Discovering Khor Kalba
By Justin Johny
Location: Khor Kalba, UAE

Being on vacation has many benefits.  One of them is the ability to wake up at two in the morn and plonk myself into a car for a long ride to catch the sunrise at Khor Kalba Nature Reserve.  But hats off to the other members of the FSO group (Friday Shoot Out, a local photography club) who braved to sneak out of their beds from their better halves knowing the wrath that might await them upon return.  Now you have to understand, telling your better halves that you are taking off in the wee hours of the night to catch a sunrise someplace at the expense of a Friday morning with family can be quite tricky, especially when they see this whole exercise as a crazy frivolous venture.  Despite the domestic risk, we had 20 odd camera totting guys and gals on our way from Dubai to Kalba.

The drive in the quiet of the night was very peaceful and that’s when the thought popped up in my mind: what on earth exactly was I going for?  How different could a sunrise be at a beach in Kalba than at a beach closer to home? A bit late for that thought, but as the car pulled up at our destination all those afterthoughts were soon thwarted.

Ok, before I get into the details of the thwarting, I am guessing you might need directions getting there.  If you are driving from Dubai, you can get on the Dhaid Highway (E88) which will end up at Masafi, where you turn right on E89.  This takes you towards the Fujairah beachside where you go right again onto E99, continuing until you reach a small bridge that connects you to a peninsula and the place of afterthought thwarting.

Click Here For a Location Map (point A is the destination)


A glimpse of an Octopus

All that I knew about the place was about a beach in Kalba, but we had driven onto a peninsula which had mangroves on the side we parked.  It is often said that anything in nature looks at its best by the first light of dawn…and so it did.  I had seen many mangroves before but none at that time of day.   Maybe it was my unpreparedness, but whatever it was, it looked beautiful.  These calm waters are home to some amazing creatures; during my wandering I spotted an octopus (I’ve never seen a living octopus before), some beautiful fishes and some crabs.  I am sure those who catch or document them for a living would have a field day here.

Realization dawned upon me a bit later that we were on a peninsula; there were at least two more faces to this piece of land to explore.  And as it turned out, just a hop-skip-and-a-jump distance away from the mangroves was a beach.  So hop-skip-and-a-jump I did and reached the place and found some really old Toyota Land Cruiser trucks.  At first sight it looked like someone has just abandoned these beautiful vehicles and until I spotted the nets and fishing equipment in them—the fisher folk there use these beasts.  If you are there by six or seven in the morning, you will be privileged to see crews of fishermen coming over to pull back their nets and casting out new ones; it is a sight and a half!

Fishermen in Khor Kalba

Local fishermen

Now somewhere in between that hop-skip-jump exercise my knee started to disagree with me and I started back with a limp towards the car. The guys with better knees got to capture more of this action by the fisher folk.

On the remaining side of the peninsula you will see the lines between the past and the present blurring.  Dhows from the yesteryears lined up alongside the modern boats close to the shore, where you also see small huts—presumably for the fisher folk.  Because of my protesting knee I missed out on opportunities to get some good frames of the scene, but thanks to Lal, Sugeesh, Dave and Ranjith you can see what my written account tries to capture (see the photos below).

After we had spent couple of hours snapping photos, my limb was protesting and most of us had our stomachs growling with hunger—it was time to head back.  If you live in a city like Dubai you need to take some quick escapes from the bustling city life, if you know what I mean.  Khor Kalba checks a lot of boxes for me.  It’s a beautiful place to barbeque or go for a nice long walk, and if you have kids they even have a play area.  If you are a shutterbug you have a variety of subjects to shoot: landscapes, portraits, macro—anything!

With such a package, Khor Kalba Nature Reserve definitely has to be one to add to your destination list.

Click on the thumbnails below for more photos of the trip.

Editor’s Note: For an alternative route to the mangroves, you can also try the new Sharjah-Kalba road (S116).