What springs to mind when you picture Dubai: Impossibly tall, infinitely sky-scraping buildings in a glittering concrete jungle; a futuristic supercar-spotting playground with a historic heartbeat; palatial beachfront hotels? Actual palaces? We’d be lying if we told you that the rumours weren’t true – Dubai is all of these things and then some. What’s more surprising, perhaps, is the side of Dubai that celebrates nature (and yes, it does exist). The specialists at Kenwood Travel have put together a list of experiences and attractions that are truly unmissable for nature lovers on holiday in Dubai.
Dubai Desert Conversation Reserve
Amidst the glassy sheen of Dubai’s Downtown, it’s sometimes easy to forget that you are surrounded by infinite expanses of gold-tinged sand. A short trip to the protected Dubai Desert Conversation Reserve will fix that. Though, it’s not just the extreme yet fascinating landscape that will make your trip worthwhile. Contrary to popular belief, there is a wealth of life amidst those endlessly sandy slopes. On an off-road tour or horse trek, keep your eyes peeled for oryx, gazelles, foxes, wildcats, and lizards. A hot air balloon trip can also give you a unique perspective over the reserve 3,000 ft. below.
Okay, you caught us – this one isn’t strictly all-natural. But if you’re a lover of all things wildlife, this is not to be missed. Combining the architectural theatrics typical for Dubai with a whole load of plant and animal species (over 3,000 in fact), the Green Planet’s 4-storey bio-dome recreates a tropical rainforest indoors. Make your way from the bat cave in the Canopy zone, all the way down to the Flooded Rainforest, where you can catch a piranha feeding. Other pre-bookable animal experiences include sloth interactions, sugar glider encounters, and insect handling (for the less-squeamish among us). A real-life urban oasis.
High in the lofty Hajar Mountains, Hatta is an inland exclave of the emirate, sitting on the border with Oman. The Hatta Reservoir is a rare but invaluable reserve of water tucked away in a dramatic, alpine nest, used to control water supply to the region. And, might we add, it makes for an awesome day trip. An abundance of exhilarating activities await you at great altitude in Hatta: from mountain biking to zip lining, but our favourites involve taking to the still, azure waters of the lakes, framed by picture-perfect peaks. Kayaking out on the dam makes for a starkly contrasting activity to the glitzy yachting scene at the Dubai Marina, but both are a special sight to behold.
Dubai Miracle Garden
Floral fanatics, meet the Dubai Miracle Garden. Every year from mid-November to mid-May, a 72,000 square metre space in the heart of Dubailand springs to life with flower sculptures in kaleidoscopic colours. Imagine a souped-up, slightly Alice in Wonderland-esque Chelsea Garden Show, and then turn the madness up about 100 notches. Yes, it’s a man-made attraction, but the garden truly showcases the beauty of fresh flowers. Walk down the heart-shaped pathway, stop and pose next to an 18 metre high topiary statue of Mickey Mouse, or check out a life-sized floral rendition of the Emirates A380 airplane. Prepare to be dwarfed by the latter, which has actually been crowned the world’s largest floral installation.
Dubai is chock-full of gorgeous, blue-flag beaches, such as Jumeirah Beach, Al Mamzar Corniche, and Al Khan Beach – each with the powder-soft sand and clear waters every holidaymaker dreams of. So why Sunset Beach, you ask? Sunset Beach, or Umm Suqeim, is the first city beach in the UAE to offer night swimming. By day, enjoy soaking up the sunshine with a stellar view of the iconic Burj al Arab, and by night don’t let the time stop you from floating in the tepid ocean. 12-metre Smart Poles powered by solar and wind energy illuminate the beach and 30 metres into the sea, making it safe for a dip until midnight despite lack of daylight.