Bird Sanctuary In The Middle Of A City

Posted On December 13, 2009 

Common Info:

Ras Al Khor is a wetland reserve located at the centre of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.  What is unique to Ras Al Khor reserve is that it is all situated in the midst of swirling traffic and heavy urban infrastructure. It is one of the few urban protected areas in the world. Dubai Municipality looks after the preservation of the biodiversity at Ras Al Khor. Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary (RAKWS) was officially declared a protected area in 1998. The sanctuary, spread over an area of 6.2 square kilometres and surrounded by a buffer zone, is home to 47 flora and 266 fauna species including crustaceans, small mammals and fishes. However, Ras Al Khor is renowned for the migratory birds that flock here in large numbers. Birdlife International has designated the wetland as an Important Bird Area (IBA).

Country Info:

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is located in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula and is bordered by Oman in the south, Saudi Arabia in the west and Qatar in the north-west. To its north and east lies the Persian Gulf. UAE is a confederation of seven states (or emirates) and the national capital is Abu Dhabi. UAE has the world’s sixth largest oil reserves. It covers an area of 83,600 square kilometrees.


Dubai is one of the seven emirates of the UAE. It is located just south of the Persian Gulf. The city is known for its exquisite real estate architecture, tourism and sporting events. It shares borders with emirates of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah besides Oman. Hatta is a minor exclave of the emirate of Dubai in the south surrounded by Oman on three sides. Persian Gulf lies to the north-west of Dubai.


Dubai is mainly marked by sandy desert pattern for it is located within the Arabian Desert. Towards the east, there are salt-crusted coastal plains making way to sand dunes that gradually grow large. The flat desert leads to the Western Hajar Mountains that run parallel to the Dubai-Oman border. Dubai has no natural river body but a natural saltwater inlet called Dubai Creek and several gorges and waterholes.


Dubai mainly experiences a hot, arid climate. Summers are extremely hot with the mercury hovering around 40 degrees Centigrade during the day. During night, temperature dips to near about 30 degrees Centigrade. Winters are also warm with a average day time temperature of 23 degrees Centigrade.


Wild grasses and date palms surround Dubai, thanks to the sandy desert soil. In the flat plains located next to the Western Al Hajar Mountains, acacia and ghaf trees are generally seen. Neem is an indigenous plant of Dubai while imported species like Eucalyptus are also seen.


Among animals, hyena, desert fox, Arabian Oryx and caracal are commonly found in the deserts of Dubai. Among the fish species, Hammour is a common inhabitant in this part of the world.

Birds:ras al khor bird sanctuary

However, it is the avifauna that forms the major attraction in Dubai. More than 300 species of migratory birds fly through Dubai in spring and autumn for it falls in the migration path of these birds flying from and across Europe, Asia and Africa. As many as 270 species of birds can be seen at Ras Al Khor.

Ras Al Sanctuary ecosystem features:

The Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary features mangroves, lagoons, mudflats, sabkhas, reed beds and shrub lands.

Birds at Ras Al Khor:

Birding at Ras Al Khor is a unique experience for many could think that maintaining a bird sanctuary in the midst of a sprawling urban location is a tough ask. But the fenced area has done wonders in preserving a worth watching bird sanctuary. Twitchers can spot the birds here (open from Saturday o Thursday from 9 am to 4 pm) through three bird hides that have been built here in 2005. The hides have been named as Gurm (mangrove), Fantir (flamingo) and Al Buhaira (lagoon). The hides, designed as traditional wind towers, offer a panoramic view of the sanctuary. The hides are equipped with telescopes, binoculars and other gadgets to facilitate bird viewing. Visitors can enter the hides with required permits from the Dubai municipality. At a time only 10 visitors are allowed to enter a hide at Ras Al Khor.

Birds that are commonly found at Ras Al Khor include:
  • Greater Flamingos (mostly spotted species)
  • Asian Pied Mynas
  • Dunlin
  • Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters
  • Spotted Eagles
  • Osprey
  • Broad-billed Sandpiper (significant concentration than any other place in UAE)
  • Sandwich Tern
  • Black-necked Grebe
  • Common Bulbul
  • Crab Plover
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Little Egret
  • Socotra Cormorant
  • Indian Peafowls
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Spoonbill
  • Black-winged Stilt
  • Cattle Egret
  • Redshank
  • Curlew
  • Purple SunbirdPurple Sunbird
  • Raptors

Majestic flamingos resting on dark mangoves is one of the most attractive features of Ras Al Khor. During the winter season, scores of migratory birds join the flamingos here making the bird count almost 25,000.

Rules and regulations at the RAKWS:

No to:

  • carry out plants or animals
  • make noise
  • carry arms or hunt
  • damage vegetation or wildlife
  • enter beyond the prescribed track area
  • polluting air, water or soil inside the sanctuary
For visiting RAKWS:

Tourists must apply to the Marine Environment and Sanctuaries Unit, Environment Department, Dubai Municipality, PO Box 67 Dubai for the visitors’ entry permit.  Contact: Tel +97142064240 / 2064244 / 2064260, Fax +9714 227 0160. The application form can also be downloaded from the web site: Processing of the permit will take at least two working days.

Dubai communication:

Dubai is one of the most significant stops in the Middle East. Dubai International Airport is the busiest airport in this region and is connected to various places in Europe, Australia, Africa, South Asia and elsewhere. Dubai is also well-connected to other parts of the UAE by means of good bus service. Bus services are also available to Oman, Jordan and Egypt. Long distance taxis are also available. Besides, there are ferry services between Dubai and Bushehr in Iran.

Dubai accommodation:Metropolitan Palace Dubai
  • Coral Deira
  • Arabian Courtyard Bur Dubai
  • Metropolitan Palace Dubai
  • Majestic Hotel Dubai
  • Taj Palace
  • Radisson SAS

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