Last weekend on our wedding anniversary, in search of some eco-celebration we did mangrove kayaking in Abu Dhabi with Noukhada. It was indeed educational & adventurous.
Since years I have appreciated the beauty of those mangroves while travelling on Salam street in Abu Dhabi. Specially when you always get to see some interesting birds flying in that area. As we all know Abu Dhabi is blessed with a large coast line & lot of mangroves, but because of the development I always had a fear that what if all these mangroves will vanish some day?
But thanks to Abu Dhabi Plan 2030, govt. has strict policies about conserving existing Natural Systems. Sometimes if the existing natural system can not be conserved, the developer has to compensate for it by creating similar habitat in nearby place or further away.
So my husband booked our kayaking tour with Noukhada Adventure Company, who organize kayaking, fishing and similar activities in Eastern mangroves. We are glad to hear from Noukhada's owner & founder Mark that they are in talk with TDIC & hopefully soon they will start similar activities in very beautiful mangroves around Sadiyat Island! They also told us that they are in collaboration with Nautica environmental associates, who are doing ecological survey of these mangroves since years.
As soon as we reached Noukhada Launching point off the Salam street, we signed a declaration form. Once we were ready with lifejacket, sunblock, water bottle & some basics of kayaking from our tour guide, our group set off for the most amazing experience I ever had in Abu Dhabi!
The waters in mangroves were comparatively shallow & calm. Paddling our kayaks was not very hard but our muscles were aching for a day after kayaking (in short we need to exercise regularly ;)). Soon we realized that the mangrove trees are not just shrubs but they are regular tall trees like any tree on land. The only diffrence is that their roots are in the seabed & some part of tree comes above water, which looks like a shrub.
We soon found a heron sitting at the corner of mangrove trees, we paddled little closer to him, he did not move. I remembered a Marathi language poem I learned in my school, where poet calls the standstill heron a meditating priest and I realized how it makes sense! The sight was amazing!
While I was thrilled by the serenity of dense green mangroves, Jenny, Mark's daughter said it rightly "You don't even feel you are in Abu Dhabi!". All we know about UAE is beautiful desert & cement jungle, but one has to visit mangroves to see the richness of nature in UAE.
Actually if you see these mangroves in summer, they are all green & dense like how they are in winter. And I always seen local and migratory birds flying in these areas year round.
One of fellow group member found a yellow flower in those mangroves; Jenny told us the scientific name of flower, which I don't remember now. Jenny told us she is studying in UK, but she visits her father during her vacation and kayak in those mangroves to help him in his work. Now most of us will think why my father never did this kind of work? :)
After a while of paddling deep into mangroves, our tour guide took us in the narrow lanes of mangroves, where you understand why the word 'Mangrove Forest' is appropriate. The mangrove trees are quite dense & also tall in these forests. The natural canals are so narrow here that it's very hard to steer your kayak without getting stuck, especially if it is a longer two sitter kayak.
At first when we were sort of banging in mangrove trees, I was skeptic about hurting those trees & disturbing the flora. But soon I observed how flexible most of these trees were. Whenever our kayak was going onto these trees, the trees used to flexibly bend & rise up again once our kayak is passed. I also learned to hold the branches of other strong (not flexible) trees so as to stop our kayak going onto other trees.
While struggling with steering in those dense mangroves, we were stunned by the different world in those mangroves. As it was low tide that time, we could see the sea bed & roots of trees under water. There was also some sea grass under the water. We smelt salt in mangroves but there was not a bad smell at all in those mangroves, which we feel otherwise. The mangroves were clean & as people can't reach here that easily for picnic, we could not see garbage anywhere. Some tiny orange crabs were floating in waters, Jenny told us these crabs live under the sea bed. The leaves of mangrove trees were thicker to retain water I guess. Some small wooden planks were floating on waters. Unlike old days, people don't need wood from mangroves for fuel anymore now.
As I have described how mangroves were very important for locals here so many years back for food & housing materials. We also saw some people doing fishing in mangroves. We found some boards fixed in these mangroves, which displayed does & don'ts. As well as some boards displaying information about mangrove ecosystem. These kinds of boards by govt. are very necessary for awareness.
Kayaking through the mangrove forest was such an experience that we will definitely kayak with Noukhada again! While returning to coast from mangrove forest, one more big white bird, probably stroke flied spreading his long wings in front of us. This is definitely one of the most prominent spot for nature lovers.
When we returned to the launching point, we were drenched in water, had aching muscles and we were extremely happy that we explored something very unknown. Later Mark told us that they also arrange a special Eco- tour, in which similar to our tour the mangrove forest is explored through kayaking but then they stop at some dedicated points, where they give lecture & distribute some literature about mangrove ecology & conservation. The eco tour is great for school going kids & also for anybody who is more interested to know about ecosystem in these mangroves. To find out more about Noukhada Adventure Company and the mangrove tours visit, http://noukhada.ae/. (Here are Mark & Jenny at Noukhada launching point.) Noukhada has definitely started some amazing work by starting this kind of business. Mainly because residents can now actually visit these mangroves even if they don't own a boat or kayak. The adventure part in it works like honey to attract more people, who will be then aware of rich ecosystem in mangroves & they will definitely spread their knowledge about mangroves, which will make more people aware about it.
If anybody wants to see natural beauty of UAE, I would say one has to visit not only desert but also mangroves, without which UAE is incomplete!