Cosmopolitan, contemporary, and effortlessly chic, the United Arab Emirates cultural heart and glamorous capital city Abu Dhabi, is a place where anything is possible. A land where falcons have passports, deserts have ice spas, and camels have beauty pageants (really!). From modern activities inspired by a Bedouin-heritage, to five-star experiences combined with the generous hospitality of the traditional desert roamers, the Abu Dhabi of today promises a one-of-a-kind trip - saving the warmest of welcomes to families who wish to experience it all.In the very first of our brand new curated destination features we are calling The Excite Edit, we catch up with four locals who share their tips, secrets and hidden treasures in the Arabian Peninsula’s ultramodern city of extravagance. Here is what Emily Armstrong - a marine Biologist and the Marine & Environment Manager Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort, had to say: 

Emily, can you please tell us a little more about what your work as a marine biologist at Jumeirah Saadiyat Island involves?

As a marine biologist, my primary focus is on sea turtles – over the winter months we get a lot of sick juvenile turtles washed up on the beach, and in the summer adult Hawksbill turtles come to the beach to lay their nests. Alongside this, we contribute to the UAE Dolphin Project research through reporting sightings from our beach, I run educational sessions for in-house guests, offer the opportunity for our junior guests to become a ‘Nature Ranger’ at Kids Club and coordinate outreach and engagement with the local community and students from NYU Abu Dhabi. My focus is also on the sustainability of the resort; we are eco-conscious and have committed to be single-use plastic free. I am constantly looking for ways to innovate and bring new luxury, environmentally-friendly solutions to our guests!

Why do you recommend travellers visit Jumeirah Saadiyat Island? What can people expect to experience on the island?

Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island is just 20 minutes from the city but you feel a world away from the busy capital when you are on the beach here, so it is the perfect place for travellers looking to relax. The beach is definitely the biggest attraction! Over the summer I am on the beach at sunrise to check for adult turtle activity, and it is really golden hour when the light hits the water and the whole area glows. Even if you’re not a morning person, definitely take a long walk along the beach, and try to spot some dolphins! The area is a Marine National Park, meaning both the dunes and the water is protected – so no noisy jet skis or speedboats. Saadiyat also has extensive mangroves with the chance to see flamingos, and the golf course on Saadiyat is just beautiful, although watch out for the odd roaming gazelle on the green!

The Island is also becoming known as a world-class cultural destination, particularly with the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi. What are your must-see cultural experiences for travellers to Abu Dhabi?

Louvre Abu Dhabi is definitely worth a visit, alongside Manarat al Saadiyat, a local cultural centre where you can always find exciting events and exhibitions. My personal must-see in Abu Dhabi is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – stunning architecture and attention to detail on every corner. It’s an amazing place to really learn about another culture, and the tour guides there are so great, they will tell you all the secrets about the mosque! Finally, pay a visit to Qasr al Hosn, the oldest building in Abu Dhabi, which was recently converted into a museum and tells the story of the development of Abu Dhabi from the 18th century to the modern city we see now.

What other recommendations would you make for travellers - particularly families - looking to experience sites of natural beauty and wildlife in Abu Dhabi?

The UAE is of course famous for its expansive desert and a desert safari is always a great experience for travellers looking for something unique to the region. Combine it with a visit to a camel farm and you can get an insight into the more traditional culture and livelihood of the UAE. For some wildlife diversity, pay a visit to the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve to see large populations of flamingos, or go kayaking around the Mangrove National Park. Better still, join me at Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island at sunrise to help find a turtle nest – see you on the beach!

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experiences according to some of Abu Dhabi’s most interesting and inspiring residents!