Dubai: The UAE is popular for its deserts, but did you know that the country also has beautiful mangroves? Why not pack your bags and head on a road trip with your little ones to see the mangrove trees in the UAE this week?
Known as “Qurm”, mangrove flora takes up 155 square kilometers of the UAE’s coastlines, according to the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD).
Why are mangroves important?
With more than 35 per cent of all mangroves in the world already destroyed, these forests are in danger. The reason for this is coastal development, causing habitat loss. Once they are gone, they cannot simply be replanted. It is difficult – sometimes impossible for mangroves to grow back in their former habitats.
The loss of mangroves means less absorption of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Without them, erosion rates are accelerated, especially when cyclones and storms will increase due to climate change.
The UAE has many centers you can visit with your family. Here’s a list of five mangroves and wetlands to see in the UAE. However, do remember to leave the place clean and not litter. While most of these spots are free to visit, additional activities like guided tours and kayaking have additional charges.
1. Eastern Mangrove National Park, Abu Dhabi
Away from the city’s skyscrapers and bustling roads, is a reserve of beauty and biodiversity called the Mangrove National Park. The Park is on the northerly shores of the city close to Reem Island. Protected by the EAD, this stunning park makes up almost 75 per cent of the total mangrove forest area in the UAE. This biodiversity hotspot includes salt marshes, mudflats, algal communities, water channels, dense trees, wildlife, and more.
You can traverse the mangroves with a tour guide or on your own. Be careful though as it may be difficult to manoeuvre during some seasons so if you are not too sure, follow the guide. The best time to kayak is when there is a high tide, so check before venturing out.
The mangroves are free to visit, but private operators do charge for excursions at the Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel. Kayaking and other tour experiences are chargeable.
2. Jubail Mangrove Park, Abu Dhabi
Jubail Mangrove Park is a self-contained educational mangrove sanctuary in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Here, you can visit and explore many avian and marine species native to Abu Dhabi.
Walk down the boardwalk through the mangroves. The cost of entry to the boardwalk begins at Dh5. There are also walking experiences with a ranger, priced from Dh50 for adults and Dh40 for children.
3. Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, Abu Dhabi
Named the first marine biosphere reserve in the UAE and covering 63 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s marine protected areas, the incredible Marawah Marine boasts 120km of immaculate coastline and over 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 is also teeming with abundant wildlife, including the world’s second-largest dugong community, 70 per cent of the UAE’s migratory birds, and over 150 species of fish.
It hosts a wide range of marine and coastal ecosystems, including seagrass beds, coral reefs, and mangroves.
Historically, Marawah holds great cultural and archaeological significance in the UAE.
Apparently, a brochure on the island says "take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints,” according to a visitor’s review.
The entrance to the reserve is free but needs coordination with EAD. You can contact the EAD on 800555.
4. Khor Kalba Mangrove Centre, Sharjah
Kalba Conservation Reserve is home to remarkable landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and activities for every nature enthusiast. Located on the east coast of Sharjah, it is around a 90-minutes drive from Sharjah's city centre. It has pristine waters for kayaking close to the mangrove forest. For families, there are also many spots near the water to pitch a tent and enjoy the weather in Kalba under a star-studded sky.
Tickets for the Mangrove Centre cost Dh15 for adults and entry is free for children under 12 years.
Timings on regular days: Sunday to Thursday 9am to 6.30pm, Saturday 11am to 6.30pm. The centre is closed on Mondays.
5. Al Zorah Natural Reserve, Ajman
The thriving biodiversity of Al Zorah Nature Reserve is a welcome sanctuary for around 58 species of native and migrating birds. This ecotourism destination in Ajman, UAE is a great place for bird watchers to sight some egrets, herons, and pink flamingos among other avian populations.
The Al Zorah area, where the natural reserve is located, sits on the northern side of Ajman. The area can be accessed directly from Al Ittihad Street within Ajman. People travelling from Sharjah or Dubai can take the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road to reach the Al Zorah Nature Reserve location.
One of the biggest tourist attractions in Al Zorah Natural Reserve is the mangrove tour. You can sign up for one of the guided mangrove kayaking tours that take you through the natural mangrove forests.
Entry to this nature reserve in Ajman is free for all. However, all activities are separately charged.