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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

10 ecotourism spots in the UAE you can visit for under AED20 or for free


Dubai: If you’re looking for an affordable travel option that’s close to nature, the UAE has a number of options for you to consider. From mangroves to million-year-old fossilized sand dunes to spotting endangered species that are recovering in the UAE, you’ve got your options here.

1. Al Marmon Desert Reserve

The reserve is part of the larger Al Marmoom area and is open to visitors. It has the largest population of Arabian oryx in Dubai. The area is also rich in desert flora and fauna, including sand gazelle (Reem in Arabic), Arabian gazelle (Aldmani in Arabic), and various birds and reptiles.

Dubai Municipality has built eight bird-watching habitats within the sanctuary, most near lakes. You can watch over 200 different species of migratory and native birds at Al Marmoom. If you want to see the Arabian oryx, head to the Oryx Platform viewing point near Al Marmoom Expo Lake.


Al Marmoom is only accessible by car, so if you want to reach popular sites like Al Qudra Lake or the nature reserve, you’ll need to do some off-roading.

You can choose any of the following roads in Dubai to travel to the Al Marmoom desert area:
1. D63 Al Qudra Road – This road takes visitors directly to Al Qudra Lake.
2. E611 Emirates Road – this area is on your left after the E77 interchange, heading towards Dubai to Abu Dhabi.
3. E77 Jebel Ali Lehbab Road – After you pass the E611 interchange, head towards Dubai City Center towards Expo, this area is on your right.
4. E75 Al Fayah Road – This area is on your left after driving through exit 79 from Downtown Dubai.
5. E66 Dubai Al Ain Road – after the Dubai Rugby Sevens, this area is on your right in the direction Dubai to Al Ain.

If you use a navigation app, you can enter the coordinates directly for Al Marmoom, where Al Marmoom Reserve is “R63X+5HV – Dubai” and Al Qudra Lakes is “R9V2+XMJ – Al Qudra Rd – Dubai”.

How to Explore Almamont

As you enter Al Marmoom, a marked path guides your journey and gives you directions to the lake. Al Marmoom is made up of many lakes such as Al Qudra Lake, Love Lake and Crescent Moon Lake where you can have a picnic or pitch a tent. However, you’ll need to go off-road to access the lake.


Al Marmoom Desert Reserve is open all year round.

NAT_130108_DESERT_RESERVATION Are there gazelles in Al Marmoom Reserve?Photo Zarina Fernandez/Gulf News

Image Source:

2. Ras al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is a famous viewing spot for migrating flamingos. The reserve is also home to large numbers of mallards, pintails, teals, ducks, waders, shorebirds, songbirds and birds of prey.

Ras Al Khor is a wetland with various salt flats, intertidal mudflats, mangroves and lagoons that birds use as nesting and personal habitats.

Dubai Municipality has built three bird sanctuaries in strategic locations to allow visitors to get an up-close look at birds and other wildlife in the area.


From April to September, the reserve is open for 6:00 am to 6:00 pm.

3. Al Wathba Fossil Dune Reserve

The fossilized sand dunes located just 45 minutes from Abu Dhabi city are estimated to be over 4 million years old. The Al Wathba Fossil Dune Reserve consists of more than 1,700 fossil dunes that have fluid shapes formed by the interaction between wind and sediment supply. Covering seven square kilometers, it has one of the largest concentrations of fossilized sand dunes in a single location in the emirate.

How to Explore the Fossil Dunes

As you enter the site, you’ll find a visitor’s center with viewing branches that allow visitors to look out over the formations of Al Wathba.

If you want to get a little closer, there is a fenced trail into the reserve. A series of signposts will guide you through a seven-kilometre well-lit trail, which is also passable at night.

Additionally, food and beverage trucks are stationed at various locations to serve visitors, and there are several shaded seating areas as well.


The Al Wathba Fossil Dunes are accessible via two inter-emirate roads – E30 (Abu Dhabi-Al Ain Qah Road) or E11 (Sheikh Zayed Road). The closest landmark to this location is Al Dhafra Air Force Base. It is recommended to use a navigation app to find the exact location. On your app, enter the plus code – 5HCH+M6 Abu Dhabi to reach this area.

How do I get into this area?

4WD is recommended to enter the area and park outside. Entry to the site is free, however you must register your details at the entrance.


The rare 120,000-year-old fossilized sand dunes in the Al Wathba Reserve are open to the public. Located 45 kilometers east of Abu Dhabi city, the reserve covers an area of ​​7 square kilometers and consists of more than 1,700 fossilized sand dunes.

Image Source:

4. Jebel Hafeet National Park

According to the Environment Authority of Abu Dhabi (EAD), more than 500 ancient burials have been discovered at the foot of Jebel Hafeet Mountain dating back 5,000 years, marking the beginning of the Bronze Age in the UAE.

It’s also home to some of the most threatened wildlife in the world, such as the Blandford Fox, Branthedgehog, Arabian Tahr and the UAE’s only concentration of Egyptian Vultures.

How to Explore Jebel Hafeet Mountain:

The area is accessible by car, with roads winding around the hills all the way to the summit.


Follow the signs from Al Ain to Jebel Hafeet. When you reach Malaqit Street (E40), take the Hafeet Street exit. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to reach the summit.

[Jebel Hafeet] This year’s event celebrated the human element, tradition, national identity and true Emirati values.

Image source: WAM

5. Eastern Mangroves National Park

The Eastern Mangrove National Park accounts for almost 75% of the total mangrove area in the UAE. This biodiversity hotspot includes salt marshes, mudflats and algal blooms.

How to Explore Eastern Mangroves National Park

The national park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but the mangroves are easier to see during the day.

You can take a walk along the trail, where you can see mangroves with a meandering waterway in the middle, and maybe even spot a greater flamingo along with hundreds of other bird and plant species.

If you want to take a closer look, the area also offers kayaking lessons through private operators for between Dh160 and Dh200.

Eastern Mangroves National Park

Image Credit: Eastern Mangroves National Park

6. Sharjah Desert Park

At Sharjah Desert Park, visitors can also learn about animals native to the Arabian Peninsula, such as the Arabian leopard or gazelle, stroll through the aviary, or visit a rehabilitation center for endangered animals. endangered animals. If you’re visiting with kids, the park also has a dedicated petting zoo where kids can spend time with farm animals and ride ponies and camels.


The park is located 30 km east of Sharjah city, along the Al Dhaid highway (E88), in front of Interchange 9.


AED 20 for adults, free for children under 12.


• Monday to Thursday – 9am to 6.30pm.
• Friday – 2pm to 6.30pm.
• Saturday and Sunday – 11am to 6.30pm.
The park is closed on Tuesdays.

7. Khor Kalba in the heart of the mangroves

The vast Khor Kalba sanctuary offers many free and paid activities focused on reconnecting with nature. The Mangrove Center is part of this larger reserve. The center only opened to the public last year, and you can wander through the 300-year-old mangroves, spot antelope in the area, and even spot crustaceans, turtles, and birds along the mangrove trails.

The Kalba Raptor Center is not far from the Mangrove Center and is an experience falconry enthusiasts can enjoy. Then you can drive to Al Hafiya Picnic Park (Al Hafiya Picnic Park) to eat. According to Visitsharjah.com, the area also offers opportunities for enthusiasts to kayak along the Kalba coast or pitch a tent by the water.


The sanctuary is located on the east coast of Sharjah, approximately 90 minutes’ drive from the center of Sharjah.


15 dirhams for adults and Children under 12 free.


• Sunday to Thursday – 9am to 6.30pm
• Saturday – 11am to 6.30pm
• The center is closed on Mondays

8. Alcombe Nature Reserve

The mangroves (“qurm” in Arabic) are home to rare birds, turtles and mammals. Surrounded by an abundance of bird and aquatic life, you might spot the endangered Arabian collared kingfisher soaring above the mangroves, or hawksbill and green turtles nesting on the nearby beaches.

If you want to elevate your experience, the reserve also offers glamping, kayak and paddle board tours with private guides.


Inside the Khor Kalba mangrove forest in the Kalba coastal region.

Wadi Al Helo is an archaeological site located on the Sharjah-Kalba Highway. Wadis (valleys) are popular among trekkers in the UAE, and the most popular wadi in Sharjah is Wadi Al Helo, which means “sweet valley” in Arabic because of its abundant groundwater.

An easy walk along the trail leads to the summit, where there is an old fort with 360-degree views of the Hajar Mountains. A guided paid hike with friends and family is recommended, especially if you are not an experienced or professional hiker.


Near Wadi Al Helo Interchange on Sharjah-Kalba Road (E102)

Wadi Al Helo is an archaeological site located on the Sharjah-Kalba highway

Image credit: Shutterstock

10. Wasit Nature Reserve

Located within the city of Sharjah, Wasit Sanctuary offers visitors the opportunity to experience a diverse ecosystem, from sand dunes and salt flats to ponds and large lakes. The sanctuary is home to more than 200 species of resident and migratory birds, including pink-backed pelicans, flamingos and marble ducks. You can view coastal bird populations from eight viewing platforms and walk through aviaries within the reserve.


Sheikh Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi Street, Al Homah area.


15 dirhams For adults, Children under 12 free.


• Sunday to Thursday – 9am to 6.30pm.
• Friday – 2pm to 6.30pm.
• Reserve closed on Tuesdays


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