Al Wathba Wetland Reserve: How to go there

What is it?

Established by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is the first area in the Emirate designated for protection by law and was declared a Ramsar site in 2013. Once a coastal salt flat (sabkha), it has now flourished into natural and man-made lakes that enable many of Abu Dhabi’s species to thrive. In 2018, the reserve was placed on the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas making it the first site in the region to receive this recognition.

What is there to see/do?

The reserve is particularly known for its large population of Greater Flamingos – with as many as 4,000 living there during autumn and spring – but also hosts more than 250 species of birds, 37 plant species and a wide range of aquatic life. There are two self-guided walking trails (1.5 kms or 3 kms) for visitors to explore and a bird-watching hide to observe the flamingos.

When is it open?

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is open to the public Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays Fridays and Saturdays every week, from 8am until 6pm. Visitors must adhere to all COVID-19 precautionary measures.

Requirements for entry include: face masks, keeping a safe distance, negative covid-19 PCR test for a period not exceeding one month, with the exception of children under 12 years old.

How much does it cost to get in? 

Free

How can I get there?

It is a 30-minute drive from Abu Dhabi city centre.

Take the E22 Abu Dhabi-Al Ain road and connect with the E30 Abu Dhabi-Al Ain Truck Road, then follow signs for the reserve.

– From Abu Dhabi through Mussafah
– From Abu Dhabi through Baniyas
– From Dubai

Is it family-friendly?

Yes! It is a great place for families and children to connect with nature. It’s rare to see such large numbers of flamingos, making this a particularly exciting trip for children. There is an air-conditioned visitor centre on-site and shaded areas along the walking trails but remember to stay hydrated and wear a hat and sunscreen. We have purposefully kept the reserve as raw as possible therefore there are no cafes available so make sure to bring your own re-usable bottle filled with water. 

Al Watbha Wetland Reserve has proven to be extremely popular with the number of visitors reaching more than 17,000 since the beginning of January, and it is expected that the total number for the season will reach more than 20,000. The reserve was receiving visitors for two days a week, and this is the highest number of visitors to the reserve since it opened to the public in 2014.

Established in 1998 by the late Sheikh Zayed, Founder of the UAE, the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is a nature reserve consisting of both natural and man-made bodies of water located 40 km southeast of central Abu Dhabi. Covering a total of five square km, the wetlands are comprised of salt flats, fossilized sands and dunes, and are densely packed with a variety of animal and plant species.

The reserve is famous for its remarkable flamingo population, which flock in their thousands to enjoy the warm weather during the winter months, with some remaining all year round. There are approximately 4,000 flamingos residing on the reserve alone, said the EAD press release.

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