The life aquatic: where to dive and snorkel in the UAE (and beyond)
The UAE’s waters are home to shipwrecks, colourful coral and plenty of fish. Here’s how you can take the plunge and get exploring
01) Reefs and wrecks
Abu Dhabi-based company Seahawk offers two kinds of trips to shallow sites and deeper ones. Diving excursions to the shallow sites cost Dhs350 and include locations such as Ras Ghurab Island (it sits between Dubai and Abu Dhabi) and Al Dabiya (near the Western Region). Deeper site trips let you dive down and explore sunken shipwrecks such as MV Ludwig and MV Hannan.
02) Try freediving
Freediving is perhaps the most extreme form of diving you can do – you dive without using breathing apparatus. Freediving UAE train aspiring divers in AIDA courses (International Association For The Development Of Apnea, it’s the official name for the worldwide freediving community), where you’re taught how to breath, go through safety exercises (how to avoid blackouts, for example), and plenty more.
03) Head to Oman
If you want to explore the waters beyond Abu Dhabi, the Emirates Divers Centre offers overnight trips to Musandam every weekend, costing Dhs1,200 for PADI certified divers and Dhs900 for snorkelers and non-divers. The trips take two days and nights and you get six dives in the price, including a night dive. Meals are also included in the price and the dive centre also offers PADI and first aid course.
04) Master a PADI
Abu Dhabi’s Ocean Dive Centre offers PADI training course in scuba diving and they operate out of the Beach Rotana hotel in Al Zahiyah. What’s more, they also organise trips to go diving in Musandam. Experienced divers can also learn to be a PADI divemaster here, meaning you’ll then be certified to take others out on diving trips – it’s ideal if you fancy a career in the water.
05) Head to Sir Bani Yas
Snorkelling or scuba diving sessions are available for children aged ten and over and adults, and the only proviso is you have to be able to swim to a good standard. There are options to snorkel directly from the beach or get a boat to nearby Gasha Island, where you can dive down to a shipwreck. Trips last between 60 and 90 minutes and Professional Association Of Diving Instructors programmes (PADI) are also available.
06) Dive every day
One of Abu Dhabi’s most established diving companies, Al Mahara, has daily trips leaving from the Emirates Palace Marina at 7.45am and 8am, plus snorkelling trips at 8am. You can head out to the reefs at Saadiyat, Al Dabiya, Ras Ghurab, plus shipwrecks such as MV Hanna, Jasim and Ludwig. Snorkelling trips start from Dhs240, while diving trip prices start at Dhs420.