Dune bashing, Abu Dhabi (Flickr: jemasmith)
List 25 June

Top 6 adventures in Abu Dhabi

Sun, sand and splendour spring to mind when you think of Abu Dhabi? Think again. We've tracked down the best adrenaline-fuelled adventures, from wreck diving to dune bashing

1. Camel racing

This is a spectacular sport and a trip to the races can be one of the most memorable highlights of a visit to Abu Dhabi. Cheer on the camels as they clumsily gallop around a specially made track. Races normally take place on weekend mornings, with additional races on public holidays. Camel racing season runs from October to April.

For a taste of this sport, head to the Al Wathba Camel Race Track (about 45km east of Abu Dhabi on the Al Ain Road), or to the Al Maqam Track near Al Ain. Try to get to the racetracks as early as possible to soak up the bustling atmosphere. The track opens at 6:30am with races starting from 7:30am to 9am. Entrance to the races is free.

2. Diving and snorkelling

Many good dive sites are easily accessible from Abu Dhabi, including wreck or deep water dives and reef dives. It is possible to dive year round in the warm seas, and there is a rich abundance of marine life, including barracuda, spotted eagle rays, stingrays, and much more.

The following companies offer guided dives: Abu Dhabi Sub Aqua Club, Arabian Divers & Sportfishing Charters, Sea Tourism and Western Marine Sports Club. There's a range of dives on offer, from Junior to Master, for PADI certified divers.

3. Desert safari and dune bashing

A trip to Liwa Oasis, a two hour drive from Abu Dhabi city, starts with a thrill-a-minute spot of dune bashing. Rent a four wheel drive from Abu Dhabi, get a good map and explore to your heart's content – but never go out alone, always make sure there is more than one vehicle. Navigate bumpy trails through the meandering sands and up 300m dunes. Take in ‘Camel Rock’, ‘Saddle Rock’ and the ancient ‘Fossil Rock’.

Those wanting to take part in a guided trip, can explore old settlements and camel farms to look at traditional nomadic desert lifestyles. Take a trip to see a splendid cadre of desert live-stock and animals, before settling down in tents for a night under the stars.

4. Helicopter tours

Get a bird's eye view of the city's landmarks and heritage sites or experience the majestic Liwa Desert with a Falcon Aviation Services (FAS) helicopter sightseeing tour. There's a choice of two tours, experiencing the city's key sights or further afield, departing from Marina Mall daily. Key visits include Lulu, Reem, Saadiyat and Yas islands, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Yas Marina Circuit and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.

Helicopters can seat up to six people; tours last either 20 or 30 minutes.

5. Sand boarding and skiing

Boasting the world’s largest dunes, towering hundreds of metres above the surrounding plains, the Liwa Oasis on the edges of the Rub al-Khali or Empty Quarter is a sand skier’s paradise. For novice skiers, daunted by the 300 metre Liwa dunes, skiing down gentler slopes that stretch across the Abu Dhabi desert may be the place to start this daring adventure. 

A word of caution though: desert temperatures will be quite high during the day, so aim for the dunes in the early morning. Wear light clothes, sunglasses and a hat to protect yourself from the strong sun, and don’t forget to use plenty of sunscreen.

6. Kayak, sail or wakeboard the waters

Visitors to Al Gharbia’s first specialist watersports service provider, Western Marine Sports Club (WMSC), can enjoy a wide range of marine sports and activities, including sailing, pedal boats, kayaking, paddleboats, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, water skiing, jet skiing, parasailing, floating loungers, fishing and, for the more relaxed visitors, inflatable bubbles. 

The club is based at the Mirfa Hotel and also operates the first, purpose-built dive centre in Mirfa, complete with qualified Emirati instructors and guides to bring local knowledge to the experience.

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