It's my first time out on the water in Abu Dhabi, and the morning I'm due to get all nautical and touristy, the city is blanketed in fog. My trip with Yellow Boats on their new 90-minute tour of Abu Dhabi is scheduled for noon, but at 11.30am, it's still looking hazy at Emirates Palace Marina.
I meet Danny Zephyrin, my skipper, who’s originally from the Seychelles. As we board the boat, the skies become clearer, just in time. There are only four people on the tour, but it’s a Friday, which Zephyrin explains is the reason it’s quieter.
We’re given a briefing and shown how to secure our life jackets before our vessel – a rigid inflatable watercraft that can take up to 10 people – cruises out of the marina. A few minutes in, Zephyrin says: “If we’re lucky, we might even see some dolphins.” Right on cue, about 20 metres from us, two humpback dolphins are frolicking in the water.
After watching our new friends intently for a few minutes, we set off for open waters, already content that the trip has been a success.
Abu Dhabi is more stunning than I thought it could be from the water. As we make our way around the point, we get a first-hand look at the Presidential Palace, other royal palaces and Adnec. Perhaps the most impressive sight, though, is the view of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – uninterrupted, at its stunning best. As we pull back into the marina at the end of the tour, I’m convinced from the water is one of the best ways to see the UAE, and at speeds of up to 30 knots, it’s a great way to let your hair down.
The next afternoon, while the nautical bug is still biting, I head to Eastern Mangroves Marina, where I’m meeting Belevari Marine’s boss Berend Lens van Rijn. When I arrive, he ushers me onto an Eco-Donut boat, one of those floating round-roofed contraptions that I have been keen to try. Looking at the ones already floating in the mangroves, I know this experience is going to be a more tranquil one. It’s 4.30pm, and the Eco-Donut, which seats up to five people, meanders down the waterway by the promenade. It’s solar-powered, but also has a small engine and gearstick used to manoeuvre us around.
Immediately, I feel relaxed, and take a deep breath as birds soar around us. You would never know we were just behind the main highway – there’s no traffic noise, and the boat’s engine doesn’t make a sound, either.
Lens van Rijn tells me the boats are popular with tourists and residents, and as the Sun sets and the full Moon begins to rise, it’s easy to see why. I ask myself why it has taken me so long to get out on the water – I’m a confirmed boater, now.
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