Family Fun in the Desert

It had come to that point in the year where it was time to look for a holiday with my girlfriend and our 2 year old daughter. While searching through different holiday destinations and ideas, by chance a holiday flashed up as an alternative to an unmatched search I’d typed in. It was a holiday to the U.A.E stopping 7 nights in Fujairah and a couple of nights in Dubai. The price was very inviting and with travelling with a 2 year old we didn’t fancy a long travel with connecting flights. This seemed perfect and I hadn’t heard of Fujairah as a holiday destination before but after some research I also found out the divings not so bad here either. So we took the plunge and our holiday took us to the desert in the Middle East.

It was the longest flight journey we have been on with our young daughter and were a little apprehensive to how she would cope for 7 hours stuck on the plane. Thankfully when flying with emirates there’s plenty of room on the new Airbus, as well as entertainment to choose from on the screens for each seat. And Relax! With an overnight flight our daughter managed to sleep pretty much the whole journey. I don’t know what we were worried about and soon enough we were at our first hotel of the trip – Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah. 

Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah, UAE.

It’s hot here, like, seriously hot. So where better to be than a hotel with an array of pools to choose from to keep cool from the desert sun. Including the worlds biggest pool – our beautiful ocean. Situated on Al Aqah beach at the foot of the Hajar Mountains. With great sea views, a choice of bars and restaurants, a great outside pool area and friendly helpful staff. It’s ideal for the holiday we were looking for with our 2 year old daughter. The icing on the cake being Al Boom Dive Centre located on site. 

Al Boom Dive Centre is your one stop water sports adventure shop. Providing many activities such as parasailing, kayaking, snorkelling e.t.c. While also boasting a retail shop onsite with an array of the latest dive equipment on offer. The main reason for my visit to Al Boom would be the diving in the area. Regarded as the best diving in the U.A.E, you are a stones throw away from the Gulf of Oman in the Indian Ocean. With sites easily reachable no more than a 20 minute boat ride away it’s not long before you’re cooling down from the hot desert sun.

Range of equipment in Al Boom Dive Centre onsite at Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort

Our week in Fujairah was mainly spent entertaining our daughter who loved spending all day in the pool playing. Other than that it was indulging on the all inclusive package we had on our trip. Amazing food and attentive staff meant I came back half a stone heavier but hey what are holidays for? However I did manage to sneak off and get 4 dives in while I was here. With my first 2 dives we boarded the boat from the beach. An interesting adventure with the waves that come in along Al Aqah Beach. Timing was essential, as was good agility and fitness. It wasn’t long before this changed though as the waves sunk one of the boats the day after my first dives. The boat was luckily recovered it meant my second 2 dives were just a short 5 minute mini bus journey round to the marina for a much more comfortable step onboard the boat. 

The diving was very pleasant although the visibility wasn’t great. Unfortunately I think it is a common trait with diving here but I wasn’t here for hardcore diving. It was a family holiday where I could also enjoy getting back underwater and enjoy some tropical marine life. I have to say there was a lot of life to see as well. I started with a dive at Inchcape 1 where the vis was the worst of all the dives I’d done but the soft coral and life on the wreck was stunning. A short dive as the wreck is at 30 metres with only entry and exit from the mooring line. However I got the sense with better vis it would be even more enjoyable to explore. The lion fish were actively swimming around the wreck on this dive. There is a big temperature drop from the surface of around 30.c to below 5 metre. It drops rapidly and on this dive I got a reading of 23.c. I was in rash vest and shorts which was fine for the number of dives I was doing but anymore repetitive I’d look to get a wetsuit on.  

Poor visibility made the 1st dive at Inchcape 1 interesting. I was still able to spot some stunning soft coral on the wreck.

Dive 2 saw us go a little shallower to another artificial reef. This dive turned out to be the real highlight amongst all the dives. Again a lot of soft coral and life engulfed the artificial structures and old wreck. I had my macro lens on as I’d been told a seahorse is regularly spotted here. Apart from pygmy seahorse I’ve saw in Philippines, the more common type of seahorse has always remained elusive, even on dives we’ve specifically gone to look for them. So this really was the jackpot for me when the guide directed me to some soft coral and there was a beautiful seahorse around 6-10 inches in length. Seeing something new and getting a new experience underwater always makes the dives more special. It was a site that also provided cuttlefish, moray eels, lobster and my first electric ray. An amazing dive all round. 

A beautiful large seahorse made dive 2 the most memorable of the trip.

Dive 3 and 4 saw me visit the most popular sites of the area. Dibba Rock and Sharm Rocks are nice shallow dive sites perfect for all levels of scuba diver. Not so much soft coral along the rocks of these sites compared to the artificial reefs but again a lot of life to be found while exploring the sites. If you love cuttlefish then Fujairah is definitely a place to dive. In particular these 2 sites provided a lot of encounters as they either camouflaged into the surroundings or were saw free-swimming through the reef and above the sand. Sharm Rocks was my last dive and really delivered towards the end of the dive as 3 different turtles were spotted. The first being probably the biggest Hawksbill Turtle I’ve saw. It was was resting under an overhang and wasn’t deterred by my presence. The second being on of the smallest Hawksbills I’ve saw. Again undeterred by my presence as it gorged on the coral. Then as we worked our way to the safety stop this time a Green Sea Turtle left it’s resting place right in front of me to go get a breath of air at the surface. 

4 dives in some interesting visibility but with a lot of life to be found. 4 very enjoyable dives that were well worth the short time away from my family exploring a new part of the underwater world for me. A very nice week spent in Fujairah and it was now time for us to explore the more built up city of Dubai for land based adventures. 

Green Sea Turtle leaving it’s place of rest to get a breath of air at the surface.

After a short drive from east to west we were in Dubai at the Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Mall of The Emirates. A stones throw from the Mall of Emirates meant that we were only in the scorching July heat for 5 minutes before entering the cool air-con of the Mall. Plenty of shops for those interested in a bit of shopping to enjoy and lots of restaurants to choose from as well as a huge indoor ski slope. Skiing in the desert isn’t something I expected to say. We didn’t go to Ski Dubai ourselves but chose instead to take a short taxi ride to The Dubai Mall and visit the Dubai Aquarium. I do have a bit of a love/hate relationship with aquariums as I’d much prefer seeing the animals roaming free in the oceans. However for my 2 year old this isn’t possible to take her down and see what I see while diving. She does love seeing the underwater life and seeing my photos, so for her it’s an amazing adventure and hopefully it can inspire her to become an ocean advocate when she’s older. 

My daughter being introduced to the marine life I love so much. When she’s older I hope to take her into their natural habitat and really appreciate them wild and free.

We finished up the trip on our last night with an evening trip to the desert. Taking my 2 year old in a 4×4 onto the sand dunes was an adventure I’m glad we could share together. Even though some how she managed to fall asleep as we were bumping and drifting in the sand. We enjoyed a quick camel ride together before food and entertainment as the night drew in. It was a great few hours enjoying new adventures as a family. 

An amazing 10 day holiday we had as a family, which far exceeded our expectations. A lot was said to us about the concern for the heat in U.A.E in the summer. With a pool, the sea and every indoor space having air conditioning it was a concern that didn’t last long. A new destination to combine a family holiday and diving has just made it’s way on my list and I wouldn’t hesitate in returning. Fun in the desert sun. 

Watching the sun go down over the desert sand dunes. An amazing day out to add to any trip to Dubai and Fujairah.

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