Straddling coastal and desert areas, oases and mountains, the UAE is a natural host for an impressive range of weekend adventures. Add elements of both its seafaring and Bedouin heritage, and you’re left with a stack of options to keep you busy every weekend for a couple of months. Why wait for your visitors to arrive? Get out and have an adventure now.
Bedouin-style camping When: Every week on Fridays and Tuesdays. What: Situated in a secluded desert spot in Ras Al Khaimah, not far from Banyan Tree Al Wadi, the Bedouin Oasis offers a unique overnight experience. There’s a barbecue dinner featuring food cooked using traditional Bedouin methods, as well as henna painting, belly-dancing entertainment, sandboarding and more. There are also falconry and camel-trekking options, and on cooler nights you can relax by large fires under the stars. Though all the action happens in a traditional majlis tent setup, you’ll be given your own modern tent in which to sleep, and there are separate toilet and shower facilities for men and women. Breakfast, dinner and soft drinks are included, while selected drinks are available at an extra cost. Though off-road transport is provided from the main road, there is an extra charge if you need transport from Dubai.
Best for: Those who prefer glamping to camping. Dhs340 per person, plus Dhs30 for pick-up from Dubai. Ras Al Khaimah, off Emirates Road, www.arabianincentive.com (04 266 6020).
All-in-one adventure weekend When: From Friday October 5 at 8am to Saturday 6 at 10am, though regular trips are held.
What: It’s an early rise, with attendees meeting in Dubai at 8am before heading off to Dibba harbour. At 11am, the five-hour wadi rock climb begins (including a packed lunch), concluding at 4pm. After a shower and coffee at the adventure centre, and an hour of yoga or swimming if you fancy it, the group will board a dhow at 5.30pm for an ‘Arabian night’ complete with fishing, a barbecue dinner and lots of fun. Breakfast is served at 6am the following morning, with an energising yoga session on deck at 7am (you can snorkel or swim if you prefer), before the boat cruises back to the harbour to dock at 9.30am. Refreshments are available throughout, and mattresses are provided for sleeping. Note that passports are essential for getting through the border checkpoint.
What: Not prepared to commit to an entire weekend? Try a day cruise on a dhow, which can be booked privately for up to 15 people, but also run as public, shared trips. Private trips leave from Dibba port any time after 10am, to return by 5.30pm, while public trips board at 11.45am to return at the same time. Both trips include use of the company’s snorkelling equipment, as well as banana boat rides, towels and hand fishing lines with bait. There’s also buffet lunch and refreshments served throughout. If you’re booking a private cruise, you can choose whether you want to hire an air-conditioned triple-deck dhow, double-deck dhow or single-deck dhow. Transport from Dubai can be arranged for an additional charge. Oh, and don’t forget your passport!
Best for: Individuals who don’t want to commit a whole weekend to the cause. This is also a good option for anyone with kids. Public day cruises from Dhs200 per adult, Dhs100 for under 12s, free for under fours; private hire from Dhs2,950. Dibba, Musandam, www.sheesabeach.com, firstname.lastname@example.org (+968 2 683 6551).
What: Jump on a boat off the coast of Musandam and have a go at catching your dinner. You can choose between a six-hour trip on a speedboat or dhow, with the chance to catch giant trevally, tuna, shari and many more – and you can be sure the captains know the best spots to anchor, as well as where to see dolphins. Barbecues on the beach can be arranged, as can overnight camping at a sandy cove if you want to make a weekend of it. Light snacks and refreshments, life jackets and towels are provided – but don’t forget your passport. If you want to hire a dhow for a private occasion, this operator has five, each with a capacity to fit 25, and there are often good discounts for groups.
Best for: Avid fishers and those who don’t mind sleeping with a little sand between their toes. Dhs400 per person (minimum two people) for fishing trip; overnight additional Dhs400 per person (minimum four people). Musandam Sea Adventure Travel & Tourism, Khasab, Musandam, www.msaoman.com, email@example.com (+968 2 673 0424).
What: This ‘Just Relax’ yoga weekend retreat offers Dubaians the chance to escape the city, and spend a weekend finding inner calm, surrounded by the Hajar mountains in Hatta. The schedule includes two morning and one evening yoga session, pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation, Mandala colouring, a health assessment and NLP (neurolingustic programming) coaching. Bring a yoga mat if you have your own – if not, they’ll provide one. You should also bring comfortable clothing, hiking shoes, a happy spirit and an open mind. Two nights accommodation at the hotel are included, as well as healthy breakfast and dinner. A traditional Thai foot massage is also available at an extra cost. Transport is not provided. Take your passport as there may be checkpoints.
Best for: Stressed-out city workers looking for a quiet, meditative escape, without sacrificing home comforts. Dhs2,590 for a single deluxe chalet room, Dhs1,965 per person in a double deluxe chalet room. Optional Dhs150 per day for lunch package, which includes water throughout the day, fruits, tea and coffee. Hatta Fort Hotel, Hatta, www.yoganutrition.com (050 584 2934).
Overnight diving trips on a dhow When: From Thursday October 11 at 7.30pm to Saturday 13 at 3.30pm; or from Thursday October at 7.30pm to Saturday October 27 at 3.30pm.
What: This trip involves two days and two nights on board Sheesa Beach Dive Centre’s gleaming new air-conditioned, triple-deck dhow, which houses eight cabins. There are diver packages available for those with their PADI licences, as well as courses run by the centre. If diving isn’t your thing, the trip includes free use of tour operator’s kayaks, or you can snorkel if you prefer. The package includes buffet meals, snacks (fruit and biscuits, if you were wondering), soft drinks, tea and coffee, and towels.
Best for: Anyone who has always fancied the overnight dhow trip, but longed for a private room to escape to. From Dhs1,210 per person, Dhs1,340 for divers, Dhs2,100 for those wishing to do PADI open water or advanced open water during the trip (e-learning course). Dibba, Musandam, www.sheesa beach.com, firstname.lastname@example.org (+968 2 683 6551).
Climbing and hiking When: Hiking Friday September 28 and Friday October 26; rock climbing Saturday September 29 and Friday October 19 to Saturday 20.
What: The first hiking trip will start at 6.30am on Friday September 28, comprising a guided hike through a scenic UAE wadi, finishing mid-afternoon. The following hiking session on October 26 will start at the same time, but will follow a route of sand tracks, past Bedouin farms and through desert landscape. Transport isn’t provided, but limited car share can be arranged if you’re keen. As for rock climbing, the one-day trip on Saturday September 29 will be led by UK-qualified instructors, and all equipment (apart from climbing shoes) will be provided – the same applies for the weekend trip from October 19-20, with tents and barbecue equipment also supplied, though you will need to bring your own food to cook. The location for each trip will be decided nearer the time, dependent on group size, ability and weather conditions, but most take place within the UAE.
Also try ... Freediving When: Subject to bookings What: Learn to dive without equipment – all you need is a pair of fins, a snorkel, mask and a qualified buddy. The idea is that because you are quiet and holding your breath (no noisy breathing through regulators), you will have a more serene underwater experience. Freediving UAE offers a variety of AIDA freediver courses, from introductory right up to competition freediver. Best for: Water babies Dhs1,850 per person (excludes mask, fins, snorkel, weight belt and wet suit). Visit www.freedivingyuae.com for more information.
Also try ... Off-road driving When: Every week What: Try your hand at off-roading with a two-hour desert jaunt, either behind the wheel of your own 4x4, or using one of tour operator Arabian Incentive’s vehicles. Whichever you opt for, they will provide walkie talkies, an instructor and water. Best for: Adrenaline junkies Dhs550 (your own vehicle, max two people per car), Dhs2,500 (Arabian Incentive vehicle). Meeting point: Bedouin Oasis car pack, off Emirates Road, Ras Al Khaimah (04 266 6020).
Also try ... Desert horseriding When: Daily What: Ride across the desert landscape that makes up Mushrif Park and watch as sunset turns to dark. Spot wildlife and enjoy the quiet, cooler surroundings of the area. They also offer lessons. Best for: Animal lovers Dhs300 for 90 minutes. Mushrif Equestrian Club, Mushrif Park, Al Khawaneej Road, Dubai (04 257 1256).