Kibbutz Lotan: Community and values
Kibbutz Lotan nestles amidst the beauty of the sun drenched Arava Valley in southern Israel, home to stunning desert birds such as the Little Green Bee-eater and Hooded Wheatear. Here the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa converge, forming a natural land bridge that sees literally hundreds of millions of migrants each year. In the heart of it all, the tiny community of Kibbutz Lotan has become recognized not only as an ‘oasis’ like migrant hotspot, but also an ideal facility committed to the enjoyment of desert birding, offering a diverse range of services.
Formed in 1983 by settlement groups of Israelis, Britons and Americans, Lotan is one of the youngest Kibbutzim in Israel. Its population is small, made up mainly of young families and members of volunteer groups. Almost all share an interest in nature, and enjoy dwelling in the beauty of their desert home. About 180 people live on Lotan year-round.
Kibbutz Lotan derive its income from various agricultural branches such as the dairy barn, goat herd, field crops and date plantation. There is of course an increasingly successful tourism branch, and holistic health centre. In addition, we offer a variety of courses in Permaculture design, and offer a Green Apprenticeship course.
The support for birding tours on Lotan stems from their strong links with nature, along with a strengthening ecological direction that has brought the Kibbutz a good deal of positive publicity. The eco-projects go hand in hand with our birding, and both have been important in the successful development of our very own bird reserve.
Lotan is an ideal place to watch birds. Just outside the rooms the birds can be seen readily. You don’t have to come down from your room, go to the lobby, drive out of a city and then start looking. Because we are a green spot in the middle of the desert, the birds are attracted to us. In order to facilitate birding, and in order to give the birds some kind of sanctuary, we have built a bird reserve south of the Kibbutz. Our bird reserve now has four observation hides with drinking pools, and attracts some very exciting migrants. In addition, we have a Constructed Wetland that attracts a lot of birds, and is increasingly becoming a focal point. Importantly, our birding tours cover the south of Israel, with excursions to the Western Negev, but concentrating on the 100 kilometers north of Eilat.
Our local area
The geology of the Eilot region is unique consisting of a jumble of metamorphic, igneous and sedimentary rock formations. Here the Arava Valley lies on a fault line, sandwiched between African and Eurasian continents, and is part of the great Syrian – African rift valley, composed of a series of giant cracks in the earth’s crust. The area is extremely arid consisting of fragile desert eco-systems adapted to extreme temperatures and low humidity. The average annual rainfall is very low, often less than 15 mm. In winter and early spring, temperatures are pleasant, rarely topping 25 deg. C. From late March, it can be hot, sometimes over 35 deg. C at midday, and by May until mid-September, it is usually very hot. It does become cooler from mid-October and November is usually a very pleasant month.
Close to Lotan, we have several large Acacia waddies providing food, shelter and all-important shade for many desert species. The plants of the region belong to two main groups of desert species typical of the Saharan-Arabian Desert and tropical African species associated with moisture along the rift valley. Here some of the classic desert mammals such as Dorcas Gazelle and Nubian Ibex can be seen, but a little more luck is required to find Wolf or Striped Hyena, though both of the latter are not uncommon, but mostly nocturnal.
One can enjoy close up views of these and other mammals that used to inhabit our region at theHai-Bar Biblical Nature reserve, just a ten-minute drive from Lotan. Further south, a magnificent geological national park at Timna gives a fascinating insight into life in the Arava thousands years ago, including the oldest known copper mines in the world. There are also several ancient Chalcolithic sites in our region, demonstrating agriculture in the desert that existed up to 6000 years ago. We have a fully qualified tour guide on site with in depth knowledge in all these fields for those wanting to find out more about this fascinating region.
Finally, a snorkelling break in the Red Sea is a treat not to be missed, provided you have time at the end of your trip. We would recommend the Almogim Nature reserve, where the coral reefs are preserved. Here you may hire snorkelling equipment to enjoy the breathtaking array of marine life, and just relax on the beach. The Underwater Museum and Aquarium are located near the nature reserve.
You can go and do these things by yourself, but get a whole lot more out of it with a tour guide. We offer guided tours in our off-road air-conditioned 7-seater vehicle in English, French, German and Dutch. These tours cover the flora and fauna of the desert, human settlement through the centuries, ancient and modern agricultural practices, alternative energy in the desert, or any other tour that you would like to do. These are offered by a licensed tour guide, licensed by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.