It has been open to the public since late last year, but not many know about Al Jurf Gardens in Abu Dhabi. The National set out to visit the nature reserve-turned-picnic spot and came away entranced.
Located on the coast in between and less than an hour's drive from the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the project by Imkan Properties is a residential community with a countryside feel reminiscent of Enid Blyton's Enchanted Wood.
Originally created to protect the deer and antelope that are native to the UAE, the reserve also affords visitors the chance to spot various species of gazelle and oryx, as well as other wildlife and birds. At the end of the dirt path is a cutesy cafe called Dialogue, which overlooks the sparkling waters of the Arabian Gulf.
Shaded by a canopy of trees, families can be spotted picnicking on the sand. It is a seamless way to connect with nature and feels miles away from the hubbub of city life.
Near and deer
If you are driving through the area without stopping, at first glance the dirt road seems to be surrounded only by trees and the odd bird, but look carefully and it is likely you will spot a grazing herd of deer.
They scare easily, though, so be mindful of their privacy. If you want to take pictures, roll down the car windows rather than walking up to their retreating backs.
Approximately halfway between the entrance and the cafe is a custom-built feeding area, with water and food laid out for the animals. Waiting here is your best chance to spot them but, again, be careful not to scare them away.
Best time to go
Make your way over in the morning or afternoon, especially if you want to see deer, as the tree canopy means there is not a lot of light – even in the daytime.
If you want to go off the dirt road into the soft sand arenas, or all the way to the seaside, a 4x4 is recommended, although sedans are perfectly fine on the dirt road.
Where is Al Jurf?
Al Jurf is located at 24.8536351, 54.8005832. Take the Al Samha exit and turn towards the Nature Reserves sign at the roundabout.