The great outdoors: Adventures in Dubai

Balloon Adventures in Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 09 January 2019
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The great outdoors: Adventures in Dubai

  • The cooler weather in Dubai calls for some adventure
  • Enjoy different kinds of activities available throughout the city

DUBAI:Those living in the UAE have been enjoying the cooler months recently, but blink and it will all soon be over to make way for Ramadan and then the summer months (speaking of which, where did 2018 go?).
The great weather provides the chance to sign up for new activities and tick experiences off the bucket list. So, give the beach a miss one weekend (or on your next staycation), and try something new instead. We managed to cross the following off in 48 hours.

XLine Dubai Marina
Most people explore Dubai Marina via the walkways or from a venue’s balcony, but nothing matches checking it out from the sky.
XLine Dubai Marina had been on my list for the longest time, but I never quite got around to signing up for it. Until I was challenged to take it on — so, challenge accepted!
For those familiar with the original zip-line experience over Dubai Fountain in Downtown, the second version of the ride is arguably better, since it’s twice the distance and features a double line, meaning you can share the experience with a friend. There are prerequisites: participants must be aged 12 to 65, taller than 130cm, and weigh between 50 and 100kg.
Nothing quite prepares you for just how high the starting point — from one of the Amwaj Towers — is: 170 meters above the ground. And that’s probably the scariest part, since you’re left to look over the building’s edge while the staff check all the harnesses and safety equipment. But once they let you go, it’s a feeling like no other — flying over the water and roads of Dubai Marina at an average speed of 80 km/hr. It’s over before you know it, and you’ll want to do it again. Not recommended for those with a fear of heights, obviously.

XDubai Slingshot
If being launched up into the air is more your thing than a downward trip, then XDubai has a different experience for you at Kite Beach. This human slingshot sees you strapped in, suspended four meters up, pulled up to 40 meters back, then fired through the air. Within half a second, you can reach 100 km/hr, experiencing acceleration of up to 4 g. Oh, yes.
Don’t worry, you won’t go flying off into the sea — you remain strapped in at all times. But prepare to go back and forth for a bit. Consider it an extreme swing.

Laguna Water Park
All that flying around will leave you wanting to cool down, and close to Kite Beach is the outdoor retail and dining area La Mer Dubai, which is now also home to the city’s latest waterpark, Laguna. This family-friendly venue is split into four themed areas: Relax, Slide, Splash and Surf. Some are suitable for all, while others are for those who prefer a bit of adventure.
One of the highlights is the Free Fall, where you enter a glass capsule and wait for the ‘trap door’ to open underneath you. Cue a long drop into the splashdown lane.

Balloon Adventures Dubai
The early wake-up call is worth it. Balloon Adventures offers a lovely experience, including a falconry show and breakfast in the desert. Once you’re out over the dunes, you’ll experience sunrise in the emirate and share airspace with one of nature’s most beautiful birds, the falcon (who comes along for the ride as the show takes place from the sky).
Note to editor: EMBED VIDEO (for web version, if you like): https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=42&v=byibbyGOvDQ

Motiongate Dubai
Finish off the day with an evening at Dubai Parks & Resorts, where my personal highlight, Motiongate Dubai, is based (Bollywood Parks comes a close second). It’s probably the closest thing you’ll find to Disneyland or Universal Studios in the region, and is definitely worth a visit. Attractions include DreamWorks, featuring rides based on “Kung Fu Panda,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Madagascar,” and “Shrek.” Then there’s Columbia Pictures, home to Hotel Transylvania, Zombieland Blast-off, and Ghostbusters: Battle for New York. The little ones will love Smurfs Village, with its Woodland play park, and Smurfberry Factory.

Top Tip
Of course, all these experiences can add up, but you can get much more for less via the new Dubai Pass, available online. This discount card offers two packages — one with three experiences for up to 50 percent less than regular prices, and the other combining 33 experiences for up to 60 percent less.


Chill out: top cities for a cold winter break

Get planning that all-important vacation now. (Shutterstock)
Updated 11 September 2019

Chill out: top cities for a cold winter break

DUBAI: Yes, we know, the summer holidays have barely ended. So is now really the time to discuss winter breaks? Well, we all need something to get us through the daily grind, right? And visualizing your next escape is a good way to beat those back-to-work (or –school) blues. Here are a few suggestions for great places to visit for a true ‘winter wonderland’ experience.

Bergen, Norway

Thanks to its coastal location near the Gulf Stream, the ancient city of Bergen can be up to 20 degrees warmer than Norway’s capital, Oslo, in the winter. (NB: It can still get very cold.) It’s a ridiculously picturesque location surrounded by astonishing scenery, from the mountains to the east to the fjords to the west. Its docks are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Vienna, Austria

The Austrian capital is so beautiful in the wintertime that it’s more like an artist’s imagining of a perfect winter scene than an actual place. And despite the temperatures, there is plenty to do and see even on the coldest days in this wonderful old city. It’s a great place all year round, but we’d recommend a visit to the winter market to really experience the magic of this place.

Bolzano, Italy

This unsung gem, located in a valley near the Dolomites range of the Italian Alps, might look like a typical provincial city, but as Lonely Planet says, Bolzano is “worldly and engaged, a long-time conduit between cultures.” Even if you don’t venture into the mountains themselves, at least take a cable car into the hills and enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery. It’s also a popular city for winter shopping, and Italians know how to shop.

Minneapolis, USA

It’s not the most obvious place to visit if you’re heading to America, but Minneapolis really shines in the winter. Aside from its numerous indoor options for culture-vultures and foodies (and its miles of climate-controlled pedestrian footbridges connecting much of downtown), the city is home to the Great Northern Festival (begins Jan. 23, 2020) — a 10-day celebration combining the premier winter events in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul’s, which includes carnivals, hockey championships, live shows and more, much of which is free.

Abisko, Sweden

This small town, north of the Arctic circle in Swedish Lapland, is just next to the stunning 75-square-kilometer Abisko National Park, which is widely recognized as possibly the best place in the world from which to view the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). As well as reindeer and lemmings, the park hosts the Aurora Sky Station — situated on Mt. Njullà — a site specifically created to ensure the best possible environment in which to view the phenomenon.