For animal enthusiasts, it would be interesting to know that the Arabian Peninsula is the natural habitat for a variety of animal and bird species beyond the obvious camel and falcon. The Arabian Oryx, which is also the national animal of the UAE (Yep! it’s not the camel), Arabian Sand Gazelle, Arabian Leopard, Sand Cat, Horned Viper, Flamingos, are those which are indigenous to the region.
Today we dive deep into the Best Places for Wildlife in Abu Dhabi & Dubai.
In the UAE, some animals are preserved in reserves that closely resemble their natural habitats, while others in zoos. Rest assured, you can have the best experience from pony farms to petting zoos and butterfly parks to shark tanks. Gather up your little ones for a fun day; below are your options of family-friendly wildlife facilities to visit on your stay in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Sir Bani Yas Island
Sir Bani Yas Islands is one among the eight islands of Al Dhafra that inhabits over 13,000 animals. Some are native to the region, like the Arabian Oryx. In contrast, others like cheetahs, llamas, spotted deers, and giraffes are not native to the UAE but have been sent here from other countries for conservation and rewilding. You get an African Wildlife Safari experience where you see herds of animals in the wild while just being 250kms from Abu Dhabi!
To reach Sir Bani Yas Island, you can either hire an aircraft operated by Seawings or go by car to the port at Jebel Dhanna and then take a boat.
You could stay at an Eco-friendly villa or a more luxurious five-star resort; Sir Bani Yas Islands is the perfect place to experience wildlife in its complete freedom without human constriction.
There is no entry fee to the island; however, a safari to see the animals is chargeable and can be arranged by any of the hotels on the island, even if you are not a guest.
Costs for Safari: Children from 2-12 years AED 100
Adults – AED 250.
For more information on Sir Bani Yas Island you can read our full guide.
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected wetland in Dubai that harbours 67 species of birds. This six-kilometre long stretch has lagoons, scrublands and mangroves, making it a conducive environment for birds like flamingos, great egrets, grey herons, sandpipers, cormorants and even small crustaceans, fishes and mammals.
Ras Al Khor translates to ‘Cape of the creek’ and is every bird watcher’s dream. Of the numerous birds, the Greater Flamingo steal the show! The winters are the best time to visit to see Flamingo as they’re migratory birds. Three hides are set up to experience wildlife at Ras Al Khor – the Flamingo hide, the Mangrove hide and the Lagoon hide.
Operating Hours: Saturday to Thursday from 09.00 AM to 04.00 PM, and at the Mangrove Hide, they give access to Leica telescope for visitors between 10.00 AM to 3.00 PM.
The entry to Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is free for locals and tourists, and if you are travelling solo or with a group with less than five members, you don’t need a permit. In contrast, all media members, group tours, academic institutions and other organisations need to apply for a permit at www.dm.gov.ae at least three days prior to visit.
If you are a keen bird watcher and want to learn more about Bird Watching in Dubai you can read our full guide.
The Camel Farm
Let’s address the ‘Camel‘ in the room! A trip to the UAE is incomplete without a selfie with a camel in your Instafeed. The Camel Farm at road E77 northbound, between D63- Al Qudra road and E66-Al Ain road, is your place to get up close and personal with these gentle friends, also referred to as the ship of the desert.
Camels were always such an integral part of the Arabic culture, and just like horse racing, camel racing is also a mega event, which also has free access for tourists and locals alike. To know more about Camel Racing, check out our article here.
Other than camels, there are other cute farm animals like baby goats to pet.
Operating hours: Monday to Thursday – 02.00 PM – 05.00 PM
Friday and Saturday – 10.00 AM – 05.00 PM
Entry Fee: Children less than three years – Free
Adults over 65 years – AED 20
All others – AED 40.
The above rates are for a guided visit of the farm, including feeding camels and other farm animals. They also have additional activities like camel safari with Bedouin picnic, camel riding, baby goat petting sessions and more which are chargeable. For more details, visit their website.
Dubai Butterfly Garden
When it comes to Dubai, it shouldn’t surprise you that a 6,673 sqm garden is the World’s Largest Covered Butterfly Garden, with over 15,000 butterflies of over 50 varieties. The Dubai Butterfly Garden is next to the Dubai Miracle Garden, and your tiny tots would sure love this place that resembles a fairyland. They also have a Koi pond in Dome 2 filled with koi fish of different kinds.
Operating hours: 09.00 AM – 06.00 PM daily
Entry Fee: General admissions – AED 55 per person
Group Package for 3 – AED 125
Group Package for 4 – AED 150
Group Package for 5 – AED 200
Free entry for kids below three years.
Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
If aquatic animals are what interests you, then rest assured, you will not be disappointed with a visit to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, with over 140 species from all over the world.
The Aquarium holds a massive 10 million litres of water, home to 400 sharks and rays, and if you love adventures, you shouldn’t miss the diving experience with Reef Sharks, Sand Tiger Sharks, Leopard Sharks, Giant Groupers and Stingrays.
You can also witness the otter, penguin, king croc and ray encounters and their daily feeding presentations or even hire a glass-bottom boat ride; the timings of all are listed on their official website.
Operating hours: Sunday – Wednesday 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Thursday – Saturday 10:00 AM – 12:00 AM
Entry Fee: AED 169 onwards. For more detailed price list
Emirates Park Zoo
Located in Abu Dhabi, Emirates Park Zoo is amongst the most popular attractions of Abu Dhabi and houses around 1,700 species of animals from white tigers, crocodiles and Siberian bears. Emirates Park Zoo will make you discover something new every time. They also have an animal theatre that puts up a live show of their resident Sea Lions. They also have experiences such as breakfast with parrots, giraffes and even a lunch with leopard, the charges of which are separate from entry fees.
Entry Fee: Adults – AED 35
Children over six years – AED 30
Operating hours: 09.00 AM – 08.00 PM, daily
In addition to being home to over 4,000 animals across 200 species and giving a lifetime of experience interacting with different varieties of mammals, birds and reptiles, the Al Ain zoo offers animal safaris. A fully guided tour with the choice of an SUV or Truck where you can get a closer look at wildlife is a must!
They also provide an exclusive outdoor dining experience, where you can fine dine a few meters away from the predators – African Lions. Dining with the lions can be booked from their official website here.
Entry fees: General Admission for adults and kids over 12 years – AED 28.35 (including taxes)
Children from 3- 12 years – AED 9.45 (including taxes)
Children below three years – Free
Charges for the Animal Safari can be checked at their official website here
Operating hours: 10.00 AM – 06.00 PM, daily
Hatta Honey Bee Garden and Discovery Centre
Yes read that right! Suit up to ‘bee-friend’ our pollinators and learn a lot about the modern techniques of apiculture and the native trees from where they get their nectar. Kids can learn while they see, and you get to bring back fresh organic honey home. They also offer fun and interactive sessions for beeswax candle making.
Operating hours: 09.00 AM to 05.00 PM, daily
Entry Fee: Entertainment Package – Green Wristband – AED 20 (including taxes).
Bees World Discovery Package – Black Wristband – AED 67 (including taxes)
Junior Beekeeper Package – Yellow Wristband – AED 50 (including taxes)
The Green Planet Dubai
If tropical forests are your calling, say no more. Experience tropical thunderstorms (at 01.00 PM and 05.00 PM) and drench in the rain, interact with the slowest mammal on the planet – the sloths, snorkel with the piranhas, an encounter with sugar gliders or discover the rarest species like the Burmese python and squirrel monkeys.
The wildlife experience doesn’t end here. The Australian Walkabout gives you a complete wildlife expedition without actually going to Australia. Witness wallabies to the Australian carpet python and book a 15-20 minute interaction with Kookaburra where you can feed this native Australian Bird and click pictures with them too. Guests can also attend the Australian Walkabout Biologist Talk on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 06.00 PM.
Operating Hours: 10.00 AM to 06.00 PM, daily
Entry Fees: AED 49 onwards. For a more detailed price list, visit their official website here.
The dolphins and seals steal the show here! This fully air-conditioned indoor auditorium allows you to interact with these intelligent creatures and swim with the dolphins. Apart from the dolphin and seal shows, they also conduct the Creek Park Bird show, a full-on live entertainment show with Exotic birds like cockatoos, toucans, Amazon parrots, macaws and more.
Dolphin and Seal Show
Entry fees: VIP Seats – Adults – AED 125
Children (2-11 years) – AED 85
Regular Seats – Adults – AED 105
Children (2-11 years) – AED 50
Show timings: Monday to Saturday – 11 AM, 2 PM and 6 PM
Creek Park Bird Show
Entry Fees: Regular Seats – Adults – AED 50
Children (2-11 years) – AED 30
Show timings: Monday to Saturday – 12.15 PM, 3.15 PM and 7.15 PM
The Emiratis of the United Arab Emirates have reassured the rest of the world that when it comes to tourism of all segments, including wildlife tourism, they are pioneers and the sky is the limit with imagination. The UAE has proved that from tropical rainforests to Dolphinariums and wetlands, a desert can be converted to all that and more.