AdventureWild Abu Dhabi

Far from the steel and glass of the bustling metropolis is Abu Dhabi's incredible wilderness

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Beyond the shimmering towers and the seemingly endless sandy plains there is another side to Abu Dhabi, where nature-rich reserves teem with fluttering flamingoes and grazing gazelles. These protected sanctuaries were set up to conserve rare and endangered species, as well as providing wildlife corridors and generating vital, and sustainable, ecosystems for the region. Join us as we head out into Abu Dhabi’s wilder side to explore its stunning national parks.

oryx wild abu dhabi

 

Arabian Wildlife Park

Over 10,000 free-roaming animals make Sir Bani Yas Island their home, at the Arabian Wildlife Park. Three miles off the coast in one of Abu Dhabi remoter regions, this small island was deserted until the 1970s when UAE founder, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan transformed the desolate space into a sanctuary for endangered animals. After years of careful conservation, today, its savannah-like terrain is inhabited by prowling cheetahs, hyenas and jackals. Abundant gum trees and acacia offer shade, while a complex irrigation system keeps the park green and fertile.

giraffe wild abu dhabi

 

Reachable by water taxi, Arabian Wildlife Park is best explored in an open-top 4x4 safari. Grab your binoculars and watch out for Arabian oryxes locking their elongated horns, giraffes playing and ostriches sprinting across the sands. To feel even closer to nature, we recommend a leisurely mountain bike ride around Sir Bani Yas Island.

wildlife wild abu dhabi

 

Mangrove National Park

Like a verdant oasis in the middle of Abu Dhabi’s island archipelago, Mangrove National Park is seven square miles of sinuous mangroves rising from the crystalline Arabian Gulf. Its saltmarshes and mudflats make the area rich in biodiversity; the trees themselves act as a natural windbreak and desalinate the surrounding waters.

Channels wind and twist their way through the mangroves, making it the perfect place to take the water in a kayak. With Abu Dhabi’s gleaming towers visible in the distance and only the sound of birds chirruping in the air, paddle through the calm waters and bask in the quietude. Keep eyes peeled for herons and flamingoes soaring above, and crabs scuttling and fish swimming below the waters. You may even spot a fox or two burrowing into the tangle of mangrove roots. If kayaking isn’t your thing, explore the Mangrove National Park in comfort on a private boat tour.

flamingos wild abu dhabi

 

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

Head south from Abu Dhabi and as steel skyscrapers shimmer mirage-like in the distance, the waters of Al Wathba come into view. Comprising natural and manmade wetlands, sabkhas (salt flats) and dunes, the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is famed for its incredible flocks of flamingoes, nourished by the brine shrimp that occupy the wetland’s waters. From autumn through to spring, swirls of pink birds flutter around the water before migrating to Central Asia in their thousands for summer.

exotic birds wild abu dhabi

Flamingoes aside, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve has plenty more to explore either on foot along the reserve’s many trails or via dune buggy ride. Amid its reed marshes and carpets of yellow tetraena qatarensis, eagle-eyed nature lovers can spot a black-headed yellow wagtail bobbing along or spiny tailed lizard slithering across hot dunes. Look out for shimmering metallic dragon- and damselflies flitting above the lakes. Open to visitors on Thursdays and Saturdays during winter, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve makes the perfect nature escape from the commerciality of Abu Dhabi.