Give the kids an education without them even realising it – here’s our pick of where to get down (and maybe a little dirty) with nature and animals.
Posh Paws animal sanctuary and petting farm is home to a range of animals including Deer, Llamas, Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, Sloth, Porcupine, Cockatoo, Cows, Ponies, Flamingo and more. Run by a team of dedicated volunteers and solely reliant on donations, they aim to provide an experience that is both fun and educational offering kids the chance to feed, hold and touch the animals. Any donations help to pay for food, medical bills and everything it takes to keep the furry, spiky and feathered friends healthy and happy.
Free, though donations are welcome. Sunday to Saturday, 9am to 6pm. Posh Paws Animal Sanctuary, Sharjah, www.poshpawsdubai.com (050 273 0973).
Al Tamimi Stables
Originally developed as a private home, they decided it was a secret that was too good to keep to themselves and opened to the public. There’s loads going on here for all the family – as well as all things horsey - as you’d expect from a stables .There’s also a petting zoo where you can get up close and personal with animals from hamsters to baby goats and everything in between, arts and crafts studios, dance studio, cooking studio, recording studio, greenhouses and vegetable patch all which play host to their own classes and workshops. Also running is a ‘Heroes’ programme, a collection of educational activities designed to promote environmental awareness, health, creativity, animal care and more the kids will not only learn about nature but will develop their communication, teamwork and thinking skills. With all that action you’ll be relieved to know there’s also a parent’s lounge where you are free to relax and escape for a while, safe in the knowledge that the little ones are – at least for a while – the problem of the stables’ experienced staff.
Dhs60 per adult, Dhs35 per child for regular access. Dhs100 per adult, Dhs65 per child for super Saturday all access passes. Open daily 9am to 6pm. Al Tamimi Stables, Sharjah, www.tamimistables.com (06 743 11220).
A home for abandoned and stray dogs run entirely by volunteers and on donations from the public, K9 Friends provides shelter and care to dogs that need it at the same time as working to encourage a responsible dog owning population in the UAE. While not able to accept volunteers under the age of 16, K9 Friends does offer age appropriate educational talks on all things doggy and tours of the facilities to groups and schools. K9 friends offers dog adoption to suitable homes but if you can’t commit to this they do also offer the option to sponsor a dog at Dhs350 per year providing you with a certificate of the dog you have chosen, a profile of the dog including all the vital statistics, invitations to K9 friends events including the chance to walk your dog at sponsored walks, opportunities to visit your dog at the shelter and newsletters from the kennels.
Strictly by appointment. Sunday to Thursday, 9am to 2pm. www.k9friends.com (04 887 8739).
Al Ain Wildlife Park
Home to 197 animal species and more than 3700 animals, Al Ain Zoo offers ones of the most diverse animal collections in the world. With daily bird shows and keeper talks there are plenty of opportunities to learn about the animals. There’s also a children’s garden where kids can learn about a wide variety of flora and fauna, a children’s play area and a children’s zoo where kids can get amongst it by feeding the birds, patting a giant tortoise or riding a camel. With so many animals housed in the park there are also frequent opportunities throughout the year to see ‘zoo babies,’ some of the newest members of the park’s family. If, after all that excitement your little ones still want more, there’s always the Giraffe feeding experience which takes place from a purpose built raised feeding area for a unique and close up experience.
Dhs20 per adult, Dhs10 for kids aged three to 12 and kids under three enter for free. Dhs30 per carrot for Giraffe feeding – carrot can be divided into four and shared between feeders. Open daily, 9am to 8pm during Feb to June, 10am to 10pm on public holidays. Al Ain Wildlife Park, Al Ain, www.awpr.ae (03 799 2000).
Emirates Park Zoo
Built with the vision of educating and entertaining kids about the wonder of the animal kingdom, Emirates Park Zoo offers a range of experiences for all the family. Learn about how the animals are cared for, enjoy an encounter learning about elephants while feeding them, and take the opportunity to hold a falcon or feed a pelican or giraffe. There are also regular animal presentations, magic shows and musical events throughout the park on weekends.
Dhs25 for all aged six plus, Dhs10 for kids aged three to five and kids under two enter free. Dhs5 per animal feed bundle. Dhs20 per person aged six and up for Elephant Encounter, no charge for kids five and under. Open every day Sun to Weds, 9.30am to 8pm, Thurs to Sat and public holidays 9.30am to 9pm. Emirates park Zoo, Al Bahia, Abu Dhabi, www.emiratesparkzoo.com (02 501 0000).