Enjoy the final days of the UAE winter with these 5 cool outdoor activities
We’re on the cusp of yet another blistering UAE summer, and soon it will be too hot and humid to even consider venturing outside any more than is absolutely necessary.
Even trips to the beach cease once the sand becomes so hot as to burn the soles of your feet. Making the most of these last few weeks of favourable weather is crucial, therefore, for our sanity before we retreat indoors for the next five months.
Luckily, there is still plenty to do outdoors. Here are five of our favourites.
When Nichole Coffel arrived in the UAE from the American state of Missouri less than a year ago, she found herself in one of the hottest summers of her life. It was so hot, she found it difficult to breathe.
Recently, she discovered Halla Walla, a provider of watersports activities in Abu Dhabi’s Al Bandar and an official training ground for international winter watersports competitions.
“It’s my happy place; there’s something for every mood,” she says. “Whether you want to learn water skiing, wakeboarding, jet skiing, tubing or kayaking – there’s so much to do with them.”
Halla Walla, she says, has become her go-to weekend plan with her 16-year-old son, Nicholas Ray, who is learning how to wakeboard.
“Water skiing was our normal summer fun growing up, so it’s ironic that it’s our winter fun now in the UAE,” she says. “But before discovering this place, I hadn’t been on skis in 20 years.
“Pilar, the ski instructor, got me back up on skis in no time, she’s so caring, kind and positive. I feel a new love of life, with renewed energy and joy.”
• From Dh120 an hour. Women-only activities available; www.hallawalla.ae
Kayaking in Abu Dhabi’s mangroves and exploring the well-hidden Fox Island is Sandra Sfeirova’s favourite outdoor activity.
“Fox Island is a little beach in the Eastern Mangroves National Park only accessible by kayak or by boat, and you can catch glimpses of a fox if you’re lucky,” she says.
When the weather gets too hot and humid, kayaking is uncomfortable, and bugs and flies make the experience almost unbearable.
“When it’s too hot you’ll never catch a fox running around, nor will you be able to last outdoors long enough to enjoy the experience,” says Sfeirova.
• Noukhada, Adventure Emirates, Sea Hawk Water Sports and Al Mahara Diving Center provide kayaking trips from the Eastern Mangroves. From Dh150 for adults
Dubai’s BookMunch Cafe & Bookshop has two outlets, one in Al Wasl Square and the other in Bay Square, both of which offer picnic hampers for a fun, family day out.
The hampers are filled with mini versions of the cafe’s popular sandwiches, salads, a selection of cheese, nuts and pickles, pinwheel sandwiches for children and mini muffins, chocolate pots and cakes.
The standard hamper can feed two or three people, or you can opt for a bigger basket for four to six. The baskets also contain a returnable rug and complimentary passes to Safa Park, a five-minute walk from the Al Wasl branch – and a perfect picnic spot.
• From Dh240. Order online at www.bookmunchcafe.com
Heading into the desert for camping expeditions, says Correen Savaille from India, is not a summer activity, so getting in as many trips as possible before then is a priority for her family.
“We love heading out to the mountains,” she says. “Jebel Jais is a favourite because of the views. But camping among the sand dunes is breathtaking as well.
“In Abu Dhabi, we head out to Tilal Liwa and Qasr Al Sarab for that. There is something hypnotic about viewing either a sunset or a sunrise in the desert.”
In Dubai, Jebel Ali Beach and Ghantoot are popular camping locations. At the latter, put up your tent around the Golden Tulip area, suggests Savaille. Another spectacular camping spot in the city is around Al Qudra Lakes, where 130 species of birds can be spotted.
Reasonably priced camping gear is available at Carrefour or Geant, or book with Arabian Adventures for a guided trip.
• Overnight trips with Arabian Adventures start at Dh945; www.arabian-adventures.com
Kitesurfing is a fun, fast, exhilarating and physically demanding activity best enjoyed in cooler weather.
Six to nine hours of lessons should be enough to pick up the activity, says Australian Mike Rawson. He had never kitesurfed before arriving to the UAE a year ago, but says it is now his favourite outdoor activity.
“Equipment is expensive if you want to own it, so best to start off with renting,” he says.
He recommends Kitesurf School Dubai for solo or group lessons, which start at Dh250, not including equipment.
IKO Kitesurf School, which offers lessons in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and KitePro Abu Dhabi give mobile lessons, which means customers are taken to different areas around the city depending on the conditions. Lessons take place in shallow water, which makes the experience safer and easier.
• Lessons cost from Dh150 for a group of four at IKO Kitesurf School, www.kitesurfinguae.com; individual lessons cost from Dh350 at KitePro Abu Dhabi, kitepro.ae; Kitesurf School Dubai, www.kitesurf.ae