Watching wild flamingos in Dubai

Watching flamingos and finding nature in one of the world’s fastest-growing cities.

Of all the places to go to experience nature, Dubai seems an unlikely option. But a few minutes from the glittering skyscrapers of Downtown Dubai, you’ll find the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, home to 67 species of birds, including hundreds of gorgeous pink flamingos.

Flamingos at the Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary in Dubai, with the Burj Khalifa in the background
A group of flamingos stretching their wings as they prepare to take off

How to get to Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

We took a tour with Big Bus Tours Dubai which was included as part of our all attraction ticket. The tour sets off from Wafi Mall every afternoon and lasts about an hour; it also goes past the Ruling Family’s palace. I would have preferred a bit more time at the flamingo hide but it got us there easily and without spending any more money.

A taxi from Downtown Dubai should take around 20 minutes and cost between 30-40 AED (£6.50-£9). The taxi driver might not know where the wildlife sanctuary is, so be ready to show them on Google Maps.

If you’re driving, the exit is on the right heading north on the Dubai-Al Ain road (in the trees). There’s a small car park next to Flamingo Hide 2. There are other hides, but at least one of them seemed like it wasn’t in use anymore.

The small car park next to Flamingo Hide 2 at Ras Al Khor nature reserve

When to go

You will probably be able to see flamingos from the car park, but for the best view you’re going to want to go in the hide. Official opening times are a bit hard to find but the hides are open every day apart from Friday from around 9am to 4pm. The flamingos are fed twice a day; again there’s no official source of information but from reports on the internet, morning feeding time is at 9-9.30am and afternoon feeding time is at about 3pm. There’s no air conditioning in the hide so in the summer you might want to go as early as you can.

Flamingos in Dubai
A flamingo flying in to Ras Al Khor wetlands

How much does it cost to see the flamingos at Ras Al Khor?

Nothing! Entry to the Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary and the hide is free.

What to expect

The hide is set at the end of a shielded path that sticks out into the nature reserve. There is a telescope and some information on the walls about the birds. I’d seen flamingos at wildfowl parks in the UK but seeing them so close and knowing that they were wild was really special. The design of the hide helps the birds feel comfortable and with a bit of luck you’ll get so close to the birds that it’s as if you’re one of them.

The path to the hide
The entrance to the hide

What kind of flamingos will I see in Dubai?

There are six different species of flamingos in the world, and the ones you’ll see at Ras Al Knor Wildlife Sanctuary are Greater Flamingos, a species native to the UAE. Flamingos are also found in Abu Dhabi and Oman. You’ll probably notice that some of the flamingos aren’t quite as bright as others. This is due to diet; flamingos with bright pink plumage have been eating a diet richer in beta-carotene and certain bacteria than that enjoyed by their paler friends. Younger flamingos also tend to be paler.

A pink flamingo next to a paler bird

Is it worth visiting Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary?

Absolutely! After a few days exploring the busy city it’s wonderful to see Dubai from a different angle. Getting up close to these amazing birds was one of the highlights of our trip.

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