There's more to wildlife in Arabia than camels (Dreamstime)
List Words : Morwenna Evans | 22 February

Top 6 Arabian wildlife experiences

Arabia is rarely given credit for its wildlife, yet its unique and diverse ecosystems offer an unusual glimpse of many secretive species

1. Mountain trekking in Oman

The Al Hajar Mountains in northern Oman is the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian peninsula. Amid the craggy valleys and deep wadis, catch a glimpse of the rare Arabian tahr – a mountain goat found only in this area. See graceful mountain gazelles, exotic sunbirds and endangered lappet-faced vultures.

For an alternative Omani adventure, head to Samhan Mountain in the south. Between gashed valleys, Acacia and gum trees, lucky visitors may catch a glimpse of the critically endangered Arabian leopard darting through the rocks.

Off the coast are dolphins, whales and turtles, often easily spotted from the clifftops. From July to October you may be lucky enough to see turtles coming shore to lay eggs. Many of the most important nesting sites close to protect them, but it is possible to see green turtles nest at Ras al Hadd.

2. Bird watching in Egypt

Egypt's wealth of ancient history should not be the only reason to visit this magnificent destination. The expansive river Nile, snaking through the country is burgeoning with species sure to delight amateur and serious ornithologists alike.

There are numerous Nile tours available that meander along the river, allowing travellers to take in iconic heritage sites, as well as watching spectacular species.

Egypt occupies a unique position on the migratory path, sitting between Europe, Asia and Africa. This coveted placement means that millions of birds pass through the country in Spring and Autumn, so plan a trip with these months in mind. 

Keep your eyes peeled when cruising between Luxor and Aswan, as this 160km stretch is teeming with bird life, particularly during the migratory months. See the glossy ibis, the green cheeked bee-eater or Nile Valley sunbird, among many more fascinating species.

3. Diving in Saudi Arabia

Described as diving's last frontier, the Saudi Arabian Red Sea coastline is alive with virgin coral reefs and undiscovered wrecks.

Although Saudi Arabia might not be at the top of your list of holiday destinations, its glittering shores offer unparalleled underwater wildlife experiences. Dive in these uncharted waters for sightings of turtles, sharks, conger eels, lion fish, and a multitude of other brilliantly coloured fauna. For soft coral and sea whips don't miss the Redmar Wall dive site and for wreck diving head to Boiler wreck, also know as the Oriental.

4. Exploring Socotra Island

For a truly extraordinary wildlife adventure, discover Yemen's Socotra archipelago. Scattered in the Indian Ocean between the coast of Yemen and Somalia, this handful of islands has been undisturbed by tourists, and has dramatic biology from millions of years of isolation. It has even been hailed the 'other Galapagos'. For the most exhilarating wildlife experience, head to Socotra Island itself where one third of the plant-life is found nowhere else on Earth.

Off the coast you can snorkel with dolphins and whale sharks, while with feet on firmer ground, you can see six species of bird found solely on the island. The Socotra sunbird, Socotra starling and Socotra bunting are among these unstudied birds, and are unique sights to behold.

5. Desert safari in Dubai

Behind the superlative sky scrapers and artificial ecosystems that have risen out of Dubai city, lies Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. The first of its kind in the United Arab Emirates, this is the place to embark upon an exhilarating desert safari.

Explore the diverse desert habitat, experiencing a sighting of the once very nearly extinct Arabian oryx. The conservation reserve is also abundant in bird life, desert monitors, gazelles, and is even home to the rare Gordon's wildcat. The experience offers a rare view into a stunning and often overlooked Arabian ecosystem.

6. Ancient settlements in Jordan

Wadi Rum's desert landscape is usually associated with the iconic Lawrence of Arabia film epic, however, this terracotta landscape is also home to a secret collection of desert wildlife. Stay in a desert camp, and mount a camel or hop inside a 4x4 to catch a glimpse of Wadi Rum's grey wolf, sand cat, ibex, or the Blandford fox. 

Jordan's most expansive wildlife reserve is the Dana Biosphere Reserve. Over 119 square miles contain four different bio-geographical zones, which are home to over 800 different species of plant, three of which have only ever been recorded in Dana. 

This year sees the opening of the New Royal Botanic Gardens near the capital city of Amman. In June, the park will open to the public, featuring 20km of hiking trails as well as a variety of native Jordanian habitats.