Most people don't realize that Dubai is more than just BurjKhalifa, shiny shopping malls and expensive cars.Infact, Dubai has some fascinating natural landscapes which people tend to overlook. In this article, I will break down all activities in the UAE based on the 3 different types of landscapes present in the country.
Landscape #1: Water/Sea
Probably the most important component of UAE's landscape is the shore line, with access to the waters of the Arabian Gulf (West Coast) and the Indian Ocean on the East Coast.
The sea has been historically an enormously important aspect of both local culture and trade. The UAE historically has placed itself on the map through Pearl Diving and Trade conducted on Dhows.
Although most people don't associate the UAE with a top tier diving destination, it's an activity that is very much alive in the country and on the West Coast - there are some extremely pleasant dives.
There are plenty of healthy coral reefs, and divers are often shocked by the occasional Whale Shark.
The highlights of dives in Dubai are murray eels, sting rays, schools of barracuda and plenty of macro opportunities like nudibranchs.
Deep Sea Fishing
Most people don't associate the UAE with fishing. Although fishing in Dubai cannot be compared to the likes of the Bahamas, the fishing still stand as one of the nest outdoor experience in Dubai.
The best fishing season is December to March and the most common catch is barracuda, king fish, trevally, cobia and the occasional blue fin tuna.
This activity is not recommended for people prone to seasickness or families with small children.
Palm Island Sea Cruise
For those who are less into killing animals, or want a different kind of experience, the most common activity is a Cruise around the Palm Island and Dubai Marina Canal.
This 'best of' route is common across virtually operators and covers:
- Circumvent the Palm Island
- Burj Al Arab from the Sea
- Jumeirah Coastline
- World Islands
- Dubai Marina Canal
The trip is less scary for the less seafaring visitors since the shore-line is always insight.The duration of the trip is less and there is constant movement which usually reduces the chances of seasickness.Another possibility in this areas is Stand Up Paddle Boarding.
Dhow Cruise Dinner
A 'Dhow' is a traditional wooden Arabic vessel that historically has been used for trading as well as just general movement up and down the coast as well as to further destinations like India or Iran.
In recent years, local operators have converted these vessels into floating restaurants and created a very popular activity. The floating restaurants basically offer a cruise with a dinner and usually a live show onboard 'Dhows'.
These cruises are offered in 2 areas of Dubai - the Creek (old part of town) and Dubai Marina (new part of town). Both have their upsides, but Dubai Marina is usually offers a classier experience, with most of the boats in the creek quite run down.
This activity is perfect for non-seafaring visitors and eliminates the risk of seasickness entirely, as well as providing a comfortable dining experience to go along with the cruising.
Landscape #2: Sand/Desert
The desert is definitely an extremely definitive component of the UAE. Like the sea, the desert is an extremely fascinating, beautiful, and mesmerizing landscape. The local Emiratis have been surviving in its unfriendly environment for centuries.
A very common activity in the UAE, amongst both locals and visitors is off-roading in the desert, aka 'dune bashing'.
Essentially, it is cruising around the desert on powerful SUV's with purposely deflated tyres. Sometimes it is done on quad bikes, buggies or motor bikes.
The most common & mainstream activity for visitors is the 'Desert Safari'.
The standard desert safari trip sold by most operators usually consists of around 45 minutes of rather 'conservative' dune bashing, followed by arrival at a Desert Camp, where guests get fed a buffet dinner along with live performances of belly dancing and 'tanura' dancing.
Another important aspect of life in the UAE is horse riding and is a great way to experience the desert is on a horse.
Normally, the tours are perfect for beginners and will take you into rather flat parts of the desert where no special training is required. Interacting with the horses before and after the riding is definitely a big component of the appeal of this trip.
Landscape #3: Mountains
The least known aspect of the UAE is the mountains which are prevalent on the East Coast of the Country. It is rather unfortunate that most people are really not aware of this. The mountains are perhaps the most beautiful part of the country.
Musandam is an area which technically belongs to Oman, but is separated from the mainland of Oman.
The area is truly breath taking with 'fjords' dipping straight into the ocean.
The mix of mountains and the ocean is really beautiful and easily one of the most beautiful experiences in the UAE, and even the world.
It is also the best area to dive in the UAE.
From Dubai, most of the trips are day trips that pick you up, drive you to 'Dibba', where you board a Dhow and cruise up and down the Musandam Peninsula, usually with a lunch and some hand line fishing opportunities.
East Coast Tour
Another way to visit the East Coast is with an East Coast Tour- a day trip with a tour guide which will take you the country's oldest mosque, a drive to the area and a lunch at one of the hotels on the coast line.
Although less breath taking than the Musandam Day trip - its still a good experience overall and a great way to view the East part of the country.
For adrenaline junkies, viewing the mountains isn't enough, and climbing them is a must. The UAE is awesome since it offers some hikeable/climbable mountains without too much regulations and quite a few operators offering these services.
Although naturally a more risky endeavour, it will also take you to a view above the others.
Aside the shiny shopping malls and expensive cars, there are many adventurous undertaking one could enjoy in Dubai. So the next time you are planning a vacation to Dubai, take the time to visit some of these fascinating natural landscapes.