There’s never been a better time to explore the great outdoors…

With the announcement that schools and universities will be closed for the next four weeks, and a raft of high-profile events cancelled across the country, we’re itching for things to do beyond our living rooms.

It’s time to head for the hills (or the park, or the beach), with 13 of the best outdoor activities in the UAE.

1. Cycle around Al Qudra Lakes

Just a 30-minute drive from Dubai, Al Qudra Lakes has become a firm favourite among the UAE cycling set. Keep your eyes peeled for wild oryx and camels as you ride the 85km Al Qudra Cycle Course through the sand dunes. If you don’t have your own wheels, you can hire a bike from the Trek Bicycle Store at Seih Al Salam, near the Al Qudra Course (daily 6am to 10pm; reserve 72 hours in advance).
Al Qudra Cycle Course, Al Qudra Rd. Tel: (04) 832 7377. trekbikes.ae

2. Kayak through the Abu Dhabi Mangroves

Mangroves Abu DhabiFor a hit of fresh air in the capital, visit the all-new Jubail Mangrove Park, where you can wander along the Qurum boardwalk, spy local birds and animals, and explore the waterways on a kayak. A one-hour tour costs Dhs150 (adults) and Dhs100 (children).
Jubail Mangrove Park, Al Jubail Island (next to Saadiyat Island), Abu Dhabi, 8am to 6.30pm daily, closed for the summer season, free entry. Tel: (05) 63032423. park.jubailisland.ae

3. Visit Hatta Wadi Hub

Hatta has fast become one of the biggest adventure hubs in the UAE, so make the 90-minute drive from Dubai for a day of open-air thrills. Make your first port of call the Hatta Wadi Hub, where the all-new Drop-in waterslide, archery, axe throwing, mountain carting and zorbing await.
Hatta Wadi Hub, located off the Dubai-Hatta road, 8.30am to 6pm. Tel: (800)637227. visithatta.com 

4. Hike around Hatta     hiking-in-Hatta

Strap on a pair of sturdy shoes for four all-new hiking trails through the Hajar Mountains, via wadis and rocky outcrops. Be sure to pack water, snacks and a fully charged phone for the 32km of trails, rated easy, moderate, difficult and extreme.
Hatta Wadi Hub, located off the Dubai-Hatta road. Two-hour guided hiking tour, Dhs60 per person. Tel: 050 435 1397. ⁠

5. Ride a mountain bike in Hatta

Fancy a pedal instead? The Hatta Mountain Bike Trail Centre offers 50km of trails catering for everyone from beginners to professional riders. No wheels? No worries: you can hire bikes at the Wadi Hub from Dhs65 for two hours.
Hatta Wadi Hub, located off the Dubai-Hatta road, 8.30am to 6pm. Tel: (800)637227. visithatta.com 

6. Kayaking on Hatta Dam

hatta-kayaking

A 15-minute drive from Hatta Wadi Hub brings you to Hatta Dam, a postcard-perfect reservoir framed by mountain ranges. Hire watersports equipment from Hatta Kayak, including kayaks (Dhs60 per person or Dhs150 for a double kayak), pedal boats (Dhs120), yellow boats (Dhs150), donut boats (Dhs300), and water bikes (Dhs60 per person).
Hatta Kayaks, Hatta Dam, Hatta. Daily, 7am to 9pm. Tel: (056 616 2111. hattakayak.com

7. Scale new heights in Ras Al Khaimah

At the Jais Adventure Peak, test your mettle on the Jais Sky Maze (Dhs75), navigating rope swings and suspended bridges 10 metres above ground. Or take the Jais Sky Tour (Dhs200), a thrilling course of seven zip-lines ranging in length from 337m to 1km. Need to catch your breath? Kick back on the Jebel Jais Viewing Deck Park, offering views of the Hajar Mountains and Arabian Gulf beyond.
Jais Adventure Peak. Tel: (07) 204 6250. visitjebeljais.com.

8. Take a record-breaking ride at Jebel Jais

zipline-jebel-jais

The UAE’s highest peak is also home to the world’s longest zipline, the Jebel Jais Flight (Dhs300). Reach speeds of 120kph to 150kph as you fly down the 2.83km zipline, a whopping 1,680 metres above sea level.
Jebel Jais Flight, daily 9am to 5pm. toroverdeuae.com

9. Hit the waves in Dubai

surf-house-dubai

Surfing may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Dubai, but when the swell’s up, those in the know make a beeline for Sunset Beach. Rent a surf board or standup paddle board from the Surf House (from Dhs80 an hour) for a paddle in the shadow of Burj Al Arab.
Surf House Dubai, Villa 110, Al Soon St, Umm Suqeim 2, daily 7am to 7pm. Tel: 050 5043020. surfingdubai.com 

10. Explore Wadi Showka

wadi-showka

The rugged expanse of Wadi Showka is ripe for outdoor adventures. Join a mountain bike, climbing or canyoning tour of Wadi Showka with Adventurati Tours, as you explore the rocky ranges and waterbeds of this picturesque area.
Adventurati Outdoor. Tel: 050 280 3663. adventurati-outdoor.com

11. Hike Jebel Hafeet

jebel-hafeet-hiking

The rugged backdrop to Al Ain, Jebel Hafeet is Abu Dhabi’s highest peak, at 1,240 metres. Not for novices, Jebel Hafeet is geared towards experience hikers who can handle the steep routes and punishing terrain. Beat the heat with an early morning or evening hike, and be sure to bring your sturdiest boots, hiking poles, and refreshments.

You might also like

Watch: 5 ways to get the best out of Jubail Mangrove Park
Four brand new hiking trails unveiled in Hatta

12. Snorkel around Snoopy Island

Snorkel-sandy-beach-hotel-frankmuggeridge-

Pack your snorkel and swimming kit for a day spent paddling around Fujairah’s Snoopy Island, so named because of its resemblance to the cartoon dog. Set out from Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort for a snorkel around the island. You can hire snorkels and kayaks from the hotel.
Sandy Beach Hotel. sandybeachhotel.ae

13. Try your hand at Efoiling in Dubai

Find out why What’s On has anointed efoiling possibly the greatest watersport invention ever – then try it for yourself at Surf House, where a 40-minute Ibiza Foils experience (for one or two people) costs Dhs600.
Ibiza Foils, Surf House, Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, Four Seasons Resort Dubai and The Ritz-Carlton JBR. Tel: (054) 3736007. @ibizafoils

Images: Facebook/supplied