10 best animal attractions in the UAE
Petting zoos, pony farms, dolphinariums and more
There are more than just camels to gaze at here in the desert. From petting zoos to pony farms, snake pits to shark tanks, gather up your little critters and explore the amazing variety of family friendly facilities we have access to. It’s time to get some animal action in
Al Ain Zoo: Al Ain Zoo has been entertaining and educating animal lovers since it opened in 1968, and features a large collection of local wildlife as well as giraffes, reptiles and big cats adding up to 184 different species. Located at the foothills of the Jebel Hafeet Mountains, the grounds are huge and the conservation and breeding programmes are impressive, plus the zoo is open late for those wishing to safari in the dark. The petting zoo has Shetland ponies, rabbits, and the like for little ones to feed.
Best attractions: African white lions.
Dhs15 (for adults), Dhs5 (kids aged 3-12).Under 3’s are free. Open year round 9am- 8pm and 10am-10pm during public holidays,. Al Ain City, www.awpr.ae (03 799 2000).
Al Tamini Stables: Al Tamini Stables this family friendly private farm and education centre in the deserts of neighbouring Sharjah is home to a menagerie of creatures, not just the equestrian kind, and features a petting zoo as well as a whole host of other activities. There are pony rides, falcon displays, sporting facilities including basketball and badminton courts, football fields and even a recording studio for budding musicians, arts and crafts. Picnic tables, a café and showers provide all the onsite amenities an action packed outing needs, and the chance to get up close and personal with plenty of furry friends.
Best Attraction: Ponies.
Dhs35 (for adults), Dhs20 (kids aged 5-12). Under 5’s are free. Saturdays to Thursdays 9am-6pm. Located near Sharjah International Airport, off Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road/E311 exit 81, or E611 exit 84 to Al Zubail. www.taministables.com (06 743 1122).
Altantis Lost Chambers Aquarium: Altantis Lost Chambers Aquarium is a maze of tunnels and tanks that are home to 65,000 marine animals, with not a whale shark in sight. For a little extra, kids can learn about the marine life around them from tour guides and divers. Behind the Scenes tour and the frenzy of Fish Feeding.
Best attraction: Feeding the fish
Dhs100 (for adults), Dhs75 (for kids). Open daily 10am-10pm. Atlantis Hotel, Palm Jumeirah, Al Sufouh Road. www.atlantisthepalm.com (04 426 0000).
Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo: Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo boasts the Guinness Book of Records largest acrylic panel in the world, and the biggest suspended aquarium, which visitors to Dubai Mall can view freely whilst strolling round the shops. The Underwater Zoo is on 3 levels and is home to over 140 different species of aquatic animals plus a few creepy crawlies too.
Best attraction: Sharks
Dhs55. Sunday-Wednesday 10am-10pm, Thursday- Saturday 10am-12midnight. The Dubai Mall. www.thedubaiaquarium.com (04 448 5200).
Dubai Dolphinarium: Dubai Dolphinarium is the place to go to see dolphins and seals dance, juggle and jump through hoops for entertainment and amusement. If watching isn’t enough, then there’s also the chance to swim, hug, kiss and pose for a photo with these marvellous marine mammals.
Best attraction: Dolphins
Dhs100-120 (for adults), Dhs50-70 (for kids). Show timings Monday-Thursday 11am and 6pm; 11am, 3pm and 6pm Friday and Saturday. Swimming with dolphins Monday-Thursday at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. Dhs550. Minimum age 5 years. www.dubaidolphinarium.ae (04 336 9773).
Emirates Park Zoo: Emirates Park Zoo has a colourful collection of creatures to see, as well as a family friendly farm for kids to get interactive with all sorts of little creatures. Aiming to raise environmental issues as well as fostering an understanding of all things great and small, kids can learn whilst still having fun plus the park has plenty of amenities including cafes, a games centre, mosque and wheelchair access. There are 35 fully equipped chalets should you experience the urge to stay and wake up with wildlife walking past the window.
Best attraction: Sea lion shows
Dhs25 (6 years and above), Dhs10 (for under 5’s) for entrance to Zoo, Ocean Park and Reptile House. Under 2’s are free. Sunday- Wednesday 9.30am-8pm, Thursdays and Public Holidays 9.30am-9pm. Al Bahia, 35km from Abu Dhabi, 45 mins from Dubai on the Abu Dhabi/Dubai Road. www.emiratesparkzoo.com (02 563 3100).
Posh Paws Animal Sanctuary and Petting Farm: Posh Paws Animal Sanctuary and Petting Farm relies on donations, animal-loving volunteers and the new entrance fee to keep the non-profit home for unwanted and abandoned animals functioning. Inhabitants include everything from porcupines to peacocks, flamingos to ferrets with a few wallabies to watch and Shetland ponies for riding on. For those wanting to adopt, they can leave at the end of the day with their very own rabbit, cat, dog, hamster or tortoise. There are kennels and a cattery for boarding plus a relocation service so the new pet doesn’t get left behind and find themselves back where they started.
Best attraction: Baby pygmy goats.
Dhs20 (for adults), Dhs10 (for 2-16 year olds). Under 2’s are free. Open daily 8am-12pm, 3pm-6pm. Al Khawaneej, near Dubai Desert Equestrian Club, opposite Dubai Municipality Veterinary Clinic. www.poshpawsdubai.com (056 604 4091).
Sharjah Aquarium: Sharjah Aquarium spans 2 floors and has over 20 water aquariums filled with over 250 different species native to the seas of the Gulf. With a diverse variety of marine life to observe, from tiny clownfish to huge moray eels, there are plenty of fishy delights to see. The ticket price won’t break the bank either.
Best attraction: Stingrays
Dhs20(for adults), Dhs10 (kids aged 6-15). Under 5’s are free. Dhs50 family ticket for 2 adults and 3 children. Saturday-Thursday 8am-8pm, Friday 4pm-10pm closed on Sunday. www.sharjahmuseums.ae (06 528 5288).
Sharjah Desert Park: Sharjah Desert Park covers an area of one square kilometre and is home to Arabia’s Wildlife Centre, the only indoor zoo in the Middle East allowing visitors to enjoy local wildlife all year round. Housing all the native animals that can be found in the Arabian Peninsula, the zoo is divided into species sections: birds, reptiles, invertebrates and carnivores. The park also houses the Natural History Museum, Botanical Museum and a children’s farm complete with ducks to feed to keep the sprogs amused.
Best attraction: The endangered Arabian Leopard
Dhs15 (for adults). Free for under 12’s. Sunday-Thursday 9am-6pm, Friday 2pm-6pm, Saturday 11am-6pm, closed on Tuesdays and some public holidays. Al Dhaid Highway, E88 Sharjah Airport Road interchange 9. www.sharjahtourism.ae (06 531 1999).
Exo-Terra: Exo-Terra looks like a cave and is filled with all things slithery and reptilian. Billed as a zoo and educational centre, entrants can gawp at the residents while safely in front of the glass cases, and there is an educator on hand to answer any questions. For the non-squeamish types, there’s a chance to stroke, hold and get a photo taken (for a small extra fee) with one of the many snakes, iguanas or chameleons, or there’s a live venom extraction exhibition from the resident Cobras, Rattlesnakes and Vipers every Friday and Saturday between 6-8pm. Thankfully this is performed by the snake master behind a glass partition!
Best attraction: Bearded Dragon
Dhs20 entrance fee. Under 3’s are free. Open 10am-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11-pm weekends. Uptown Mirdiff, near Spinneys. www.facebook.com/ExoTerraDubai (04 252 4466).
Time Out Dubai,