| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Snorkelling in the UAE

Your kids don't need to be scuba qualified to enjoy marine life. Head to the East coast and try snorkelling in the Indian Ocean.

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With the Indian Ocean, the Hajar Mountains and some of the loveliest beaches in the UAE, the beauty of the East Coast between Dibba and Khor Fakkan has not gone unnoticed.

The roads and wadis that wind through the Hajar Mountain range make for a spectacular drive, and the sleepy fishing village of Dibba has a peaceful port worth exploring, where colourful fishing boats and dhows are moored and fishermen haul in their catch. It has a charming coastal atmosphere, and once you spot the azure water it becomes overwhelmingly clear the real reason to visit the East Coast is for the Indian Ocean.

The best beaches in Dibba are owned by the newly-built JAL Fujairah Resort & Spa, which boasts 500m of beautiful white sand, and the Royal Beach Hotel, which has around half that amount. Further south, a rugged open beach cradles the northern end of Al Aqah, while the remainder of the coast is owned by Fujairah Rotana, Le Meridien and a Radisson hotel that is due to open in 2010. All these five-star hotel beaches are faultless, offering guests clean, golden sand, watersports, snorkelling and even the chance to spot a frolicking dolphin.

Further down the coast, the Miramar hotel has a beautiful stretch of beach and views over the mountains, or for something a bit more rustic, try the Sandy Beach Motel. Though it’s a little frayed around the edges, it’s a good choice for the budget conscious and the private beach is lovely, with views over the rocky Snoopy Island (it looks like the cartoon character, having a doze – if you squint). Here, pint-size or nervous novice snorkellers and divers will find an abundance of marine life that is possibly the easiest to access in the UAE.

Essentials

JAL Fujairah Resort & Spa
Rates: Dhs650-890 double
The paint is still drying on this newly built resort, which netted one of the best coastal stretches in Dibba. Once you get past the pastel, high-school building exterior, JAL has all the five-star facilities required for an indulgent East Coast break, like a fabulous 500m white sand beach, swimming pools to laze about in and a state-of-the-art gym and spa. All 257 rooms are tastefully decorated, with uninterrupted sea views. The food at this Japanese-owned resort is also a highlight, with a sumptuous breakfast buffet, traditional Teppanyaki restaurant and an authentic sushi bar.
Dibba, follow signs from Masafi (09 244 9700; www.jalfujairahresort.ae).

Le Meridien Al Aqah
Rates: Dhs1,500-1,700 double, Dhs4,000-5,000 suites
This is a sprawling five-star resort commanding a prime position along the East Coast. The hotel has a vast swimming pool and good facilities for kids, including a cinema and mini golf course. All 218 rooms have a sea view, while the beach has golden sand and lawns lined with palm trees. There is plenty to keep active types sweaty, including squash and tennis. For those after a more relaxed break, Le Meridien also has two spas.
Al Aqah beach, 20 mins south from Dibba (09 244 9000; www.starwoodhotels.com).

Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort
Rates: Dhs475-1,200 double, Dhs650-850 chalet – or Dhs75 for adults and Dhs40 for children under 10 to use the beach for the day
If you’re looking for five-star facilities, you’re better off staying elsewhere, but the Sandy Beach has a legion of loyal fans that appreciate the basic decor and laid-back atmosphere. The faded hotel has 68 rooms and 28 bungalow/chalets, and the private beach overlooking Snoopy Rock is one of the most beautiful on the East Coast, with some great snorkelling straight off the beach. Day trips and equipment can easily be arranged from the hotel’s dive centre. There is also a small, temperature- controlled swimming pool and a restaurant serving delicious, value- for-money Lebanese food.
Al Aqah Beach, 20 mins south of Dibba (09 244 5555; www.sandybm.com).

By Michelle Wranik
Time Out Dubai,
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