Hai-Bar Carmel Nature Reserve is located among the lush forests of “Little Switzerland” on Mount Carmel that surrounds Haifa. The nature reserve covers 1,500 acres (607 hectares) within the larger Mount Carmel National Park. The reserve is devoted to nurturing endangered species of the region, and where possible, reintroducing them to their natural habitat.
The team at Hai-Bar raises breeding cells of species that have become extinct, to reintroduce them into the wild. The Carmel is classified as a biosphere, home to man, animals, agriculture, and nature. A visit to Hai-Bar Carmel lasts about 1.5-2 hours. You can follow the paths through the park and spot wildlife from several observation points.
History of Hai-Bar Nature Reserve
About 150 years ago Mount Carmel was home to deer, panthers, fox, vultures, falcons, owls, and many other species. During the Ottoman period, railway lines were laid, destroying forests and woodlands. With the infiltration of man into the natural environment, animals were hunted, their habitats destroyed by deforestation, and animals were even poisoned to prevent them from disrupting farming, or poisoned by accident.
After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, efforts were made to preserve the natural woodlands, and protect them. To a large extent, the efforts paid off, and many areas were replanted or naturally rejuvenated. Unfortunately, during the 70s, 80s, and 90s there were several large forest fires. In 1989, and 2010 extensive fires raged across the Carmel destroying vast tracts of forest.
Establishment of the Hai-Bar Nature Reserve
Hai-Bar was the brainchild of Avraham Yoffe (1913-1983), an Israeli army general, member of the Israeli parliament, and director of the Nature Reserves Authority. He dreamed of replenishing the land with its original wildlife. And so, in the 1960s Avraham Yoffe and Uri Tzon established two Hai-Bar locations – Hai-Bar Yotvata, in the desert of southern Israel, and Hai-Bar Carmel near Haifa.
The task of breeding endangered animals and animals that no longer exist in Israel began by searching nearby countries for animals that once lived in Israel. Animals were brought from neighboring countries, including four fallow deer that were brought from Iran in the 70s. The deer were flown out of Iran during the Islamic revolution, in a secret rescue operation in collaboration with the Shah of Iran. Today Hai-Bar Carmel is home to the world’s largest herd of fallow deer. In 1996 the first herd of 400 deer was released back into the wild.
Points of Interest in Hai-Bar Nature Reserve
Observation Balconies: There is an observation balcony facing towards the Carmel coast and mountain range. From here you can see up and down Israel’s Mediterranean coast. A second observation balcony is close to the vulture enclosure and offers views of Galim Stream, woodlands, and the reserve.
Flora: The nature reserve has thick Mediterranean woodlands consisting of Jerusalem pine trees, oak trees, and other woodland trees. In winter and spring, you can see many beautiful wildflowers, including the rare black lily.
Animals in Hai-Bar Carmel Nature Reserve
Persian Fallow and Roe Deer: Persian fallow deer and roe deer are part of a program to re-introduce the animals into the wild. The natural habitat of Persian fallow deer is the Galilee, and the Judean Mountains, while roe deer are at home in the Carmel Mountains. It is usually difficult to spot these beautiful creatures in the wild, but at Hai-Bar you can get a close-up view as the deer wander freely.
Griffon Vultures: The population of griffon vultures in Israel has declined over the last few years, and they are considered endangered. The birds are bred in the nature reserve, and reintroduced into the wild as part of a special national project called “Taking Israeli Raptors Under Our Wing”. While at Bar-Hai you might spot other raptors including the white-tailed eagle (the largest raptor in Europe and Israel), and Bonelli’s eagle.
Mountain Gazelles: These elegant creatures are an endangered species. They are bred at the nature reserve and some of them are released back into the wild. The mountain gazelle can be found from the Golan Heights to the central Negev in the south.
Grazing Animals: Bar-Hai is home to wild goats, wild sheep, and other herbivores that live in fenced enclosures.
Fire Salamanders: Among the animals that had disappeared from Israel were the Salamanders. Today Bar-Hai has a pond for breeding and recovery of the Salamanders population. Here you can see the creatures coming and going from the water.
Getting to Bar-Hai Nature Reserve
The nature reserve is open Sunday to Thursday 8 am - 5 pm and until 4 pm in winter. On Fridays and holidays, Bar-Hai opens until 4 pm - 3 pm. However, Bar-Hai is only open all day in August. The rest of the year the reserve is open only on Saturdays and holidays. Midweek visits can be booked for groups.
From Tel Aviv, drive north along the coastal road towards Haifa. Turn inland at Atlit Interchange onto route 721, then north on Highway 4, and return to 721 traveling east. At Damon Interchange take left traveling north on route 672 (Haifa-Ussefiya Road), and turn off about 300 meters south of the entrance to Haifa University, opposite the Grove of the 40. If you’re using Waze, enter “Hai-Bar Carmel Nature Reserve”.