Nestled in the heart of the Arabian Gulf off the southern coast of Bahrain, the Hawar Islands have long been considered a haven for wildlife as well as an alluring destination for local and international tourists.The variety of flora and fauna is unrivalled in the Gulf, and it is this diverse natural beauty that is the subject ofHawar Islands by Dr. Mike Hill.

More than 20 years ago Mike Hill set out with a friend to study and document the wide variety of bird and marine species that inhabit the Hawar Islands and was captivated by their undiscovered natural beauty.It was this undeniably picturesque location that inspired Dr Hill to consider an illustrated coffee-table book that was eventually published in early 2005 by Miracle Publishing.

The intensity of the light and the depth of the colours compliment Dr. Mike Hill’s composition to achieve an intensely dramatic result which leads the reader on a journey of discovery.

These pictures are available to the public for the first time with thanks to the publishers who immediately recognised the importance of such an important project.Miracle Publishing has been a driving force in promoting the rich cultural heritage of Bahrain and this publication demonstrates the continuation of it’s involvement in the conservation of the region’s fragile ecosystems and the education of its people.

The book begins with a map and satellite photograph of the Hawar archipelago showing the layout of the numerous islands scattered in the emerald waters of the Gulf.This is followed by an overview of the geography of the islands with a brief outline of the geological phenomena that created the Arabian Gulf more than 2 million years ago.The shallow waters, high salinity and infrequent water circulation all contribute to the exceptional fragility of this vulnerable marine ecosystem.

Consistent with the annual passage of the seasons, the book follows the changing landscapes and life cycles of the island’s residents through spring, summer, autumn and winter.Each chapter begins with a short description of the distinguishing features of that particular time of year followed by a collection of photographs in vivid Technicolor and with outstanding eye for detail.

As the winter weather settles and desert plants and shrubs begin to flower, spring is characterised by the return of migrating birds from the south.The vivid green of a praying mantis contrasts with a scarlet dragonfly and humpback dolphins frolic in a turquoise lagoon.Summer arrives all too soon and the muted colours blend into the desert environment and we are left in awe of the inhabitant’s ability to adapt to such hostile conditions.Autumn sees the return of migrating birds on their way to exploit the bountiful southern summer before the storms of winter return.

Beautifully presented in hard-back form with colour photography throughout, the book is of interest to anyone interested in Bahrain’s wildlife, nature and the environment.Apart from showcasing the exceptional and diverse natural wilderness of the area, Dr. Hill’s motivation for pursuing this endeavour was to increase awareness of the plight of the Gulf’s fragile ecosystems and to impress upon the public the urgency of the conservation task at hand.

Businesses and the Government must work together to ensure the appropriate development of our natural resources whilst putting in place comprehensive educational and research programs.

As individuals we can all play our part in mitigating the effects of our presence by assuming personal responsibility for our actions.Visitors to the islands should take the time to inform themselves of areas of particular sensitivity and make sure that they respect the delicate balance of the environment.

Dr. Hill agrees with the catchphrase:Take only photographs and leave only footprints…