Jet skiing in Abu Dhabi

Time Out makes a splash on a jet-ski ride around Abu Dhabi’s Corniche Comments

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© ITP Images

Ah, the jet-ski – the motorcycle of the sea. The aquatic vehicle of choice for men with barbed-wire tattoos and bleached-blonde hair. And the baddies in Waterworld. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for jet-skiing. I mean, I don’t have any tattoos, and despite an innate dislike of Kevin Costner, I’m no post-apocalyptic, chain-wielding villain. Yet there I was, one balmy Thursday morning, signing a frightening disclaimer as two jet-skis bobbed ominously on the calm Corniche waters behind me.

I knew I wasn’t alone in my reservations about jet-skiing – jet-skis and those who ride them aren’t particularly popular amongst Abu Dhabi’s seafaring folk. In a letter to a local newspaper, one paddleboarder complains that ‘going out on the water is usually based on periods of time when jet-skis aren’t out. [They] harass us with splashes or simply getting too close, making us wonder each time if we might get hit.’

While I’ve always considered splashing to be one of the more light-hearted aquatic pastimes, the antics of an irresponsible minority have led to an increasing number of accidents over recent years. So much so, the National Transport Authority has imposed strict regulations on jet-ski ownership in an attempt to curb these worrying statistics. With this in mind, the paperwork was more of a reassurance than an annoyance – it was good to know that Empros, the company that was about to take me on a jet-ski tour of Abu Dhabi, was doing things by the book.

Once papers had been signed and life jackets fitted, I was introduced to my steed – a 700cc VX Yamaha Waverunner (perfect for beginners, I’m told, though Empros also have a 1,100cc VX and a 1,400cc FX Waverunner for more experienced riders). The first thing that surprised me was how easy these machines are to operate: there’s a green button to turn it on, a red one to turn it off, and a lever to make it go faster. Easy. Perhaps the only tricky bit was getting used to the kick of the throttle, but this didn’t take long, and after a stuttering start out of the marina, the waters of Khor Al Bateen opened up, inviting us to pick up the pace.

At this juncture, it’s worth mentioning that gentlemen would do well to wear lined swimming trunks when jet-skiing – there’s plenty of bouncing about on the waves, so ‘loose articles’ should be securely stowed away. To my relief, more placid waters awaited in the narrower straits of Khor Al Maqta, and I was able to pay more attention to the sites along the way.

We continued north, past the magnificent beachfront façades of the Shangri-La and Fairmont hotels, and then past the grim silos of Umm Al Nar Power Station. Here, we worked our way west towards the mangroves where we coasted through winding waterways. After reaching a clearing in the undergrowth, we beached our jet-skis and clambered up a sandy mound to take in the view of the surrounding area. The silhouetted city hummed ominously in the hazy distance; a stark contrast to the sprawling, wild mangroves that stretched as far as the eye could see.

The sun was high and I was pleased to return to my jet-ski and the cooling whip of the wind. The boisterous Arabian Gulf added another element to our journey, as our jet-skis leapt high off one wave after another, landing with a crash and a splash – great fun though the salty sea spray made visibility a problem.

All of a sudden, after circumnavigating Al Meena, the sea calmed and the tour reached its crescendo as the Corniche opened up in front of us. It struck me then that Abu Dhabi is a city that is largely viewed from the inside out – the buildings that look so lonely and obscure from the streets and the highways, somehow make more sense when viewed from the water. Who’d have thought that jet-skiing around Abu Dhabi could be such an education? Not just this – it was an experience far more fun than splashing hapless paddleboarders, and something that could be enjoyed even by those without tattoos, bleached-blonde hair, or an innate dislike for Kevin Costner.

By Oliver Robinson
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

User reviews:

Posted by: Chris Medhurst on 21 Oct ' 10 at 08:09

Fantastic article, looks like an amazing experience.

I am based in the UK but have visited my parents living in Abu Dhabi 3 times a year for the last 10 years. I'm coming in November with 5 friends and would like to book something like this for the group.

Is this trip something that is readily available to book up or was it a one off set up purely for the journalist? If so are there any operators offering something similar?

Any help to point me in the direction of a company that could arrange this or something similar for me would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks, Chris

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