Dubai has long been known for its high-rise buildings, sprawling shopping malls and eye-popping Friday brunches. But the latest attraction in the spotlight couldn’t be more different. Aventura is brand-new to the city and promises an aerial adventure in the woods.
Any feat that involves a little daring and being strapped into a harness, you’ll hear me calling shotgun on. So readily so that my colleagues know me as the office’s “Adventure Ninja” (well, in my head at least).
Set amid Mushrif Park’s natural ghaf tree forest, this 35,000 square-metre adventure playground offers intrepid visitors around 80 activities, including rope walks, log balancing, ladders and zip lines, the largest of which is a toe-tingling 160m long and 10m high. The whole space is split into six circuits, designed to accommodate any level of Indiana Jones wannabe.
The Discovery and Rangers circuits are designed for children, while the Explorador circuit is an easy family bonding zone and Aventura is suitable for teenagers and adults. But let’s forget about those. I’m here for a challenge and want to set the difficulty level to high on Thriller or Xtreme.
Once I’ve pulled on my fingerless gloves (rope burns aren’t my thing, okay?), I’m raring to go. But before they let me loose on the obstacles, I’m given a safety briefing. The team tells me to hop into a harness, loaded with two carabiners and a zip line pulley, and they show me how to clip in and clip out with the carabiners, which we’re assured work on an exceptionally safe magnetic mechanism.
Once we’ve mastered the clipping technique, we’re allowed to choose which circuits we want to tackle. Confidence is key, but in my case that errs towards the side of overconfidence. Convinced I’m a pro after a 20-minute briefing, I pick the toughest course – Xtreme.
It seems sensible to warm up on an alternative, easier circuit (say, Aventura) before I jump onto the hardest of all. But sensible, in my book, is overrated. To keep the peace, and avoiding being a little gung-ho, I start with the Thriller circuit, featuring a lateral climbing wall, which, it transpires, is not as easy as it looks. In fact it’s pretty tough to pull your body onto each of the holds.
Putting in a little extra effort, I manage to complete the wall, and sail triumphantly down the 160m zip line. (NB: Don’t forget to shout “libre” when you reach the end of each obstacle to let the climbers behind you know it’s their go, otherwise you could end up concertinaed against your fellow adventurers.)
After conquering the Thriller, it’s high time for some Xtreme action. First up, I haul myself onto an eight-metre-high wall before tackling a massive webbed net, which again has to be completed by working my way across laterally. Unless you’ve a real head for heights, you don’t want to be looking down here…
What’s next at eight metres up? Balancing yourself on wooden logs. Why not? Legs now slightly shaking, but determined to finish the challenge (which, of course, has nothing to do with Aventura’s rule about having to complete circuits or make it to an escape exit – it’s just that I’m a ninja, not a chicken) I stagger along 20 swinging, cylindrical beams, and press on to the next obstacle, the 25m Tarzan Jump.
I might not have a loincloth handy (next time, I might fashion one) but skimpy pants aside, I am the Lord of the Jungle. Locking myself onto the long rope, I take the leap, swinging gloriously forth. It’s only now that I realise that I somehow need to grab onto another web net as soon as I land. After dragging my now exhausted body along the ropey tangle, I hop onto a surfboard to weave between the trees before jumping on to my final zip line, and sliding back down to earth with a grateful thud.
Aventura is a great way to test your physical strength while enjoying some nature time.
I would actually count this as a good workout session because I was worn out at the end, with sore hands to boot. Make sure you monkey around with your amigos, though, laughing at each other while you miss the mark. (Well, not me – I’m a ninja).
Dhs150 (general access), Dhs125 (children under 1.35 metres). Open daily 9.30am-6pm. Mushrif Park, Mirdif, www.aventuraparks.com (056 887 1687).
Four to try Adventure challenges
Airpark at Wadi Adventure
Essentially a giant climbing frame for adults, this two-level obstacle course has 18 different elements, including a zip line. There’s also a climbing wall and giant swing, and if that’s not enough, the complex is home to white water rafting and a surf pool, too.
From Dhs50. Al Ain, www.wadiadventure.ae.
Bouldering at Rock Republic
Forget straightforward vertical climbs – try your hand at bouldering at this popular scrambling spot. Learn to work your way around challenging overhangs and build your upper body in the process.
From Dhs80 day pass. Dubai Investments Park, www.facebook.com/pg/rock.republic.dubai.
Desert Warrior: Ajman Edition
Fancy tackling what promises to be Desert Warriors’ “most adrenaline-packed obstacle course yet”? Head to Al Zorah and try new challenges including the Warrior Zip and Chimney.
Dhs393. Friday March 24. Al Zorah 1, Ajman, www.desertwarriorchallenge.com.
Head to Ras Al Khaimah and tackle a climb through the Hajar Mountains. The longest course on the trail takes between two and fours hours depending on ability, and features three zip lines, the longest of which spans 300m. The toughest route is a vertical climb.
Dhs400. Jebel Jais, Ras Al Khaimah, www.jebeljais.ae