Glittering shorelines and endless desert dunes aren’t the only natural wonders that the United Arab Emirates has to offer. The Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi is surrounded by 110km2 of mangrove forests. The dense wetlands are home to a wealth of wildlife, including fish, turtles and more than 50 species of bird, including flamingos. Whether paddling quietly on a kayak through the waterways or chartering a boat for a breezier visit, our guide to Abu Dhabi’s mangroves outlines all you need to know before you go.
Where are the mangroves?
The Mangrove National Park colonises a large portion of Abu Dhabi’s eastern coast. Further south, the Eastern Mangrove Lagoon National Park—a protected, 8km coastal stretch skirting Abu Dhabi’s airport—awaits discovery. Beyond, a series of mangrove-forested islands spill out into the Persian Gulf.
What to expect
The densely tangled roots and sandy tidal flats that characterise Abu Dhabi’s mangroves are worlds away from the sleek skyrises that dominate the city. For a real sense of adventure, negotiate a canoe through the mangroves’ natural tunnels, ducking low branches and roots and looking out for humpback dolphins and occasional manatees in the surrounding waters.
Flora and fauna
From thousands of scuttling crabs to sea snakes, turtles, bream and wild foxes, a vast range of wildlife inhabits Abu Dhabi’s mangroves. While large flocks of flamingo live here year-round, rare spotted eagles and sooty falcons migrate to these shores annually. Various NGOs and activists—chiefly the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency—continuously monitor the park in an effort to protect its wild inhabitants.
How to discover Abu Dhabi’s mangroves
There are numerous tour operators in Abu Dhabi waiting to show you around. Follow the experts on canoes or kayaks through the waterways. For gym enthusiasts, paddle boarding is an increasingly popular option, and is great for improving core strength while taking in Abu Dhabi’s stunning natural surrounds. If that sounds like too much exertion, hop on a private boat tour. Opt for a luxurious package that journeys deep into the mangroves, and includes a guided walk through the wilds and a private sunset dinner.
Due to shifting tides and sea currents, some areas of the mangroves are only accessible on foot at certain times in the day. Because of this, it is recommended that you only enter them with a knowledgeable guide.
When to go
Abu Dhabi’s desert climate promises clear blue skies and temperatures averaging 30°C and above between April and November. For this reason, an adventure into the steamy, sparsely shaded mangroves is best launched first thing in the morning or during the late afternoon. Avoid the midday heat as it can get humid. Alternatively, the region’s climate is far milder in winter making this a very pleasant time to explore.
Adventure into the enchanting atmosphere of Abu Dhabi’s mangroves while staying at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers or Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort