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It's almost time for children across the UAE to head back to school. And, what's the one question teachers always ask after summer holidays - "What did you do during the holidays?" So, if you did not get a chance to take your child out on a vacation, and are worried that he or she won’t have an interesting answer, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. There’s still 10 days to go, so, here's a list of seven places you could explore with your child for under Dh25, where they can get closer to nature and interact with animals and birds, right here in the UAE. A fun experience to discuss in class…
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1. Ras Al Khor Hide Viewing Point, Dubai: Just five kilometres from Downtown Dubai, is a sanctuary full of mangroves and wildlife, including hundreds of flamingoes, herons and more. Ras Al Khor is closely monitored and protected by the Dubai Municipality and the sanctuary is fenced off to safeguard the area. However, there are three bird viewing areas located on the perimeter of the sanctuary. Essentially, it is a way to allow visitors and nature lovers to admire the birds in their habitat while maintaining the quality of the area for its winged residents. The 'hide viewing' areas can be accessed free of cost, and the timings during summers are 6am to 6pm. The Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is closed to the public on weekends. Don’t forget to take along a pair of binoculars and a camera, but remember that the sanctuary hide is a quiet zone, no pets, food or drinks are allowed inside.
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2. Al Qudra lakes, Dubai: Dubai's Al Qudra lakes are great for an early morning drive with family. Children can see many birds at the Al Qudra's lakes, you might even spot a gazelle or other desert animals.
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3. Turtle Lagoon, Dubai: Dubai is known for its turtle rehabilitation project. Take your children to see these amazing creatures at a sanctuary at Turtle Lagoon at Jumeirah Al Naseem. The enclosure is open to the public every day, without any entry fees, or bookings. Check ahead on the feeding schedule held once a week on Turtle Island where anybody is welcome to join. Based at Jumeirah Al Naseem, the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project aims to care, protect and rehabilitate sick and injured turtles, while also raising awareness of the threats faced by these marine animals. The initiative runs in collaboration with the Emirates Wildlife Protection Office. Some have been fitted with satellite tags, allowing the team at the project to trace their former patients and learn more about these endangered creatures.
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4. Jubail Mangrove Park, Abu Dhabi: Take your children through Abu Dhabi’s National Mangrove Park, where they can see turtles, gazelles, fish, crabs, and birds. The Jubail Mangrove Park is a mangrove sanctuary, which is an educational, nature and leisure destination, with many avian and marine species native to Abu Dhabi.
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5. Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Abu Dhabi: This protected area in Abu Dhabi is home to nearly 200 species of migratory birds, as well as over 230 species of invertebrates, 11 types of mammals and reptiles. You can spot greater spotted eagles, Think red foxes, desert monitors and Ethiopian hedgehog here. It boasts a top breeding area for flamingos.
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6. Kalba Bird of Prey Centre: Located in Kalba, The Bird of Prey Centre is a one-of-a-kind facility in the UAE. It is home to hundreds of species of giant raptor birds. At the Kalba Birds of Prey Centre, visitors can see ‘free-flying demonstrations’ that display the main features of the birds’ hunting and flying tricks. Experts supervise these demonstrations and the birds are trained by professional animal handlers. You might come across a barn owl, falcons, hawks, vultures and other migrating and resident wild raptors. The facility also has a small petting zoo for kids where they get to see local Arabian goats and cows. The Kalba Bird of Prey Centre opening hours are Sunday to Thursday 9am to 5.30pm; Friday 1pm to 5:30pm and Saturdays 11am to 5:30am,
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7. Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Center, Sharjah: Located at the base of the Hajar Mountains in Kalba, the Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Center is home to 30 different species of mountain animals. So, go ahead and take the 1.5 kilometer-long trail that leads you to the animal observation decks. You can either walk along the route or take golf carts available at the seventh watching spot. Alternatively, you can get into the indoor walkways with glass walls for unrestricted views. Critically endangered Arabian leopard, Arabian Wolves, Arabian Tahr, and caracal, are some of the wildlife you can hope to spot. What’s more, the inscriptions around the perimeter of the site imaginatively display one of the oldest known art paintings of the region's wildlife. Events and educational workshops are conducted throughout the year. The centre is open Sunday to Thursday from 9am to 6pm, Fridays from 2pm to 6pm, Saturdays from 11am to 6pm. It is closed on Mondays. Adults can enter for Dh25 and children under the age of 12 can enter free.
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