Think of the Abu Dhabi coast and your mind will probably conjure high-rise skylines, glamourous ports, and opulent maritime developments. But what about dolphins? Hidden offshore is one of the Indian Ocean’s most playful and peculiar creatures: the humpback dolphin. Usually elusive and small in number, a recent study conducted by the Environment Agency revealed that humpback dolphins flock to Abu Dhabi’s sandy coasts in search of warm waters. In fact, the study shows that Abu Dhabi is home to over 700 humpback dolphins, the largest known population in the world.
Humpback dolphins are apex predators that hunt and live together in small social groups. Growing to over 2 metres and weighing over 100 kilograms, they cut through coastal waves with their sleek, dark-grey bodies and signature spouts. What makes them so distinct is their elongated, hump-shaped dorsal fins that give them their name. Humpbacks prefer shallower waters, staying within three kilometres of the shore and at depths no greater than 25 metres. This means they’re an ideal species for wildlife enthusiasts to spot in Abu Dhabi.
The Environment Agency reported a sighting chance of 58% during their survey of Abu Dhabi waters. Many of their trips saw pods of several dolphins consisting both of inquisitive adults and mischievous calves. And they are easy to view, so why not take an afternoon off from enjoying the pristine white beaches to view some incredibly rare dolphins? Abu Dhabi will give you the best chance to see the tell-tale flukes and acrobatic dives of these majestic creatures, while also offering you an intimate exploration of the Gulf’s natural beauty. As the shallow water is crystal clear, you’ll see their curved fins and long bodies perfectly, all the while being refreshed by the gentle offshore breeze.
As a launch point, Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island is perfect. Situated on a natural 400-metre white sand beach, the hotel’s light interior and panoramic suites gets you as close as possible to the water. Saadiyat Island itself is an up-and-coming part of Abu Dhabi, situated away from the busy bustle and bright lights of the city centre. Humpbacks can be seen from shore as they hunt in the nearby Saadiyat mangroves, or, if you prefer a closer encounter, just ask the concierge and they’ll direct you to the best dolphin-spotting teams in Abu Dhabi. Humpback dolphins are not the only marine animals you will want to see, killer whales and whale sharks have also been known to venture into the waters around Abu Dhabi.
Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island is committed to preserving the island’s natural beauty, adopting several sustainable measures to reduce its carbon footprint. Coastal developments over the last decade have affected humpback dolphins and other Gulf marine life. The same Environment Agency report found propeller-caused injuries on over 10% of individuals, and this is only the surface. However, the modern initiatives of Jumeirah and other leaders in Abu Dhabi tourism are changing this tale. As ecotourism grows in the Gulf—with humpback dolphins alone attracting a number of nature-lovers—its incredible wildlife will prosper. Be part of this success story and get spotting today!