Kayaking in the Abu Dhabi mangroves

Hallie Engel uncovers her inner explorer in Abu Dhabi’s mangroves. 14 Comments

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Account 1

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

Account 2

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 9820

By Gareth Clark
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

User reviews:

Posted by: don revis on 28 Apr ' 11 at 10:52

Hi everyone,

Thanks for looking us up.
Please find more details about our range of adventures on our website
Landline: 02 650 3600
Mobile: 050 721 8928

Posted by: Dr HASAN A AHOSANI on 11 Apr ' 10 at 05:44

Good sports and nice to be in the water surrounded by birds and fish.keep our mangrove clean and pls feel free to contact me if are concern of our mangrove .My phone is 0504448338 .Good job Don.

Posted by: Dee on 23 Mar ' 10 at 10:19

I went along to the kayaking with the femmes francophones, and I am not even French! So, with great trepidation, I put on my lifejacket.... and climbed down the rocks, it didnt look that easy to me.... but ten minutes later, I was happily paddling out with the group.
All I can say is, do it - it was an amazing time - and the Noukhada group of guys who took us out, were understanding and patient even with the slowest. Go for it!

Posted by: Youssef on 10 Feb ' 10 at 11:39

Hi there, I am a beginner, is it possible to join you guys. Thanks

Posted by: Peter Chadwick on 04 Nov ' 09 at 06:28

To Peter, yes Kayak tours are still going - stronger than ever. Don will supply you with a Kayak for the tour. If you're trying to call an Abu Dhabi mobile, (they're the ones with the 050 prefix) you drop the first 0 from 050 when you put +971 before the mobile. So Don would be +971507218927

Posted by: Peter on 28 Sep ' 09 at 01:38

just wanna inquire if this is still on-going? my family and I are very much interested to do this. we have our own inflatable kayak, will this do or do we need a hard hull?

Posted by: Paul Taylor on 21 Aug ' 09 at 09:40

Hi Don
Recently arrived here in Abu Dhabi and have been keeping an eye open for just this type of thing. My fishing kayak is on route from uk at the moment should be here in 4 weeks. When it arrives I wondered if I could hook up with you guys and come along and see what its all about. Thanks for your help


Posted by: don revis on 16 Aug ' 09 at 19:16

Sorry we were on our own adventures for the past month.
PLEASE call 971507218927
Thanks for all of you sharing the water with us this past season and
hope to see this next, as we will have some great new adventures
for those up for the challenge.
Take care, don

Posted by: Yoan on 23 Jul ' 09 at 12:06

Hello! I'm very interested in signing up for this tour. However, I cannot get a hold of Don through both numbers posted on this forum. Am I doing something wrong? I dial " +971 0505420820" and nothing comes through. Please help!!

Posted by: dry_ice on 17 Jul ' 09 at 11:44

we are calling that number it shows there, as we are interested in kayaking in abu dhabi; but we just get a hang up.

Posted by: AP on 12 Jun ' 09 at 14:45

Hi Don,
Do you have a website? Can't find it at Google.

Posted by: Fadi on 07 Jun ' 09 at 11:13

any body can tell me where shall I go for kayaking? whom to contact? does this activity require any skills or learning?
thanks alott.

Posted by: Chris@independentuae.com on 12 Apr ' 09 at 09:45

Saturday had to be one of the best days spent in the UAE and on the water. A good few hours of easy, medium and tough kayaking together with weather that ranged from idyllic to hot to windy and a great trip across the magrove areas onto and between the beautiful islands all with a fly rod - what can I say.

We saw turtle, queen fish, pencil fish, cormorants, herons and flamingoes and quite a few other birds not recognised. And of course lots of crabs and the sea was blue, blue, blue.

Don you guys have done a great job in cleaning up the islands and getting rid of plastic and garbage and Ill be back for much much more.

10 out of 10.

So a suggestion or 2.

take a garbage bag with you to pick up anyjunk, plastic etc
and a plastic tupperware for your camera
A quicklist of what to take: 2 litres of water, Hat, sunscreen, lightweight long sleeves - watch that sun, dive booties (for walking on the sand banks and keeing the squish out your toes. Some snacks.

Posted by: don revis on 11 Jan ' 09 at 18:32

please dial 0505420820

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