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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

A tour of Dubai from the air with Seawings

Seawings Lifestyle offers a variety of luxury excursions, including a 40-minute flight over Dubai.
The World tour, which includes Dubai sights such as the Palm Jumeirah. Sarah Dea / The National
The World tour, which includes Dubai sights such as the Palm Jumeirah. Sarah Dea / The National

Recently I jumped at the chance to see Dubai from on high, aboard a Cessna 208 Caravan sea plane. I’ll never look at it the same way again.

The 40 minutes we spent flying over some of the city’s most iconic sights, including The World islands, the Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa, Port Rashid and the mind-boggling interlocking and overlapped loops of the Defence Roundabout between Al Wasl and Satwa, marked a highlight in my almost-seven years in the UAE.

In case you’ve started taking it for granted, this trip will assure you Dubai is stunningly beautiful as a whole and fascinating in its astonishing parts, even the grotty ones. It was so impressive, I almost couldn’t wait to get back down on the ground to dig into it again.

The World Journey is part of a collection of luxury experiences being offered in Dubai and Abu Dhabi by the seaplane tour operator Seawings, which launched in 2007.

Our adventure started when we boarded a boat from the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah hotel, travelling for about 10 minutes to a tiny dock on The World. This is not an area that is open to boats, so I felt pretty fortunate to be seeing all those sandy mounds up close for the first time, rather than in a Google Earth image.

I’m quite a nervous flier of late, so I fretted as the pilot fired up the plane’s Pratt & Whitney turboprop engine. Yet, while I definitely did not expect to prefer the experience over a runway, that’s exactly what happened.

It turns out landing and taking off on water, which requires a minimum distance of 900 metres each way, feels both choppy and sturdy at the same time. I wish all my flights could feel so safe.

The trip itself was lovely, very peaceful in the brilliant sunshine, with the time speeding by as we all gaped at the stunning views below. I did feel a wave of nausea several times as the plane made some much sharper turns than I am accustomed to, but they passed quickly.

It seems our capable and jovial pilot Stephane Landry, who also oversees flight safety for Seawings and hails from the Magdalene Islands in Quebec, Canada, has somehow managed to land himself the perfect job. “I’m from an island, so for me, it was always sea and boats,” he says.

Not surprisingly, Seawings ­luxury tours such as The World Journey appeal to the rising number of celebrity visitors to the UAE for whom money is no object. Among the power players Seawings has flown are Jeffrey Katzenberg, the founder and chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, The Imitation Game actor Matthew Beard and the Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor.

While the Seawings Lifestyle experience is five-star all the way, it’s not out-of-reach for the rest of us, either. Whether you are new to the city or have been living here for years, it’s well worth it to skip a weekend away or a few pricey dinners to get high in the sky. Not only will you tick an item off the bucket list, you’ll walk away with something else that is very valuable: perspective.

amcqueen@thenational.ae