Hidden Gems: Dubai Nature Sites

Al Qudra Desert (2019) by Altamash Javed, @aljvdDubai Culture & Arts Authority

One of the strengths of Dubai’s tourism sector is its diversification. Being home for over 190 nationalities from various cultural backgrounds, Dubai knows how to cater the needs of people from all walks of life.

Over the past two decades, the concept of ecotourism has evolved significantly, targeting travellers looking for tours with a minimal negative impact on the environment. According to international studies, ecotourism currently accounts for over 20 percent of total tourism activities around the world.

Through its sustainable ecotourism practices, Dubai allows visitors to explore the desert landscape and the local ecosystems without harming the environment. Check out below some of Dubai’s ecotourism hidden gems  where nature lovers can enjoy being embrace by the natural beauty of Dubai.

Flamingoes in the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary (2018) by Gerard DenieseDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

Right in the heart of Dubai is a haven for some of the most magnificent birds in the region. Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary boasts different ecosystems including mangroves, mudflats, lagoons, sabkhas, reed beds and scrubland, all before the backdrop of Downtown Dubai’s ultra-modern skyline.

Dubai's Flamingoes (2019) by Altamash Javed, @aljvdDubai Culture & Arts Authority

The spot is perfect for bird watching, hosting around 67 different species, including those migrating to and from East Africa. The most popular among visitors are the flamingos, grey herons, and the great egrets.

Greater Flamingos at Ras Al Khor Salts (2013) by Hindol BattacharyaDubai Culture & Arts Authority

You can observe these birds from three strategically located hides (concealed viewing points), one of which is on the western edge of the sanctuary overlooking the flamingo roost, whilst the other two can be found on the southern edge near Al Buhaira Lagoon and the mangrove forest. 

Ras al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary (2021) by Ola Allouz, @olaaalyDubai Culture & Arts Authority

The Sanctuary was the first in Dubai to be recognized by the Ramsar Convention and has also been identified as a globally Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International.

Al Qudra Lakes (2020) by Luca Dal MolinDubai Culture & Arts Authority

This breath-taking site is Al Qudra desert and lakes – a man-made desert oasis. 

Al Qudra (2017) by Anwar HussainDubai Culture & Arts Authority

At Al Qudra, you can expect to spot fox and oryx, plus a variety of birds — swans, ducks, flamingos, as well as the endangered Steppe Eagle and the Houbara Bustard.  There are over 200 species of birds here. 

Al Qudra Lakes (2021) by Natalie Naccache, @natnacphotosDubai Culture & Arts Authority

The lakes are a popular spot for picnicking and BBQ’ing, so you won’t have the area to yourself. Many people even camp here, which would give you the opportunity to experience both sunset and sunrise. 

Al Qudra Desert by James SullivanDubai Culture & Arts Authority

What more? You can also rent a bike at this site, and cycle around the oasis and through the underpass which has been renamed as Houbara Tunnel, highlighting Dubai's extensive efforts to protect endangered animal species & promote nature conservation. 

Jebel Ali Wildlife Sanctuary (2012) by GordontourDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Jebel Ali Wildlife Sanctuary, Dubai

In 2018, the Jebel Ali Wetland Sanctuary was added to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

The 2,000-hectare wetland includes the Ghantoot Marine Reserve, a coastal and marine area comprising coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and sandy beaches. The area supports over 300 species, including the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, the endangered mottled eagle ray, green turtle, Arabian gazelle, foxes, lizards and a variety of water birds. 

Jebel Ali Wildlife Sanctuary (2012) by GordontourDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Access to the sanctuary and marine reserve are restricted. To visit the reserve, which is managed by the Emirates Marine Environmental Group, you can join one of their turtle releases, BBQs, mangrove plantings or clean-ups. 

Through these activities you can learn about the huge range of species found in these ecosystems, and how they are affected by our day-to-day activities. You may even meet some of the residents, including desert animals such as camels and gazelle, turtles and other sea animals, and wetland animals such as birds.

Oryx (2016) by Angela N.Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

Just outside the modern city of Dubai, sand dunes stretch as far as the eye can see, providing a home for some of our most treasured animals, such as the Arabian oryx, camels and gazelle. 

Oryx (2016) by Angela N.Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

The Arabian oryx was once considered extinct, yet today it thrives in the deserts of the Reserve having been reintroduced through a successful breeding program in the UAE. Here you can experience the desert in a variety of ways, from camel trekking and falconry to archery and horse riding. 

Oryx Herd Up Close (2018) by Oliver WheeldonDubai Culture & Arts Authority

If you fancy something less physical, you can go on a wildlife drive to get to know the reserve’s flora and fauna through encounters with Arabian oryx, Arabian red fox, and a range of fascinating (and harmless) lizards.

Hatta Dam (2020) by Ziad Al HalabiDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Hatta Mountain Conservation Reserve is a nature location which will cater to a variety of people, from sports fans to outdoors lovers, to adventure seekers. 

Hatta Mountains and kayaks (2021) by Ahmed GalalDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Bicycle along the rocky trails through hills and wadis, hike along the clearly marked trails, or kayak in the beautiful calm turquoise lake centered between tall mountains. 

Hatta Mountains by Malek IrshaidatDubai Culture & Arts Authority

If you’re keen on bird watching, there are a number of spots to observe Hatta’s species residents – expect to see the Desert Lark, Great Egret and Grey Heron here. Hatta mountain is also home to the largest population of the endangered Arabian tahr in the UAE

 As one of the world's favorite destinations, Dubai features some of the most stunning landscapes and beautiful natural attractions in the region. 

It is dedicated to developing low-impact, eco-friendly tourism across the country, so visitors can take in the natural majesty that stretches across the country while leaving the landscape pristine and untouched.

Credits: Story

This collaboration is made possible with the support of Emirates Nature-WWF, a non-profit organisation in association with the WWF, established to conserve the United Arab Emirates’ natural heritage and build a future where people and nature thrive. For two decades, Emirates Nature–WWF has been a prominent and active partner in environmental conservation in the MENA region. As a local conservation think tank and volunteer platform, they empower, convene and mobilize civil society, government and business to support the UAE’s sustainability agenda and deliver transformative impact at scale for the benefit of people and planet alike.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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