According to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, nature reserves in Qatar stretch in an area of 3,464 sq km, which is 23.6% of the country’s total land area. Qatar has nine wildlife reserves, including two marine reserves and a coastal reserve, housing 1,626 Arabian oryx in addition to other wildlife.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, represented by the Department of Nature Reserves, has opened registration for visiting nine nature reserves for the consveration of wildlife especially rare species such as Arabian oryx, gazelles, rabbits and hedgehogs. Any interested group/s or entity can make a request to the public relations department specifying the time and purpose of the visit, and number of visitors in order for the ministry to make the necessary arrangements for the visit. mecc.gov.qa
For more information on Qatar’s nature reserves and natural world, visit enature.qa
Al Dosari Zoo & Game Reserve
Also known as Al Dosari Zoo and Nature Reserve, the private park in Al Khuraib is owned by Mohamed
Al Dosari, a Qatari. Spread over 100,000 sq m, the zoo houses various kinds of animals, birds and reptiles, and a heritage centre. Every visitor is taken on a guided tour of the animal reserve, and offered tea and Arabic coffee. Open-air barbecues are permitted. There are umbrellas and Arabian huts, and many available spaces to sit under trees. Twelve housing units and 11 cottages have been added to the park for overnight visitors. Opening times: Sunday to Wednesday 7 am – 7 pm; Thursday to Saturday 9 am – 5:30 pm. Admission: Free.
Al Karaana Lagoon (pictured above)
Situated 60 km southwest of Doha along Salwa Rd, the lagoon is among the environmental projects of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to increase the number of birds and wildlife in the country. One of the most important components of the project are the three artificial lagoons, which were designed to store about 2.4 mn cu m of treated sewage effluent coming from Al Karaana treatment plant. The lagoon has emerged as a new, healthy and major habitat for wildlife especially a diverse number of birds and fish species. It also serves as a green rest stop with accessible clean water for migratory birds such as osprey, water pipit, purple heron, kestrel and more.
Al Shu’aa Nature Reserve
Located in Al Khor, the 13,000 sq m family-friendly park is designed to be eco-friendly with solar energy lighting. The nature reserve boasts different kinds of trees and animals including Arabian oryx, deer, ostriches, goats, ducks, tortoises, geese, rabbits, birds and more. The family park also has lots of benches, shaded sitting areas, children’s play areas and green spaces.
Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation (AWWP)
AWWP is an associated member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), the only member in Qatar. This is a quality stamp acknowledging that AWWP works towards the highest standards in the captive care of wild animals. AWWP is an internationally reputed research and conservation centre collaborating with several government and non-government organisations across the world. Close to the town of Al Sheehaniya, Lubara farm accommodates AWWP. This private breeding and research centre is home to a collection of wild and exotic animal species either rare in captivity or threatened in the wild. The preservation is non-commercial and not open to the public. Admission: Closed to the public. awwp.alwabra.com
Arabian Oryx Sanctuary
Located in Al Sheehaniya on the Dukhan Highway, the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary, also known as Al Maha Sanctuary, is the only breeding place in Qatar for the Oryx, a small antelope considered the country’s national emblem – such as the symbol of the national airline, Qatar Airways, and the mascot of the 2006 Asian Games. These creatures were once on the verge of extinction, but now the sanctuary breeds the Arabian Oryx in captivity, producing 75-100 calves each year. A visit to this sanctuary will let you appreciate these milky-white furred antelopes, with their curved horns and large hooves for treading across the desert. At this sanctuary you can also see small gazelles. The sanctuary is about a half-hour drive west of Doha. Admission: Free. Visitors are welcome at the sanctuary if they just want to see the oryx, but must make arrangements to visit through a tour company should they wish to explore the grounds.
Several species breed in Qatar before escaping the summer heat. Ornithologists have identified over 280 species of which 25 are year‑round residents. On the Al Khor coast there are gulls, cormorants and waders, geese, mallard and teal in the ponds and reeds. At Bir Zekreet, you can see flamingos. Other popular places to spot birds are Doha Golf Club, Khor Al Adaid, Al Ruwais and Sealine Beach Resort.
Dahl Al Misfir Cave
Located off Salwa Rd near Rawdat Rashed, Dahl Al Misfir Cave is regarded as one of Qatar’s best-kept secrets and vividly exciting destinations. The 40 m deep cave can sometimes give off an ethereal faint, moon-like phosphorescent glow. The glow is the result of fibrous gypsum deposits, which are found in the centre of the peninsula and have given rise to the geological phenomena known as ‘desert roses’ (clusters of roughly rose-shaped gypsum crystals).
A desert safari is a must. Most local tour companies offer package tours, which vary in price depending on the size of the group, with half and full-day trips, overnight camps and sunrise desert safaris available. Go dune-bashing with a professional guide. The overnight tour is at a desert camp with traditional Bedouin tents, filled with Persian carpets and plush cushions.
Heenat Salma Farm
Heenat Salma is an eco-farm and camp in Al Sheehaniya. It is a multidisciplinary project that has successfully transformed from a local conventional farm into an organic permaculture centre that grows desert-friendly plants and vegetables, diversifies local food production, and contributes to a renewable, home-grown food supply in Qatar and more. In addition to agriculture, the farm is a place for hospitality, vocational training, education, craftsmanship, master classes, and a wellness spa. Admission: Farm tours range from QAR50 to QAR570 per person with additional costs for wellness sessions, creative workshops, dining and lodges. Contact: 5096 0007, heenatsalma.earth
Located about 50 km west of Doha in the south central plain of Qatar, Irkaya is home to many resident species and lies on the flight path of migratory birds and insects passing through Qatar. It can even be seen from space on satellite maps. The fields consist of sandy and loamy topsoil on a flat, sandy plain with water-worn pebbles. The rest of the terrain is low, rocky limestone upland with scattered boulders and sparse vegetation. All native species of plant at Irkaya benefit from the absence of grazing animals.
Khor Al Adaid (The Inland Sea)
The Inland Sea is one of Qatar’s finest treasures and a tourist hotspot. Best undertaken in a four‑wheel‑drive to reach the country’s southernmost point – it’s also a good idea to go in a convoy and with somebody who has been before. Enjoy the crescent‑shaped sand dunes that rise above the shallow tidal lake. Local tour companies organise day trips and overnight camps and provide drives along the dunes, as well as picnics, barbecues, folkloric entertainment and occasionally, camel riding and sandboarding. If driving yourself, download the Inland Sea app, available for iOS and Android.
A large area of vegetation attracting varied bird life, including flamingos and herons, mangroves – the largest and the oldest – can be found just north of the seaside city of Al Khor and Al Thakhira, and present a large expanse of natural greenery in sharp contrast to the surrounding desert landscape. Qatar is home to the Avicennia Marina, also known as the grey or white mangrove tree, communities of which form several forests around Qatar’s shores. A great way to explore the mangroves is by kayak, available from several tour operators and specialist companies. All of these can be booked in advance, and many companies offer both morning and afternoon trips. For further information, contact one of the local tour companies.
North Sedra Farm
Located in Ghashamiyya, north of Qatar, the family-friendly educational and entertaining agritourism farm is where visitors can pick strawberries, harvest vegetables, feed animals, take a stroll around the lush greenery, learn about Qatari heritage and more. Opening times: Operates only in the winter season from October to April. Friday and Saturday 12:30 pm – 8 pm. Admission: QAR20 per person; free for children under the age of two. Contact: 6665 0388, northsedra.qa
Also known as the Sealine Nature Reserve, the Sealine Protectorate is a fenced off reserve with 50 Arabian oryx. As part of the strategic plans to maintain biodiversity in the country and nurture wildlife, the Department of Natural Reserves at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is keen to maintain varied geographical distribution of Arabian oryx in the different reserves and protectorates across the country to decrease the chances of animals contracting diseases. In addition, this will avoid inbreeding among the same herd. With long spear-like horns, sharp and contrasting markings, the Arabian oryx is one of four species of antelope that lives in the harsh desert environment and is native to the Arabian Peninsula. Free tours to the Sealine Protectorate and other protectorates can be organised via the Department of Natural Reserves at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
Given the clear and warm waters surrounding the country, scuba diving allow you to get up close and personal with the local marine life. Qatar is making strenuous efforts to protect the marine ecosystem. Vehicles, tyres and old building materials have been deposited on the sea bed to draw back marine life and over the last 20 years these man‑made reefs have seen a resurgence in sea life. Various species can be seen, including bottlenose dolphin, dugong (or sea cow), Hawksbill turtle, blue angelfish, long‑spined sea urchin, sea squirt, surgeonfish, blue‑spotted stingray, and ghost crabs. For further information, contact one of the local tour companies.
Singing Sand Dunes
Stories of strange, low‑pitched sounds in the sand have intrigued people for generations in Qatar and it’s one of the few places in the world it can be heard. The sound is caused by the friction when a thin layer of sand blows down the leeward side of the dune. The eerie resonant humming can be heard from up to 10 km away as it is amplified by the crescent shape of the barchan (derived from Kazakh) dunes. The ‘Singing Sand Dunes’ are 40 km southwest of Doha. Although the ‘singing’ occurs naturally, you can trigger it by sliding down the dune or running along its crest.
Umm Tais National Park
There is a national park on the northeastern tip of Qatar on the uninhabited island of Umm Tais. The mangrove forests, beaches and varied geological structures, changing water levels and sea currents, provide a varied habitat that is teeming with marine and bird life. It also nurtures an important turtle‑nesting beach. For further information, contact one of the local tour companies. Admission: Free.
In addition to Khor Al Adaid Reserve, Irkaya Farm and Al Thakhira Reserve, Qatar is home to many other nature reserves, which are maintained, preserved and protected by the State of Qatar, including: • Al Eraiq • Al Mashabiya • Al Rafa • Al Reem • Al Sheehaniya • Al Wusil • Sunai • Umm Al Amad • Umm Qarn.
For more information on Qatar’s nature reserves and natural world, visit enature.qa/nature-reserves