated with hunting which is illegal. But if you walk around with a flashlight (even a strong one) especially around campsites and stuff, it should be no problem. I haven’t yet tried doing so much of that besides in a small mini-reserve next to the university of Haifa, where I never got in trouble. You obviously can’t go into big reserves after they’re closed, but in the Golan Heights there are companies which will take you on a night safari.

  5. heavenlyjane Says:

    We did a whirlwind 3-week trip there about 5 years ago.

    We loved the Arava Desert but didn’t care for Kibbutz Lotan. The people who live there were disdainful of their guests. We went there because we heard that it was “the place” to see hedgehogs. We didn’t see any during our 3-night visit and no one was interested in assisting us. We did see a lovely scorpion outside our door. There are other Kibbutzim in the area that offer lodging. I suggest checking those out. If you go into the Negev or Arava deserts, you really need a car.

    We particularly loved the Yotvata Hai Bar Nature Reserve (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yotvata_Hai-Bar_Nature_Reserve). Animals are not wild but most are free ranging. It’s a great survey of the mammals of Israel and includes ungulates, carnivores and rodents. It’s a government project to reintroduce animals that used to live in Israel but are now locally extinct. They’ve had many success and if you contact them, they will tell you where to find reintroduced animals, such as oryxes, ostriches and onagers.

    I believe many of these species were released at Maktesh Ramon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makhtesh_Ramon), another amazing place that you can spend days exploring (similar to Death Valley, but with higher elevation).

    Another hot spot is Ein Gedi Reserve along the Dead Sea(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ein_Gedi). The ibexes wonder around in complete disregard of humans; it’s almost too easy! I believe there are rock hyraxes there as well.

    In the north of the country, we also hit pay dirt at the Hula Valley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hula_Valley). We spent the day at the nature reserve there: Agamon HaHula. It is rather overrun with nutria, which is bizarre. I saw an Egyptian mongoose running through the thickets and it’s the place-to-go to see jungle cats (at night). We tried to hire a wildlife guide but he was outside our price range. But next time we will budget for it. We missed a lot because we were there in the day and couldn’t return for nightfall.

    In Jerusalem, supposedly you can see African porcupine at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory at dusk. We didn’t do it because when in the city, we opt out of having a car and the JBO is a bit out of the way.

    Birdwise we were sorry to miss the Griffon Vultures that have a colony at Gamla Reserve in the north.

    There’s a city park in Tel Aviv where huge fruit bats hang out. They swoop around at night and it’s a great spectacle. It might have been Meir Garden but any local can probably tell you. I heard that the lower levels of the old bus station have been abandoned by humans and are now a giant roost for these bats; there are people who can guide you into the building. We didn’t have time for things that we hadn’t known about ahead of time.

    Israel is a relative paradise for wildlife watching because hunting is almost non-existent. You will see gazelle and ibexes grazing along the roads in the desert, rock hyraxes jumping around many of the rock piles in the north (our best spot for them was Nimrod’s Fortress National Park but really they are everywhere).

    Sorry to be vague in many places but I am sure you can see, it’s a faunally rich for being such a small place. Hope this helps.

  6. mikehoit Says:

    That’s great, thanks. Shame to hear that about Lotan, as it sounds like it’s better than most for wildlife – although I guess other sites are less visited. Perhaps it’s worth investigating alternatives.
    I would assume the bats are Egyptian Fruit Bat/Rousette, I’ll certainly try and take those in.

    • heavenlyjane Says:

      Yes, they are Egyptian Fruit Bat. Here’s an article from 2012 that mentions roosting sites.
      ——-
      SOURCE: http://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/latest-wrinkle-in-israeli-tourism-bat-spotting.premium-1.432295?trailingPath=2.169%2C2.1246%2C2.207%2C
      ———

      Latest wrinkle in Israeli tourism: Bat-spotting

      Cool caves in hot summer are the perfect venue to admire the charms of these unique flying mammals

      By Moshe Gilad | May 24, 2012 | 7:48 AM

      I can hear the flap of small wings a few inches above my head. I think I see some bats, but I’m not sure. No doubt I heard them earlier. Hundreds of them, making noises in a pitch black cave.

      The Twins Cave, not far from Beit Shemesh, is home to many bats – but they are not easily seen in the darkness. You can hear their voices, the flutter of wings in the air, and it leaves no doubt that this is the home of hundreds of the creatures, equipped by nature to be heard and not seen.

      Bats have a bad reputation. They are commonly thought of as causing damage, and as scary animals from which you should to keep a distance. But a brief discussion, held under the shade of the trees at Ein Hemed National Park, with Dr. Noam Lidar, chief ecologist of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, puts this haunting view of bats in perspective, and his words stimulate my desire to actually see these creatures.

      He argues that bats contribute more positively to their surroundings than most other animals, and that we display a lack of gratitude toward them – in fact, humans have put bats on the brink of extinction. There are 33 types of bats in Israel, Lidar says, and they constitute a third of all small mammals to be found in the country today. Almost all types of bats face the danger of extinction. Megabats, which eat fruit and are also known as fruit bats, are responsible for the creatures’ bad reputation.

      The other 32 types feed on insects, and we have a strong interest in protecting them. A bat that weighs five grams can eat a thousand mosquitoes in a single night of culinary delight. Ridding ourselves of mosquitoes by this natural process is better than using expensive, damaging insecticide sprays.

      The reason that bats face extinction stems from a mistaken approach deployed in the 1960s, when efforts were made to exterminate the bat population by using sprays, and smoking them out of caves, Lidar explains. The fact that bats are mammals just as we are is thought provoking. Lidar enthusiastically supplies a list of other intriguing bat facts: They are the only flying mammals in the world (there is a kind of squirrel that knows how to glide in the air, but not to actually fly ); most bats are the size of a matchbox; they have a stunning ability to navigate by using sonar, overcoming their poor vision (Lidar insists that bats are not blind ); and, Lidar claims, bats have soft fur that is pleasant to stroke.

      Roosting on trees

      A group of religious Jewish girls and a class of Arab-speaking youngsters are paddling in water and rambling about on the grass. The proximity of the Ein Hemed National Park to Route 1 – one of Israel’s noisiest thoroughfares – is remarkable.

      One minute after pulling off this busy road you can sit in the shade of a huge maple tree. There used to be much more water at this site. There is water in Ein Hemed’s main pool – the pool that gives the park the Latin name by which it is also known, Aqua Bella, but it is no longer natural spring water.

      Three years ago, the last well at the site dried up. Since then, workers from the Nature and Parks Authority have been bringing water to the site’s pools via artificial means. Yoav Greenberg, the park’s director, explains that staff operate a pump that brings water from a reservoir of rainwater, as well as water from springs in the outlying area.

      It’s worth taking a stroll through this small park, to reach its lowest point. The maple trees that grow here, on the ridge of the stream, are quite large. They provide shade and also draw the eye to the large Crusader structure that has been standing here since the 13th century.

      Unlike other sites in Israel, this is not a Crusader fortress. Ein Hemed is a low site, built up around the Kislon Stream – not the sort of place in which the Crusaders found cause to build a fortress. The two-story structure served to protect a farm area. A decorated gate leads to a central courtyard, alongside which stand two large halls that remain cool even on hot summer days. Ein Hemed is home to quite a few bats. In the past, bat roosts could even be seen on trees at the site. Lidar concurs that anyone who wants to see Israel’s largest concentrations of bats needs to go to caves, but as an ecologist he is loathe to recommend excursions to bat colonies (these cave colonies are closed off during winter months, when the bats hibernate, and were opened just a few weeks ago ).

      The park is reached by leaving Route 1 (the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road ) at the Hemed junction, between the Shoresh and Mevaseret Zion junctions. After a few dozens meters, turn south. The park is 10 minutes from Jerusalem. On a day when traffic actually flows, you can reach it after a 30-minute drive from Tel Aviv.

      Descending into the cave

      At the entry to the Twins Cave I am reminded of Lidar’s remark that Israel is heaven for people who like bats. The noisy din caused by these flying mammals destroys the reputation bats have as being retiring animals that hide themselves away. They have a lot to say and, somewhat surprisingly, they manage to overcome the cries and squeals made by children who are descending into the cave ahead of me.

      The cave’s name derives from a legend about an infertile woman who descended into it and drank water from a well at its bottom, and nine months later gave birth to twins. There are also tales about ghosts and spirits in the cave. Descending inside you can see a few stalagmites and stalactites, and when your eyes adjust to the darkness you can identify the bats. They hang from the ceiling and from ledges in the cave walls. Most are tiny and pleasing in appearance.

      They seem a little dazed by the visitors who have dropped by without giving any advance notice. The Twins Cave is located two kilometers east of Moshav Zanoah. Travel on Route 38. At the north entrance to Beit Shemesh, turn in the direction of the town’s industrial zone and continue for a mile along Yigal Allon Boulevard. Turn right, and continue two miles until you see a brown sign pointing to the left. A dirt road continues a quarter mile, and reaches a parking lot. From the lot, you’ll see a route marked in red. The half-mile walk takes about 15 minutes.

      A green sign points to the cave and you have to climb a few stairs to reach it. The cave is closed to visitors between November and April. Bring a small flashlight – the cave is pitch black. Where else to go Lidar explains that the Nature and Parks Authority has collaborated with the Defense Ministry to classify a number of deserted Israel Defense Forces bases in the Jordan Valley as bat sanctuaries.

      Tel Aviv University researchers discovered that the bases have hosted large bat populations in recent years, with no less than 12 kinds of bats dwelling in them. Until these former IDF bases become properly converted bat ranches, you can find bat populations at a number of caves around the country.

      The Twins Cave hosts one of the largest bat colonies in Israel, but bats can be found at a number of other caves. The Alma Cave, in the Galilee, is one of the deepest in the country, and hosts thousands of bats. The cave is hard to reach, and a visit is recommended primarily for adventurers who enjoy trekking to remote and inaccessible sites. Travel on Route 85 (the Acre-Safed road ) up to the Hananya junction. Turn onto Route 866 and continue toward Safed and Kiryat Shmona.

      When you reach the Rihaniya village, turn right (the village is to your left ), and follow the red markers for a mile. To reach the cave, walk about three quarters of a mile. The Sarakh Cave is a small cave in the western Galilee. The tour along the Sarakh River lasts about four hours, and the visit to the cave lasts half an hour. Travel north on Route 70 and turn left and then right at the Ahihud junction. Around Shlomi, the road becomes Route 899. After you pass Moshav Goren, turn left and follow the Sarakh River before reaching a parking area.

      The Berenice Cave, in the Berenice Cliffs reserve, is located southwest of the old cemetery in the city of Tiberias. There are 80 rooms carved into the rock of the cave, which stretches for 500 meters. The Oranit Cave, on the Carmel, is an accessible, pleasant cave. Travel on Route 4 (the old Haifa-Tel Aviv road ) to the southern entrance of Tirat Carmel. Continue half a mile up to the third traffic circle, and turn right and then left. After the police station, stop at a designated parking area.

  7. tomeslice Says:

    FYI about bats in Tel Aviv: They’re EVERYWHERE. Literally, in every park, on the trees in every street, flying above you at all times…. It’s like an alfred hitchcock movie!
    (I’m not really into bats…)

    • heavenlyjane Says:

      For most of the 20th century, Israel tried to poison the fruit bat to reduce the population. The agricultural sector got into big trouble when the fruit trees stopped producing fruit. Now they are tolerated, if not encouraged and have rebound nicely.

  8. vdinets Says:

    I lived in Israel for 7 months in 1993-4, working in Judean Desert, Hai Bar and Eilat. My info is badly outdated, but might still be useful:

    Hai Bar area has Desert Hedgehog, Caracal, Dorcas Gazelle, both jerboas (although they are easier in sandy patches between Hai Bar and Eilat), Wagner’s Gerbil, Fat Sand Rat (also in sandy patches), Arabian Spiny Mouse, and Cape Hare. The area where Arava ssp. of Common Gazelle lives is now fenced off, but you can try to use a good birding scope and look for them from the top of the cliff above Arava.

    Timna Park used to have Pygmy Gerbils near the reservoir.

    Abandoned buildings around Eilat have Egyptian Slit-faced Bats and Desert Pipistrelles. Wadi Netafim outside the city is a good place to look for Striped Hyena, Wolf, Rueppell’s Fox, Sundevall’s Jird, Bushy-tailed Jird, and Golden Spiny Mouse. If you hike all the way to the top of the canyon, you can also get Blanford’s Fox, but it’s much more difficult than Rueppel’s. The reeds around the bird observatory on the border with Jordan have Egyptian Mongooses, but they aren’t very common.

    Mahtesh Ramon has lots of interesting rodents, including Lesser Egyptian Gerbil.

    Ein Gedi is the best place for Ibex and Hyrax; there are also Geoffroy’s horseshoe bats in deep rock niches. I saw a Leopard there, but reportedly it’s much more difficult now. Tristram’s Jird occurs along the highway from there to Sdom.

    Sand dunes near Ashkelon are a good place to look for Allenby’s Gerbil and Buxton’s Jird.

    Jerusalem parks have Gunther’s Voles. Carmel Mt. near Haifa has Yellow-necked Mouse.

    Mt. Hermon has Snow Vole, Broad-toothed Mouse, the local race of Steppe Mouse, Macedonian Mouse, Asian Garden Dormouse.

    I’ve found an old Badger den at Mt. Tavor, but no badgers.

    • mikehoit Says:

      Yet more good tips, thank you. Always good to have some info on rodents & bats – it’s usually thin on the ground. Thanks for the tremendous response by everyone to my very vague request, what a helpful bunch the users of this site are.

      • vdinets Says:

        I forgot to mention that there is a really good permanent spring called Ein Netafim, accessible from the road that goes from Eilat along the Sinai border. It’s the only watering hole for a few miles around. I did a few full-night watches there and got lots of ibex, a few wolves and hyenas, and one Blanford’s fox. More recently someone saw a leopard there.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ein_Netafim

      • vdinets Says:

        Oh, and one more thing: there is a small nature reserve called Einot Tsukim on the NW side of the Dead Sea where Short-tailed Bandicoot Rat is very common.

  9. tomeslice Says:

    One thing about Ein Gedi – the last leopard was seen there in 2006 and he was in a bad condition.. They are most likely extinct in that area. This is in the Judaen desert (almost northern Arava), and the leopard population in the Judaen desert is presumed extinct. Of course this can be wrong and/or change if new leopards make it to that are via natural corridors, but this is the most up-to-date knowledge about the situation in the area.

  10. Dan Rosen Says:

    Contact me, perhaps we could join forces. hagitwrosen@gmail.com

    Dan

  11. mikehoit Says:

    Just got around to returning to this thread. As it turns out I’m not going to be visiting Israel this month for a few reasons (not least because I’ve got the opportunity to go to Western Sahara instead!). But I wanted to say thanks again for all the info generously shared above; it’s inspired me to put it to use on a better-planned trip this time next year
    Cheers, Mike

  12. Joshua Says:

    This is the thread I’ve been trying to find! Wow – thanks to everyone for this ridiculously detailed information. I’m a little confused by one comment here regarding spotlighting however… Am I going to get arrested if I turn a torch on at night in some of the areas mentioned above? How else are you meant to have a good chance at Caracals, Hyenas, Jerboas, Blanford’s or Ruppell’s Fox, etc…?

    If anyone has some relevant GPS points or places where spotlighting is allowed, that would be really helpful – I’m having difficulty locating where Ein Netafirm is, etc.

    • heavenlyjane Says:

      Joshua, you’re spelling it wrong. Driving directions to Ein Netafim icon be found here: http://www.israelinsideout.com/Days-Out-in-Eilat-Dead-Sea-Negev/ein-netafim-an-israel-desert-hike-with-rami.html.

      In term of spotlighting, maybe it’s safest to hire a local guide.

      • julie Says:

        What a great thread! Can anyone recommend a good guide for mammal spotting, especially striped hyenas?
        Thank you!

      • tomeslice Says:

        You can probably start with Haim Berger of “Negev Jeep” tours:
        054-5343797, negevjeep@gmail.com

        If that phone number doesn’t lead directly to Haim, ask for him. I’m not 100% sure where the best place is to try to spot striped hyena, but supposedly not far away from the town of Mitzpe Ramon, there is an area where they’ve been seen repeatedly. Again, ask Haim.

        I have yet to see/photograph this species myself, so if you’re in the area and want to combine forces, hit me up! (tomer.ben-yehuda@hotmail.com)

        I’m also EXTREMELY interested in finding a caracal still, which I haven’t tried in a while because of schoolwork.


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