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Ecotourism and Sustainability


As one of the world's favorite destinations, the UAE features some of the most stunning landscapes and beautiful natural attractions in the region. We are dedicated to developing low-impact, eco-friendly tourism across the country, so visitors can take in the natural majesty that stretches across the country while leaving the landscape pristine and untouched.

Eco-tours can be arranged through dedicated environmental groups, such as the Emirates Natural History Group (hyperlink), the Emirates Environmental Group (hyperlink) and the Emirates Bird Records Committee (hyperlink) along with private tour operators and hotels.

Perhaps the best-known "green" destinations in the UAE lies within the emirate of Abu Dhabi - Al Ain.

One of the world's oldest permanently inhabited settlements, Al Ain was once a vital caravan oasis on the trade routes stretching from the Levant to the Indian Ocean. Explore the rich history of this desert oasis and visit Al Ain Fort, the Al Ain National Museum and the 4,000-year old tombs at Hili Fort.

Today, other attractions in Al Ain include the Al Ain oasis, Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort, Wadi Adventure - a white water rafting, kayaking and surfing area. For family fun, visit the newly renovated Hili Fun-City.

The UAE features some of the region most exquisite scuba diving in the region. Diving enthusiasts will love Martini Rock, one of the most popular dive spots in the country. Prolific marine life and breathtaking underwater seascapes make scuba diving on the most unforgettable adventures in the UAE.

We are also keenly aware that ecotourism helps drive conservation efforts, protecting wildlife for generations to come. That is why visitors will love the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. The reserve covers nearly five per cent of Dubai's land and is home to over 6,000 indigenous trees, grasses and flora, as well as herds of oryx and other wildlife.

Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, just down the road, pairs high-end luxury accommodations with ancient Bedouin camps and serves as the centerpiece for visitors to explore the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. In recognition of its key role in helping preserve the region's wildlife, National Geographic awarded Al Maha its World Legacy Award for its efforts.

In Sharjah, government entities are working to develop the emirate's ecotourism sector, consulting with local and international ecotourism agencies to better protect chosen sites and preserve the emirate's natural beauty. Studies are currently underway to ensure accurate selection of areas for such projects, with particular focus on the necessity to maintain the sensitive balance needed to protect the environment, while also developing an exclusive environment friendly tourism product.

Lately, 18 gazelles of the endangered species known as "Damani" in the Al Hafiya natural reserve in Kalba. The gazelles release marked the inauguration of the first phase of the "Kalba Eco-tourism Project" undertaken by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) in collaboration with the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) in Sharjah and the International Conservation Services. Moreover, a number of predatory birds were released in Al Ghail Fort, affiliated to the Kalba Eco-tourism Project, during which 21 falcon species were released. The falcon species included Al-Hur, Shaheen, Al Wakri, Hawk falcon, and Eagle owl, one of the largest of its kind in the world inhabiting deserts and wooded areas.

While new visitors may find it surprising, bird watching is another popular ecotourism activity in the UAE, especially around the country's many wetlands areas that are home to over 400 species of birds. Key areas for bird life include Ras Al Khor in Dubai, which is home to Western Reef Heron, flamingos and spotted eagles, and the Jebel Ali area with its native hoopoe lark and grey francolin.

Other protected bird life areas include Mushrif Park, Al Habab and Hatta.

Wadi Wurayah in Fujairah was established as the first protected mountain area of the country, in order to protect fresh water springs, pools and streams that provide its unique wildlife with a renewable and safe drinking resource. Now they are taking things forward. The current developments in Wadi Wurayah are set to ensure active protection of the natural and cultural resources of the area and deliver a unique model of how environment conservation can be economically viable.

The UAE includes more than 5036.24 km sq of protected area which represents 6.044 % of the its total area. These protected areas are distributed in Abu Dhabi (Marawah Marine, Al Yasat), Dubai (Ras EL Khor, Jabal Ali, and Dubai Desert), Sharjah (Khour Kalbaa, Al Gheil, Wadi Al Helw, Al Berd among others), Ajman (Al Zawraa) and Fujairah (Bird Island, Al badia, Dedna and many others)

The United Arab Emirates is the home of a unique array of protected areas which cover more than 5036.24 square kilometers, equivalent to 6.024% of the total area of the country. These reserves are distributed between all the emirates including:

  • Ab​u Dhabi (protected Mrawa water, and Yasat)
  • Dubai (Ras Al Khor, and Jebel Ali, Dubai desert)
  • Sharjah (Alkalba Creek, Ghail, Wadi Al Helou, Bardi, and Ramtha, among others)
  • Ajman (Ajman Creek Boat)
  • Fujairah (Badia, and bird Island).

One of the most famous protected areas is ‘Al Batinah' Island. Located 130 km west of Abu Dhabi, the island is positioned as one of the unique natural islands and a primary location in Marawah Marine Reserve. ‘Al Batinah' Island is considered as the first marine biosphere reserve in the region.


‘Al Batinah' Island represents the UAE's commitment to environmental sustainability and biodiversity. The island is the home of many life forms such as coral reefs, sea cows, natural mangrove and hawksbill turtles, dolphins, Osprey, and Socotra cormorant.


Sustainability is at the core of the UAE - from reducing our operational footprint, to developing renewable materials and safer products, to collaborating with others to create sustainable solutions. UAE is playing a vital role in the region with its adoption of 'green' standards across its various infrastructural projects.

The UAE and the region is reaching a new milestone in development and furthering its position among leading nations in the field of Sustainability; all in accordance with UAE's Vision 2021. Sustainability is a key priority for the government of the UAE, as clearly expressed in the words of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates, who said that the UAE is diversifying its energy sources and enhancing its experience in international energy markets as a global hub of Renewable Energy Research and Development."

The UAE's sustainable development strategy was initiated by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minster and Ruler of Dubai, under the theme, and themed as ‘Green Economy for Sustainable Development". Through this initiative, the UAE aims to become one of the world leaders as well as a centre for the export and re-export of green products and technologies. The initiative consists of six fields, including; Green Energy, Investment incentives, Green City, Climate Change Effects, and Green Lifestyle, which form a vehicle that enables the country to realize its objective."

The UAE has developed a unique scientific tool that assesses how changes in the electricity and water sector might affect Abu Dhabi's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions up to the year 2030. The tool has been developed by the partners in the Al Basma Al Beeiyah (Ecological Footprint) initiative to support sustainable policy-making by providing decision-makers with analysis on how different policies can help lower the UAE's Ecological Footprint.

"Abu Dhabi Sustainability week" brings together the World Future Energy Summit, the International Water Summit, the International Renewable Energy Conference, IRENA's General Assembly and the Zayed Future Energy Prize Award Ceremony. Such gatherings along many others can help foster the deeper international cooperation essential for tackling the world's major challenges.

The UAE's commitment to sustainable development shapes both our domestic policy and our international cooperation. Both are rooted deeply in the values of our country, shaped above all by our founding father the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan. These values include a respect for nature, an emphasis on education, a stress on rights and opportunities for women, and an open and tolerant society.