The Hidden Mangrove Forests in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E

Long weekends

In the U.A.E., we are often lucky to have public holidays falling along with the weekend – which provides residents with great joy. My family and I usually use this to time to plan trips to other emirates and explore new nature-based places. This break, we decided to visit the Mangrove National Park maintained by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), upon the recommendation of my close friend living in Abu Dhabi.

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Road Trip

I am really glad we did so as it is a beautiful place close to nature and offers a range of activities for visitors. While on many road trips to Abu Dhabi, I have seen a fleeting glimpse of the wide range of mangrove islands parallel to the highway, I had never perceived the hustle and bustle happening behind the scenes.

So yesterday, we set about post lunch on an hour or so long road trip from Dubai on an adventure to get up close to these mangroves. Google map is your best friend in these cases and as I typed in mangroves in Abu Dhabi, the App churned out a few different results. After a few hiccups in figuring out the right place we were redirected to this place termed as the ‘Eastern Mangroves’.

Eastern Mangrove Promenade

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We were in for a surprise as we parked and entered the Eastern Mangrove Promenade – the atmosphere behind the calm building exterior was bustling with people. With a few days to National Day, the numerous cafes and restaurants were busy and a line of boats were bobbing on the calm waters overlooking the island of mangroves.

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Excited after finding out that there was boating (which I was very keen on); we enquired with the first tour operator who then politely told us that they were fully booked out. After being thoroughly disappointed post driving all the way, we walked westwards along the promenade defeated. I guess it’s true that when one boat closes another one opens because what was in store was a much better option!

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Just a hundred meters from there was another boat company – the Sea Hawk and they had a traditional abra boat run by the motor that was available then and there. Our faces lit up with joy (mainly mine) as we boarded the boat and set off on an hour’s trip. They also have diving and kayaking options for the more adventurous visitors.

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The Boat Ride in the Mangroves

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I was transported back to memories of riding around the mangroves in Malaysia, as we floated along the mangoves in Abu Dhabi.

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As we entered the canal surrounded by the grey mangroves, herons and smaller birds swooped all around us as the place has over sixty species of birds and aquatic mammals.

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The whole boating experience was so calming and allowed us a peek into the life of the biodiversity of the mangroves during a low tide. All around us were examples of the beauty of nature – the tiny mottled crabs crawling over the mangrove roots, herons chasing fish and mangrove roots offering solace to the marine life.

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To help stabilize the soil around the mangroves, the EAD has placed structural sandbags to allow the respiratory roots to grow steadily upwards to breathe oxygen.

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After a pit stop at the bird watching platform – that’s been elevated to minimize the disturbance to the environmental and marine life around; we watched as the sun dipped behind the trees and bounced sunlight over the waves of the sea.

The EAD has done a beautiful work of protecting and restricting tourism for the preservation of the National Park.

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As we passed visitors on the kayak, we smiled in acknowledgment of the shared beauty around us.

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Time seemed to slow down during our ride around the vast mangrove islands, and we returned back to the promenade content with the time spent amongst the waters.

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This place cannot be more highly recommended for a well and truly deserved break from the daily routine of city life and is definitely worth the drive to Abu Dhabi from anywhere within the U.A.E.

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