Al Dosari Zoo & Natural Reserve
Mohamed Al Dosari’s Park and Natural Reserve is a private park located in Al Khuraib, 7 km north of Al Shaihaniya and 40 km from Doha. Owned by Mohamed Al Dosari, a Qatari, the zoo houses various kinds of animals, birds and reptiles, and a heritage centre. The zoo is spread over 100,000 sq m, has over 300 animals. Every visitor to the park is taken on a guided tour of the animal reserve and offered tea and Arabic coffee. Since open-air barbecues are permitted in the park, families gather there on weekends. There are umbrellas and Arabian huts that reflect on the Arabian housing in the past, and many available spaces to sit under trees, which make the park one of a kind in Qatar. Entry to the farm, park and all other activities are free. Twelve housing units and 11 cottages have recently been added to the park for overnight visitors.
Migratory birds are becoming increasingly attracted to Qatar since the introduction of parks, gardens and agriculture. Several species breed in Qatar before escaping the summer heat. Ornithologists have identified over 280 species of which 25 are year-round residents. On the Al Khor coast there are gulls, cormorants and waders, geese, mallard and teal in the ponds and reeds. At Bir Zekreet you can see flamingos. Other popular places to spot birds are Doha Golf Club, Khor Al Adaid, Ruwais and Sealine Beach Resort.
A desert safari is a must. Most local tour companies offer package tours, which vary in price depending on the size of the group, with overnight camps and sunrise desert safaris available. Take part in dune-bashing with a professional guide, stop for a swim and outdoor sports, and recharge with some barbecued food and refreshments. The overnight tour is at a desert camp with traditional Bedouin tents, filled with Persian carpets and plush cushions. Alternatively, set the alarm clock and travel out early to see the sun come out over the desert dunes.
Khor Al Adaid (The Inland Sea)
The Inland Sea is one of Qatar’s finest treasures and a tourist hotspot. Best undertaken in a four-wheel-drive to reach the country’s southernmost point – it’s also a good idea to go in a convoy and go with somebody who has been before. Enjoy the crescent-shaped sand dunes that rise above the shallow tidal lake. Local tour companies organise day trips and overnight camps and provide drives along the dunes, as well as picnics, barbecues, folkloric entertainment and occasionally, camel riding and sandboarding.
A large area of vegetation attracting varied bird life, including flamingos and herons, Al Thakhira mangroves can be found just north of the seaside city of Al Khor, and present a large expanse of natural greenery in sharp contrast to the surrounding desert landscape. Qatar is home to the Avicennia Marina, also known as the grey or white mangrove tree, communities of which form several forests around Qatar’s shores. The largest area of mangroves – and the oldest – can be found around Al Thakhira and Al Khor. A great way to explore the mangroves is by kayak, available from several tour operators and specialist companies. All of these can be booked in advance, and many companies offer both morning and afternoon trips. For further information, contact one of the local tour companies.
Also read: Camping in Qatar.
Also read: Chapters of Life
Scuba diving is a very popular pastime, given the clear and warm waters surrounding the country, and is the perfect way of getting up close and personal with the local marine life. Qatar is making strenuous efforts to protect the marine ecosystem. Vehicles, tyres and old building materials have been deposited on the sea bed to draw back marine life and over the last 20 years these man-made reefs have seen a resurgence in sea life. Various species can be seen, including: bottlenose dolphin; dugong (or sea cow); Hawksbill turtle; blue angelfish; long-spined sea urchin, sea squirt; surgeonfish; blue-spotted stingray; and ghost crabs.
Singing Sand Dunes
Stories of strange, low-pitched sounds in the sand have intrigued people for generations in Qatar and it’s one of the few places in the world it can be heard. The sound is caused by the friction when a thin layer of sand blows down the leeward side of the dune. The eerie resonant humming can be heard from up to 10 km away as it is amplified by the crescent shape of the barchan dunes. You can find the ‘Singing Sand Dunes’ 40 km southwest of Doha. Although the ‘singing’ occurs naturally, you can trigger it by sliding down the dune or running along its crest; you will be able to hear and feel the vibration. Take a large tray with you for an impromptu slide down the sand. Be warned – the sand is very hot during the summer.
Umm Tais National Park
There is a national park on the northeastern tip of Qatar on the uninhabited island of Umm Tais. The mangrove forests, beaches and varied geological structures, changing water levels and sea currents, provide a varied habitat that is teeming with marine and bird life. It also nurtures an important turtle-nesting beach. For further information contact one of the local tour companies.
Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation
Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation (AWWP) is an associated member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), the only member in Qatar. This is a quality stamp acknowledging that AWWP works towards the highest standards in the captive care of wild animals. AWWP is an internationally reputed research and conservation centre collaborating with several government and non-government organisations across the world. Close to the town of Al Sheehaniya, Lubara farm accommodates AWWP. This private breeding and research centre is home to a collection of wild and exotic animal species either rare in captivity or threatened in the wild. The preservation is non-commercial and not open to the public. awwp.alwabra.com
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