8 wild things you can do in Abu Dhabi this weekend: February 25 to 27

Who’s ready for a really wild weekend..?

The urban expanse of Abu Dhabi has its own brand of alluring wilderness, but if you want to take a walk on the really wild side this weekend, follow us…

Thursday, February 25

Brunch with the big cats

Emirates Park Zoo has an incredibly diverse population of animal inhabitants, some of them cuddly, some of them decidedly less so. They also have awesome opportunities to get up and close and relatively personal with certain species. The Big Cat Brunch lets you eat lunch in the company of an actual leopard (because, UAE), you can pose questions, take photos and there’s even a private expert-led tour (the leopard featured above is a little bigger than the one you’ll be doing lunch with). Too willd? Why not book up the famous ‘breakfast with a giraffe’?

Emirates Park Zoo, 12th St – Al Bahyah, 1pm to 2.30pm, Dhs149 per person (minimum of four people) which includes zoo admission. Tel: (02) 501 0000, emiratesparkzooandresort.com

Dive into a white water safari

Wild wet waterpark, Yas Waterworld is home to over 45 rides and attractions and as of this week is now back open to the public. There’s a lot more to this park than lazy rivers and shock-drop slides, there’s also a pearl diving experience, a completely unique underwater VR immersion — where visitors are submerged in both the real and virtual worlds simultaneously, a 5D Cinespalsh movie theatre, a suspended rollercoaster and more. And in further awesome news, annual passes are back, starting at Dhs695.

Yas Waterworld, Yas Island, 10am to 6pm, Dhs250. Tel: (02) 414 2000, book on yaswaterworld.com 

Take a boardwalk straight through what is known as…

Jubail Mangrove Park opened in January last year, offering visitors the opportunity to explore one of this region’s most fascinating natural habitats. Found nestled away on a quiet outcrop of Jubail Island, Abu Dhabi — the mangroves became an instant hit with locals, residents and tourists. It features a meandering 2.3km boardwalk and sits in close proximity to the city. There’s plenty of ways to explore this fascinating ecosystem including ranger-led, guided boardwalk (from Dhs50), kayak (Dhs100), and e-canoe tours (from Dhs80) of the mangroves.

Jubail Mangrove Park, Al Jubail Island (next to Saadiyat Island), Abu Dhabi, 8am to 7.30pm daily, Dhs15 for adult, Dhs10. Tel: (05) 63032423. park.jubailisland.ae

Embrace the caveman/woman diet

Chamas’ churrascaria night is a thrice-weekly theatre for the carnivorous, a traditional South American all-you-can-eat banquet of quality cuts. Wagyu, Black Angus, Hereford and other breeds are given signature Latin rubs before being cooked over flame. There are veal and juicy salt marsh lamb cuts too, and cinnamon sprinkled grilled pineapple for palate cleansing purposes Gourmands will also find an elaborate companion buffet of sides, appetisers and dishes (including Brazillian salad, tacos and seafood) that would happily compose a meal in their own right.

InterContinental Abu Dhabi, Al Bateen, Wed to Fri 6pm to 11pm, food only package Dhs325, soft Dhs385, house Dhs485, kids Dhs175. Tel: (800) 423 463, @chamasad

Friday, February 26

Flock with the flamingos

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

The reserve re-opened on January 1 and is a great place for families and children to connect with nature. It’s primarily known for its large population of flamingos but hosts more than 250 species of birds, 37 plant species and a wide range of aquatic life. The reserve is free and is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 8am until 6pm (last entry is at 4pm). Read more here.

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Directions: Take the E22 Abu Dhabi-Al Ain road and connect with the E30 Abu Dhabi-Al Ain Truck Road, then follow signs for the reserve, open Tue to Sat, 8am to 6pm, free entry. ead.gov.ae

Desert Island brunching

When it comes to brunching, there are few experiences that come close to the giddying extravagance of Zaya Nurai’s Frangipani. Taking place every Friday, your journey begins, much like the build-up to the climax of a Bond movie, with a boat ride over to a private desert island. Your destination is a spectacular Indian Ocean-esque resort, Zaya Nurai, with — a happy contrast to the Bond franchise — literally zero instances of sharks equipped with laser beams. As you might expect from an opulent island brunch, Frangipani deep dives into the celebration of seafood. It spreads a net widely across delights from Asian and European culinary traditions, whilst also repping some big local flavours.

Zaya Nurai Island, Fri 12.30pm to 4pm, soft Dhs350, house Dhs450, bubbles Dhs600. Tel: (02) 506 6274, zayanuraiisland.com

Zaya Nurai, is a 15 minute boat ride from the Welcome Centre on the east side of Saadiyat Island, near exit 14 of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Highway, guests should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to brunch star

Saturday, February 27

Assemble the flying squad

You ever feel like gravity is holding you back from your full potential? Local adventure hub Clymb is currently offering you the opportunity to tell Newton ‘not today’ for less when you book as part of a team. Right now, there’s a 25 per cent discount on group bookings of between four to eight people

Clymb, Yas Mall (by Ferrari World entrance), Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, Sunday to Thursday 11am to 9pm, Friday and Saturday noon to 11pm. Tel: (600) 511115, clymbabudhabi.com

Hit peak adventure

Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jebel Hafit is Abu Dhabi’s tallest peak, located in Al Ain, and about 90 minutes’ drive from the capital city. There is a campground that offers tented accommodation and pitches for those that wish to bring their own canvas and poles (campsites from Dhs100). You can also rent traditional Bedouin-inspired tents (from around Dhs500); bubble tents — equipped with panoramic windows that are just perfect for star-gazing (from Dhs700); and luxury dome tents which come with AC, a TV and, excitingly a telescope (from Dhs900). Holiday-makers come here to hike, mountain bike (rental available), dune buggy, ride horses and camels and enjoy the rare fresh air (and lack of light pollution) that contributes to the perfect conditions for astronomy. Those seeking out a historical thirst trap should make the trek to the Jebel Hafit’s two archaeological sites. One, a neolithic excavation, dates back 8,000 years — whilst the other, a 5,000-year-old tomb was excavated in 1959 on the orders of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

You can book your stay now at jebelhafitdesertpark.com, or by calling (03) 711 8362.

Images: Getty/Provided