Coral reefs of Al Yasat Marine Protected Area in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: The Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi

Dubai: As Abu Dhabi opens up to all vaccinated tourists from around the world and visitors from within the UAE no longer needing a PCR test to enter the Emirate, you might be jotting down a list of places you wish to visit and explore.

Apart from attractions like the Louvre Abu Dhabi or the Ferrari World’s roller coaster, which is a thrill-seekers’ delight, you can also enjoy some memorable trysts with Nature at protected marine sites in the Emirate.

The Emirate offers marine life lovers the chance to see coral reefs, mangrove forests, wetlands and incredible wildlife, which you can access through various travel and tour organisers in Abu Dhabi.

Here is a list of four protected marine sites you can visit:

1. Ras Ghanadah

The largest coral reef in the UAE and Gulf region, and one of the most important coral reefs in Abu Dhabi, the 55-square-kilometre Ras Ghanadah protected area is situated near Ghantoot, about 90km from the Abu Dhabi city. Snorkellers and divers will enjoy the corals here, which are home to 40 per cent of all coral species in the Arabian Gulf. You are also very likely to spot turtles, dugongs, sea snakes and clownfish.

2. Saadiyat Marine National Park

Spanning a total area of 59 square kilometres, the protected Saadiyat Marine National Park can be found in the adjoining marine area of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island. The island has several animals, including the endangered Hawksbill turtles. The Saadiyat Marine National Park offers non-motorised watersports activities such as snorkelling, diving, kayaking and fishing. You might also spot dolphins, and the island is a great spot for capturing beautiful sunset pictures.

3. Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve

Named the first marine biosphere reserve in the UAE and covering 63 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s marine protected areas, the Marawah Marine’s coastline stretches over 120km and covers ten islands. The 4,255-square-kilometre reserve is home to essential marine ecosystems, including seagrass beds, coral reefs, macroalgae outcrops and mangrove forests. Marawah also has the world’s second-largest dugong community, 70 per cent of the UAE’s migratory birds, and over 150 species of fish.

The UAE is home to many distinct marine species, such as green turtles, hawksbill turtles and dugongs. Image Credit: EAD

4. Al Yasat Protected Area

The Al Yasat marine protected area is located in the western region of Abu Dhabi in Al Dhafra and is a nature lover’s paradise, where you can engage in various activities from recreational fishing to diving, kayak adventures to snorkelling and dolphin to turtle watching. Al Yasat is also a heritage and cultural attraction. It is made up of a group of islands of historical importance – including Al Ghagha Island, Al Qaffay Island and Al Yasat Island – and has several species of coral reefs.

If you are looking to learn recreational fishing, find out more about the best fishing spots in the UAE and how to get a fishing licence in our detailed guide here.