14 outdoor adventures in the UAE

Time Out Dubai profiles some of the best outdoor adventures in the UAE, featuring the Empty Quarter, Martini Rock, Bab Al Shams, Shark Island and more

Body & mind

Head out on a hike
Explorer Tours runs guided trips in Ras Al Khaimah, where trekkers can explore the wadis and mountainous areas. Depending on your experience and fitness levels, you can embark on expeditions ranging from two to three hours right up to eight hours. Bring the right shoes or trainers, sun cream, a wide-brimmed hat and a backpack. Lunch can be provided on request.
From Dhs300 per person (minimum ten people). Pick-up across Dubai, www.explorertours.ae (04 286 199104 286 1991).

Go diving at Martini Rock
Just off the east coast and accessible from Al Boom Diving’s Fujairah outpost, Martini Rock is home to an abundance of colourful, fascinating marine life. See cuttlefish, lionfish, scorpionfish, broomtail wrasse, rays and even a turtle or two if you’re lucky.
Dhs400 per diver with full kit. Al Boom Diving, Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, Fujairah, www.alboomdiving.com (04 341 494004 341 4940).

Hike the length of Dubai’s coast
Join the big-hearted folk of Gulf For Good for their regular hike up Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach, which runs about 13km in total. Alternatively, join them for a snow hike inside Ski Dubai. Check the website for dates.
Free. Jumeirah Beach Road and Ski Dubai, Mall of the Emirates, www.gulf4good.org (04 368 022204 368 0222).

Ride out to Bab Al Shams
Join Cycle Safe Dubai for their Friday Outrides, held every weekend at 6.30am. There are four rides: 35km for beginners, 65km and 80km for intermediates and an 80km advanced ride, with paces ranging from 20kph to 35kph. Bring your helmet – there’s a no helmet, no ride policy.
Free. Fri 6.30am. Al Qudra Road, just after Emirates Road (E611), start of Dubai Cycle Path, www.cyclesafedubai.com (050 680 4528050 680 4528).

Shoot ’em ups in Sharjah
Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club is widely regarded as one of the best places to go paintballing in the region, with three enormous outdoor areas complete with bunkers, huts, aeroplanes, inflatable obstacles and much more. The two indoor arenas are just as impressive, with one designed to look like the streets of London and another replicating the inside of a bank.
From Dhs90 per person (100 paintballs and two games). Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, www.golfandshootingshj.com (06 548 777706 548 7777).


Embark on a desert walk
This isn’t the kind of thing you want to risk doing alone, as the desert can be a dangerous and confusing place to get lost in. Fortunately, Qasr Al Sarab offers a trip with expert guides, where you’ll be dropped off in a remote location, from where you’ll make your way back to the resort over a period of one-and-a-half to two hours. Along the way, you’ll learn about local fauna and flora, sand dune formations and hear stories of the desert.
From Dhs130 (adults), Dhs85 (children). Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, Liwa, Abu Dhabi (02 886 208802 886 2088).

Go fat biking in the Empty QuarterStunning desert retreat
Qasr Al Sarab offers the chance to try one of the newest two-wheel crazes to hit the UAE. The unique design of fat bikes makes it possible to cycle over sand easily enough that even beginners can get to grips with the sport. Tours start daily at 7am.
From Dhs180 per person. Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, Liwa, Abu Dhabi (02 886 208802 886 2088).

Snorkel around Shark Island
Head to Khor Fakkan for a day of snorkelling off the UAE’s best coast for marine wildlife. Take a boat out from the corniche (haggle with the boat runners, as they’ll set prices sky-high at first) and have them take you over to Shark Island, returning for you at an agreed time. The water is typically crystal clear with plenty of marine life to see. Bring a parasol, as there is no shade on the island at midday.
Khor Fakkan corniche, E89.

Try your hand at land sailing
Historically used as a mode of transport, land sailing is today more of a sport, and you can have a go yourself in Liwa. The activity is dependent on a minimum wind speed of 14 knots.
From Dhs280 (adults), Dhs220 (children). Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, Liwa, Abu Dhabi (02 886 208802 886 2088).

Bike the Dadna circuit
Suitable for beginners and more seasoned cyclists, this route, near Al Aqah beach in Fujairah, runs approximately 15km. Over a two to three-hour ride, take in coastal plains with farms, mountains and wadis to navigate along the way. Trip organiser East Coast Tourism can also organise stays in small local farms for those who want a more comprehensive experience of the local area.
Price on request. Fujairah, www.uaeeastcoast.com (050 348 9518050 348 9518).

Take a Sir Bani Yas wildlife drive
Located on Abu Dhabi’s beautiful animal conservation site, Sir Bani Yas Island, Desert Islands Resort & Spa offers exhilarating nature and wildlife drives in an open-topped, open-sided 4x4. See sand gazelles, oryx, leopards, hyenas, giraffes and more as you rumble over gravelly tracks and hills.
Rooms from Dhs975 midweek. Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara, Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi (02 656 139902 656 1399).

Surf in Al Ain
‘But… Al Ain doesn’t have a coast!’ we hear you cry. Indeed it doesn’t. Instead, it has Wadi Adventure, home to an enormous surfing pool, a white water rafting facility and air park (essentially an enormous climbing frame for adults). Book your slots in advance.
Dhs50 (entry), Dhs25 (giant swing), Dhs50 (air park), Dhs100 (surfing), Dhs100 (rafting). Al Ain, www.wadiadventure.ae (03 781 842203 781 8422).

An outdoor adventure in Ras Al Khaimah
British-run company Challenging Adventure offers a huge range of al fresco pursuits for keen outdoorsy types. Try camping, abseiling, orienteering, raft building, bird-watching, canyoning and much more.
Price on enquiry. Ras Al Khaimah, www.challengingadventure.com (04 453 838604 453 8386).

Check out Big Red
One of the oldest attractions in the region, this well-known sand dune is something of a landmark just off the Dubai-Hatta Road (E44), as the colour of the landscape changes from yellow to red. Don’t expect to find yourself alone – tour companies run two trips a day. The area is also popular with residents keen to practise their dune-bashing skills.
Accessible from Dubai-Hatta Road (E44).

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