Commune with nature

Commune with nature

SHARJAH - Against the backdrop of Hajjar mountains and stretches of coastlines along the Indian Ocean, Sharjah’s eastern city of Kalba boasts of incredible wildlife habitat, historical landmarks and kayaking adventure experience.

By Lily B. Libo-on

Published: Mon 20 Aug 2012, 9:47 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 1:03 PM

No other place in the Middle East has such rich natural biodiversity concentrated in a small area where rare birds and animals, including the endangered “damani” species thrive, as in the Al Hafiya natural reserve, Al Gail and Al Qurm in Kalba.

By October this year, falcon species such as Al Hur, Shaheen, Al Wakri, Hawk falcon and Eagle owl -one of the largest of its kind in the world- will be harnessed for an opportunity to fly them in a bird show.

Bird show area of one square kilometre is expected to come up here, which will entertain about 200 to 300 visitors.

Earlier in May, His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, watched the performance of a few of them, including a seven-year-old barn owl and a seven-year-old shaheen, at Al Ghail Valley Project in Kalba.

David Steed, a consultant of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), said that birds such as vultures and falcons are trained to dominate the skies near the Al Gail Fort for demonstrations in the presence of visitors in the Kalba protected area.

Guests at the bird show say that it is a rare opportunity to watch these predatory birds fly for long hours and come back to the ground at the signal of the team of trainers with Steed. “It is awesome and unique,” Rahima Mohammed, who stood there among the crowd, said.

Nearby, the 150-hectare area of protected mangrove on the eastern coast within the Kalba protected area, the largest and oldest so far in UAE, is home to rare marine species and different breeds of marine life.

Rare birds such as the King Fisher - Al Rafraf and the migratory Blue cheek Bee-eater, fish, green turtle, crabs and other wetland creatures welcome tourists and local residents closer to nature.

The Shurooq in collaboration with the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) in Sharjah is working on to establish regular kayaking and canoeing activities skirting these well protected mangroves.

Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Chairperson of the Environment and Protected Areas Authority, said that they are working to improve the mangroves by planting more of Avicennia marina.

“Scientific studies and research, which were conducted as part of the Kalba project, have revealed numerous significant facts about the region’s rich biodiversity, making it one of the world’s most important natural reserves.”

Currently, an integrated plan is under study to upgrade the institutional structure of the reserves within the project, making it a strategic location for scientific study and research, for environmental education and awareness-related activities in line with the latest international standards in the global and eco-tourism industry.

“Al Hafiya and Al Qurm reserves were closed down at the end of last month to prepare for the work to be done,” said Al Suwaidi.

Earlier, the Ruler of Sharjah approved a very ambitious eco-tourism plan to preserve the area, which include the establishment of a centre within the reserve for visitors, as well as the restoration of archaeological sites within the project.”

Dr Shaikh Sultan also issued an Amiri Decree on the establishment of mangroves and Hafiya trees reserves in Kalba city as part of the project. A commercial complex master plan of Kalba Eco-tourism, which will be located alongside Kalba Lake and will be comprised of a number of restaurants, retail outlets, children games, parks, and places to monitor animals and birds in the reserves is also approved.

Marwan Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, proudly looks at the six-year Kalba development as a celebration for young people to admire what the UAE has.

In this 36-square kilometre of mountains, woodlands and mangroves, some 300 rooms will come up in a devoted area where resorts and lodges respecting the surroundings.

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