Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wildlife Drive at Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

Last weekend, our family decided to give mommy a break and let her enjoy some me-time. So hubby and son preferred spending their Saturday morning on bed and I went on a 'wildlife drive and Bedouin breakfast' at Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve at 6 in the morning!

Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is UAE's first national park and largest protected land area in the country spread over 225 square km. I booked my experience with Platinum Heritage through Headout App. It is around 40 minutes drive from Dubai but once we entered DDCR, I felt  like we traveled back in time, to historic Dubai, before all development and before discovering oil!

Bedouin Breakfast, Classic LandRover, Umm Hamad (Clockwise)
It was just the pristine desert around us, Empty Quarter in true sense! The desert on Arabian peninsula is largest sand desert on Earth and is called Rub' al Khali. The golden sand looked so beautiful in morning! We first headed to our Bedouin breakfast. The solar powered Platinum Heritage camp was just like any Bedouin home. Most of the furniture here is made of Ghaf tree timber. After we had Emarati Breakfast, a plate full of Bedouin food; we sat in majlis to talk to Umm Hamad about Bedouin culture! He answered all our questions with little humor added to it!

Riding camels is always fun, this time I particularly loved my ride as he was making some noises, I presumed he was trying to connect with me ;-). But the real fun started when we settled in our 1950's classic Land Rover in search of wildlife in DDCR!

As we started our drive the wind started blowing the sand and we all had to cover our mouth and nose. I never been to desert while sand is blowing in air, but this made our experience even more authentic! It was mesmerizing to see sand blowing from top edge of the dunes.

First we searched for mountain gazelles and lucky to find two herds near the water area. There are water areas where water is refilled for wild life. It was thrilling to see Gazelles jumping, running in wild. I think these animals are very graceful, my favorites so I couldn't help taking many photos of these desert beauties. Through out the drive, we took many stops and our guide Oscar introduced us to many flora and fauna in desert and funny facts about it.
Ushar (Top right), Fire Bush (Top Left), Sand Grass (Bottom 2)

Oscar showed us Sodoms Apple, called Ushar in Arabic. This is evergreen shrub, it's beautiful 5 petal flowers are white and dark purple. Milky sap excreted when any part of plant is broken. Gazelles eat them to regularize their digestion when they pass hard droppings!

The Firebush, Markh in Arabic Leptadenia pyrotechnica. It has small yellow flowers, these are used in Bedouin food. Its fibers are tough and do not rot in water, so are suitable to be spun into rope. It has been used in carpets since ancient times. Gazelles eat them to regularize their digestion when they pass hard droppings! The animals dig their resting place under the firebush.

Ramram (Top right), Rimth, Ghaf Tree

Next we stopped to see sand grass or dune grass called as Thenda in arabic, Cyperus Conglomeratus. This grass the grown at the base of sand dunes. It may look dead or dried, but the roots go deep and the sand near roots is wet. It comes under sedge family. Sedges were once used to make sails, ropes, baskets, mats and also fuel.

As we came near a area covered with numerous shrubs, we got down to check these interesting bushes. Rimth, Haloxylon Salicornicum is aloe like fleshy green shrub without leaves. It has many medicinal uses like curing ulcers, but interesting fact is in olden days ladies used these plants to make eyeliners.

Ramram, Heliotropium Kotschvi has rough branches covered with stiff white hair. Oscar told us traditionally this plant is boiled with meat to get rid of strong odor.

Scorpion Burrow, Mushroom, Beetle shell
As we drove deeper in desert we came across a patch of ghaf trees and shrubs. Oscar told us, whenever you see ghaf trees in desert, there must be ground water table. We decided to explore that area to look for Arabian Oryx, if by chance they came to drink water from a small man made pond created for wild life. We couldn't find Oryx here but saw many interesting things like scorpion burrow under the fire bush. Unfortunately no scorpions were ready to come out. But we could see red desert ants, found a beetle shell, poisonous wild mushroom. 

Arabian Oryx
Finally we saw an herd of Arabian Oryx on top of dunes at the other end. We drove up and down through the dunes while wind was blowing and sand smashing on our faces. We could go a little closer and I could capture these beautiful animals in my zoom lenses. Arabian Oryx also called as Al Maha in arabic are only antelope who can give birth to twins. Arabian oryx, native of Arabian peninsula were declared extinct in wild by early 1970s but saved in zoos and private reserves. By 1986, it was listed as endangered on ICUN red list. In 2011, it was the first animal to revert to vulnerable status after previously being listed as extinct in wild. Thanks all those organizations in middle east and of coarse Dubai Dessert Conservation Reserve! Such a great story of conservation success! Did you know Arabian Oryx is UAE's national animal! You could imagine how memorable those moments are for me to see Arabian Oryx in wild!

We learnt many things about wild life, their habits and habitat; biodiversity in desert. Some of the zones in DDCR are protected only for research, we came across one of it during our drive. I felt like transported to a remote location in this vast empty quarter where there is no trace of urban civilization! I am so glad, I finally decided to visit DDCR, after thinking about it for many years!

I am definitely going back there again, may be to explore wildlife at night next time and to see all those animals, reptiles, camel spider and snakes which I missed this time!

No comments: