Paul Clifford takes to the skies with Seawings, for a view of Dubai like no other…
We all know that Dubai has one of the most recognisable skylines on the planet. Instagrammers love it, tourists come to squint up at it and many of us will marvel at it every day. But seeing it from the ground, or even from inside one of the massive structures that stick up out of it, doesn’t give you the whole picture. To see Dubai from a whole new perspective, you need to see it from the sky.
And so here I am, about to hop aboard a Seawings seaplane at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club in Deira for a tour around (or over) the city. A range of packages are available, including an in-depth look at the in-progress World Islands, but I’ve opted for the Dubai Creek Silver, which means sharing a seaplane with up to eight others for a forty-minute flight down the Creek and along the coast.
First I gather in the Seawings office with the other passengers, where we’re given refreshments, the lowdown about what’s in store on the flight and safety advice. From there, it’s a short golf buggy ride to the Creek, where the seaplane and its captain are waiting. The small aircraft is a bit like the one Indiana Jones jumps out of near the start of Temple of Doom. That noise you can hear above the roar of the engine? Me humming the theme tune.
The captain, an able chap with a wit drier than the air outside, talks us through the flight plan and the route we’ll be taking – along the Creek to the coast, south towards Abu Dhabi, a loop around the Marina and the Palm and back along again. With that, we buckle up, the plane’s propeller judders to life and the seaplane begins to vibrate.
It’s not an unpleasant feeling, but the rattle under my posterior leaves me in no doubt that this really is a tiny plane. Forget your airbuses. This is a million miles away from the middle row (why do I always get the middle row?) of an A330. What’s clear is that I’m about to experience what flying really feels like.
We taxi up the Creek towards Festival City before turning around to face the Arabian Gulf. Then we’re off and up to our flying height with alarming speed. The view is instant and phenomenal. Out of the windows I gawp down at Bur Dubai on one side and Deira on the other. As we head to the coast and towards Abu Dhabi, there are views of Port Rashid and the dry docks that you simply won’t see from anywhere else. The route then takes us along the coastline of Jumeirah, providing an unrivalled view of the towers of Sheikh Zayed Road and Downtown Dubai. What stands out is just how concentrated the area is and how the skyscrapers tower over the other buildings in this area. That may sound obvious. But the perspective is startling.
The sights whiz by in a blur. Al Barsha and Umm Suqeim, Mall of the Emirates, Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Burj Al Arab. Palm Jumeirah and then over JLT, the Lakes and Dubai Marina. Similar to the views above Sheikh Zayed Road, the buildings of the Marina seem surreal from this angle, and this close up.
On the home stretch, the plane loops back over Palm Jumeirah, and this time we seem to linger over the huge villas, the private islands and Atlantis The Palm at the tip (which is an even more impressive slice of architecture from this vantage point) before swooping around the Burj Al Arab and out towards the other-worldly World Islands. Which are made even more brilliantly incongruous because only three have anything built on them – all of the others currently empty oases in the waves.
Having circumnavigated that globe in approximately two minutes (take that, Charles Kingsford Smith) it’s back inland, darting between high-rises and the Burj Khalifa before meeting back up with the Creek at Festival City and landing with a satisfying splash.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Only next time, I’ll try and resist the temptation to keep taking pictures and actually stop more often to take in the view. Oh, and I’ll be wearing my fedora, to go proper Indiana. From Dhs1,695, leaving from Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira. www.seawings.ae.
Airborne thrills in the UAE
Balloon Adventures Take a more leisurely ride above Dubai’s desert in a hot air balloon and see the sunrise over the Hajar Mountains. Hover above the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve and see pockets of green oases in the sandy landscape. Dhs995 per person (adults). Daily at sunrise September to May. www.ballooning.ae.
Skydive Dubai For your James Bond moment in the emirate, why not jump out of a plane? The Drop Zone over Palm Jumeirah offers views that are second to none. Strap in with one of Skydive Dubai’s trained instructors and take the plunge. Dhs1,999. Dubai Marina. www.skydivedubai.ae (04 377 8888).
Paragliding Strap on your wings (okay, paraglider) and soar through the skies like an eagle. Paragliding UAE & Dubai Paragliding Club will train you, then take you either to the desert between Dubai and Hatta or to the south of Abu Dhabi for a “free-flying” experience. Check online or email for prices. www.dubaiparaglidingclub.com.
Parasailing You’ll be strapped into a harness and slowly lifted into the air by a parachute dragged behind a speedboat. Less nail-biting and more calming, this is an adventure for less intrepid thrill-seekers. Dhs300 per person. Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Resort and Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Resort, The Walk, JBR, www.watersportsdubai.com.