Category Archives: Wildlife

UAE unveils real-time air quality index

I was pleased in reading His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi’s, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, statement that “air pollution is arguably one of the most important concerns around the world today and has a serious impact on human health and the environment” while launching the UAE Air Quality Index in collaboration with Khalifa University of Science and Technology.

The index displays real-time readings of the satellite-monitored air quality index (AQI) across the UAE, which can forecast air quality up to three days in advance and predict the concentration of dust and particulate matters with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5).

The AQI is based on the concentration of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter that are worldwide known as being potentially detrimental for human health.

“That is why the quality of the air we breathe is a key issue highlighted in the National Agenda of the UAE Vision 2021” added Dr Al Zeyoudi.

His Excellency added that the ministry believes that providing the public with access to real-time air quality data will help them “make informed decisions to help the national achieve its targets.”

The index is easily available from the MOCCAE smart application available in the Apple Store or Google Play and on the dedicated website.

As also reported by the Emirates News Agency, Dr. Al Zeyoudi stated that “we are confident we will see enhanced projects and initiatives that aim to cut down carbon emissions”. A good news for the UAE and the planet.

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5 indisputable reasons to stay at Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island

1 – The Stunning View

One of the first thing we have noticed upon entering our villa was the extraordinary view. The blue sea and the sky that you can enjoy from the comfort of your bed, the freshness of the available pool or any of the chairs, sofas or chaise lounge available. If you prefer something different, there are villas facing the mangroves area or the forest.

Villa with Sea View at Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island

The view from the beach villa at Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island

View at Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island

Amazing sunsets from Anantara Al Yamm Resort

2 – Astonishing wildlife

 It was surprisingly good to understand that the island is not a zoo but actually a wildlife sanctuary aiming to reintroduce into the wild some species considered endangered until few years ago. During the safari superbly conducted by our South African guide, we have learnt a lot about Oryx, Sand Gazelles, a Giraffe, Cheetahs and many other animals that are protected in the reserve and we managed to admire. Many birds, a rabbit and several sand gazelles were regularly “visiting” our villa.

Cheeta at Anantara Wildlife Park Sir Bani Yas Island

Giraffe at Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island

Desert Gazelle at Ananantara Sir Bani Yas IslandOryx at Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island

3 – Absolute Quietness

Whether we were sunbathing in the beach, dining at the restaurant or within the comfort of our room, we hardly heard something different from the smooth sound of the sea waves and the happy chirping of the birds. No cars, construction works or the usual noise where are daily exposed to in the city.

Total Quietness at Anantare Sir Bani Yas Island

4 – Superb service

Since the very first moment when we entered the Anantara Resort gate at Jebel Dhana Jetty, we have received a superlative service. The Sir Bani Yas Island crew was always smiling, very prepared, friendly and polite. We have never met someone from within the staff that haven’t approached us with a warm smile, a polite salutation and a request if they could have been of any help or assistance.

5 – Great Accommodation

Our villa was simply amazing. Dining room, living room, a very big bedroom, nicely arranged bathroom with cool amenities, outdoor seating and a private swimming pool (not too big though). Independent from any other villa, guaranteeing absolute privacy and quietness.  There is available also an area to arrange a fire for an amazing evening.

Beach Villa at Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island

Freed Sea turtle

The day I rescued a Sea Turtle from a fish trap!

It was a normal Friday in Saudi Arabia when I decided to go to the beach and enjoy the amazing Red Sea Coral Reef with some colleagues. We were well equipped, someone had a water proof camera (myself), someone else fishing gear and pretty much everybody was wearing a snorkel, goggles and suitable shoes to safely walk in a rocky sea.

We were taking funny photo when we noticed that something was violently moving in the shallow water close to us. We were firstly scared, because we thought it could have been a shark or some other dangerous fish, but then we realized it was a Sea Turtle trapped in a fishing net.

We approached the Turtle in an attempt to free it from the fish trap but the turtle wasn’t very happy of our presence. We insisted in pursuing our goal and tried our best to cut the fishing net that was literally strangling the poor marine creature.

Turtle Rescue Operation

The Turtle was very scared and tried to bite us more than once.

It was a complicated job since the turtle was biting and slapping our hands since it was very scared and the fishing net was super resilient. We did not have any cutting tool, hence we had to figure out how to free the turtle without hurting it.

Rescuing a Turtle

The delicate rescuing operation required 20 minutes and 4 people

Once the the first flap was freed, the turtle seemed realize we were helping and stopped being hostile and almost started cooperating with us. After the right flap, we managed to free the left one and then the head with a very delicate operation. The turtle cooperation was important since with a single bite it could have easily chopped off a finger.

The emotion in seeing the turtle free and happy was unique.

Freed Sea turtle

Also thanks to the turtle trust and cooperation, we managed to free it from the net

   As soon as we put it back in the water, it quickly disappeared leaving us proud of our actions.

Who should be ashamed of his misbehaving is the person who abandoned a fishing net in the middle of the coral reef, endangering many wild animals.

Vietnam Holidays – Sa Pa

After the long train trip from Hanoi as described in one of the previous posts, we eventually arrived at Lao Cai Train Station, the nearest station to Sa Pa, which is at some 4 km from the Chinese border. Once arrived there, we realized that almost all the people on the train were tourist and the station was filled by tourist guides patiently waiting for their guests. We took a while before spotting our local guide, Miss. May Cham belonging to the Red Dao ethnic group, who immediately started briefing us about the plan of our stay and anticipating the singularities of the place, its cultural back-ground and history.

SaPa from different angles by AndreaDetto

SaPa from different angles

Sa Pa as an unique climate that changes during the day in what looks like a predetermined fashion. A tourist information panel in the town reads: “there are four seasons a day: cool spring in the morning, sunny summer in the noon time, cloudy autumn in the afternoon and cold winter in the night time” and I can assure that it is true.   Sa Pa was a very small village inhabited by local tribes that moved from north to find arable land and conducting a very simple life based on rice and other vegetable cultivation. For this reason the village remained basically unknown to most of the people living outside the Lao Cai province for centuries. Only when the French came in this part of the world and conquered Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia creating the so called “French Indochina” in the late 19th Century, SaPa started being known to foreigners because of its favorable and curative (the French thought so) climate. For this reason, soon Sa Pa started appearing in the national maps and became destination for those people affected by chronic illnesses and bad health conditions. The WWII and the three sino-vietnamese wars mined Sa Pa ability to attract people, condition that remained unaltered until the ’90s when the doors to international tourism were definitely opened and thousands tourists started flowing in the little city to enjoy the particular weather, the breathtaking landscapes and wonderful trekking paths between the different tribes’ villages and rice paddies.

Once we arrived in the little lovely town, we were literally ‘assailed’ by many Hmong women colorfully dressed greeting us with a ‘Xin Chao’ (Hello in Vietnamese) and a lots of questions like “Do you buy from me?”, “Maybe Later?”, “Maybe Sure?”. Our local guide told us that the women work represent the major source of income in the household and they soon learnt that tourists have money and they are pretty much willing to spend it in souvenirs. For the local minorities used to work the land and not having electricity at home, even few dollars could be a significant amount, allowing them to buy some goods from the neighboring cities.

The women community in SaPa

The extraordinary women community in SaPa.

With this crowd of Hmong women following us (see the photos above) and continuing begging to buy something from them, we visited Sa Pa town first and then Cat Cat (Black Hmong) and Ta Phin (Red Dao) Village by amiably trekking through the rice paddies. During our stay we noticed that only women were around with their colorful dresses, different hats (red, black, big, small), some with black teeth (they believe it is sexy) other with big earrings. All dedicated to the fields work, taking care of the children and the household, selling products and souvenirs to tourists . . . we were told, indeed, that men are quite lazy and willing to drink and relax only.

We had the possibility to visit some houses in the mentioned villages and found them very different from our comfortable-provided-with-everything modern apartments. They have a big room where they cook, enjoy their meal, store corn and rice and take a rest. The proper bed room is in another space well isolated from the ‘common’ area. The various minorities follow Confucianism, Buddhism and Catholicism (imported by the French) but the majority of them believe in the Ancestors that continue living in the same house protecting the families.

saPa Market by AndreaDetto

Sa Pa Market – live fish, chickens, pork, spices and herbs, vegetables

The environment is quite in danger being a common practice to burn the forest in order to increase the arable area to grow rice and corns. We were told that the Government started implementing adequate information campaign with the hope to stop the deforestation in progress. Another curious thing is that the government has provided each and every local community with a clinic with qualified nurses to guarantee an adequate first aid and medical coverage but the local people do believe in the traditional Chinese medicine (based on the use of roots and other natural products) and for this reason the clinic are always empty.

The restaurants available in Sa Pa are generally very good, being the ingredients very fresh and directly available from the local farmers. However I would recommend you to enjoy a dinner at Little SAPA Restaurant where the massive presence of Vietnamese people indicates the food is really Vietnamese. The simple life that the Vietnamese have is a kind of assurance that each and every food you are going to enjoy, either it is a local pig or vegetables, it is made with 100% organic products.

A glimpse of SaPa's life by AndreaDetto

A glimpse of SaPa’s life

Dubai Adventures: A day with flamingos

I believe normal that when we hear news about the Middle East we all think about desert, sandy places, palms and dates, camels and recently oil. Well it is quite true, but we should not forget that here and there, there are also amazing oasis that give to the sandy landscape a different tone. Talking about Dubai, we all immediately think about the tallest building in the world (Burj Khalifa), the biggest mall in the world (Dubai Mall), Palm Jumairah, the most luxurious hotel in the world (Burj Al Arab), but no one mention the precious Flamingo Oasis that is few kilometres away from the down town.

Dubai from Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary by AndreaDetto

Downtown Dubai from Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

You have to know that before the Emirates discovered precious black gold, Dubai’s first source of profit was the use of the creek, a natural harbor that was used by the past generations to store and trade goods from India and Iran. In that period Dubai became the most important Gold hub for the Middle East and an important producer of pearls and other mother-of-pearls stuffs. The City, thanks to the oil revenues, expanded rapidly but the creek survived, remaining a central point for Dubai’s life. At the end of the natural creek (yes because now there are impressive projects to extend it, but this is another story) there is a neighborhood called “Ras Al Khor” that in Arabic means ‘Cape of the Creek’ where the salty water together with a colony of mangroves created a surprising Lagoon. Little by little this natural spot was populated by many kinds of flora and fauna becoming the first Ramsar Site of the region with the name of “Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary”.

Flamingos in Dubai by AndreaDetto

Flamingos in Dubai

The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands, recognizing their fundamental ecological functions and economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971.

Owing to its position, the lagoon acts as a critical staging ground for the wintering birds of the East African-West Asian Flyway and therefore it is easy to see many spectacular species of birds including the beautiful and well-known Flamingos. I remember I firstly discovered the place by chance, noticing a road signal indicating a “Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary” while I was driving to Hatta from Dubai.

Flamingos enjoying the lagoon

Flamingos enjoying the lagoon

The Sanctuary can be visited only from appositely built observations deck, close enough to enjoy the view but distant enough to avoid disturbing the wild animals. This piece of green nature among the sand dunes is a real pearl for those who like natural spots to relax, think, take photographs and contemplate the wildlife astonishing complexity and variety.

The contrast between the natural zone and the down-town built few kilometres away is impressive and leave the observer with a sense of how invasive could be the humanity and how determinant for the preservation of the wildlife it shall be.

Wild bird in Ras Al Khor Sanctuary by AndreaDetto

Wild bird in Ras Al Khor Sanctuary

Unfortunately many huge projects are under development in the surrounding areas to create a new residential unit called “Lagoon” facing the Wildlife Sanctuary and to extend the creek to reach another part of Dubai. Let’s hope they will not ruin this little beautiful piece of nature just in name of business. It would be a shame otherwise.