En­joy­ing the out­doors in style

There’s no need to rough it to en­joy the Mid­dle East’s great out­doors any more – the global phe­nom­e­non of glamp­ing (‘glam­orous camp­ing’) has fi­nally hit our shores, says Kerry Bag­gott

Friday - - Front Page -

Ev­ery­one needs to try camp­ing at least once in the UAE or Oman. But be hon­est, have you re­ally got the know-how? It’s a big desert out there, and even a Toy­ota Land Cruiser can get stuck in soft sand if you don’t know how to drive it of­froad. Then there are the tents, the bed­ding, the fire­wood, the torches, the GPS, the shov­els, the food, the chairs, the plas­tic forks… the list goes on.

Can you re­ally be both­ered? And, it might sound dra­matic, but do you re­ally have the sur­vival skills to ‘rough it’, even for a night?

If the an­swer is a re­luc­tant no, but you’re still keen to make the most of the UAE’s great out­doors while the weather’s nice, why not del­e­gate all those wor­ries to a com­pany that can sort it all out for you?

Just think: all the tents set up for you, the fire stoked and the bar­be­cue burn­ing. Say hello to the UAE’s first ‘glamp’ sites. Al­though the true def­i­ni­tion of this new­fan­gled word is a port­man­teau for glam­orous camp­ing, on the whole the Gulf still has some way to go be­fore it ri­vals the likes of those uber-lux­u­ri­ous, per­ma­nent camp­sites that sit be­side the wa­ter­ing holes of the Ngoron­goro crater in Africa, for ex­am­ple. The clos­est, how­ever, is the new camp of­fered by Ara­bian Adventures, which opened at the end of last year. If a queen-sized bed and lux­ury bath­rooms in the desert are more your style than rough­ing it, this could be the camp­ing trip for you. Al­ter­na­tively, there are a hand­ful of other op­er­a­tors that of­fer their own ver­sion of glamp­ing...

1Dibba’s Ad­ven­ture House with Ab­so­lute Ad­ven­ture

Glamp­ing is all about bal­anc­ing the thrill of the great out­doors with some home com­forts and at Dibba’s Ad­ven­ture House, rather than sleep­ing un­der the stars, you and 13 oth­ers will be sleep­ing in bunk beds in a tra­di­tional stone house on the beach in Dibba, Oman. The mat­tresses might not be overly thick, but this is more than made up for with air con­di­tion­ing, clean sheets and pil­lows, three bath­rooms with hot show­ers, and a semi-equipped kitchen. The house is set in a large court­yard with the beach on one side and the Ha­jar moun­tains on the other (you may also find it a com­fort­ing thought to learn that it’s also a stone’s throw from the Golden Tulip Ho­tel).

A mas­sive ta­ble sits in the cen­tre of the yard, so it’s fab­u­lous for host­ing large groups who can also spread out to chill in the barasti hut on stilts, or lounge on the cush­ions in the ma­jlis. There’s even a small fresh­wa­ter pool – fairly old, but per­fect for cool­ing off.

A BBQ grill is pro­vided, and al­though din­ner can be cooked for you, why not head down to the lo­cal har­bour – about a five-minute drive from the house – when the fish­er­men bring in their catch? See them un­load huge king­fish or snap­per, make your choice and then go watch it be gutted and cleaned. Din­ner doesn’t come fresher than this. Wood can be de­liv­ered to or­der, al­low­ing you all to pull up a chair around the camp­fire and roast your marsh­mal­lows un­til the early hours be­fore re­tir­ing to your bunk.

But for those who want more ad­ven­ture, you’ve come to the right place. The name says it all. This is Dibba’s cen­tre for all things ad­ven­tur­ous – climb­ing, kayak­ing, div­ing, moun­tain bik­ing and cany­on­ing. The Ad­ven­ture House is run by a bunch of out­door en­thu­si­asts, and there is a whole load of guided ac­tiv­i­ties for you to try, from a two-hour poo­tle around town on a bike, to a half-day moun­tain trek.

INFO: From Dh1,950 per night for up to six guests for a weekend in high sea­son. Con­tact dibba@ad­ven­ture.ae or visit www.ad­ven­ture.ae.

2Mu­san­dam with Dol­phin Khasab Tours

This is far more than just a camp­ing trip – this is an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ad­ven­ture that sees you cruise the fjords of Oman’s Mu­san­dam Penin­sula tak­ing in over­whelm­ingly dra­matic scenery, snorkelling, chas­ing dol­phins and spend­ing the night un­der can­vas on a re­mote beach.

Dol­phin Khasab Tours col­lects you from Khasab har­bour, the main har­bour within this small bite-sized Omani en­clave, where you’ll board a tra­di­tional wooden dhow to spend the day ex­plor­ing what is dubbed the ‘Nor­way of the Mid­dle East’. Al­though there is no ev­i­dence of glaciers hav­ing gouged th­ese fjords within a land­scape that is grey, bar­ren and aus­tere, the sheer moun­tain­ous cliffs plum­met­ing into the sea, the jagged, sun-bleached rocks and the de­serted coves are just as mes­meris­ing as any Nor­we­gian pic­ture post­card.

And, as if the scenery were not enough, you’ll be ac­com­pa­nied by schools of play­ful dol­phins duck­ing and div­ing as you ply through the wa­ter – loads of them.

The cruise will take you passed the his­toric Tele­graph Is­land (the for­mer Bri­tish com­mu­ni­ca­tion base in the re­gion) and the iso­lated vil­lages of Nadafi, Qanaha, Maqlab and Sham – vil­lages frozen in time in an area that

seems un­aware that the cen­tury has even turned. At 4pm you’ll be trans­ferred from the dhow into a speed­boat and taken to one of the many small sandy beaches where you’ll spend the night.

Muslin tents (they look flimsy but they are per­fect for keep­ing cool and they are taller than nor­mal camp­ing tents, mean­ing you can stand up in them), sleep­ing bags, chairs, ta­bles, elec­tric­ity, fire­wood, a por­ta­ble loo and even a fresh wa­ter bag for bathing are all set up for you.

If you’re lucky, no other party will join you on ‘your’ beach – there are lots of sandy coves to choose from, so most par­ties cruise along the coast un­til they find their own pri­vate spot. If you pre­fer, you can even choose to stay on the dhow for the night. Plus, you can ei­ther bring your own food to cook on the bar­be­cue or Dol­phin Khasab Tours can rus­tle this up for you. In fact, they’re happy to tai­lor-make the tour to your lik­ing. You’ll be re­turned to Khasab har­bour the fol­low­ing morn­ing by 10am.

INFO: From Dhs550 per adult, chil­dren (aged four to eight) Dh275. Call 0096 82 673 0813 or visit www.dol­phinkhasab­tours.com.

3Liwa Desert with Abu Dhabi Ad­ven­ture Tours

Ven­ture where few have gone be­fore – into the Empty Quar­ter, or Rub’ Al Khali as it is lo­cally known – the world’s largest un­in­ter­rupted desert. Flow­ing through Oman, Saudi Ara­bia, the Ye­men and the UAE, this ocean of sand was first ex­plored by the fa­mous Eto­nian ex­plorer Wil­fred Th­e­siger with a car­a­van of camels and group of Be­douin back in 1945.

Still to­day, ven­tur­ing too far into the Liwa Desert is not some­thing to be done on a whim, but it can be if you put your­selves in the hands of Abu Dhabi Ad­ven­ture Tours.

So, don your khakis and dis­cover for your­self some of the tallest sand dunes in the world and the bizarre rock for­ma­tions of Sad­dle Rock, the An­cient Fos­sil Rocks and Camel Rocks. With rolling waves of sand stretch­ing all around you, you’ll dis­cover that this des­o­late place is teem­ing with life and, as the sun tra­verses the sky cast­ing its myr­iad of golden colours on the dunes, you’ll agree that this place is as breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful as it is haunt­ingly hos­tile.

The highly ex­pe­ri­enced driv­ers at the helm of their Toy­ota Land Cruis­ers make small work of the dunes, see­ing you roller-coaster and surf the waves.

This is a pri­vate tour for a min­i­mum of four peo­ple per car, so ex­pe­ri­ences can be tai­lored to each group – if you want dune bash­ing or sand board­ing that can be on the cards, but if you pre­fer a more leisurely sail across the sand that’s OK too.

Camp is set up with all the gear pro­vided – in­clud­ing a bar­be­cue chicken din­ner and shisha. Tents are pro­vided of course, but many peo­ple choose just to sleep out­side be­side the camp­fire. It’s then over to the night sky to pro­vide the evening en­ter­tain­ment as a vel­vety blan­ket of stars light up Liwa.

The next morn­ing you’ll watch a mag­i­cal sun rise be­fore head­ing back to the cap­i­tal for noon.

INFO: from Dh3,000 for min­i­mum of four peo­ple. To book call 055 357 0011 or visit www.abud­habi­ad­ven­ture.com.

5Dubai Desert Con­ser­va­tion Re­serve with Ara­bian Adventures

Camp­ing with camels, oryx and gazelles is pos­si­ble within the Dubai Desert Con­ser­va­tion Re­serve, about 45km south­east of the city cen­tre. With the re­serve only ac­ces­si­ble to au­tho­rised tour op­er­a­tors, Ara­bian Adventures has its own, per­ma­nent camp within the area for its Ara­bian Dreams Overnight Sa­fari guests (sep­a­rate from the Be­douin camp that en­ter­tains day trip­pers with belly dancers and henna pain­ters).

As ex­pected from this desert gi­ant of a tour op­er­a­tor, ev­ery­thing is well thought out. In fact, this camp has only re­cently been com­pletely re­fur­bished and opened in De­cem­ber. The em­pha­sis is on lux­ury: the eight per­ma­nent tents sleep two peo­ple and come with a queen-sized bed with linen and tow­els. In fact, all you’ll need to re­mem­ber to take is your tooth­brush – which you can use in the bath­rooms that come with all mod cons. You’ll even be col­lected from your door in the late af­ter­noon ar­riv­ing in the desert in time for an ex­hil­a­rat­ing dune drive and to be able to ap­pre­ci­ate the sun­set.

A lav­ish din­ner is pro­vided of bar­be­cued meats and sweet treats and in the morn­ing you’ll en­joy a full Amer­i­can break­fast – af­ter you’ve watch the mag­i­cal sun­rise, of course.

Even bet­ter, you can be back in Dubai by mid-morn­ing – but not be­fore you’ve been taken on a gen­tle sa­fari of the re­serve to learn about the flora and fauna.

INFO: From Dh1,790 per cou­ple. Call 04 214 4888 or visit www.ara­bi­anad­ven­tures.com.

4Dream­land Aqua Park, Umm Al Quwain

For those who can’t get enough of wa­ter­parks, this is lit­er­ally a dream land. Most of us know the UAE’s old­est and most fam­ily-favourite water­park, but we may not be aware that guests can also camp on-site, in ei­ther air-con­di­tioned wooden chalets or in tents.

All the gear is pro­vided, from your BBQ to airbed mat­tresses, pil­lows and sleep­ing bags. This is camp­ing on a full-board ba­sis – break­fast, lunch and BBQ din­ner are in­cluded. In fact, you and your party will be given a cooler box heav­ing with a very gen­er­ous help­ing of shish taouk that you can cook your­self when­ever you wish af­ter the park closes at 6pm. Even af­ter a full day on the rides, campers get ac­cess to a des­ig­nated pool un­til 1am, or they can choose to sim­ply sit around their camp­fires while the kids play ball games on the grass just me­tres away from the Twist­ing Dragons and Hip­pos’ Is­land!

INFO: From Dh550 for a week­day night for two adults, or Dh800 for a fam­ily of two adults and two chil­dren. For avail­abil­ity call 06 768 1888, email info@dream­lan­duea.com or visit www.dream­lan­d­uae.com.

TRAVEL

Snorkel among

the dol­phins be­fore camp­ing

on the beach

From kayak­ing to cany­on­ing, this is the spot for all things

ad­ven­tur­ous

It’s easy to see why Mu­san­dam is com­pared to Nor­way

Ad­ven­ture Tours

will tai­lor this pri­vate trip to suit

your fancy

TRAVEL

Many campers cruise along the coast un­til they find their own

pri­vate spot

Ara­bian Adventures has its own camp, com­plete with tents con­tain­ing queen­size beds

Even af­ter a full day of rides, campers

get ac­cess to a des­ig­nated pool late

into the night

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