I never expected to find a pretty and interesting family-oriented zoo in the middle of the desert, and was pleasantly surprised by my visit to this fine zoo in the city of Al Ain, about an hour inland from Dubai.
The Al Ain Zoo is home to over 4,000 animals, 30% of its 180 species considered endangered. The zoo is spacious (990 acres) and like most modern zoos has enclosures designed to resemble the animal's natural habitat. Special demonstrations are held at certain times and activities like a petting zoo, giraffe feeding and camel riding let people interact with some of the animals.
The zoo has a large African animal section and offers "safaris" to explore wildlife like lions, giraffes, zebras and gazelle. But it also highlights a large section with animals native to the Arab desert, such as Arabian antelopes and oryx, eland and gazelle. A breeding program for these endangered exists here.
The zoo features a very popular big cat house, including a rare white tiger., likely the most popular animal in the zoo.
Lions, pumas, black and spotted leopards and jaguars are found here and I was lucky enough to visit at feeding time when the animals left the shade to get their meal.
In addition the zoo also has a reptile house, monkey compounds, aquarium and aviary.
Besides the animal exhibits, there are lots of green spaces and native plants, with space for picnics, playgrounds, a cafeteria, and a train tour.
The zoo plays an important roll in education and conservation, and partner with the likes of the San Diego Zoo. Situated in the heart of Al Ain Zoo, the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre teaches about the desert through interactive exhibits.
When you Visit:
The zoo is open most days from 9 am to 8 pm (check before you visit). Adult admission is 30 AED (about US $10); child rate is 10 AED.
And a few more sights from the Al Ain Zoo: