You don’t need us to tell you how incredible Abu Dhabi’s coastline is. So it stands to reason that it would also be the perfect place for watersports. In fact, you’ll struggle to think of an aquatic pursuit you can’t master here, either out on the ocean or at one of the city’s state-of-the-art parks. Dive in.
Abu Dhabi Sailing Academy
The calm, breezy waters around Abu Dhabi are ideal for learning wind-based water sports. If you’re keen to give kitesurfing a go, Yas Kitesurf offers one-on-one lessons from Dhs350 (visit www.yaskitesurf.com or call 052 709 9797). If sailing sounds more like your thing, Abu Dhabi Sailing Academy offers two-day courses at both beginner and intermediate levels with instructors who will have you flying over the water solo in no time.
Dhs1,200 (two days). Fri-Sat 8am-1pm (beginners), 2pm-6pm (intermediate). Yas Marina, Yas Island (050 404 7688).
Al Forsan International Sports Resort
Practice your wake skills at this huge water cable park. Instead of boarding behind a boat, a cable will pull you along – at speeds determined by your level of experience, we should add. Wake board, skate, ski, kneeboard or mono-ski your way around the lakes, which are dotted with ramps for those who want to attempt spectacular jumps.
From Dhs140 (one hour). Open Sun-Tue & Wed noon-8pm, Thu noon-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm. Al Forsan International Sports Resort, Khalifa City, www.alforsan.com (02 556 8555).
Al Mahara Diving Centre
You don’t need to book an exotic holiday to get up close to incredible marine life – the UAE offers a wealth of diving sites where you can spot turtles, dolphins, sharks, rays and more. If you don’t yet have a qualification, Al Mahara Diving Centre offers a huge range of courses from PADI Open Water – the first official level that certifies you to dive with a buddy up to 18 metres – through to Advanced Open Water, professional levels like Divemaster and even Freediving. The courses give you the chance to explore reefs, and even in some cases wrecks, while learning. Experienced divers can, of course, take their pick of dramatic diving sites within a short boat ride of the city.
Dives with full equipment from Dhs485. PADI Open Water Dhs2,835 (four days). Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, Al Zahiyah (050 111 8125).
Al Maya Island & Resort
A short 20-minute boat ride from Abu Dhabi is a one-stop-shop for water sports. Wakeboarding, kneeboarding, kite surfing, banana boating, kayaking and parasailing are all possible here, in between dips in the pool and a leisurely lunch at the resort’s restaurant, so you can easily while away an entire day (or an entire weekend if you book a room) when you feel like escaping the city for some aquatic adventures.
Dhs100 (entry, day package), water sport prices vary. Sat only, 10am-6.30pm. www.almayauae.com (02 667 7777).
Deep sea fishing
For a sport that’s a little less strenuous, book a relaxing day out on the water and try your hand at hooking some of the Gulf’s biggest fish. Captain Tony’s runs trips around in-shore waterways if you’d prefer a catch-and-release approach and calmer conditions (Dhs1,600 for up to five, www.captaintonys.ae, 050 133 2060), or book with Fishing UAE to head further out for some deep sea fishing and, if you like, anon-board barbecue to cook your catches.
Dhs1,800 (for up to seven), Dhs350 (additional barbecue charge). Daily 6am-10am and 2pm-6pm. Marina Mall Yacht Club, www.fishinguae.com (052 899 6301).
Eastern Mangroves National Park
Paddling through Eastern Mangroves National Park is often on the bucket list of not just Abu Dhabi residents but people living throughout the UAE. You can kayak or stand-up paddleboard your way around the tranquil ecosystem with Sea Hawk, whose guided tours include information about the animals and plant life plus a snack of fresh fruit (you can also rent equipment if you’d rather head out on your own). Early morning is one of the best times to see wildlife, so Sea Hawk offers a Break of Dawn tour including breakfast on a nearby island. Or, book the Sunset BBQ tour for the unique experience of gliding through the mangroves at night.
Tours from Dhs130 (child), Dhs160 (adult). Open Mon-Sat 8am-6pm. Near Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara, Sheikh Zayed Street, www.sea-hawk.ae (02 673 6688).
Well-known for dancing, DJ sets and one of the UAE’s most popular beach clubs, Ghantoot is also one of the best places for wake sports. It being a man-made marina means the water is nice and flat, creating near-perfect wakeboarding conditions and making it ideal for beginners who will find it trickier to maintain balance in choppier open water. Xtreme Wake’s instructors are fantastic at coaching you, whether you’ve yet to stand up on a wakeboard, want to try wakesurfing (literally surfing on the wake of the boat) or are working up to trying jumps and tricks.
From Dhs600 for one hour. Ghantoot Marina, Ghantoot, www.xtremewakeuae.com (056 342 3012).
Ooid Shoals and Ras Gurab Island
Snorkel some rarely-seen spots off Abu Dhabi’s coast with Noukhada. The Ooid Shoals (sand bars formed from a specific kind of sand only found in the Arabian Gulf and the Bahamas) incorporate a coral reef system, so it’s a great chance to explore an unusual geological formation. While it’s not the world’s most colourful snorkel site, you can still spot sea life such as yellow masked butterfly fish, striped sea bream and, if you’re very lucky, dolphins. Make sure you bring your own snorkelling equipment and snacks for the four-hour excursion.
Dhs310 per person. Bookings must be made 48 hours in advance. Open daily 8.30am-5.30pm. Nouhkada, Eastern Mangrove Marina (02 558 1889).
Forget kiddie-sized wave pools, Wadi Adventure has the world’s biggest surf pool, with crashing waves large enough to carve on. If you’re an experienced surfer, it’s one of the best alternatives to the UAE’s often lacklustre waves – they have the ability to simulate a huge range of conditions from three-metre high waves to A-Frames and close-outs – though you can also sign up for beginner’s lessons and they’ll reduce the waves to accommodate you. Serious thrill-seekers, on the other hand, should head for the kilometre’s worth of kayaking and whitewater rafting routes, which range from class 1 through to class 3+ (when it comes to kayaking, however, you’ll need to take a lesson unless you can show you have enough experience to navigate the channels solo).
Dhs65 entry (adults), Dhs45 entry (children), watersports from Dhs100. Open daily 11am-6pm.Ain Al Fayda Resort, Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain, www.wadiadventure.ae (03 781 8422).
Driving race cars isn’t the only thrilling sport on Yas Island. You can choose from hopping on a jet-ski, renting a double kayak or white-knuckle donut and banana boat rides. If you only try one, however, make it one of the biggest crazes in watersports: flyboarding. Strap some superhero-esque jets onto your feet and shoot yourself up from the water’s surface. It takes a bit of time to get the hang of, but after a few sessions and you’ll be twirling, flipping and diving like the pros.
Flyboarding from Dhs240 for 20 minutes. Open daily 10am-7pm. Yas Beach, Yas Island, www.yasbeach.ae (02 565 1100).