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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Adventure tourism needs better regulation, experts say

They also warned those taking part in outdoor pursuits to take better care

Jos Gerard Vandenbroucke, operation manager (right), with a trainee during a paragliding safety session at Skydive Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Jos Gerard Vandenbroucke, operation manager (right), with a trainee during a paragliding safety session at Skydive Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Experts have advised adventurers to seek professional help before they take up outdoor pursuits as the UAE's skies and landscape can be treacherous for those who are untrained.

Last month, a 76-year-old British man was injured after crashing his handglider into a tree in the mountains in Ras Al Khaimah, while this month a 36-year-old Emirati man who lost control of his motorised paraglider plummeted to the ground.

In June 2017, a 25-year-old Alex Underhill, British, died while hiking up Jebel Jais. He was believed to have slipped and fallen.

Experts have said there is a lack of regulations related to outdoor activities, and untrained members of the public are also taking unnecessary risks.

Jos Gerard, operations manager of Skyhub Paramotors in Dubai, said that having more paramotor regulations would definitely minimise the risk.

“There are no specific regulations for paramotors in the UAE. Most pilot are flying without a valid license or certificates and we don’t issue one, we only issue a training certificate, but the gear can be confiscated and people can go to jail if they fly it in a restricted area,” he said.

“It’s very risky and unsafe to fly all types of paragliders and paramotors without proper training and an understanding of the weather conditions.

“A minimum of 25 hours of training should be done before flying paramotors, while the use of proper equipment can also minimise the risk."

Mr Gerard said that it’s also important to be familiar with the area and have access to the air map.

“Knowing where you can fly and the restricted areas that can be found on an air map is also important, along with knowing the right altitude, it’s not that easy and you can’t just buy the gear and fly it but unfortunately a lot of people do,” he said.

He also said all types of paragliders and paramotors can be found online and anyone can buy them.

Amy Subaey. Courtesy of Sarah Shaw.
Amy Subaey. Courtesy of Sarah Shaw.

Amy Subaey, director of UAE Trekkers, said there are no formal rules to regulate hiking in the area either.

“There are no formalised rules for who can go up the mountains and when, as far as I know, and there are certain trails you should definitely inform the RAK tourism police that you are going to,” she said.

Ms Subaey said that other countries have ranger stations were hikers can register their names before entering a hiking site.

“If you are going to any of the national parks in the US you sign your name in a book to indicate that you have gone in. The idea is that they can account for you if you didn’t come back or reach you in case of a weather emergency,” she said.

Ms Subaey said putting up signage and informing the authorities or other people about the trip is advisable.

“These mountains are not like the ones elsewhere in the world and the heat is a killer. People are not aware of how much water their bodies need during a hike. I’m constantly telling people to drink lots of water as they need one litre per hour,” she said.

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“There are no marked trails, and people are not encouraged to go alone as they can easily get lost unless they go with an expert and learn it over time.”

She also said that hikers need to learn how to use geographical markers to track their trails, have the right tools, plenty of water, the right gear, emergency plan and the right fitness.

“Accidents happen anywhere in the world but being prepared, trained and well informed will help a lot and can minimise the risk.”