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The United Arab Emirates is host to some of the most spectacular and glamorous attractions in the world. These alongside the more traditional and cultural experiences available such as camel riding allow for a varied and exciting plethora of opportunities.
Bird watching, or Birding as it's also known, is very popular in the United Arab Emirates. It's not just a great opportunity for bird lovers and keen photographers to catch sight of some exotic species, but also the chance to meet others who share similar interests. The calm weather conditions, varied environments and geographical positioning of the United Arab Emirates make it a popular destination for birds of all kinds, especially those migrating.
There are thought to be 433 different species here, and some that you might see include the Alexandrine Parakeet, the Alpine Swift, Amur Falcon, Arabian Babbler, Laughing Dove, Barred Warbler and Black Scrub-robin - to name but a few. If birding is something on your agenda then buying some sort of a guide is recommended so that you can properly identify what you see. Some of these also include maps so that you can locate the areas of certain birds. Dubai Creek is actually a good place to spot some birds, with the Black-headed Gulls particularly common around this area. You'll also find that a variety of bird's circle the skies of the Emirates Golf Club, proving that wherever you go in the UAE, there's every chance you'll see something exotic up above.
Camel riding is a quintessentially Arabian activity, representing the cultural traditions of the country. It's therefore a must try for those visiting!
Camels have inspired many strange activities in the UAE, with everything from camel races to camel polo, and even camel beauty pageants. Camel riding is still the most common though, as this traditional method of crossing the desert remains as effective as ever. Riding a camel may not be the most comfortable experience of your life at first, but it'll certainly make you feel like you've travelled back in time, venturing through the dunes like a true desert explorer.
Camel rides are often in conjunction with desert safaris, where you can travel with a group of others and expert guides. This gives an authentic Bedouin style experience, and is also great for taking pictures, chatting with new faces and soaking up the serenity of the environment. The camels are friendly too, so don't forget to give the one you rode a gentle pat on the head to say thanks after.
Dolphin and Whale Watching
Dolphin and whale watching is one of the most mesmerizing things to do, and even more so in a setting like the United Arab Emirates. Did you know that there are around 80 known species of whale and dolphin? A third of these are thought to be in the UAE. These species include the Sperm Whale, Risso's dolphin, bottlenose and Indo-Humpback dolphins.
Late March until July provide the best conditions for this activity, while early mornings and evenings can also be prime times of day to go spotting. The best way to go whale and dolphin watching is by boat. This is usually something that is offered by cruises and tour operators. As with any activity where you are going out to try and see a country's wildlife or marine life, patience is key. This isn't so difficult anyway when you're laid back in a boat, with the sun gently warming your skin and the rhythms of the sea beneath you.
Whales are definitely a rarer sight to catch, and can usually be found nearer to Oman. There's most certainly a good chance however that you'll see some dolphins, and for a chance to actually interact with them, the dolphin bay at The Atlantis Hotel is a good port of call.
Fishing is a popular past time with people that want a bit of peace and quiet, and to hook in some huge fish. So you can imagine that fishing in Dubai brings a whole new level of relaxation and catch exhilaration to the experience, with crystal clear waters, picturesque scenery and over 500 different species of exotic fish in the Arabian Gulf. Companies such as Emirates Fishing are useful when it comes to preparing a fishing itinerary.
There are plenty of things to take into consideration such as the weather conditions and locations, as in certain parts of the UAE fish is not safe to be eaten due to mercury poisoning. For this reason it's advisable to always check. To go fishing you will need to obtain a fishing license, which can be applied for through the Dubai Municipality website. After receiving this you'll still need to read up on the regulations that include rules such as not fishing in public beaches where others swim, and staying away from prohibited species such as crabs. If you'd prefer to be in the company of others while fishing then there's also the option to go on a fishing tour with a professional company.
This usually involves being taken out on a fishing boat with a captain, and being provided with all the fishing equipment you need. Sometimes fishing excursions can also be provided as a part of a water sport day trip. Some of the species that you might encounter include the wonderfully named Black-Finned Melon Butterflyfish, the Daisy Parrotfish and the Pickhandle Barracuda. Below are listed some of the areas within Dubai and Abu Dhabi that are popular fishing spots.
Dubai is a golfer's dream, with its luxurious courses that incorporate the exotic environment into their design. Dubai's fame amongst the golfing community is mostly due to its hosting of the Dubai Desert Classic, a tournament that attracts players from around the world each year.
It is the publicity surrounding this that has inspired golf lovers the world over to visit, leading in turn to the development of a variety of beautiful golf courses. These are spread throughout different areas of the city and each has a unique ambience, with something to suit every type of golfer. The Emirates Golf Club is host to the city's most famous golf courses, with the Majlis Championship Course once being the home of the Dubai Desert Classic. While spectacular to see, it is also not a course for the faint hearted, with par values of 72.
The Wadi is the Emirates Golf Club's other course, and is just as scenic and challenging, leading golfers through an obstacle driven course with fourteen lakes and yards of vibrant greenery. For an authentic Arabian setting you could head to somewhere like the Arabian Ranches Golf Club, while the Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa is incredibly lavish and provides its guests with a course that is so picturesque you shouldn't have any trouble feeling inspired to hole some putts. If golf is something that you're especially interested in then it's really worth checking out some of the above resorts or researching others that offer similar courses within their accommodation.
Whenever travelling to an exotic location where there's a coast and inviting sea, scuba diving is a must. The Arabian Gulf is particularly popular for those staying in Abu Dhabi or Dubai as it's just off the coast from these destinations. There are some wrecks to be explored around these parts, though it's noted that the visibility of some parts of the sea here is not as good, especially when there is construction being carried out on man made islands.
For a better underwater vision it might be better to head on toward the East Coast. A day trip to here from one of the cities guarantees colourful and varied sightings of vibrant coral reefs, lionfish, cuttlefish, and more. There are also plenty of cute little marine turtles, who make great swimming partners when they glide alongside you through the water. If you fancy scuba diving even further afield then Musandam, which is part of the Sultanate of Oman is recognised by many local divers for being the best place to have an exciting diving experience. This is also the perfect place to go whale watching in!
There are scatterings of dive centres around the UAE, and these can usually provide all the equipment and guidance you'll need. Some also offer PADI courses, allowing attendees to improve their scuba skills.
Below is a list of popular dive sites within the West, East and Musandam coast.
- Anemone Gardens
- Coral Gardens
- Dibba Island
- Hole in the Wall
- Shark Island
- Sharm Rocks
- Snoopy Island
- Deep Reef
- Mubah Reef
- Barracuda Barge
- Turtle Barge
- Zainab wreck
- Lion City
Musandam Coast (Oman):
- The Caves
- Lima Rock
- Pearl Island
- Ras Hamra
- Jazirat Al Khayl