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  • Writer's picturePeter Howarth

DDCR by Night

Spending a night in the Dubai Desert Conservation Range (DDCR) has been a dream of mine since I first visited in 2018. This amazing conservation site is located about half an hour from Dubai and is the only one of its kind in the UAE. The site is 225 square kilometers of careful managed desert, it contains a variety of habitats including rolling dunes, gravel plains and Ghaf forests. This in-turn makes it a dream location for a desert fanatic like me.

On previous visits I mentioned to my interest of spending a night within the DDCR and this year it finally came true. We arrived late in the afternoon and drove round the bottom half of the reserve. We encountered various species including Arabian Oryx, Shrikes, Harriers, Arabian Gazelle and a pair of Houbara Bustards. Seeing these amazing animals amongst the beautiful sand dunes is really a sight to behold. Amazingly they weren't the reason I had longed to spend a night in this fantastic desert, the real draw was the reptiles and other nocturnal species.

D7500 Sigma 150-600c 1/800 sec at f/6.3 ISO 800

As the sunset we decided to have dinner in the staff cafe before venturing out into the dark, in an attempt to try and capture some of the nocturnal species that call the DDCR home. Armed with nothing but a head torch and a camera I walked off into the dunes. I was looking for the tell tale reflection that comes back from the eyes of reptiles and spiders, their tiny eyes shine out like diamonds among the sand. It didn't take long to find the first reptile, a sand gecko, this was quickly followed up by another and another. By the end of the night we had seen several species of gecko including the Arabain Sand Gecko ((Stenodactylus arabicus) I have included a photo of this gecko at the bottom of this blog) and a bucket list species for me a Fat-Tailed Scorpion (Androctonus crassicauda).

D7500 Sigma 150-600c 1/100 sec at f/16, ISO 100

Waking up early the next morning we ventured out to catch the 'change of the guard' the transition from nocturnal species to diurnal ones. Unfortunately it was a rather cold morning meaning most nocturnal species would have already gone under ground or into cracks in trees making them incredibly difficult to spot. I quickly cahnged my focus to the bird life around the Ghaf forest. After 30 minutes or so a pair of Shrikes decided to perch in a tree and watch us wander around. After photographing them for a while I made a move down to the dunes where I came across an Asian Desert Warbler another first for me.

D7500 Sigma 150-600c 1/800 sec at f/6.3, ISO 200

As the sun rose higher and the light grew harsher we made moves back to the DDCRs head office, passing lots of Gazelle and Oryx on the way. As we drove past the gravel plains we also spotted multiple Spiny Tailed Lizards sunning themselves in the mid morning rays. Once we arrived at the office we collected our gear and headed off back to Al Ain and home.

D7500 Sigma 150-600c 1/100 sec at f/14, ISO 100

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