Helicopter, hot air balloon, seaplane and more unforgettable Dubai views
Time Out Dubai staff
Fed up of doing the same thing every weekend? Then spread your wings and see the country from a new perspective.
Feeling flighty, Time Out took to the skies for another source of adventure inspiration. Once up there, we found that the country looks quite different from above. There's loads of opportunities to get a bird’s eye view of Abu Dhabi and Dubai– and we think it’s high time you found out about them…
Helicopter tours One way to get up high is to hop aboard a helicopter tour, for an adrenaline-fuelled flight. Fly High Dubai Helicopter Services by Alpha Tours offer tours departing from Atlantis, The Palm’s helipad and taking you all the way to Yas Island helipad . Passengers get gorgeous views with the chance to see Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, Ghantoot, the F1 track on Yas Island and much more. In Abu Dhabi, Falcon Aviation has tours starting and finishing at Marina Mall. On their 20-minute tour you’ll see Emirates Palace and the flag pole before flying over Saadiyat and Al Maryah island and back. Their 30-minute tour flies you to Yas Island, then you’ll zoom over Maqta Bridge and the Grand Mosque. The return journey takes you over Hyatt Capital Gate, Al Bateen and Emirates Palace. It’s best to book ahead but walk-ons are accepted if there is space – so if you’re out shopping and just fancy a blow-out, hop on board. Take ID. Falcon Aviation:20-minute tour is Dhs900 per person or Dhs2,700 for six; the 30-minute tour is Dhs1,200 per person or Dhs3,600 for six until April. Falcon Aviation, www.falconaviation.ae (02 444 0007). Alpha Tours: starting from Dhs1,500 per person, www.alphatoursdubai.com, email@example.com (04 29 49 888/800 ALPHA WAY)
Once in a lifetime helicopter tour If you have a special occasion to celebrate or you’re just filthy rich, then charter an Agusta 109e helicopter for a bespoke tour. Or you can take the standard route, which varies according to air traffic, but departs from Dubai Festival City at the south end of the creek in Dubai and flies to Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. The trip ends back at Dubai Festival City; you can opt to finish at Emirates Palace, but the price is the same one-way (45 minutes) or return (1.5 hours). You can just turn up on the day but it’s advisable to book in advance to secure a seat. Take ID. Dhs15,000 for five to five passengers subject to weight, plus Dhs2,000 landing fee at Emirates Palace. Helidubai. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.helidubai.com (04 224 4033).
Hot air balloon tour
Ever been in a hot air balloon? The ride is gentle and smooth – and if you don’t believe us, try it for yourself. A tour with Amigos Balloons includes free transfers from Al Ain to and from the launch site. Setting off around 5am, you’ll fly 2,500ft, with up to 11 other passengers, passing over Sweihan, Nahil, Al Faqaa and Dubai, giving you the chance to see Bedouin villages, farms, sand dunes and Jebel Hafeet just as dawn is breaking – you might even spot desert foxes or deer. After landing around 9am, you can have breakfast and hot and cold drinks, which are included. The total experience lasts four hours, one of which is in the air. Tours run daily from September to early June. Dhs950 per person, or Dhs5,500 for two people in a private basket, www.amigos-balloons.com (04 289 9295).
If a hot air balloon isn’t exciting enough for you, try taking off in a seaplane. After a safety talk, you’ll hop in a Cessna 208 Amphibian Caravan designed for nine passengers for a 30-minute trip. There are two tours to choose from. The first departs from the water behind Emirates Palace, flies over the Corniche to Khalifa Port, past the mangroves and over Sheikh Zayed Bridge. You’ll continue on to Yas Island to see the F1 track and Ferrari World, before arriving back at the beach at Emirates Palace. The second tour leaves from Yas Marina, taking in all the major sights including the Grand Mosque on its way to Emirates Palace before arriving back at the marina. Dhs995 per person, Dhs12,100 charter, www.seawings.ae (02 564 6303).
Where better to paraglide than in the middle of the desert? Not only are you guaranteed a soft landing, but you’ll also be able to see for miles. Experienced paragliders head to Wathba Hill, a 150m artificial mound created by a sheikh surrounded by dunes. Laszlo Toth has been paragliding since 1982, and for 12 years in the UAE. He’s part of an informal society that paraglides at the hill each week, two or three hours before sunrise, on days when the wind is 16-22km per hour. He says, ‘Paragliding is not illegal in the UAE, but it is not recognised by the authorities – so there are no official instructors or shops selling the equipment. But for Dhs5,000, our group can provide 12 one to three-hour training sessions and the necessary equipment. After that, if you like it, you can buy what you need online. A canopy costs Dhs12,000, a harness Dhs3,000; you also need a helmet, boots and gloves.’ Around 10-15 paragliders meet three or four times a week to fly above the hill, on the 100m dunes ten minutes’ drive from Emirates National Auto Museum, in Sharjah and above Jebel Ali beach in Dubai. If you’re keen to join but don’t have a car, the group can arrange a lift in a 4x4. Wathba Hill, off E30, five minutes’ drive from Al Wathba Camel Race Track, www.microaviation.org (055 212 0155).
Head in the clouds
If you don't fancy taking flight, but still want some birds eye views then we have just the solution. At 828m, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the world’s tallest tower, with 163 floors. You can visit the observation deck on level 124, which, at 442m high, is still the highest outdoor observation deck in the world. A visit costs a whopping Dhs400 on the door (or Dhs125 in advance), but why get crushed in a mob with the masses when you can nibble on dainty scones during afternoon tea or sip drinks at sunset from the tower’s glamorous bar, At.Mosphere Located on level 122, this lounge is much more refined, don’t you know. Just bear in mind that there’s a minimum spend of Dhs150, www.burjkhalifa.ae (04 888 8124), www.atmosphereburjkhalifa.com (04 888 3444)