An honest, welcoming place to stay. Aside from some niggles the resort has a great feel about it.
Flamingo Beach Resort, Umm al Qaiwain
The welcome Lovely if a little old school. If you are used to slick five-star hotels and over-attentive, slightly stifling service, then you might find the Flamingo Beach Resort's more relaxed methods a touch disappointing. Check-in was quick and easy but we had to cart our own bags to our room across the hotel's landscaped gardens. The neighbourhood Unpromising. The hotel is near the tip of the Umm al Qaiwain peninsula and to reach it you pass through boatyards where dhows are pulled out of the water to be repaired, docks are stacked with empty crab pots and shops sell supplies to local fishermen. As you head towards the beach resort, it feels as if you are visiting a place almost untouched by either wealth or development. Depending on your mood it will either charm or infuriate you. The service Surprisingly good, although it was more homely than finely honed. The front desk staff were knowledgeable about local attractions and happy to advise me about the extra activities that you can indulge in while you are staying in Umm al Qaiwain. The big local draw is the Dreamland Aqua Park (www.dreamlanduae.com), the emirate's answer to Dubai's significantly more flashy Wild Wadi and Atlantis water parks. Other visitors travel to the area to try skydiving at the Umm al Qaiwain Flying Club (www.uaqaeroclub.com) or watch drag racing at the Motorplex (www.motorplex.ae). Throughout our stay the staff were warm and positively doted on our children. The room Spacious if a little downtrodden. The hotel houses 48 "standard" double rooms and four additional "luxury" suites. All the rooms are arranged around the hotel's gardens and face the swimming pool and private beach. While the queen-sized beds were comfortable and there was plenty of storage space in the room, the decor was dated and the bathroom in desperate need of maintenance - the shower was broken and the bath had no plug. Happily, housekeeping quickly rectified the latter fault but were unable to solve the shower problem. The scene Not quite postcard perfect but was a moderate facsimile of it.The resort feels very calm and there are plenty of areas to enjoy some quiet time if you wish. The hotel would like you to believe the Flamingo Resort is "paradise not far from Dubai" (it is about 60 kilometres away) and when we arrived in the late afternoon there were plenty of families enjoying a swim in the ambitiously-named Olympic-sized pool and relaxing on the beach. Serious swimmers may be a little disappointed by the facilities though: the pool is actually only about 25 metres long. The hotel attracts visitors from other emirates as well as guests from overseas, particularly from eastern Europe and India. The food Our evening meal was excellent and was served at knockdown prices. The emirate is famous for its fish but you'll also find decent Lebanese, Chinese, Arabian and Indian food on the menu at the Waves restaurant. The food is served up with little ceremony, but the dishes were delicious. Try the tiger prawns if you like seafood. Our meal cost US$35 (Dh130) for a family of four, including drinks. Loved The resort's simplicity and its relaxed charm. There is little fancy about the Flamingo Beach but it is a great place to kick back and enjoy the view. It's also a good place to fish. You can book an organised crab hunt, take a deep sea fishing excursion or, if you prefer, just sit on the hotel's pier waiting for the fish to nibble. I had been a little sceptical about the resort manager Ali Salameh's claims that fish were so plentiful in the area you could catch them without using bait. He was right though, 30 minutes after my eldest son had sat down on the jetty, he reeled in his first hammour of the day. You can use the hotel's barbecues to cook your catches. Hated The maintenance issues with the room and its scruffy minibar. We wanted and, indeed, expected a no-frills, budget room, but even so, the standards should have been a little higher. The all-inclusive breakfast was dismal too, which was a surprise after we had enjoyed such a great meal the previous evening. The morning selection was limited and the food looked like it had been hanging around a little bit too long. The staff were happy to rustle up an omelette, but at an extra cost. The verdict> An honest, welcoming place to stay. The resort has a great feel about it. The gardens and beach were genuinely peaceful and quiet and our evening meal had been lovely, even if breakfast proved calamitous. Oddly, given the niggles with the room, we all wanted to come back to Umm al Qaiwain for a longer stay at the hotel. The bottom line The best bit. The room cost $157 (Dh578) for the night for a family of four including the disappointing breakfast (www.flamingoresort.ae; 06 7650000). * Nick March