Staycation at Al Wadi Desert Resort - Ras Al Khaimah UAE

 
dubaialwadi2017-1975.jpg
 
 

Contributor:
Andy

Nationality:
Australian

Social Links:
Instagram: @andrewmarty_

Age Group:
30-40 years

Gender:
Male

Travel Style:
Casual travel
Family travel

 

Destination: Al Wadi Desert, Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
August 2017

Inspiration:

We wanted to go on a short "staycation" following the birth of our son and Al Wadi Desert is only a short drive from Dubai for us. We had heard good things about it being a nice escape from the city and unique in that it is located out in the desert - so we jumped online and made a booking.

Getting There:

Al Wadi Desert is only around an hours drive from Downtown Dubai and is located in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. It is relatively easy to find and is well marked on Google Maps.

 
 

Local Knowledge:

The resort was previously part of Banyan Tree, however since the start of 2017 has been under the management of the Ritz-Carlton group. Since taking over, they have put a lot of work into improving the property - from renovating the accomodation, re-developing the grounds and constructing new restaurants. Many of the works were still in progress, which did limit some of the experiences when we visited, however when completed they will be a significant improvement.

Where To Stay:

We stayed in one of the single bedroom villas. They are really spacious with an enormous bathroom overlooking a small private garden. They are really nicely set out inside and extremely comfortable! By far the most impressive part is that the villa opens out onto your own private deck and plunge pool overlooking the desert. We visited in August when it was still really quite warm, so looking out over the sand dunes from the cool waters of the pool was a real treat.

They are renovating the larger tented villas that look even more spacious.

What To Do:

The nature reserve covers an area of more than 500 hectares, providing a great example of true arabian desert without having to venture far from luxury. 

There is a host of activities available including archery, bike-riding, falconry, fishing, star-gazing and horse-riding. For a more traditional desert experience, guests can take a camel ride through the dunes. The reserve has populations of many of the native animals - arabian oryx, gazelle, desert hedgehogs, red fox, reptiles and a huge variety of birds. Each day there is an interactive falcon show where guests can get an up close look at this highly revered bird of Arabian culture.

 
dubaialwadi2017-1929.jpg
 

The Al Wadi Spa has a full list treatment options, including a unique rainforest circuit experience that has hydrotherapy stations of alternating pressures and temperatures. It's a novel way to refresh yourself after a day of exploring in the desert.

Eating:

Your dining options are essentially limited to those at the resort. There are currently 2 feature restaurants - Indian cuisine at Samar Lounge and western inspired at Kaheela. We dined at Kaheela and the food was really nice. We also had the in-room dining for lunch and the menu is more than adequate. For us, this was perfect - sitting by the plunge pool, enjoying a traditional arabic mixed grill.

The resort also offers some unique outdoor dining options - at the top the watchtowers, a bedouin experience in the dunes or a picnic hamper you can take yourself. As we had a young child and the temperatures were still really hot, we chose the options closer to air conditioning.

dubaialwadi2017-1906.jpg

They were also in the process of completing a new steak restaurant close to the small lake.

The meals were quite pricey for what you would get outside the resort or even in Dubai.

Must Do:

Definitely taking the opportunity to explore the reserve - whether on foot, vehicle or the unique experience of being on the back of the camel. Even living in Dubai, we seldom really get the chance to see the true desert, especially some of the native wildlife. 

Must See:

Desert sunsets can be spectacular! Whilst it was still quite hazy, things will start to clear up as the temperatures fall. There are some great vantage points, but from the top of Al Wadi Tower is a great place to get a good look over the reserve at sunset

dubaialwadi2017-1945.jpg

5 Word Travel:

Desert. Staycation. Close to Dubai.

 

The Palm Dubai, UAE - Sky Dive Dubai

 

Contributor    : Andrew
Nationality     : Australian
Instagram       @andrewmarty_
Age                 : 30-40
Gender           : Male
Travel Style    : Casual, luxury
Destination    : Sky Dive Dubai - The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai - United Arab Emirates.
Date               : February 14th 2014

 
 

Getting There

You will need to pre-book your skydive, especially in the busy months of the year (October to March). Fortunately in Dubai, where the weather is mostly pretty good, your chance of a successful booking is high. There can often be waits of 1-2 weeks, so it can be important to plan if you want a certain time or day.

They have a plane taking off every 30mins through the day.

SkyDive Dubai is at the base of the Palm Jumeirah, with the runway extending out into the water. This gives you the perfect location to skydive over one of the most iconic landmarks and one of the only ways you can really appreciate the "palm" shape of the reclaimed land.

The cost is AED1999.00 (USD730). This includes everything you need for the skydive as well as your video and images.

Local Knowledge

Dubai has a huge number of activities for tourists, from calm cultural experiences to adrenaline rush adventures! Whatever your preference you are sure to find something that suits.

In addition to the skydive over the Palm, there is the option with SkyDive Dubai to do training courses, tandem jumps and simulations at the Desert Campus. Licensed divers can take qualified persons on coached individual dives.

For the most part, you will be booking for a tandem dive, where a licensed instructor is strapped to you, or vice versa!

Where To Stay

SkyDive Dubai is relatively close to hotels on the Palm Jumeirah and also the JBR/Dubai Marina area. I would strongly recommend Fairmont The Palm if you are looking for a Palm hotel - it is especially good for families and has access to a private beach area. Otherwise Intercontinental Dubai Marina is also very nice and sits on the marina, with easy walking distance to mall, restaurants and The Walk promenade.

Another alternative is to look at serviced apartments such as Suhar apartments. This can be a much more affordable option and are in a great location. Buying food or eating out is easy in this area and will easily offset the cost of hotel food also.

What To Do

The operation at SkyDive Dubai is really professional. From the time you check in for your jump to the time you leave. 

There is a bit of a wait between when you are required to arrive, fill out paperwork (the standard health questionaire and liability forms). They take you through all the safety aspects of the jump with your instructor. Each jumper is assigned an instructor and a videographer - this is a great feature that most places don't offer. You will get a personalised video and photos that are taken by another professional jumper, rather than selfies taken by your tandem instructor.

The jump itself is a massive adrenaline rush. Watch the video link to get a great idea. I don't think anything describes the feeling better than the obvious anxiety in my voice and facial expressions pre-jump compared with the excitement post!

On the way up in the plane, they make sure they keep you really relaxed and the guys are great at making sure you're ready to go! There was time for my wife and I to "enjoy" the pre-jump nerves and share the moment we were about to have! I was really fortunate to have a great pair of guys as my instructor and videographer, they made conversation really easy and even during the dive, the interaction was awesome!

The feeling of "falling" out of an aeroplane is indescribable. Fear, excitement, unknown, trust.......its a completely overwhelming combination of emotions that i really cant describe. The freefall goes so fast you don't really have any time to look at anything and it was great to have a bit of fun with the videographer. Once the parachute opens, you have plenty of time to sit back and take in the views. The view over the palm, out to the Burj al Arab, the Marina area and all the way up to Downtown is breathtaking. You can easily see well beyond the city and into the uninhabited desert. It is truly the best way to view Dubai!

After the landing they ask you to wait around for just 10-15 minutes and then provide you with a copy of CD's that contain still images and a video of your jump. As you will see, the video is really well done and whilst I haven't skydived anywhere else, I haven't seen quality videos like this provided to friends who have jumped in other places around the world.

Eating

There is a small cafe at SkyDive Dubai where you can get food and drinks after your jump. There is also a bar associated with SkyDive Dubai - Zero Gravity, that is really popular for staff and jumpers. 

Not far from SkyDive Dubai is the Marina and The Walk which have a number of options for eating out. I can strongly suggest looking at Pier 7 on the Marina, which is a 7 story building, each having a different themed restaurant. A great option is Asia Asia and getting a table outside on the balcony for really great views over the Marina.

5 Word Travel:

SkyDive. Dubai. Adrenaline. Bucket list.