Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is one of the most fascinating tourist spots in the UAE. This mix of natural and man-made island bodies provides a safe haven for dozens of birds. Many places in the world have become inhabitable because of the climate changes and sadly, numerous animals and birds are heading towards extinction.
However, thanks to the efforts of the UAE government, these beautiful creatures can find a home at places like the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. The reserve offers protection and proves that if the authorities act decisively, it can make things better. This model can be followed around the world to work on conservation and preservation of endangered species and natural reserves.
While there are stunning tourist spots in Abu Dhabi like the Founder’s Memorial or the Heritage Village, Al Wathba offers something unique. The very simplistic beauty of the place can help you connect with nature and watching such exotic birds is sure to be a surreal experience.
Located around 50 km away from mainland Abu Dhabi, this area is divided into sabkhas (salt flats), fossilised sands and dunes. Moreover, it is internationally recognised as one of the 2,000 remaining wetlands in the world. In 2018, it was placed on the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas.
Al Wathba Wetland Reserve
A visit to Al Wathba Wetland is definitely merited if you’re a nature lover. This blog provides comprehensive details about this scenic attraction, so you can have a well-planned and memorable trip.
The formation of Al Wathba Wetlands Reserve
If you are into geology, there is plenty here for you to learn. It is believed that the fossil dunes of Gayathi Formation were formed 7,000 to 20,000 years ago. The environment in the region at the time was starkly different from what we see today. During the last Ice Age, there was water running through these lands.
Once the glacial period ended, wind-blown sediments accumulated leading to the formation of fossil dunes at the site. However, the formation of the wetland is relatively recent. The construction of the Al Ain truck road caused a natural depression, which led to the accumulation of water. The resultant flooding in the surrounding area triggered waterlogging.
This began to attract different birds. It is said that the first group of flamingos in the area was seen in the year 1993. What attracted them? The saline lakes were fertile with brine shrimp, a favourite food for these big birds. However, while they were here, they could not breed because of human activity.
In 1998, His Highness the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan declared the area a natural reserve. This led to the growth of the flamingo population and subsequently more and more species flocked here. Al Wathba today gets a regulated amount of treated wastewater from the treatment facility at Al Mafraq. This is essential to keep the place habitable for all species.
Why should one visit Al Wathba Wetland Reserve?
There are plenty of reasons one would want to visit the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. The diversity in species here is astonishing. There are more than 260 bird species here. Moreover, 320 invertebrates, 16 reptiles, 35 kinds of plants and 10 mammals are found here.
The most significant population among these birds is that of flamingos. It is estimated that over 5,000 flamingos have made this place their home. Plus their population grows every year. In 2018, this island saw over 600 flamingo chicks hatch.
There is a visitor’s experience centre to guide tourists. A self-guided tour of up to 3 km can help you watch a lot of these beautiful birds up close. Moreover, a bird hideout is also present with a telescope and binoculars. You can spend quite a bit of time here just observing these gorgeous birds in their natural habitat. If you are a bird enthusiast look out for grey-headed swamphen, Western Marsh Harriers and black-winged stilt. It’s a stunning sight.
However, the most wonderful sight here is of the flamingo herd (or as they are called flamboyance). You can hear their striking nasal honking from a distance. And you can get fairly close to the flamboyance. But be careful, you wouldn’t want to scare them away. It is a sight to behold, truly.
Moreover, there are bushes and other different plantation. If you are interested in botany, this might be the best place to be in Abu Dhabi. There are so many indigenous plants, such as red thumb cynomorium coccineum, tetraena qatarensis and desert hyacinth. You are unlikely to see these in any other place in Abu Dhabi.
Bio-diversity is crucial for human survival. Protected areas like Al Wathba Wetland Reserve are providing some respite and by visiting this place you are giving a message to the authorities, that you are invested in protecting wildlife and nature. The joy of watching exotic creatures is just an add on.
Things to Know Before You Visit Al Wathba Wetland Reserve
How can I get to Al Wathba Wetland Reserve?
Those living in mainland Abu Dhabi will have to travel from Baniyas or Mussafah. Public transportation is not available in the area. Furthermore, you can book tours to Al Wathba Wetland Reserve with private companies. You can reach Al Wathba Wetland Reserve location by following an online map.
Are there are any restaurants in the area?
To maintain the ecosystem of the area, the government doesn’t allow any business activity. However, you can bring some snacks along, especially if the plan is to walk the 3 km track. You will definitely feel peckish after that.
Do I have to pay any Al Wathba Wetland Reserve Abu Dhabi entry fee?
There is no Al Wathba Wetland entry fee.
When can I visit Al Wathba Wetland Reserve?
Visitors are only allowed on Thursdays and Saturdays from 08:00 am to 04:00 pm (last entry at 02:00 pm). Al Wathba Wetland Reserve timings are strictly enforced. However, it is closed during the summer months. Usually, tourists are allowed to visit the place from 1st October to the end of April.
What all do I need to take along?
The place has been maintained in its organic form, so little work has been done to accommodate visitors. Pathways may not be as comfortable as you are used to in daily life. Hence, you must wear closed, comfortable shoes. Carry ample drinking water to stay hydrated and keep some snacks handy. Don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen and wear a cap and sunglasses to protect your head and eyes. Bringing a camera along is a great idea to capture some amazing memories.
Patience is a must to fully enjoy the experience. So, start planning your visit soon. You can plan a tour with your friends and family and admire the beauty of the natural world. This would most definitely be a treat for them. Moreover, there are other popular animal attractions in Abu Dhabi including zoos and wildlife parks that you can visit. For example, Al Ain Zoo and Emirates Park Zoo can offer learning and exciting experiences.
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