Make a splash: 14 water sports to try in Abu Dhabi
Summer in the UAE is almost here, but that doesn’t have to signal the end of your exercise routine. Here’s how you can get involved with the life aquatic in the nation’s capital
Al Ain is the place to head for an intense spot of rafting, at Wadi Adventure. The manmade rapids here can get pretty ferocious and were the first to be built in the region – there are three levels to try, meaning experts and beginners can get involved. Each raft seats up to five people and includes a professional guide.
Wadi Adventure, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, daily 11am to 7pm, Dhs110 for 60 minutes, admission to park extra Dhs65. Tel: (03) 7818422. Taxi: Wadi Adventure. wadiadventure.ae
The end of March saw Aqua Fun open on the waters of the Corniche, a water park that can hold 250 people full of ramps, jumps, monkey bars and more. It’s Dhs100 to have a go and it will be open all-year round.
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Wakeboarding is an all-over body workout, and you can try it at Hiltonia Beach Club on the Corniche. The Hilton hotel has teamed up with local sports company Hafal to offer sessions for experienced boarders. It strengthens arm and leg muscles, and improves your hand-eye coordination.
Hilton Abu Dhabi, Al Khubeirah, Abu Dhabi, prices vary. Tel: (02) 6924324. Taxi: Hiltonia Beach Club. hilton.com, hafalwatersports.com/sports
Another venue in the capital with an aqua-baed bouncy castle – and this one at The Club in Al Mina that is particularly challenging. Wibit is a group of inflatables sat some 50 metres from the coast. Slip on a life jacket, try and climb onboard, and then tackle a course that includes an inflatable sausage, a trampoline and even a trapeze to swing across the water.
The Club, Al Mina, Abu Dhabi. Tel: (02) 6731111. Taxi: British Club, Mina Port. the-club.com
Al Forsan Cable Park
Head to Khalifa City and you can try a variety of watersports – from wakeboarding to water skiing and mono skiing – at Al Forsan’s Cable Park. The region’s first cable destination is ideal for beginners and experts – the cables travel between 29kph and 38kph, depending on your level of experience.
Al Forsan International Sports Resort, Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, Dhs140 to Dhs300, kit rental Dhs25 to Dhs60. Tel: (02) 5568555. Taxi: Al Forsan. alforsan.com
Sea Hawk Watersports run trips that last for two hours through the mangroves behind the Eastern Mangroves Promenade. Children as young as three can get involved.
Eastern Mangroves Promenade, Salam Street, Abu Dhabi, daily 7am, 11am, 3.30pm, Dhs130 to Dhs160. Tel: (02) 6736688. Taxi: Eastern Mangroves. sea-hawk.ae
Bubble’s Barrel at Yas Waterworld is the world’s largest sheet wave. It’s an inclined, curved surface of soft rubber matting, onto which 1,200hp pumps release 7,000 litres of water a second. The result? A huge roaring torrent to ride. You have several choices – you can bodyboard the wave (lie on the chest and hold on to a board with hands and elbows), some decide to sit on their knees, while experts stand and ride it like surfers on the open seas. Before you’re allowed on Bubble’s Barrel, you have to learn the basics on Rush Rider, a smaller version of the wave machine. Thankfully, neither Rush Rider nor Bubble’s Barrel hurt, but they offer an intense, adrenaline-filled experience.
Yas Waterworld, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, daily 10am to 8pm, from Dhs250 for day pass. Tel: (02) 4142000. Taxi: Yas Island. yaswaterworld.com
Construction work in Abu Dhabi means you won’t see many kite surfers on Kite Beach on the Yas Highway at the moment, so where have they all gone? Plenty have headed to Lulu Island, which is where you’ll find local company WakeUp Sports And Trips. They’re holding sessions for beginners in particular along the 7km stretch of coast that cost Dhs250 (there’s also a Dhs100 fee per person to charter the boat). They run trips all year but they are weather dependent. It’s recommended you check their Instagram page for updates. If it’s windy, WakeUp will be in the water.
The Danat Jebel Dhanna, in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region, has a 31-foot twin-engine cruise craft boat that is used daily for fishing trips in the Arabian Sea. You will be provided with equipment so you can catch your lunch off the coast of Jebel Dhanna and have the chef cook it up for you afterwards at the hotel. The price of the trip includes bait, fruit to eat on the boat and soft drinks. Bring a hat, as you’ll be in the sun for a few hours.
Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort, Western Region, Abu Dhabi, daily 8am to 5pm (weather dependent). Tel: (02) 8012222 Taxi: Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort. jebeldhanna.danathotels.com
Nation Riviera Beach Club isn’t just for lounging around in the sun all day and going for a chilled dip in the pool – you can try a variety of sports here, including scuba diving. The Discover Scuba Diving course is Dhs750, plus there’s a five-day open water diving course for Dhs2,300. Pay Dhs1,900 and you can try the Advanced Diving Course – you’ll dive at night and also visit some shipwrecks. You can even train to be an Emergency First Responder here for Dhs900.
St Regis Abu Dhabi, Al Khalidiyah, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Thur 6am to 9pm, Beach Club entry Dhs105 to Dhs160, Fri and Sat Dhs105 to Dhs210, scuba courses prices vary. Tel: (02) 6944780. Taxi: opposite St Regis Nation Towers. nationrivierabeachclub.com
Visit Yas Marina and you can try wakesurfing with local company Eywoa. So how does it differ from wakeboarding? With boarding, you’re tied to a rope and pulled along by a speedboat (called a towline). With surfing, there’s no rope, you just surf behind a boat along the wave it makes as it moves through the water. Even kids as young as six years old can try it.
Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, Dhs135 to Dhs1,900. Tel: (056) 3292695. Taxi: Yas Marina. eywoa.com. yasmarina.ae
Stand-up paddle boarding improves balance, focus and gives your core muscles a big old workout. It’s a full cardio workout that also increases flexibility and reduces stress and encourages relaxation. You can try it for free if you get a day pass to the beach club.
Emirates Palace, West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, daily 7am to sunset, Sun to Thur Dhs315, Dhs160 kids, Fri and Sat Dhs420, Dhs210 children. Tel: (02) 6907311. Taxi: Emirates Palace. kempinski.com
It was the rapper R Kelly who once proclaimed, “I believe I can fly,” and we can only assume he must have just come back from a session on a flyboard before he penned that classic hit. The flyboard is the brainchild of French inventor Franky Zapata – and participants “fly” through the air using water propulsion through a hose and a device attached to your feet. After you’ve strapped your shoes into the special flyboard, which is hooked with the long pipe to a jet ski, you’ll be able to shoot above the surface of the water. Flyboards UAE used to rent them in Ghantoot but have moved to Dubai, but it’s worth the car journey.
16) Underwater snorkelling safari
Noukhada Adventure Company hosts four-hour snorkel safaris leaving from Yas Marina – you’ll spend 40 minutes on a power boat before taking in stops at the capital’s ooid shoals and coral reefs. The trips are only hosted in low tide, when the ooid shoals are exposed, and are dependent on the weather. The maximum number of people on their trips is nine, the minimum is four, and it’s for adults and kids aged ten and over only. You need to bring your own snorkelling equipment, including reef shoes.
Yas Beach launch point, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, Dhs310. Tel: (02) 5581889. Taxi: Yas Beach. noukhada.ae
Plus: three kid-friendly beach clubs in the capital
Bayshore Beach Club has a 300-metre-long beach, a shaded children’s pool, a splash pool with a water slide and a huge main pool.
InterContinental Abu Dhabi, Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi, 8am to sunset, Dhs75 to Dhs130. Tel: (02) 6666888. Taxi: InterContinental Abu Dhabi. ihg.com
The beach club at the Palace is perfect for kids who love water – they have a lazy river, equipped with inflatables and waterfalls. There’s also slides for adrenaline-loving little kids.
Emirates Palace, West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, 7am to sunset. Tel: (02) 6907310. Taxi: Emirates Palace. kempinski.com
Hiltonia Beach Club
Head to the Corniche for two large temperature-controlled pools and a kids’ pool with waterslide. Kids can also cause chaos at a covered outdoor playground.
Hilton Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, daily 8am to 8pm, Dhs150. Tel: (02) 6924203. Taxi: Hilton. abudhabi.hilton.com