Think Dubai is all huge buildings, shopping and elaborate displays of wealth with no wildlife in sight? Think again. There are actually plenty of opportunities to observe a great deal of wildlife if you know where to look. It also provides you with a chance to escape the rest of the tourists that are only visiting the main attractions.
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
Speak to anyone and I bet the majority of tourists aren’t even aware that, just a 10 minute drive from the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa, huge numbers of wetland birds, particularly flamingos, flock to this nature reserve during the winter months. It is a spectacular sight to see; a sea of pink with high rise buildings in the background. Just off of the main road into Downtown Dubai, there are two hides where you can look out at these birds: Mangrove Hide and Ras Al Khor Flamingo viewing deck. They are both visitor friendly and have displays providing information on the sanctuary and the birds and other wildlife that inhabit it. You can view flamingos from both hides although we found that the main Flamingo viewing deck provides a slightly closer view of larger groups of these birds. A number of other wetland birds can also be found at Ras Al Khor including great white egret, purple heron, black-winged stilt and curlew as well as birds of prey circling above on the lookout for food.
Flamingos at Ras al Khor wildlife sanctuary, Dubai
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
Since the majority of the UAE consists of desert and the city of Dubai is largely built on this habitat, why not give the desert a visit. Approximately a 45 minute drive from the city, you can visit the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve to see a range of desert wildlife. You need to be with an official guide when you visit the reserve. We went with Platinum Heritage who were excellent and our guide was very knowledgeable, friendly and respectful of the environment. We chose a morning tour which comprised a wildlife safari across the desert and included a short stop at a beautiful man-made lake, created to provide additional habitat to attract birds, before being taken to the stunning and luxurious Al Maha Desert Resort for a delicious breakfast looking out over the desert. All safaris around the reserve are within a very comfortable Range Rover, well-suited for driving over the sand. The vehicles all stick to designated tracks within the protected area so as not disturb and destroy the habitats and you are not allowed to leave the vehicle except at designated spots, also reducing impacts to the environment. You will receive a headscarf at the beginning of the trip which you can keep afterwards. There are several other tour options for you to choose from including night time safaris where you have a chance to observe the unique nocturnal animals that emerge after darkness once temperatures are a bit cooler.
The highlight of the trip for me, without doubt, was the Arabian Oryx and this was the species that I had most wanted to see in the UAE. Almost hunted to extinction in the 1960s, massive conservation efforts through captive breeding and reintroduction programmes have since saved this species and there are now good numbers in the wild which are protected by law and no longer threatened with extinction. With those great big horns, these are extremely impressive animals and we encountered several herds during our safari including one group that walked straight out in front of our vehicle. In addition, we also spotted multiple sand and mountain gazelles and a number of birds can be seen around the lake and Al Maha Desert Resort where there is more vegetation.
Arabian oryx at Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, UAE
So if you are planning a trip to Dubai and want to get away from the busy city to see some amazing wildlife, you really do not have to travel far. I highly recommend popping across to Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary and an excursion to the desert for a unique and unforgettable wildlife experience.
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