Kayaking in the Abu Dhabi mangroves
Hallie Engel uncovers her inner explorer in Abu Dhabi’s mangroves. 14 Comments
Since I grew up in Alaska, it is assumed that I am an intrepid outdoorswoman, able to wrestle grizzlies and talk to whales. Truth be told, the closest I’ve come to al fresco adventuring is watching tourists wipe out at Ski Dubai. So it is with some trepidation that I set out upon my kayaking trip though Abu Dhabi’s deepest mangroves.
Clad in a lifejacket and perched on a study plastic kayak, I paddle away from the muddy shores feeling a little more confident. The skyline and hum of the traffic soon disappear as I slip through a break in the trees into what feels like a different world. A gentle current ushers the kayak along as I guide my oar through the water. The sight of a couple of birds and a school of fish spur a session of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the group, making me realise just how starved of wildlife the denizens of the UAE are.
Halfway through the journey, we disembark to explore a crab habitat, home to dozens of tiny crustaceans – several of which choose to scuttle over my feet. A few pairs of puny claws remain stuck to the bushes they’d clung to before being picked off by hungry gulls, forming a makeshift memorial. We soon push off again, moving into a dense patch of greenery before entering a wide channel in which the setting sun reflects off the water.
I was only disappointed by one thing during my trip – there was no appearance by Crockzilla. Aidan, the boisterous son of our guide, and a fine first mate, spoke of a mysterious monster that lives in the mangroves. Half crocodile, half, um, zilla, the dreaded beast survives on a diet of lifejackets, sunglasses and eyeballs – for protein, I assume. I’m glad Crockzilla didn’t try to devour my shades, but I wouldn’t have minded if he made a brief cameo. Maybe next time. But as I pull ashore after two hours of mangrove manouevring, my solitary wound a blister from overenthusiastic paddling, it is only then that I realise what a precious resource these mangroves are and why this trip is a must for even the most timid landlubber.
Mangrove tours are available from Kayak Club Abu Dhabi for Dhs100 per hour or Dhs200 per hour for the eco tour. Contact Don on 050 542 9820
I am not from Alaska. I was brought up between two fields: one filled with cows; the other with cricketers. As a child, I’d sneak onto a stretch of the Tyne (a great salmon fishing river which winds across north- east England) and stomp around in waders, occasionally bringing a fishing rod, but mostly just stomping – I was a simple kid! A kayak was just a funny sounding word. So to find myself sat in one, tied to a buoy, with a fishing rod in one hand, fig-roll in the other and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in the background is a new experience indeed.
I arrive early, and meet my guide, Don, an easy-going Haitian, and his intrepid, biscuit-munching five-year-old, Aiden, at the water’s edge (Don is a full-time father and brings his son with him whenever he can). Within seconds, I’m clad in a safety vest and shown the ropes – well, the paddles. Don is my kind of teacher and is happy to let me splash around for 20 minutes to get used to the mechanics of kayaking. Then we set off.
There are two kinds of kayak fishing, I learn: trawling, whereby the pole stands erect on the boat and trails a line behind you as you paddle; and bottom fishing, when you moor (or drop anchor) and just take it easy. The former yields a larger, more impressive catch (usually the mighty kingfish), but the latter is too tempting, and having baited my tracer line (a multi-hooked fishing line) with squid, I let it out and pass a peaceful hour with my host, dreaming of landing sea bream by the dozen.
The water is choppy, but young Aiden has no trouble, and promptly lands what can only be described as a ‘school’ of fish. The adults of the party are left looking rather sheepish, but it affords some time to talk. Don is passionate about the environment and whenever he undertakes these trips encourages people to take away as much litter as possible. He also wants to start a kayak fishing tournament to build up some interest. It would be a welcome event, but as we paddle back, my fish conspicuous by their absence, I realise that I might have to practise a little before putting my name down.
Fishing trips with Kayak Club Abu Dhabi for Dhs100 per hour (to just rent the equipment) or Dhs200 per hour for a guide. Contact Don on 050 542 9820By Gareth Clark
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