While staying at Qasr Al Sarab, we signed up for the Night Discovery walk in the desert. We meet our guide at 8:30 and with two other folks, set out on a 20 minute jeep ride into the Empty Quarter, where we took an hour and a half walking tour of the desert. We were told to where long trousers and closed shoes. Our goal, was to get a chance to see the night stars with the absent of light pollution. But to our pleasant surprise the tour really focused on the creatures and animals of the desert. Because of the extreme heat during the day there is not a great deal of activity. Almost all of the habitat are nocturnal. When the sun goes down the creatures come out.
Putting Qasr AL Sarab on the map. Click on the zoom out – symbol to get an idea of the location.
Once we reached our destination we got out of the jeep and were given a strap with a light attached, very much like a miners head lamp. The guide explained that his biggest concern was scorpions, the reason for the long trouser and closed shoes. As we started our walk up and down the dunes he pointed out the tracks in the sand left behind by the different creatures. Most were fairly fresh, as we crossed over the tires tracks left by the jeep you could see fresh creature tracks over the tire prints. Most of the creatures in the desert are very shy, the only critters we saw were geckos, which freezes when a light is shown on it, several beetles who are to slow to get out of its way and ants, it seemed like they were traveling endlessly on little trails they established. We did see the tracks of snakes, sand mice, gazelles and what seemed like countless tracks from scorpions.
We check out several small shrubs, one of which had puffy oblong little balloon type leaves, which you could pick and squeeze, a salty tasting water squirted out, we were told you could live on this for several days.
We learned about the prevailing winds in the desert and how sand dunes are formed and how you can easily tell which way is north by the shape of the dunes. We also learned the best place to go for protection if you get stuck in a sandstorm, important stuff!
After our walk we stopped to look at the stars, it was just a new noon so the sky was very dark. And all the stars where out, wow!
On our drive from Abu Dhabi to the resort we saw a major effort to “landscape” the sides of the roads. On each side of the two lane highway were planted several rows of shrubs, trees and palm trees. We also came across “forests” where acres and acres of shrubs and trees where plants near the road. See link. After doing some research I read that Sheikh Zayed, President of the UAE is one of the most active environmentalists in the world. Over the past 25 years he has transformed sections of the desert into a land of lush green. Under his direction he has taken almost 2 million acres of desert and turned it into green space.
The next day on our drive back to Abu Dhabi we did see many gazelles taking cover from the mid day sun under the plantings along the road. Check out some of the pictures.