Learn and Enjoy Nature at Wasit Wetlands Centre

This post was first published on 29 May 2021 and updated on 5 February 2024. Location last visited 5 February 2024.

Wasit Wetlands is a hidden oasis in the city and one of my favourite places to go for a walk in nature and look out for migratory birds. It’s also a mine of information about birds that live around the wetlands in the UAE all year round and those that come just for the winter.

wasit wetlands lake sharjah

Wasit Nature Reserve

Sitting on the Sharjah-Ajman border, Wasit Nature Reserve is a protected area with more than 200 species of birds, several mammals, reptiles and rare insects. The varied habitat of the large lake, wooded areas, salt flats and low dunes make for a perfect stop-off point for many different birds migrating in the spring and autumn, making it a birdwatcher’s heaven.

About Wasit Wetlands Centre

The educational centre is indoors and various birds live in habitats that are just like their natural ones. Different sections, for example, salt marsh, reeds and mud flats, house different types of birds.

Information boards help visitors learn about each species and fun interactive games provide fun for children. All of the family can learn at Wasit Wetlands in different ways.

The cafe is no longer operating but it still offers a great place to enjoy the view and watch flamingos, herons and other birds of different sizes, shapes and colours on the lake.

wasit wetlands centre view from cafe

An education room in the centre is mainly for use during school trips, however, you can watch educational videos in the small theatre if you like.

If you time your visit right, you can see the birds’ food being prepared in the special kitchen. According to the notice, the food prep is from 3 to 4pm and the feeding from 4 to 5pm. I took this photo at 9:10am though so that was probably their breakfast.

bird feeding kitchen at Wasit Wetlands Centre Sharjah

The kitchen is in the corridor near the reception and the feeding takes place in the aviaries.

Next to the kitchen is the bird incubation room. Here eggs, which have been retrieved from the aviaries, are incubated until they are ready to hatch. Next, the chicks stay there until they have feathers and can safely move into the aviary.

Before you leave the centre, pop into the shop to buy yourself a book on birds or a souvenir before you leave, especially if you love flamingos. (It has lots of flamingo-related items!)

Wasit Nature Reserve Buggy Ride

My favourite part of a visit to Wasit Wetlands is the outdoor part. You can take a free trip around the lake in a buggy. An accessible golf cart suitable for wheelchairs is available if you need it. The wheelchair goes on the cart rather than the visitor having to transfer.

Eight hides are dotted at different locations around the lake. Each hide has fixed binoculars and some information boards about birds in the area so make sure you stop off.

hide at wasit wetlands centre sharjah

You can see a wide variety of birds and ones I’ve seen include Marsh Harriers and a kingfisher. Look out for colourful butterflies and moths around the low greenery too.

On your way around the lake, you may spot gazelles, so watch out for them. Sometimes they’re out in the open like the photo below and sometimes you can see them between the dense greenery.

gazelle at wasit nature reserve sharjah

In the hotter months, the buggy trip is still pleasant with the breeze near the water and is best done late afternoon.

How to Walk around Wasit Wetlands

The walk around the lake is 5.6 km, however, it’s for adults only. I asked if I could take my 14-year-old with me and I was told no. (It’s always worth asking though in case you get a different answer from a different person.)

To do it, you have to first go to the visitor centre and sign a disclaimer and leave your phone number. You will also be given the centre number for emergencies. I usually take a photo of it instead as I’m likely to lose a small scrap of paper!

lake at Wasit Wetlands Sharjah

Thankfully, being able to walk around Wasit Wetlands is now much easier than it used to be (it was a challenge!) and I highly recommend it. Keep in mind though that you can’t do both the walk and the buggy ride. You have to choose one or the other.

You don’t need hiking boots as it’s a worn, flat path so just wear decent, comfortable walking shoes. Make sure you also take plenty water and your camera. If you have binoculars, definitely take them. A hat and sunscreen will be useful too.

The last time to go on the walking trail is 4pm so you should aim to be there by 3:30pm to allow plenty of time to park, go down to the centre to scan your ticket, get permission and go back up.

The path starts from the car park and it’s the same trail the golf carts take. After a few hundred feet, you come to a fork in the path and a board with a map. If you’re going in the morning, go right at the sign and if you go in the afternoon, go straight.

Following my directions above will ensure that you have the sun behind you and that you are walking in the cooler part for that time of day. If you go in the middle of the day, it won’t make much difference but I recommend going at 9am or 3:30pm.

If you have impaired hearing, going right at the fork is the best option as you’ll be facing the oncoming traffic and won’t have to worry about not hearing the golf carts, etc approaching.

Buy The Ultimate Guide to the Emirate of Sharjah now to help plan your trip

sharjah guide book

Wasit Wetlands History and Sustainability

Twenty years ago, Wasit Wetland was wasteland and a dump for both rubbish and waste water. It also naturally receives clean water travelling underground from an aquifer in Hatta.

A project was initiated by HH Sheikh Dr Sultan Al Qasimi to turn the area into a protected area. In 2005, the land was cleared, invasive species removed and work to rehabilitate the area commenced.

Keeping in line with Sharjah’s vision, sustainability was a key feature retaining the natural environment, using recycled material wherever possible and applying sustainable architecture methods. The centre, designed by Dubai-based X-Architects, received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2019.

Sustainability doesn’t end there. Part of the water in the lake is recycled waste water, including from the centre itself. The lake has created an eco-system fitting to the area and stop-off points for migratory birds.

All vegetation that is pruned within the reserve either provides a food source in the centre or bedding for animals in other EPAA Sharjah centres across the emirate. And, of course, the centre also provides employment in the area and the shop supports local businesses.

As the water comes from different sources – inland groundwater from the aquifer, coastal groundwater and treated waste water, there are varying salt levels in different areas.

The Wrap-up on Wasit Wetlands

Wasit Wetlands is a must-visit for birdwatchers and fun for a family outing. I’ve visited many times over the years, often with children and my mother in a wheelchair and it always proved to be a great destination for a multi-generational day out. Taking a walk or ride around the lake, learning something new in the centre and spending time watching the birds in the aviaries is a perfect relaxing and educational morning or afternoon out.

Al Wasit Wetland Centre Information

  • Al Wasit Wetland Centre locationTake me to the map
  • Al Wasit Wetland Centre Timing – Mon–Thurs 9am–5:30 pm; Fri 2–6pm; Sat–Sun 11–6pm; closed Tuesday. Last time for ‘hiking trail’ 4pm
  • Al Wasit Wetland Centre Ticket Price – Adults AED 16; children under 13, resident senior citizens and PoD free.
  • Al Wasit Wetland Centre Accessibility: POD parking is available in the car park, all areas of the centre are accessible, wheelchairs are available, accessible toilets, accessible golf cart, assistance available

Wasit Wetland Centre is included in the itineraries in Exploring the Emirate of Sharjah – Walking and cycling tours and itineraries in the city and Central and Eastern Regions – buy now or buy The Ultimate Guide to the Emirate of Sharjah

Buy Exploring the Emirate of Sharjah – walking, cycling tours and itineraries

exploring sharjah book cover and sample

Other EPAA Sharjah locations to visit

EPAA Sharjah is the Environment and Protected Areas Authority in the emirate of Sharjah. There are many more protected areas, some can be visited and some not. Sharjah Safari Park is one of their exciting upcoming projects. You can learn more about EPAA Sharjah here.

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