With the waves of the Arabian Gulf lapping the length of the UAE, watersports of all kinds are one of the region’s most pleasurable pursuits for everyone from tranquil ocean dwellers to adrenalin-thirsty watersport junkies. Take to the sea for a peaceful afternoon of yacht lounging or opt for high-impact, thrill-seeking sea bound adventures. The open water awaits you...
A boat for hire from Xclusive Yachts
Even if you only have a spare two hours, renting a yacht and cruising the waters of the Gulf offers a truly serene way of taking in the city sights, far from the madding crowd. Xclusive Yachts in Dubai has a fleet of 16 luxury yachts, from the smallest, a 22ft rider carrying up to three people; in Abu Dhabi, Eden Yachting boasts a fleet of luxury yachts, sailing yachts and classic gullets.
Related: The best pools in Dubai
A traditional dhow race
Set sail for the open sea on a classic sailboat and let the wind dictate the pace of your day. Or why not try something with a local flavour, such as sailing on traditional wooden Arabic dhows. Simply don your sea legs and boat shoes and choose your vessel from the many on offer at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club or Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht Club.
For the ultimate thrill on water, nothing beats high speeds and pumped-up power, so why not become the co-pilot of your very own Zapcat – a customised two-seater speedboat with dual hull and 50hp engines. Head to Watercooled at Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa or DoubleTree by Hilton, who have two Zapcats amongst their impressive watersports entourage.
In the UAE, the sea is more often calm and flat than it is crashing with surf-ready waves, so paddle boarding, or SUP as it is otherwise known, is the ideal workout watersport for surf fans, or any sea dwellers for that matter. Join Dubai’s paddle boarding posse at Ignite Surface at Riva Beach Club on The Palm or Surf House Dubai on Sunset Beach.
Related: The best hiking trails in the UAE
Another hugely popular pastime in the Emirates, thanks to the vast open breezy beaches, is kite surfing, which pretty much involves standing on a board in the sea, holding onto a kite and letting the wind propel you along and above the water. Head to the aptly named Kite Beach (behind Saga Mall) and enrol in an 8-hour course with Dukite; skilled kite surfers can simply hire a kite and head out.
For traditional wakeboarding, the calm waters of Dubai Marina are ideal so make your way to Sea Riders whose serious wake-propelling boat and high-end gear will have you riding the Marina waters in no time. XTREME WAKE at Ghantoot on the Abu Dhabi border is also a great spot, complete with wakeboard chalet and BBQ facilities. For a tow sport with a twist, why not try knee boarding or wake surfing, which is similar to wakeboarding but you stand freely on the board and let go of the rope.
Underwater fish by Wilfred Hdez/Flickr
While you can dive at the Lost Chambers in Atlantis, the Dubai Aquarium and the Aquaventure Shark Safari, diving enthusiasts looking for the real open water deal should make tracks for the neighbouring emirate of Fujairah on the marine-rich Indian Ocean. Al Boom Diving at Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort and Divers Down at Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort both run dive excursions. Don’t miss Shark/Snoopy Island and Martini Rock.
Related: What's on in Dubai this summer
Kayaking is a really uplifting way to enjoy the UAE’s waterways. In Abu Dhabi, hop on a kayak and paddle your way through the luscious and natural mangrove forests with the Noukhada Adventure Company, or in Dubai, a session of sea kayaking (try Watercooled) should leave you sufficiently exhilarated.
The laws on where you can jet ski in Dubai are constantly changing, so to play it safe, head out of town to Ghantoot Marina, where you are guaranteed a ride with Jetski Dubai. For more of a challenge, why not try stand-up jet skiing at Al Marjan Island Resort and Spa, Ras Al Khaimah.