Jebel Akhdar, Oman
The so-called Green Mountain is one of the most spectacular destinations in the entire Gulf region, especially when viewed from the summit. Oman’s highest point offers some fantastic trekking, giving you the chance to discover ancient villages and plenty of local flora and fauna, which both thrive thanks to the relatively high level of rainfall in the area. One of the best views of the area can be found at the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort (www.jabal-akhdar.anantara.com), perched high in the mountains on the Saiq Plateau and offering five-star luxury in this hugely unique locale. Peer down Oman’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon – this is certainly not one for the vertiginous among you, though…
GPS location: 23.067741, 57.670114
Umm Al Quwain
Although it’s the UAE’s least populous emirate, what Umm Al Quwain might lack in human density it more than makes up for in natural immensity. Once parked up, ditch the wheels and head out on the water, circumnavigating the series of sandy islands to the east, which are surrounded by thick mangroves and divided by a number of creeks. The largest island, Al Sinniyah, is a marine sanctuary spanning 35 square miles, and is an absolute must for the birdwatchers among you, with one of the world’s largest cormorant colonies calling it home. Back on dry land, the crowd-free nature of Umm Al Quwain means you can just sit a while, listening to the waves before turning tide and heading home.
GPS location: 25.522762, 55.717311
Wasit Wetland Centre, Sharjah
It might surprise you to know that this area of natural beauty near Sharjah even exists. Perched where the land meets the sea, Wasit Nature Reserve contains a heady mix of dunes, mud flats, salty lagoons and freshwater pools, inhabited more than 60 species of domestic and migratory birds. Twitchers across the UAE flock to this vast spot of natural beauty for a sight of these airborne wonders, scanning the horizon from one of the numerous hides dotted around the vast site. After driving up the main road from the coast to Al Dhaid you’ll be forgiven for missing the entrance to the Wasit Wetland Centre, unassuming as it is. But once inside, you can make your way through a series of aviaries or grab a bite to eat in the canteen while watching the birds in full flow through the glass of its long gallery. This is a hugely unique outing that for nature-lover.
GPS location: 25.361608, 55.469868