23 of the best outdoor adventures in the UAE
Be it up in the air, in the water, or on land… there’s so much to do to get your adrenaline fix…
The heat is coming, and across the emirates, the great outdoors is calling. Leave the comforts of the familiar and brush past the brunch options – it’s time to test your limits…
Here are the 23 of the best adventures in the UAE broken down into water, land and elevated adventures:
1. Shark dive at Atlantis, The Palm
Even the most committed adrenaline junkie would probably prefer any encounter with a shark to take place within a controlled environment. That’s the beauty of swimming among them at The Lost Chambers Aquarium; a dive master will be right beside you. And while the giant tank’s school of hammerhead sharks certainly looks terrifying enough, they don’t want to eat humans. Yes, we googled it. Experiences start at Dhs950.
2. Scuba dive near Martini Rock
Avid divers will know about this lovely off-shore pinnacle close to the Dibba port of Oman. Martini Rock has a sloping reef and underwater pinnacles that resemble a martini glass on its side (hence the name). It’s a magnet for lion fish, trigger fish, scorpion fish and, if you’re lucky, turtles and rays. Al Boom Diving has a permanent centre at Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort. For Dhs420, you can sign up for its Fujairah diving trip package, which includes two dives and all the equipment. If you’ve never dived before, try a discovery dive for Dhs682.
3. Surf the waves in Dubai
Before you arrived in Dubai, we bet that you never thought you’d be able to surf here, right? Well, there’s a great little beach break with a sandy bottom at Sunset Beach. Rent boards by the hour from the nearby Surf House, or you can arrange lessons directly with them if you need a bit of guidance.
4. Snorkel around Snoopy Island
A visit to Snoopy Island in Fujairah should be a rite of passage for any UAE resident. Swimming around this infamous island – which gets its name from its resemblance to the cartoon dog – is a lot of fun. Jutting out about 100 metres in front of the legendary Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort, the waters surrounding Snoopy are home to lots of marine life. Snorkel or kayak (you can hire both from the hotel), and look out for those cheeky black tip reef sharks.
5. Try deep water soloing
If rock climbing is simply not thrilling enough for you, why not go rogue and climb a cliff face metres above a deep body of water without any ropes? Dibba-based company Sheesa Beach sails climbers to quiet locations around the rugged cliffs of the Musandam, providing water safety and support teams while you climb.
6. Explore the Musandam
Hop aboard a traditional two-tiered wooden dhow boat for a day of scuba diving, snorkelling and kayaking fun on the Musandam. These floating palaces are simple, spacious, and full of comfy cushions to lie on, and ice boxes to keep your drinks nice and cold. It’s the perfect way to explore one of the best kept secrets in the region. Day trips and overnight adventures are available with Sheesa Beach.
7. Join a wakeboard camp in the mangroves
Fancy a weekend-long wakeboard adventure? Sign up for Wake Evo’s brilliant wakeboard camp located on a secluded island in the Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi. The weekend stars with a bootcamp fitness warm-up and smoothies before the wake lessons begin. You’ll receive two coaching sessions, plus barbecue lunch and dinners, sunset yoga, paddleboarding and overnight camping under the stars. Packages start at Dhs650.
8. Pearl farm in RAK…
Al Rams is the sleepy fishing village on the northern tip of Ras Al Khaimah. Here Suwaidi Pearls keeps a 7,000-year-old tradition alive, run by Abdulla Al Suwaidi, whose grandfather was a pearl diver. Visitors take a traditional pearling boat to a two-storey boat anchored next to the 4,000-square-metre farm. It’s here that you’ll learn about how the dangerous art of pearl diving was once the heartbeat of the community. You’ll also get to open your own oysters, in the hope of finding a precious pearl. Once the two-hour tour is complete, you’ll ride through the mangroves. Adventurers can also borrow a kayak and paddle through the mangroves.
9. Or pearl dive in Abu Dhabi
The new Serdal pearl diving expedition begins by boarding a traditional dhow at Yas Marina and sailing toward the pearl bed. Brave divers will need to stick their foot in a loop fashioned out of rope, connected to weights and prepare to be lowered into the water. Hold your breath and get scavaging for oysters along the sea bed. Then hop back on board and shuck for your treasure.
10. Learn to motocross
Ladies, if your appetite for adrenaline is not satisfied driving to work on Sheikh Zayed Road, swap four wheels for two and head to the desert with Grit Girls UAE. The new Dubai dirtbike community for women offers try days, and ad-hoc monthly meet-ups for anyone confident enough to give it a go. You’ll be taught everything from basics manoeuvres and mechanics, to learning what to look out for when buying your first bike.
11. Spend a whole day at Wadi Adventure
Wadi Adventure’s state-of-the-art artificial pool pumps out two- to four-foot waves with your choice of left, right, and closeout formations. But Wadi Adventure is not just for surfers; there are two enormous man-made rapids for white-knuckle rafting and kayaking adventures, a cable park for wakeboarding enthusiasts, and a high-ropes obstacle course. Definitely a day to remember.
12. Learn to off-road
In a country with six-lane motorways, it seems almost unbelievable that just 20 minutes out of the main cities and you could be off-roading in the desert. Using a fully modified Jeep Wrangler, Off-Rod Zone’s trained guides put you in the driving seat. You’ll receive personal instruction and driving tips, and learn all the techniques necessary to have a safe but adventurous drive. You can choose from a half-day trip, overnight camp or three-day camping experience. Packages start at Dhs1,400.
13. Sign up to a survival course
Channel your inner Bear Grylls with survival training in Hatta where you’ll learn how to make a fire, create an emergency water filtration, and build shelter.
14. Learn to horse ride
With the annual World Cup at the Meydan racecourse and an active polo scene, the UAE is truly a country that loves its horses. So why not get involved and learn how to ride for yourself at the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club? No experience with horses is required. Professional trainers will guide you through lessons from basic posture to learning to trot and canter.
15. Sign up for the Wadi Adventure Race
It’s one thing to kayak across the rapids at Wadi Adventure, but what if you had to trudge through it on foot as fast as you could, then jump up and over an enormous half pipe, after racing across the desert with a sandbag over your shoulders? This is the Wadi Adventure Race, a grueling 15km military-style obstacle course, back for its 19th edition. The race is on April 26 Registration costs Dhs391
16. Snowboard or ski for less at Ski Dubai
For those who’ve never tried skiing or snowboarding before, it’s understandable to assume that Ski Dubai is off limits to you. But the friendly instructors at the ski and snowboard schools are fully equipped to teach newbies. You’ll learn on a nursery hill first before tackling the steeper slopes. Best of all, ski and snowboard enthusiasts can now brush up on their skills at 50 per cent off through discount platform VoucherSkout.
17. Ride a dune buggy
Head to Big Red Motorsports to get behind the wheel of a dune buggy or quad bike and get out into nature. There are beginner tours that take you past camel farms and up to Pink Rock mountain, before taking a break at a convenience store hidden amid the dunes.
18. Become a certified skydiver
Anyone can choose to skydive in tandem but it takes a lot of guts to learn how to skydive solo. You can sign up to do just that with the Accelerated Freefall (AFF) first jump course. Taught at Skydive Dubai Desert Campus, the world’s largest skydiving school, the training programme is a combination of ground school (theory classes) and eight skydives. Courses start at Dhs10,000.
19. Rock climb in Ras Al Khaimah
Want to hang tough but not sure where to start? Meet Adventurati Tours founder – and all-round nice guy – Fadi Hachicho. He’s been organising adventure tours for a few years now, all with rave reviews. Join him and other intrepid adventurers for a weekend rock climbing trip to RAK. It’s a fantastic introduction to the art of outdoor rock climbing.
20. Mountain bike through Wadi Showka
Mountain bike through the rocky terrain surrounding Wadi Showka. Adventurati Tours runs guided MTB trips among the rocky mountains. Expect endless routes of downhill and uphill thrills passing through local farms and past wild camels.
21. Hike through Wadi Showka
The Wadi Showka trail takes hikers across part of the Hajar Mountains so expect a pretty epic – and elevated – climb. Start from the Showka Dam, which has paved parking and basic facilities. From there, take the stairs through the park and up to the road. Then turn right and keep walking until you see a green staircase made from old tires. That’s the start of the trail. For the most part, it’s a clearly defined route. Look out for a Showka Pools, perfect for cooling off in…
22. Ride a gyrocopter
Experience the thrill of flying over Dubai’s landscape with a gyrocopter flight. The experience sees you soaring 1,500 feet above the emirate’s most iconic landmarks – in a unique two-seater aircraft. Moments will be captured by your pilot via Go Pro.
23. Via Ferrata across Jebel Jais
A combination of hiking, climbing and ziplining, the Via Ferrata Ras Al Khaimah (Dhs170) is an adventurous climbing route on Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest mountain. Groups are led to the foot of the mountain where the climb begins. The route is guided by steel cables, which climbers are attached to at all times. There are simpler areas of terrain, and some trickier parts to climb, so shoes with good grip are highly advised. There are three ziplines, including an epic final zipline from 70 metres high. Expect a bruise or two, but most importantly a sense of sheer satisfaction at completing the route.