Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Anyone for Bird Watching on a Budget at a Nature Reserve

By: Hamza Shafique
If you are looking for something different to do with your family and that too with in the budget then Wasit Wetland Center is perfect for you. I found about the facility on trip advisor and the idea of nature reserve converted to an aviary / learning center grabbed my attention.

Part of this article and one of my picture was printed in Khaleej Times as well
Wasit Wetand center is a facility built around wasit nature reserve, which is home to almost 60 species of coastal resident and migratory birds.I am really glad that Sharjah government took the initiative to not only develop and preserve the area but also use this as an opportunity for the public to experience and learn about local fauna as well.Getting to the place is very easy as its situated  almost on E311 located somewhat at the border of Ajman and Sharjah. It is available on google maps as well so finding it is not an issue. It took only  19 minutes from Ajman but even if you come from Dubai, I dont think it would be a hassle provided you are not coming during rush hours.
 At the entrance there was drive thru ticket counter, from there you enter into a small parking area. We reached there around 3:30 , Weather was perfect and at the ticket section we were informed that closing time is 5:15 pm. Based on my experience, I had different expectations. I was expecting one or two observation decks in the area for bird watching only but to my surprise this facility is big and divided into 2 sections. One part is safari through the reserve on golf carts and other being the Aviaries just incase you don’t see much through safari ( usually the case with me )

From drive thru ticket counter you get to parking lot. Parking area was small but considering the frequency of visitor I believe was ok as we got parking easily on a weekend. At parking area golf carts were available to take us around the wetlands. Throughout the wetlands there were nicely hidden observation decks where you could stop for bird watching. Our guide was a friendly person from Attock Pakistan, who patiently answered all my Moms questions and requests to stop at different points for pictures. He told us that there are Deers in the area as well but this was the first trip since morning where he hasn’t spotted any Deers. May be it had to do with the timings we went there or my luck as I usually never find animals on safaris. It was a very pleasant 20 mins drive through the area. we made only 1 stop on the main observation deck at the lake.
To our disappointed apart from couple of flamingoes going through mud and at the lake we did not spot much of the birds. Someone rightly said, 'Birding is a lottery, some days you see nothing but others are magic’. Overall a very pleasant ride through relatively greener patches of wetlands.
After Safari we moved to the Aviaries. Again the facility exceeded my expectation. These Aviaries were designed to perfection. The complex was partially underground and that made the bird watching experience easy as most of the birds were roaming at your sight level. There were four covered aviaries and an open lagoon. Each section had couple of different birds group together to give a more natural feel . It was a small facility but very informative.
I enjoyed going through the information given throughout the facility in form of charts /pictures on the wall and also in form of fun interactive kids games . I especially loved the big UAE Map with all bird and animal sanctuaries/nature reserves highlighted. Never knew this Middle East desert has such a rich mix of Fauna throughout. The look and feel was very modern and  temperature inside was perfectly controlled, something I personally struggle with closed facilities like this. The design of the center made bird watching fun and a treat for aspiring photographers like me. One cannot tell through the photographs that these birds are enclosed in Aviaries, thanks to the unusual approach of using tent and net rather than cages for the enclosures and creative landscaping to create a more natural environment with in the enclosures.
There was also a small cafeteria with the view of lagoon . Trust me watching pelicans go around the lagoon while having coffee at the cafeteria works like therapy.
I would also like to mention that I haven’t seen such a rich mix of interesting birds in my life in one place.
It took us around 1 and half hour through the whole center.
There were couple of interesting elements that I believe will be available soon like
Aviary walk: There were gate with sign saying Aviary Walk opening into the enclosures making it possible to actually see the birds through partially underground walk ways.
On foot safari: I believe one can roam through the main reserve area of approx. 4 km on foot as well but this was not allowed at the moment.
There was a gift shop with opening soon sign as well.
Overall a very interesting and fun trip considering that my 1 and half year old son and my 55+ mom both enjoyed it equally and for the price of just 15 dirhams it felt almost free. Highly recommended if you like the look of excitement on  your family and have a passion to see or in my case photograph rare birds.
Photography is by Hamza Shafique
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