Wildlife in Abu Dhabi: Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

On the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, around a 30 minute drive from the city, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is a spot that is well worth a visit if you’re interested in the outdoors and wildlife. The place had been on my list to investigate for some time, and with such great winter weather over the holidays, I finally made it down there. 

You never know quite what you’re going to find with these things in this part of the world, and other than the fact I knew there were flamingos there and that I’d read on the website to expect it to be pretty basic, that was pretty much all I knew about it.

And it is very basic when you arrive, although there is more there than I had expected with a small welcome centre and a nature ranger who explains where the best view of the flamingos is and what kinds of wildlife to expect on the way round. There’s also an excellent free field guidebook to the area which is really useful for making sure you don’t miss anything – or at the very least, making sure that you know what it is that you are looking at when you spot something interesting or unusual!

There are two marked paths to choose from – a shorter 1.5km route or a full 3km route. If it’s flamingos you’ve come for, you’ll need to take the 3km route as that’s where they all hang out.

The terrain around both paths is pretty easy, and although it is just a sand track, even families with pushchairs were making the trip without any issue.

It’s the kind of place that would be very easy to dismiss, but if you keep your eyes open and remain open minded to learning about what the land holds, it’s actually a great opportunity to learn quite a lot about the native plants of the region and to spot plenty of wildlife from birds, lizards, ants, snakes, foxes and plenty more. Not forgetting of course the Greater Flamingos who are perhaps responsible for putting the area on the visitor radar.

The emirate of Abu Dhabi is home to over 20,000 flamingos and during the period between Autumn and Spring as many as 4,000 flamingos can be found at the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve.

Towards the halfway point on the 3km walk a bird hide can be found which provides a quiet place to sit and observe the flamingos. It’s really something to be seen and I’m afraid the photos just don’t do it justice, huge numbers of flamingos all honking away and plodding around is not only worth making the drive for, but is really quite a spectacle.

We had a lovely morning out at the reserve and the toddler was delighted to see flamingos. We also enjoyed taking our time and spotting ants, tracks of other birds and animals and plant life such as the desert hyacinth.

If you’re interested in getting outdoors for a walk (it makes a nice change to be able to do that in this region!) then it’s somewhere I’d definitely recommend. Grab your field guide from the welcome centre and see what you can spot along the way!

You’ll need to take water as there’s no facilities at the centre other than a small shack that is the welcome centre (there are bathrooms) and it’s worth going early in the morning before the heat of the day as not only is the walk more pleasant, but there’s a likelihood of seeing more active creatures before they all run and hide from the sun!

As an ecologically sensitive area, visiting days are limited and the reserve is only open on Thursday and Saturday mornings from 8am to 4pm (last entry at 2pm), but check the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve website before your visit as this can change intermittently. It’s also completely free to enter and no registration is required. Just make sure you follow the directions from the website, if you rely on google maps you’ll end up in the wrong spot and it can be hard to find your way round to the correct side and car park!

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