The ‘Tilapia’ lake near Al Ain city. The beautiful lake, hidden behind sand dunes, is not known to most people and has got its informal name due to the large number of Tilapia fish in its waters. Residents have called on the authorities to develop the site, where poisonous insects are found. Image Credit: Aftab Kazmi/Gulf News

Al Ain: The beauty of a natural lake in Al Ain has lately been attracting adventurous visitors who are defying hazardous conditions to capture images of it.

Hidden behind sand dunes, the lake is a treasure house of aquatic life and flora and fauna. Its beauty and unique location have mesmerised professional and amateur photographers alike who go around it to capture its splendour from all angles.

Still largely unknown, even to Al Ain residents, the lake is fast becoming a darling of nature lovers and migratory birds. But they are all, apparently, unaware of the dangers as the area is infested with poisonous insects and arachnids like scorpions.

"It is beautiful but unfortunately a dangerous place, especially for families and kids, for it has lots of poisonous creatures living around it," said David Edmond, an expatriate resident of Al Ain, who recently visited the lake.

He said the lake can be developed into a scenic picnic spot. All it needs is the authorities' attention and measures for public safety. Many people have started visiting the lake, some with families as well. Bathing and swimming in the lake, Edmond said, could be life-threatening and people should refrain from such activities until the authorities clarify that it is safe.

Tourism asset

With some developments, he added, the lake can be made into an excellent addition to the city's tourism assets. "It's unique for being in the middle of arid sand dunes. For me it's a marvel," Edmond said.

The lake, which appears to have been there for years, does not yet have any official name. Some visitors have named it after a fish — "Tilapia" — found in shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes. This fish is in abundance in this lake, too.

The lake was formed either due to the accumulation of ground water or due to rain water being trapped among the sand dunes.

It covers quite a big area and various species of plants have grown around it. Migratory birds, too, have been seen around it.

Safi Haider, another expatriate resident, said he spotted some pictures of the lake on the Al Ain Photographia Award website a few days ago. "I was surprised to see the beautiful images of the lake about which I knew nothing before," he said and added that he searched for its location on Google Earth.

Stuck in the sand

He then drove a pick-up truck to the lake but the vehicle got stuck in the sand when he tried to go around the lake to take some pictures. He sought help from an Emirati who assisted him by towing his vehicle out of the sand.

"I have seen scorpions around the lake that are a big threat to the people visiting it," Haider said, noting a possibility of other poisonous insects around.

Haider and Edmond both said it appears to be a freshwater lake but the water is not suitable for drinking. They have also seen private tankers taking water from the lake but not for drinking purposes.

Edmond said Al Ain Municipality should test the water and warn the public if it is unfit. "Nobody should catch fish from the lake until the authorities declare it safe for humans," he added.

A municipality official told Gulf News that the lake is not a new discovery. It was hidden behind the sand dunes and most people were unaware of it. "We have been looking into the situation and will take the necessary measures when required," he said.

Difficult access

The "Tilapia" lake is located some 25km to the south of downtown Al Ain near the new Industrial City on the Al Ain-Abu Dhabi Truck Road.

There are also a number of other small lakes in the area but these are all inaccessible. A small stretch of unpaved road, around a kilometre in length, also makes Tilapia lake inaccessible without a four-wheel drive.

Only SUVs, pick-up trucks or heavy vehicles can be used to reach the scenic lake.