The UAE offers plenty of opportunities for animal lovers to meet their favourite species Image Credit: Supplied

If it’s animals your kids are keen on, and they’re itching to get their little mitts on paws, hooves, flippers and more from all creatures great and small right here in the UAE, then this is the list for you.

1. Dolphin Encounter

If it’s dolphins you’re after, Aquaventure at Atlantis has got you covered. Whether you just want to have your photo taken with the majestic mammals without getting wet, have a personal experience in shallow water with a hug and a kiss or a deep water swimming or diving adventure, this is the place to come.

Location Aquaventure, Atlantis The Palm Timing daily from 10am to sunset (opening hours subject to change dependent on time of year) Cost varies by season, book online for exclusive offers Phone 04 426 1030 Email dolphinbay@atlantisthepalm.com Website 

2. Feed Giraffes

Al Ain Zoo has a lot to offer in the way of animal experiences including an educational children’s zoo, bird shows, Budgie feeding and more, but one of the most talked about experiences has to be the Giraffe feeding. Make new friends with a carrot or lettuce leaf offering and get a good close up look at these amazing animals in the process.

Location Al Ain Zoo Timing Sat to Wed 9am to 8pm, Thu & Fri 9am to 9pm, May to September 4pm to 10pm, closed during Ramadan Cost Zoo entry Dhs20 for adults, Dhs10 for kids aged three to 12 and free for kids under three. Giraffe feed an additional Dhs30, Budgie feeding an additional Dhs10 Phone 03 799 2000 Email info@alainzoo.ae Website 

3. Sea Lion Discovery

If you’ve already done the Dolphin thing, maybe it’s time to learn about South African Fur Seals at Sea Lion Point. Get your picture taken with the playful creatures or wade into the water with them to interact and learn all about what makes these mammals so unique.

Location Aquaventure, Atlantis The Palm Timing daily from 10am to sunset (opening hours subject to change dependent on time of year) Cost from Dhs425 for Sea Lion photo fun (discounted rates apply for in-house guests) Phone 04 426 1030 Email dolphinbay@atlantisthepalm.com Website 

4. Ray and Shark feeding

Join the resident Aquarist in the shallow waters for a 35 minute hands on ray feeding experience, or for the real daredevil, become a marine explorer and walk underwater to get a close up look at the Black Tip Reef Sharks and many other varieties of rays and fish that live in the Atlantis Shark Lagoon. 

Location Aquaventure, Atlantis The Palm Timing Daily 10am to sunset (subject to change depending on time of year) Cost day visitors Dhs175 for Ray Feeding, Dhs275 for Shark Safari (discounted rates apply for in-house guests) Phone 04 426 1040 Website 

5. Posh Paws

More than a kennels, cattery and animal grooming service, Posh Paws also welcomes families and school groups to their animal sanctuary and petting farm run by a team of dedicated volunteers. Kids can learn fun animal facts whilst feeding, touching or holding various critters - Sloth, Porcupine, Llamas, Guinea Pigs, Kinkajou, Ferrets, Goats, Cows, Baboon, Ducks and lots more are all resident at Posh Paws.

Location Ajman, see website for directions Timing daily 9am to 6pm Cost no charge but donations gratefully accepted as the animal sanctuary and petting farm is a non-profit venture Phone 050 273 0973 Email poshpawsdubai@yahoo.co.uk Website   

6. Penguin Encounter

Get up close with the snow penguins at Ski Dubai. Packages include an underwater viewing, meeting at least two penguins and photos of the experience. Also watch out for the March of the Penguins at 2pm, 4pm, 6pm and 8pm every day.

Location Ski Dubai, Mall of the Emirates Timing daily 12pm to 9pm Cost from Dhs150 per person Phone 04 409 4242 Email booking@skidxb.com Website 

7. Al Tamimi Stables

Despite the closure of the original and much loved Al Tamimi Stables in Sharjah, they are still very much operational and can now bring the petting farm and activities to you! Mobile services include small petting farm experience, pony rides and pottery painting.

Location Currently looking for new premises in Dubai and hope to be able to confirm soon Timings n/a Cost Small petting zoo from Dhs900 for two hours plus transportation costs dependent on location Phone 04 638 6560 or 800 STABLES Email getintouch@tamimistables.com Website 

8. Dubai Mall Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

There’s something for every animal explorer here - touch sea stars and other rock pool inhabitants, feed the birds then watch the care team feed the crocodiles inside the exhibit with the Adventurer Experience, feed the animals in the aquarium with the Explorer and Researcher experiences or become a Junior Aquarist and assist the animal care team in feeding some of the underwater zoo animals.

Location Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, Dubai Mall Timing Open daily from 10am. Experience times vary Cost vary by experience Phone 04 448 5200 Website 

9. Visit Dolphin Bay

Whilst Dolphin sightings can’t be guaranteed where wild animals are concerned, you just never know your luck. Try the Island beach Getaway or the Dolphin Bay Eco Boat Tour, hosted by Marine Biologist Arabella Willing who shares her knowledge of the local environment, flora and fauna.

Location Departing from Yas Marina, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi Timings variable, dependent on tides Cost Dolphin Bay Eco Boat Tour Dhs400 per adult, kids 6 to 12 years Dhs300 each and kids five and under go free. Island Beach Getaway Dhs350 per adult, Dhs250 per child aged 6 to 12 Phone 02 650 7175 Email info@captaintonys.ae Website 

10. Sir Bani Yas Island

Get away from the city and spend a day in the midst of amazing wildlife on Sir Bani Yas Island guided by the resorts own expert guides. Gaze at Gazelles, rare Arabian Oryx and many more exotic and indigenous animals. Nature and Wildlife drives specially for kids are also available for guests staying at the resort.

Location Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara, Sir Bani Yas Island Cost Dhs500 per adult (day trip price) Phone 02 801 5266 Email activitiesdirs@anantara.com Website 

11. Camel Trekking

For an Arabian adventure to remember, make like Lawrence of Arabia across the Liwa desert on camel back at the Qasr Al Sarab Desert resort.

Location Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort & Spa by Anantara, Liwa  Timing vary Cost from Dhs200 for adults, Dhs140 for kids aged four and above Phone 02 886 2088 Email crome@anantara.com Website 

12. See Flamingos in the wild

You might be surprised to learn that there are protected wildlife sanctuaries in the UAE, but at Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary or Al Wathba Wetlands you can visit for free and see a plethora of different bird species in their natural habitat, though the presence of large numbers of flamingos in the winter months are the real crowd-pleasers.

Locations Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary Dubai, Ras Al Khor Road or Al Wathba Wetlands Abu Dhabi, 40km southeast of central Abu Dhabi Timing Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary bird hides are open Saturday to Thursday from 9am to 4pm. Al Wathba Wetlands close during the summer months for the flamingo breeding season and will reopen in September Cost free Phone Ras Al Khor: 04 606 6822 Al Wathba: 02 445 4777 Website

13. Falcon Hospital Tours

Join a ‘Falcon World Tour’ around the hospital and Falcon museum where you’ll not only learn about the valuable work the Falcon Hospital carries out, but also have your picture taken with the beautiful birds as well as see them take to the air in free flight.

LocationAbu Dhabi – Sweihan Road, near Abu Dhabi Airport Timing all tours must be booked in advance Cost enquire directly Phone 02 575 5155 Email info@falconhospital.com Website 

14. Elephant Encounter

Emirates Park Zoo offers an array of experiences including feeding baby goats and getting up close and personal with turtles but their real claim to fame lies in their Elephant Encounter experience. Boasting the only two elephants in the UAE, daily educational presentations are offered along with the chance to feed the friendly giants.

Location Emirates Park Zoo Timing Daily, 9am to 9pm, Ramadan hours 5pm to 12am Cost Dhs25 per adult, Dhs10 per child aged three to five and free for kids under two. Elephant encounter additional Dhs20, free for kids five and under Phone 02 501 0000 Website