Nature lovers flocked to Abu Dhabi's newest hotspot in droves this weekend after the much-anticipated mangrove walk opened its doors to the public on Thursday.
More than 14,000 people ambled along the sprawling boardwalk, which is nestled within the one million-square-metre Jubail Mangrove Park.
While some residents and tourists reported long traffic delays getting on to the island because of the rush of visitors, the experience did little to disappoint.
"Not far out of the city you can be at one with nature," Adam Tesdale, 48, told The National.
“Young or old you will enjoy walking the three loops. I think the best time to go is just before high tide so you can watch the various inlets filling up.”
Having lived in Abu Dhabi for six years, he said it was a great place to “learn about the ecosystem of the mangroves”.
But he said road signs to the area could be improved.
“Unless you use Google maps you will never find it. The access road was OK but parking facilities were minimal.”
He said he will be paying another visit to the unique walkway with his parents, who will be visiting the UAE next week.
"It's a must see. Thinking ahead, maybe [they could develop] a mobile app so that visitors can interact with the information on site."
Jo Cathrine, 45, visited on Friday. As a regular visitor to Hudayriat Island, she said she hoped visitors would treat the new outdoor offering with the “respect it deserves”.
“I think it is yet another marvellous environment that we have been lucky enough to be given access to.
“It was incredibly busy as you would expect on a Friday afternoon, but the staff handled everything very well, directing traffic, answering questions and guiding people as to the routes.”
She said parking was a slight issue after several saloon cars were stuck in the sand.
“But there is plenty of parking on the tarmac for when it is not so busy.”
Just a stone’s throw away from the city, Ms Cathrine, a teacher in Abu Dhabi, said the mangrove walk was a new favourite spot for her.
A staff member at Jubail Mangrove Park told The National that the new boardwalk has the capacity to handle a large number of people.
"However for [a better] experience we try to limit the number. During the opening weekend we added some small breaks but people did not have to wait longer than five minutes each time."
Open from 8am to 6.30pm daily, the park offers three new walkways. The longest is 2km and the shortest is 1km.
A casual stroll through the longest route takes between 35 and 40 minutes.
For Abu Dhabi resident, Mohamed Ehsan, a planned visit to the boardwalk on Friday was hindered by heavy traffic.
“We actually couldn't get in at all. We were stuck on the highway coming from Saadiyat Island. The exit was completely lined up with cars and the tailback seemed like almost a kilometre or so,” he said.
“But we figured since it was the opening weekend everyone else had the same idea as us and decided to show up at the same time.
“We will definitely visit soon, most likely next Friday while the weather is still good.”