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Ahead of its opening, the EAD has also called upon visitors to protect the rare natural heritage site.

Abu Dhabi: Long famous as a nature-rich suburb of the capital city, Al Wathba has this winter gained two new attractions to captivate tourists and residents alike.

The sites of the fossil dunes in the area, and of a man-made lake in the vicinity, have been now been redesigned to include amenities and services for new visitors, while also allowing for the conservation of natural resources in the surroundings.

Al Wathba Lake Camp

Al Wathba Lake Camp is the latest to have opened up, with its 13 separate campsites including a view of the lake. The campground can accommodate 120 people at a time, with room for tents and recreational vehicles onsite. The area’s redevelopment has also created 24 picnic sites with dedicated barbecue facilities, and space for up to 500 people to gather every day.

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Al Wathba reserve with rare 120,000-year-old fossil dunes opens to public. The Protected Area located 45 kilometres to the East of Abu Dhabi city and comprising more than 1,700 fossil dunes, is spread over 7 square kilometres.

Alongside these, the Lake Camp will soon include a 1,400-metre-long walking and running track, and a 1,200-metre-long cycling route. Other sport facilities will also be available soon, including volleyball and other courts and playgrounds. A pair of observation decks also allow for panoramic views of the site.

In a statement, the Abu Dhabi Media Office said the Lake Camp will soon host commercial activities and food and beverage options.

“Our sites will appeal to a wide range of campers, families and nature lovers, whether you are an adventure enthusiast who will enjoy our new attraction areas, or a cyclist who wants to reconnect with this amazing landscape. The Department of Municipalities and Transport’s (DMT) strategy has always been to create more recreational destinations in the emirate, in order to foster the well-being of Abu Dhabi residents and promote an active and healthy lifestyle. This new destination is [therefore] part of its strategy to develop sustainable, pioneering and smart facilities for the prosperity and happiness of the community, and to enhance the attractiveness, livability and quality of life of the emirate,” said Dr Salem Al Kaabi, DMT’s acting director general of operational affairs.

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The illuminated paths of up to 3 km in length back and forth with several umbrellas and seats for rest and recreation.

Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Protected Area

Prior to the opening of this camp, a seven-square-kilometre site containing 1,700 fossil dunes was reopened as a nature reserve, the Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Protected Area. The preservation of the site, overseen by the emirate’s environmental sector regulator, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), allows for the conservation of the 120,000-year stunning rock formations while also enabling visitors to explore them.

The fossil formations, which date back to the Ice Age according to experts, are made of calcium carbonate and other salts, and derived their fluid shapes through interactions between wind force and sediment supply.

As part of its plan to both protect and develop the site, the EAD set up a Visitors Centre, and viewing branches overlooking the dunes. A seven-kilometre trail allows visitors to see the dunes up close while fencing protects the formations. A 200-seat amphitheatre enables visitors to enjoy a light-and-music show scheduled for the evenings.

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“The inauguration of the Fossil Dunes Protected Area comes with the aim of protecting the natural heritage of the emirate of Abu Dhabi and encouraging eco-tourism. Abu Dhabi is rich and offers a unique diversity in its environments, habitats and natural features with impressive natural formations, including the wonderful fossil dunes. These dunes are composed of rare sand formations densely located in Al Wathba area, to the south of Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, and can also be found in other areas in the emirate. These fossil dunes have been classified EAD’s Habitat Map and serve as an important habitat for several wildlife species,” said Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region, and chairman of the EAD board of directors.

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The protected area is located 45 kilometres east of Abu Dhabi city and is comprised of more than 1,700 fossil dunes spread over seven square kilometres. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

Apart from these two new developments, the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is also a well-loved area. It is known for its large population of flamingoes, with as many as 4,000 living there in the winter. But many other bird, aquatic and plant species thrive on the site. Two walking trails allow trekkers to explore the area and bird-watch.

Free entry

Entry to all three sites in Al Wathba is currently free. Authorities have however called upon visitors to avoid littering, and to take precautions to protect the natural assets, such as not climbing on fossil dunes.