When most people think of Dubai, they picture towering skyscrapers, fancy cars and giant shopping malls – but the stunning natural landscape of the United Arab Emirates is not to be ignored. From Arabian oryx in the wild to countless species of birds, there are plenty of wildlife experiences to enjoy.
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
This wetland reserve is mere minutes from the city. Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is also known as the Cape of the Creek and features salt flats, mangroves and lagoons that are home to an abundance of birdlife. The sanctuary is the UAE’s first wetland of international importance, under the Ramsar Convention, and is a protected area monitored by the Dubai Municipality. That doesn’t mean guests can’t visit this beautiful site, though. There are all manner of fauna and flora – from flamingos to foxes and fringe-toed lizards – to be seen in their natural habitat and guests can learn more about the organisation’s conservation and breeding programmes too.
The sanctuary is open from 7.30am to 5.30pm, October to March, and 6am to 6pm throughout the summer months (April to September). Book your visit in advance through the website.
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
Camel treks, falconry and horse riding are just a few of the activities guests can take part in at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Take a gentle drive through the rolling dunes and arid terrain, where herds of gazelle and oryx roam among caracals, sand foxes and Arabian hares. Explore the area in a four-wheel drive or on foot, with the help of a safari guide. These tours can also include sand-skiing, archery and a traditional Bedouin-style dinner at sunset with entertainment from a belly dancer and live Arabian music.
No trip to the Arabian Gulf is complete without seeing some camels. The dromedary is the region’s most famous creature, and an important part of its history and culture. In Dubai, Al Marmoom is where local breeders congregate during race season, which runs throughout the cooler months. There’s a racetrack and a heritage village, which springs up during the Al Marmoom Heritage Festival before summer. For more information on camel racing and event schedules, visitors can keep an eye on the Dubai Camel Racing Club website.
Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project
Hawksbill, loggerhead and green turtles are three of the species found in the UAE’s oceans and there are various efforts across the country to protect these creatures. One is the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project, which is based at five-star hotel Jumeirah Al Naseem. The group has been rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured turtles, and releasing them back into their natural habitat, since 2004. There’s an outdoor enclosure and sanctuary at the property’s Turtle Lagoon and it’s open to the public. You can even watch feeding time on Wednesdays at 11am. There’s no need to book and there’s no charge. Then guests could spend the rest of the day lounging around on the hotel’s beach (extra costs apply) or dining in one of the many nearby restaurants.
Throughout the year, the organisation will also host events as they release dozens of recovered turtles back into the sea. Check the website to see when the next one is taking place.