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Sharjah, the emirate that is a cultural metropolis and incubator of thought, art and literature, not to mention home to picturesque heritage neighbourhoods, splendid museums and bustling cultural centres, is fast becoming a magnet for lovers of nature.

Boasting quaint islands and environmental reserves that shell secrets of nature that are well worth exploring, the east coast also has plenty of sites where you can watch amazing flora and fauna up close. From Shark Island that boasts a diverse ecosystem and offers visitors the chance to enjoy rec activities like diving and fishing, to Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre, which shelters a variety of mountain and desert animals, to the Al Qurm Nature Reserve, considered one of the UAE’s most unique ecological sites, there are plenty of places to visit and explore.

Here are a few.

Shark Island

Located off the eastern coast of Sharjah, Shark Island can be accessed via boats. This island, which is renowned for its unique rocky nature and diverse ecosystem, is considered one of the emirate’s most important tourist attractions. From anemones and different types of fish to sea turtles, moray eels, stingrays, and Arabian angelfish, you might be able to spot all of them in the waters around this island.

Huts are available for rent on the island, where tourists can explore a range of enjoyable recreational activities, including swimming, diving, and fishing.

Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre

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Located on the Hajar Mountain, adjacent to the city of Kalba, the centre extends over an area of 12 square kilometres. Boasting a diverse ecosystem, it is home to 30 species of mountain and desert animals. The animals in this vast reserve include the Arabian leopard, wolves, Tahr, the caracal (desert lynx), snakes, lizards, hedgehogs, and scorpions, among others.

Providing visitors with an integrated and comfortable experience, the Centre offers golf carts to facilitate movement around the reserve. Tourists are guided and accompanied by teams who have expert knowledge about the history of the reserve and wildlife in general.

The Centre also features a night exhibition, allowing visitors to closely observe the life of desert animals and their close interrelationship with the surrounding environment. Activities to promote the protection and conservation of endangered animals, biodiversity, and nature are also arranged.

Al Qurm Nature Reserve

Located within the coastal area of Kalba, the Al Qurm Nature Reserve covers an area of 4.9 square kilometers. Thanks to its flora and fauna, the reserve is considered one of the UAE’s most unique ecological sites. At the heart of this reserve are the mangrove trees.

The reserve is home to several rare waterfowl, most notably the Arabian collared kingfisher, classified as an endangered bird. The beach next to the Al Qurm Nature Reserve, is a refuge for marine reptiles, including loggerhead sea turtles and green turtles.

The ecosystem here is divided into two main environments: the mangrove tree forest and the marine environment. The mangrove trees in the area, some of which reach a height of eight meters, are characterised by their beauty and hardiness. Growing naturally in the region, these trees can withstand seawater salinity and low oxygen levels. The trees also provide a valuable layer of protection that reduces the impact of storms, currents, tidal factors, and soil erosion.

The marine environment consists of an artificial lake, a haven for algae that play an important role in the photosynthesis process that provides food for marine life. The Mangrove Reserve is an excellent destination for tourists looking to embark on fun outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking, and birdwatching. Take the kids along for a real-life lesson in geography and ecology.

Al Suhub Rest House

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Located in the city of Khorfakkan at an altitude of 600 meters above sea level, Al Suhub Rest House is a perfect mix of natural richness and engineering creativity. One of the UAE’s pioneering projects, it features a two-storey, 2,788-square-meter rest house with a restaurant, a café, separate prayer rooms for men and women, a children’s play area, among other facilities.

Al Suhub Rest House is surrounded by green spaces, which reflect the latest innovations in forest architecture and landscape design. These green spaces include 8,700 trees that give an extra touch of beauty inspired by nature. It also includes indoor and outdoor balconies to enable all visitors to fully enjoy the wonders of nature.

The rest house is connected to the site of the Al Rafisah Dam by a mountain path. This trail is a favourite destination for lovers of mountain sports and adventures, allowing them to enjoy hiking and exploring while enjoying a panoramic view of the city of Khorfakkan.

Plans are afoot to further improve the experiences of visitors to these sites with the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority busy exploring new ways to showcase the emirate’s natural, environmental, cultural and urban heritage.

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