Welcome to the wild side…

Wildlife in UAE is not something a lot of people think about. But UAE is much more than the tall skyscrapers and unique activities.

When it comes to animals, there are plenty of places you can spot wildlife in the UAE and the venues don’t limit these wild majestic animals to four drab walls.

Here are 9 places to see wildlife in UAE

Abu Dhabi

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

flamingo wildlife in UAE

The land was previously a salt flat which flourished into a natural and man-made lake enabling many of Abu Dhabi’s wildlife to flourish. Speckled amongst nature, you will spot a large population of pink majestic flamingos, 250 species of birds, and a wide range of aquatic life. There are two self-guided walking trails (1.5 kms or 3 kms) where visitors can explore plus there’s a bird-watching hide to observe the flamingos.

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Directions: Take the E22 Abu Dhabi-Al Ain road and connect with the E30 Abu Dhabi-Al Ain Truck Road, then follow signs for the reserve, open Mon to Sat, 8am to 5.30pm (last entry 4pm), free entry. ead.gov.ae

Jubail Mangrove Park

The huge boardwalk through Abu Dhabi’s National Mangrove park offers visitors a chance to get a little closer to nature. There is a chance to get your kayaking snap amongst the vast greens, but your main motive to visit should be to say hello to wildlife. There’s a diverse list of animals including fish, crabs, birds (including flamingos), turtles, gazelle, crabs and more mysterious creatures.

Jubail Mangrove Park, Al Jubail Island (next to Saadiyat Island), Abu Dhabi, 8am to 7.30pm daily, Dhs15 for adult, Dhs10 (ages 3 to 7). Tel: (0)56 303 2423. park.jubailisland.ae

Sir Bani Yas Island – Arabian Wildlife Park

Getting to this island that’s home to over 11,000 animals takes a bit of time, but the sights are worth it. It’s a 25-minute boat ride from Jebel Dhanna (itself a two-hour drive from downtown Abu Dhabi) but once on the island, you are treated with wilderness, romantic vistas and more. The list of wild animals on this island paradise include different endangered species such as blackbuck antelope and Arabian oryx as well as giraffe, ostrich and cheetah. Guests on the island have the opportunity to go on-safari and snatch memorable opportunities to glimpse these rare creatures, without a single cage or handler in sight.

Sir Bani Yas is located 8 km off the coast of Jebel Dhanna (two hours’ drive from downtown Abu Dhabi), accessible by complimentary water taxi or private seaplane. You can book stays on the anantara.com website.

Emirates Park Zoo

giraffe emirates park zoo

Animals you will encounter here include wildcats including lions, tigers leopards and more; herbivores like giraffes and zebras; primates such as capuchins; birds including the majestic owl, hawks, eagles and parrots; reptiles and more. You can get your thrills on a zipline or dine with elephants or feed the hungry hippos. Entry to the zoo costs Dhs40 per person and can be booked here. Do note, currently a green pass is required to enter.

Emirates Park Zoo, 12th Street, Al Bahyah, Abu Dhabi, open daily 9am to 8pm, Tel: (0)2 501 0000. emiratesparkzooandresort.com

Al Ain

Al Ain Zoo

lions in al ain zoo safari

This 400-hectare park’s was established by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan back in 1968. It is one of the largest in the Middle East and many animals include gorillas, lions, cheetahs, giraffes, jaguars, lemurs, hippos, chimpanzees, wolves, and crocodiles call it home. Visitors can see endangered species preserved and taken care of within habitats similar to their own, and even interact with them. A number of experiences are available including feeding the king of the jungle (pictured above), partaking in a  mountain biking experience and more. Do note, a green pass is needed to enter. Tickets cost Dhs31.50 per adult and Dhs10.50 per child.

Al Ain Zoo, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, daily 10am to 6pm, Tel: (800) 966, alainzoo.ae


Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve 

Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

This sanctuary located at the mouth of Dubai Creek is a pretty popular spot thanks to the 20,000 birds that call it home. The lagoons here are home to a flamboyance of pink flamingos. To see them, all you have to do is rock up to one of three viewing hides dotted around the perimeter of the sanctuary. The entrance is free and there are binoculars available to borrow, too.

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, Ras Al Khor Road, Ras Al Khor, Dubai, dm.gov.ae

Dubai Safari Park

Dubai Safari Park hippo

This 116-hectare park is currently home to around 3,000 animals. This includes 78 species of mammals, 10 different carnivores and 17 primates, 50 types of reptiles, 111 kinds of birds as well as amphibians and invertebrates. There are different villages you can visit: Arabian Desert Safari; Asian Village where you can watch a Creature of the World show; Explorer Village where the drive-through trip will get you close to tigers, lions, zebras and more; African Village where you can get up close with Africa’s most exciting residents; a Kid’s farm (home to the cutest of animals) and Al Wadi where you can dine or enjoy a picnic. A list of all the packages can be seen here.

Dubai Safari Park, Al Warqa 5, Dubai, open daily from 9am to 5pm, ticket prices vary, under 3s and people of determination can enter for free. Tel: (800) 900. dubaisafari.ae


Sharjah Safari Park

sharjah safari park

Sharjah’s huge safari park opened its doors last month on February 17 located within the Al Bridi Reserve in the city of Al Dhaid is 16 square kilometres, making it the largest safari project outside of Africa. Around 50,000 animals (120 species) call the safari home, including gazelles, giraffes, African wild turtles, crocodiles, lions, rhinos (make sure you spot the black rhino before you leave as it is one of the most important and rare animals in the safari), African rock python, elephants and flamingos. The park has a large natural lake and 100,000 African trees, as well as restaurants, cafes, a conference hall, safari visitors camp and more. The park is open daily from 8.30am to 6.30pm. The bronze ticket walking tour, which explores the ‘Africa’ zone is priced at Dhs40 for people aged 12 and above. A silver ticket bus tour explores all but one segment of the safari park and is Dhs120. A gold ticket, which allows you to tour in a luxury vehicle, is priced from Dhs275. You’ll need to head to the park to get tickets, as there isn’t an online ticket portal just yet.

Sharjah Safari Park, Al Dhaid Highway (E88), interchange 9, Sharjah @shjsafari

Images: Getty Images and Instagram