A kingfisher flits between branches on the bank as we kayak towards a small group of flamingoes, just specks in the distance.

They are adolescents, our guide explains – hence their pale, almost white feathers – and are loitering away from the rest of the flock, a bit like the teenagers who gather around my corner shop.

This tour of Al Zorah Nature Reserve, a tidal lagoon surrounded by 250 acres of mangrove forest and an ecological treasure trove that is home to 110 species of wildfowl, is just one highlight of my visit to Ajman.

It’s hard to believe this tranquil wilderness is less than a 45-minute drive from the bright lights of Dubai. You may not have heard of Ajman but this gorgeous emirate has all the luxury and year-round sunshine of its neighbour while offering a stunning natural – rather than artificial – beauty.

That evening, I take advantage of my hotel’s free shuttle bus to Dubai to shop at the mall and do a spot of sight-seeing. I find myself marvelling at the contrast between the two emirates as I take in the mind-bogglingly futuristic view of frenetic Dubai from the top of the 2,722ft Burj Khalifa tower, the world’s tallest building.

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