Journal archives for March 2024

12 March, 2024

Trip to Middle East! Wow!

From 26 Feb through 9 March, I was soooo incredibly lucky to travel to Saudi Arabia to visit family! My brother-in-law, sister, nephew, and niece have lived in Saudi for the past 7 years or so (brother-in-law is a teacher at a school in Dhahran, an Aramco Camp: This year, I figured it was time that I visited – best decision EVER! It was an incredible time, and it was full of memorable moments and experiences.

My main purpose for visiting was to spend time with family, but each day, I had the opportunity to engage with some nature – almost ALL of it was new for me too. Here are some recaps of the days of my visit and some of the activities/experiences:

Feb 26 – flight from DFW to Dubai. This was actually what I was most concerned about on this trip – could I survive a 14.5 hour flight?!? Wellll, I was crazy lucky – the Emirates flight was so empty. Each person got their own ROW. Seriously – it was maybe 33% capacity on that flight. I wasn’t able to sleep much, but nonetheless, it was super relaxing. I ended up watching a lot of Planet Earth 3. :)

Feb 27 – landed in Dubai with a 9 hour layover. I had messaged some folks from Dubai beforehand for a place to visit on my layover, and Mushrif Park was a common suggestion. Even greater, I was guided by legendary naturalist @ahmed_almansoori !!! What an amazing experience to get to iNat with a local naturalist. I highly suggest that if you travel anywhere, check out the iNat community in those places – folks may suggest good nature places, or as I was able to experience, someone would even take the time to show me around. Ahmed is super amazing – I had the BEST time ever at Mushrif Park. Then, back to the airport to fly to Dammam to get picked up by sister and nephew. Slept 12 hours that night. :)

Feb 28 – My niece and sister drove me around the camp so I could get my bearings a bit. I would be spending most of my time at the actual Dhahran camp. I was actually quite surprised by how much nature existed in this camp! I was a bit worried that it would all be too manicured/maintained with little wildlife habitat, but there was actually quite a bit here. There is an initiative in Saudi to plant a lot of trees, so much of the camp had plants that were irrigated… And, to be frank, this is the major mechanism of disturbance in this camp – overly irrigating! They use a LOT of water on these desert plants – likely a lot more than they need. Most of the plants they are putting in are native, but whew, they water them like crazy. I’m sure that after they get established, they won’t need water… hopefully. Anyways, I did get to walk around the camp a bit on this date, but mostly it was a day of relaxing.

Feb 29 – Spent time with my nephew and niece today around various places at the camp. There is a ‘duck pond’ that is a bit of walk from their house, and there’s a ‘treated waste water lake’ that’s actually super close to their house. They’d no explored the lake before, so we all explored this together! It was GREAT!!! This was the spot with most of the nature, I think.

March 1 – This day, we went to another Aramco camp at Ras Tanura ( This one is closer to the coast, and there’s a beach that we could access. It was lots of fun with the kids to look for some shells and stuff. We also went by a mangrove preserve – not a lot of activity here, but it was still very cool to see this area of preservation. When we got back to the camp, we went back out to the lake! The lake would be the place we’d explore the most during my time. Each time, we’d spot some new stuff. My nephew and niece were really into catching dragonflies with the net, so as I upload stuff, I’ll likely upload a few of the same species multiple times. Apologies if this seems redundant, but I want to give some credit to all of the things in this spot!

March 2 – My niece is really into horses, so we spent time at the horse stables at the camp. We walked around to some other spots around the camp, and in the late afternoon, we went back out to the lake.

March 3 – The kids were at school most of the day, so I kinda went out by myself to explore other parts of the camp. I was hoping to check out all of the natural areas of this camp, and I think I accomplished that by the end of the trip. Anyways, this day I ventured a bit north of the house to the ‘old golf course’ that had been more restored to the natural state. Still lots of irrigated plants, but I spotted a few new things for me. As the kids got home from school, we went to the Central Park to look for more dragonflies.

March 4 – Another day of school for the kids, so again I explored a bit on my own. I also went to the northernmost part of the camp with the jebels ( These geologic structures are super interesting, and there were several of these that I climbed this day. I was definitely worn out by the afternoon! But, this evening, we decided to do some black-lighting around the lake! It was a bit cooler and windier than I expected, but some neat bugs still showed up.

March 5 – After the kids went to school, my sister and I went on a little trip outside of camp! We drove to “Yellow Lake” ( It was about an hour and a half from camp, so my sister and I had some good time to talk. At the actual ‘lake’ we just did some roadside parking and walked a bunch. We never did reach the water, but the walk was quite nice and we spotted some really cool critters that I’d not seen at the camp. We drove back to the camp just in time for the kids to get back from school, so in the afternoon and evening, we explore the lake some more! We blacklighted again this evening, but not too much showed that didn’t show the night before.

March 6 – on this day, I went to another ‘waste water treatment lake’ on the southernmost part of the camp. The water was a bit more… fragrant… here, but there were quite a few more birds in this spot. I spent a few hours here and really enjoyed my time. In the afternoon, I mostly took it easy, but as I was just sitting there enjoying nature, I ended up spotted some really neat little bugs. When the kids got home from school, my sister, niece and I went into Dammam to pick up a few things. After that, we went to the stables for my niece’s horse ride. Then back to the house in the evening! A bit too cold tonight for black-lighting.

March 7 – On this day, my nephew had some stuff going on, so my sister, niece, and I went on a bit of an adventure. We went to Judah’s Thumb ( It was SO AMAZING! Definitely more of a desert than I’d seen before. We spotted some really amazing critters and plants here – obviously adapted to extremely dry conditions. This was a really cool day. When we got back to camp, we went back to the nearby lake.

March 8 – My last day in Saudi… Of course, we went to the lake again, caught a lot of dragonflies, and we just had a good time. In the afternoon, we went to Khobar ( This was the last weekend before Ramadan starts, and whew, the town was crazy crowded! Soooo many people! One man with two children came up to us and said “I want my children to meet American!” So, of course, I talked to the kids for a bit – not sure that they understood anything I said, but they were laughing at some of it. We ate at a pretty nice restaurant in Khobar, and they drove me to the airport in Dammam.

March 9 – Ok, this flight was pretty brutal… honestly. It was totally full, and it was an even longer flight (16.5 hours!). But, hey, I survived! Didn’t sleep at all, so as I got back to Fort Worth, I was dragging big time. Rested up and reflecting on my amazing trip! :)

I have a LOT of observations to upload, and I’ve got a lot of work to try to ID them. It may take me a while to get all this done. I also may edit this journal post as I recall some other cool moments. It was really an amazing vacation. I’m supremely lucky to have had this experience – my first trip overseas was definitely a positive one.

Posted on 12 March, 2024 00:38 by sambiology sambiology | 20 comments | Leave a comment