Our kids get to do some pretty amazing stuff living in the UAE, what with the desert, wadis, sand dunes, mountains and sea to play with. School trips here are a bit more exciting than traipsing around a soggy field looking at sheep, or visiting the local glass-blowing factory. But if you’ve ever packed your intrepid explorers off and felt a pang of jealousy that they get to have all the fun, then Libra Adventure has the solution for all you energetic mums out there.
Located in Umm al Quwain, the Libra Adventure Centre is geared up for educational expeditions of hordes of children from all over the UAE, regularly catering for groups of up to 80 excitable kids and the occasional corporate ‘team bonding’ crowd. Bowing to pressure from demanding mothers, they decided to introduce a Libra Adventure Mums programme, opening up their facilities to groups of women wanting a slice of the action.
So just what can mums get up to in Umm Al Quwain, that still ensures they make it back for the afternoon school run? Quite a lot, as we found out.
8am: After dropping the kids off at school, my volunteer mums and I gather at our appointed meeting place before heading off down the Emirates Road. We are a sorry bunch of unorganised ladies in a variety of unsuitable footwear and not a swimming costume between us. When our kids go off on one of these adventures, we usually get a detailed checklist – something Libra thought would be wasted on we mothers. How wrong they were! Apparently our organisational skills don’t stretch to ourselves. Hats, sun cream, swimming costumes, old trainers, a change of clothes and drinking water, on reflection, now seem obvious, so it is slightly worrying that we only have a smattering of these supplies between us. Undeterred, and determined not to get wet despite the promise of water-based activities in front of us, we set off.
9.30am: Despite the dubious directions (it’s straight on at the swordfish roundabout) we arrive at the Umm Al Quwain Marine Club, a journey of about an hour from Dubai. We are greeted by our enthusiastic instructors plus a couple of other courageous ‘adventure mums’. Introductions over, Leo and his team of four take us through the morning’s planned activities and all have a jolly good laugh at the fact that we’re expecting to stay dry.
10am: Raft building is the first activity and so we plough straight in, familiarising ourselves with the equipment on offer. There are eight big blue barrels, four long bits of wood, lots of shorter pieces of the same and lashings of rope. All six mums are working together as a team, and are told we can use as much of the gear as we want, leaving the instructors to make a raft out of what’s left. We receive a quick demonstration on the best way to tie a knot, and off we go. Greedily, we grab six of the barrels, two of the long pieces of wood, as many slats as we can carry and discuss the plans for our, hopefully unsinkable, raft. We work well together, as no one really takes the lead but a rowdy democracy forms with lots of laughs and plenty of banter about broken nails.
The Libra team members are encouraging, offering advice when we need it, but we are still left with the satisfied feeling that the finished product is all our own work. None of us has, funnily enough, previous raft-building experience, so we are undeniably proud as we pose for a picture before the launch. The steely determination to remain dry has contributed to the excellent design, so a collective cheer goes up as she slips into the water and miraculously floats. Even John and Lisa from Libra feel confident in our abilities, as they both hop on just for the ride, which means that our magnificent craft can take eight people with no problem. We don’t leave the other poor instructors a lot of kit to work with, so the opposing raft looks a little small and sad next to Unsinkable.
We are happily rowing away when Matt launches the inferior ‘See-Saw’ raft and then a chase ensues. I don’t know what comes over us mild-mannered mums, but suddenly we are on a mission to destroy. With oars flailing, in a scene straight out of Lord of the Flies we paddle furiously and attack the weaker vessel, overpowering it with our vastly superior design (due to the fact that we appropriated most of the resources) A couple of pushes and the ‘See- Saw’ topples over dunking Matt in the drink to hoots of laughter and victorious war cries.
Unsinkable makes it back to shore and we are all, amazingly, still dry apart from a couple of splashes. Matt is dripping wet, but takes his encounter with us bloodthirsty mums in good spirit. What a sport. We celebrate with a cup of tea.
11.15am: Tea break over and it’s on to the next activity of the morning – kayaking. Once again, the eager Libra staff takes us through the basics on shore before letting us loose in one of the single man/mum crafts. We practice paddling and controlling the kayaks, stopping, starting and reversing in the sheltered port area, the scene of our earlier battle. When they are convinced we know what we’re doing, we head off in kayak convoy to the open stretch of water known as the khor. The instructors must really love their jobs, as all four elect to accompany us. Maybe it’s the novelty value of looking after a group of excitable mothers, or maybe, as they say, it’s just ‘good to be on the water’. Leo spots a group of flamingoes on a small island in the distance, and quietly splashing over to get a better look we manage to get quite close before they are spooked into taking off. We stop paddling to gaze up at the beautiful sight of them soaring over our heads. I reckon it’s pretty good to be out of the city at this moment in time.
The wind picks up which makes paddling hard work, we all have soggy bottoms and sore arms so there is not much talking on the long row back. It’s only as we get to shore that hysteria sets in once more, as Lyn hops out of her kayak a couple of strokes too early, loses her footing and promptly plunges in over her head. Well, it had to happen to one of us.
12.15pm: Lunch is served, towels are borrowed and chips, salad and chicken skewers have never tasted so good. We thank our hosts and set off back to Dubai at around 1.15pm.
Libra Adventure Mums promises a fun-filled action packed half day bursting with nature, fresh air and a real sense of achievement, especially if your raft stays afloat. The company seems willing to cater for any event and will also tailor the activities to suit as well, so if kayaking doesn’t appeal, then have a go at the climbing wall instead. If you’re looking for something different to do with your book group or you’re a class rep wanting a bonding alternative to the usual coffee morning, then this might be just what you’re after, just go prepared. Like the kids when they return from one of their adventures, you’ll certainly sleep well!
Dhs250 per person including lunch. For more information call 800 Libra (54272) or get in touch with Kim Ashworth at firstname.lastname@example.org.