WHERE does an adventure enthusiast in the Middle East go without spending a wad of money?
The perception, at least, seems to be that chasing an adrenaline rush necessarily requires time and money spent on a plane to Australia, South Africa or even Nepal – but that isn’t the case at all.
Thrill-seekers looking to get high on something absolutely legal need only stop a moment to consider the range of options available within the region itself – and there are a few.
TTN rounds up some options in the UAE and Oman:
Why, head to Umm Al Quwain. The sleepiest of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, UAQ is more than just a weekend getaway spot for the country’s resident expatriates to repay their sleep debt before driving away with enough joy juice to stock a hotel’s bar – it’s also home to the Umm Al Quwain Aeroclub, the only skydiving centre in the Middle East, where one can learn accelerated free fall (consisting of a minimum of eight jumps) or enjoy the thrill of tandem skydiving strapped to the harness of an expert skydiving instructor.
The centre has a large number of active skydiving members, largely comprising GCC and European nationals, besides the large number of UAE nationals.
Other attractions? Helicopter flights, aerial photography, Cessna tours. www.uaqaeroclub.com
Step into my parlour, said the genie to the tourist – not quite, but that’s what you might expect on a tw-day trip to the Majlis Al Jinn in Oman, courtesy Ras-Al-Khaimah-based Mountain Extreme.
One of the largest cave chambers in the world, its dimensions are staggering – some 340m long and 228m wide with a ceiling height of 120m, it is roomy enough to hold more than a dozen Boeing 747s parked wingtip to wingtip.
This is the longest abseil and ascent on Jumar most people have ever experienced, says the company’s website, which requires undergoing training sessions to familiarize yourself with the gear and how to use it safely. The session will cover all aspects of the descent, as well as ascending with ascenders, fall arresters and foot strap. Priced at Dh1471 ($400) per head.
Mountain Extreme also offers mountain camping, treks, boat trips and more. www.mountain-extreme.com
HIKING & TREKKING
This one’s out of the UAE – in Oman. The faults, gorges and cliffs of Oman lend themselves to some spectacular days outdoors, and the country is believed to have some of the best climbing spots in the world. From Alpine-style big walls to the technical sports routes, 500m multi-pitches to 20m technical climbs, all are available at differing levels.
Tour operator Gulf Leisure has qualified mountain climbers and walking guides that are fully trained to allow guests to walk, climb and even abseil in the most demanding areas. Excursions will be tailored to the experience and the fitness levels of those taking part. Even in the heat of the summer, the Jebels around the Sultanate provide cool and awe-inspiring scenery to explore.
The company also offers a variety of treks (ask about Snake Gorge), hikes, underwater explorations in the Sultanate’s only glass-bottom boat, wadi bashing and desert driving. www.gulfleisure.com
Oman-based Nomad Ocean Adventures does what its name suggests: offer a variety of sea-based joyrides. Known for its abundant marine life, Musandam has sites suitable for all levels. What you can look for are sharks, dolphins, large rays, corals, lobsters and more. Even whale sharks have been known to frequent to these waters.
Nomad is a Padi dive centre, but besides exclusive dive sites, the company organises deep sea fishing trips in the Indian Ocean, camping on the country’s east coast,
A two-day package including a boat trip with barbecue beach lunch, snorkeling and guided tour of the Musandam, plus one night in a guest house with dinner and breakfast, and a second day’s guided tour of the east coast and its wadis and forts at Dh800 per person, for a minimum of 10 adults.
Retracing an explorer’s footsteps has never been easier – especially if you stop off at the Liwa Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Located in the heart of the UAE’s rolling deserts, the 66-room property stands guard over one of the last desert frontiers: in 1948
Sir Wilfred Thesiger was the first European to explore Liwa’s 80-kilometre palm groves, scattered settlements and giant sand dunes.
Hotel manager Mel Barisic says it’s the desert as never seen before: wild, vast and starkly beautiful, giving guests a taste of the untamed conditions, while providing all manner of creature comforts.
The Western Region of Abu Dhabi encompasses the great red sand massif of the Rub al Khali (or the Empty Quarter) with the oil fields of the Bu Hasa, Shah and Mazrug, and the fertile Liwa oasis.
A distinguished explorer and travel writer, Thesiger called the UAE his second home outside Great Britain, and drew the world’s attention to the challenges of the Arab Bedouin desert life through his writing and over 35,000 vivid photographs. Travelling, dressing and eating like the Bedouin people, Thesiger earned the title Mubarak bin London from his companions and even the respect of the first president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who once gifted him a camel. www.ncth.com