Bored of leisurely dhow cruises, Nyree Barrett decides to hit the Gulf at 40 knots
My first experience of jet boating was in Queenstown, New Zealand, where the perilously fast boat shot down the thin white-water river, the driver teasing us, nearly cracking into jagged rocks on numerous occasions. Needless to say I nearly lost my lunch, but I still loved every minute of it and stepped off the boat beaming with the dewy afterglow of adrenaline.
So when I discover that jet boating (or jet blasting as they call it here) is available in Dubai, I sign up immediately. Hoping to achieve that same adrenaline rush, I arrive at the Umm Suqeim fishing docks (opposite fish restaurant Bu Qtair) 20 minutes before the 5pm kick-off. When I first see the boat I’m a little worried – it’s not quite as shiny and sleek as the Shotover Jet in New Zealand –but after meeting Felix, a Filipino expat who’s been driving the boat for three years (and had 15 days of training from a Kiwi to learn how to artfully dodge rocks), I feel a lot more at ease.
Felix tells us we have a choice of two routes – one that involves a lot of rock dodging from Umm Suqeim to Jumeirah Beach Park, and one where 270-degree spins are the order of the day, focusing on the Palm Jumeirah. We tell him to take us on the best, most exciting route, and he turns towards the Palm.
It’s 5pm and a sweltering 45°C when we board. My lifejacket is soggy with perspiration, but the breeze when we hit 40 knots (land-centric folk, that’s about 74kph) is a godsend. The start of the trip involves a few practice spins, where Felix shows us how to lean to one side before the boat turns. The novelty wears off after about five minutes, and I find myself yearning for an adrenaline rush.
The water is choppy, but Felix still manages to get some serious speed going – we dabble around the water on our way to the Palm, skipping past a few buoys and just missing them (but, let’s face it, buoys are hardly jagged rocks). Then we try some fast spins, Felix easing on the acceleration slightly before spinning 270 degrees. This is the best bit of the boat ride in terms of fun – but it’s not scary. We get soaked, but it’s a welcome relief on a sweltering August afternoon.
Before we know it, we shoot past some rocks on our way to Atlantis (is it just me, or is it wonky?) and the boat stops for photos, which is a nice touch, but causes my sweats to return. After a few minutes of inhaling jet fumes and staring at a pink building, I’m more than ready to get moving again.
A spin along the Palm’s fronds proves fascinating – ‘What’s that building?’ I repeatedly exclaim, pointing to umpteen construction sites. A few spins later and we approach the Burj Al Arab, and navigating around the beautiful sail structure is the highlight of the trip. Gaudy interior aside, the building is movingly beautiful, especially up close.
Would I do it again? Well, at just Dhs185 a pop, I’d say yes – it’s great value. It wasn’t the best boating experience I’ve ever had (well, it wasn’t even the best jet boating experience I’ve ever had), but for people with a need for speed, it’s the perfect way to see Dubai’s sights.
Origins: The jet boat was invented by Kiwi farmer Bill Hamilton in 1953 so he could navigate the tight rivers near his farm in Christchurch, New Zealand. The boat has no external propeller, which allows it to glide along water, immersed by only a few centimetres.