Ferries serving Abu Dhabi’s Dalma Island will depart from a new port from Tuesday in anticipation of growing visitor numbers.
Marsa Jebel Al Dhanna has replaced Mugharag Port as the only way to travel to the island on the emirate’s public ferries.
The new site in the Al Dhafra region is more suited to tourism as only light vehicles are allowed in, unlike Mugharag Port, which is a commercial centre with heavy lorries and large vehicles a frequent sight on its quays.
Marsa Jebel Al Dhanna is about 259 kilometres west of Abu Dhabi in the Al Dhafra region and Dalma Island is about 40km off the coast. The new location will be familiar to some, as the ferry to Sir Bani Yas island leaves from a berth nearby.
Abu Dhabi’s Integrated Transport Centre said the move was to ensure a smoother experience for visitors and will boost maritime services in the Al Dhafra region.
“The transfer... is part of a long-term plan to develop the maritime transport infrastructure to serve the continuous increase [of] ferry users,” it said.
Three return services are operated daily from Saturday to Thursday and twice a day on Fridays. It costs Dh20 one way for anyone over 12 and a vehicle costs Dh100. The journey takes less than two hours.
The ferry change comes as authorities make a sustained push to attract more tourists to the islands and Al Dhafra region. Plans were announced in June to make Mirfa – a town about halfway between Abu Dhabi and Jebel Dhanna – an ecotourism destination.
As part of Abu Dhabi’s Ghadan 21 stimulus package, it is envisaged that Mirfa could become a centre for snorkelling and birdwatching. Plans for smaller, sustainable bungalow-style hotels have also been proposed.
It is envisaged that some of islands could form part of a wider “island hopping” tour network.
Sir Bani Yas is already known as an important nature reserve, with people visiting to see giraffes, cheetah and Arabian oryx. The island also has a cruise terminal.
Dalma Island, meanwhile, is less developed and has a population of just under 5,000. But the island has a rich fishing and pearl diving tradition and is slowly becoming a tourist destination.
Many visit the island during the winter to camp on its pristine beaches. A small museum showcases its maritime past and colourful mosques are dotted around the island, while a small hotel serves guests. Dhow racing there is common.
“The infrastructure has been designed with the potential of expanding it in the future if needed,” transport chiefs said of the new ferry port.
A few weeks after the Ghadan announcement, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region, toured areas including Dalma Island, to assess the region’s development plans and support its residents.