Make sure your family’s festive get-together isn’t a turkey
Time Out Kids Staff
In the desert
Ideal for... back-to-nature living The main course What better way to encapsulate the spirit of the season than spending it under the stars, beside the camels? At Ecoventure’s brand-new Al Awadi Campsite, 10km from Al Dhaid in Sharjah (just over an hour from Dubai), you can partake of peace, privacy and pristine desert. All you need is a group of 10 (adults and kids) to hire the site’s Safari tents, surprisingly luxe with thick mattresses and showers and loos on site. Arrive Christmas Eve afternoon and take a guided desert walk (track footprints, spot lizards and get up-close to the camels), before some family footie or a festive desert treasure hunt. Strike up the barbecue for a spectacular supper, before sitting around the campfire, toasting marshmallows, singing seasonal songs and staring at the stars. Before bed, take a late-night desert walk to track down nocturnal creatures. Awake on Christmas morning to a laid-on breakfast. Make your own festive fun, or participate in some nature-based activities or a long walk to build up an appetite for the festive feast (a barbecued Christmas lunch with all the trimmings) prepared by the campsite team.
The trimmings: Add some festive cheer by bringing stockings to hang over your tent, a guitar for seasonal campfire songs and some fun, family games. Dhs150 per tent (sleeps eight), Dhs32pp for breakfast, Dhs180pp for Christmas dinner (all subject to 10 per cent service charge). firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ecoventure.ae.
In the mangroves
Ideal for… a big bash with family and friends The main course A 24-hour excursion to the Umm Al Quwain mangroves on The Marine Club’s fabulous two-deck party house boat is the ultimate destination for the wild (and young) at heart. Just 45 minutes from Dubai, your group of up to 20 will be taken out on the huge vessel to the mangroves on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, where’ll you’ll be anchored for the night. With complimentary kayaks onboard, take your pint-sized paddlers out for a splash, spotting crabs and green turtles. Alternatively, glide over to the mangrove island forest (a natural flamingo habitat) which little ones will love exploring (remember to bring binoculars for tiny twitterers). After a late-afternoon swim (and a hot shower onboard) tackle up with the complimentary hand lines for a spot of fishing, before retreating to the upper deck to watch the spectacular sunset over the still, crystal waters. Then fire up the onboard gas barbecue for a seasonal supper in a stunning setting, before hitting the deck in your sleeping bags beneath the stars. See Christmas morning in with an up-with-the-birds splash-athon – the houseboat’s waterslide and ropes will provide endless fun and games for the kids (and adults). Order lunch from The Marine Club’s restaurant (delivered to the houseboat) or prep your own in the boat’s kitchen.
The trimmings: Set up a small Christmas tree on the upper deck and bring lots of barbecue-friendly festive food. The houseboat boasts a loo, shower and coffee-making facilities, a kitchen, barbecue and kayaks. Bring your own sleeping bags (or a tent to pitch on the upper deck) and food, though you can order meals/soft drinks from The Marine Club. Dhs2,500 for 24-hour houseboat rental for up to 20 people. email@example.com; www.uaqmarineclub.com.
In a Waterpark
Ideal for… action-packed activities The main course For an action-packed, fun-filled festive few days that suits all ages (tots to grandparents), camp it up at the lush, landscaped Dreamland Aqua Park, keeping the kids entertained with an exciting itinerary of splashing, swimming and sliding. Take a break from the main attraction to check into your waterside tent – or wooden cabin with A/C – at 3pm on Christmas Eve, before heading back to the adrenaline-pumping slides. Try the speedy Kamikaze or the 40m Twister where you spin in a bowl before taking a 2m nose dive. Let the little ones loose in Aqua Play, with its array of interactive water games, or challenge them to some water wars on the Bumper Boats, before all coming together for the Family Raft Ride. At 5pm, the park dishes out the meat and fish so fire up the barbecue for a sundowner supper (after a celebratory cocktail at the swim-up pool bar, of course). Post-dinner, get stuck into a few active family games before taking a late-night dip in the Mighty Go Round pool and readying yourself for the 10pm belly dancing performance. Awake to a 10.30am breakfast (and hopefully some pressies) before hitting the water park again.
The trimmings: Bring outdoor gaming equipment, swimming gear, a mini Christmas tree (for cabin dwellers) and a selection of board games. Overnight tent hire with full board (Dhs385 adults, Dhs300 kids, aged 2-9); overnight cabana hire with full board (Dhs450 adults, Dhs350 kids). Half board is also available. For this, you get two days, one night access (9am first day to 6pm following day) to the water park, all camping/cabana gear, meals and hot/cold beverages and entertainment.
In the Ocean
Ideal for… chilling and relaxing The main course Bask in the beauty of the Musandam peninsular with an overnight charter on an open-deck dhow. Depart Dibba at 9am on Christmas Eve and meander along the picturesque coastline to Lima Bay, where you can splash, swim and snorkel. After a brief trip ashore to discover an old abandoned village, the boat’s onboard chef will prepare a yummy lunch, before setting sail for the journey north, spotting tuna, dolphins and whale-sharks en route. Sit back and soak up the majestic scenery – think stark mountains towering over remote, sleepy villages and fishermen pulling in their catch. Reaching Khor Habalyn by mid-afternoon, you’ll cruise deep into its fjord to a sheltered bay for overnight anchorage. A superb spot to explore the underwater world, dive overboard and get stuck into snorkeling, or set up a fishing contest to see who can rein in the biggest catch for the evening barbecue. What could be more idyllic than spending Christmas Eve on a deserted beach, sitting around a campfire and tucking into freshly fired fish (courtesy of the captain) before bunking down in the dhow in your sleeping bag beneath the stars? Celebrate Christmas Day dawn with a refreshing swim and leisurely breakfast before cruising back to Dibba, stopping off in a secluded bay for a festive fish lunch (create your own culinary Christmas creations) and a final dip in the ocean, returning to port at 5.30pm, feeling rested, relaxed and reinvigorated.
The trimmings: Bring board games and a few festive trimmings to accompany your fabulous feast of fish. Dhs9,000 for a one-night, two-day cruise (for up to 15 people with Dhs150pp thereafter), includes coffee and snacks; barbecue and equipment and utensils to make and eat your own meals (bring food/drink); snorkelling equipment and hand lines. An onboard chef can provide full board for Dhs140 adults, Dhs70 kids aged 5-12, under fours free. www.sheesabeach.com.
Xmas xtras From high in the sky to down on the beach, try one of these experiences
Up in the air Celebrate Christmas morning high in the sky with family, friends and Santa (Balloon Adventures’ 100kg Hungarian pilot will don a Santa suit for the big day). Witness the mid-air wildlife and see stunning sites with an 800m aerial adventure over the Al Ain desert. Adults Dhs950, kids aged five-12 Dhs800 for a five-hour trip, including refreshments. Early booking advised. (04 285 4949).
On the beach Combine UAE tradition with your own celebration at Absolute Adventures’ eco villa, a traditional Bedouin home on Dibba’s pristine beach with the Musamdam mountains as a backdrop. Light a campfire or take a dip in the villa’s pool, before indulging in your festive feast in the Barasti majlis overlooking the sea. The next morning, take a bike ride, a trek or a boat trip. Dhs1,950 per night (up to six guests), with breakfast. Check-in at 2pm. Dhs35pp lunch, Dhs100pp dinner. www.adventure.ae (04 345 9900).
With the turtles Spend Christmas with turtles at Raz Al Jinz Scientific & Visitor Eco Resort in Oman, a few hours’ drive from Muscat. Stay at the centre’s 13-room eco resort and enjoy two turtle tours. Spend Christmas Eve (9pm tour) watching turtles dig their nests on the beach or get up at the crack of Christmas dawn for the 4am tour. Family room, Sat-Wed Dhs860, Thu-Fri Dhs975 including breakfast. Ras al-Jinz Scientific & Visitor Centre, +968 9 655 0606, www.rasaljinz.org; reservations@rasaljinz-.com.