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27 February 2024



By Bindu Rai
Thirty seconds was all it took for the first canoe to capsize, setting the precedent for the sodden journey ahead in Khor Kalba’s otherwise impressive mangrove forest.

As the oldest in the region, the marshland serves up a slice of nature’s heaven that is so far removed from Dubai’s concrete jungle, you are recommended to take the two-hour trip even if canoeing through its still waters is not your goal.


Situated on the outskirts of Sharjah, Khor Kalba stretches seven kilometres across the UAE’s coastline, snaking its way through two branches of a tidal creek.

The lush greenery forms a canopy over its crystal waters, turning the area into a bird lover’s paradise.

Known as a breeding ground for the white-collared Kalba Kingfisher, you can also take delight in – if you are really lucky – catching a glimpse of the rare Booted Warbler.

And before you start fretting over what differentiates a kingfisher from an average pigeon – along with the 55 other bird species found fluttering around the serene forest – your guide should be pretty well versed in such matters.


A brief lesson in paddle pushing and you’re off on your canoeing expedition, which can easily stretch up to three hours as you stop every few metres to admire the many wonders.

But if you happen to be a directional dyslexic like us, you could also end up paddling erratically, ground your boat on to a sand bar and promptly tip it over.

If such a situation does arise, a little bit of water shouldn’t dampen anyone’s spirit. The life vest you are tightly strapped into ensures you don’t drown, and frankly, three feet of water will only prove a hurdle for the potamphobics (people who fear open water) or the vertically challenged.


The trip can be arranged through Desert Rangers on request for groups of four to 35 people. A large group is always fun, but it is advisable to maintain a stoic silence as you glide over the water, allowing the creatures to come out and play while you sit with your binoculars and cameras poised.


Anyone over six years can sign up for the trip, with each canoe seating two adults and one child.

Prices start from Dh210 for children and Dh300 for adults, inclusive of transport. However, the cost drops to Dh150 per person if you arrange your own. Drinks are included in the price, with lunch costing extra. Departure time depends on the tide. Call Desert Rangers on 04 422 0044.