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7 thrilling water activities in Abu Dhabi

Just off the mainland, on an island in the Arabian Gulf, sits the city of Abu Dhabi. While this modern metropolis is well-known for its gleaming skyscrapers, palatial hotels and impressive shopping malls, if you take the time to look beyond, you'll soon discover that the UAE capital is full of seaside surprises. 

There are so many water sports and beach activities in Abu Dhabi to enjoy including hiring out a jet ski, white water rafting and even kayaking through awe-inspiring natural landscapes.  Scroll down to find some of the top-rated experiences in the emirate!

1. Kayak around one of the world’s urban wonders

Kayaking around the stunning Louvre Abu Dhabi is one of the city’s most popular activities! Sea Hawk Water Sports offers this once-in-a-lifetime hour-long excursion, with no prior experience necessary. You'll be accompanied by professional instructors and given a safety and paddle briefing before the tour starts. Kids between the ages of 6 and 12 need to be accompanied by an adult or guardian.

2. Slide down the world’s first and largest tornado waterslide

If you're looking for a full day of belly laughs and heart-pumping fun and one of the best places to go with kids, Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi is your place. This Emirati-themed waterpark spans 15 football pitches with over 40 rides, slides and attractions perfect for all ages. Try your hand at the world-first, largest hydromagnetic-powered, 238-metre long, six-person tornado waterslide, Dawwamma, or check out three-metre-high waves on Bubbles Barrel, which boasts the world's biggest surfable sheet wave for flow boards and bodyboards.

3. Enjoy a dip in azure waters

Abu Dhabi is an archipelago made up of hundreds of islands, with its rich coastline being home to one of the world's most stunning agate-hued coastlines (Google Earth Abu Dhabi for a visual treat). If you love a swim in the sea, you will be pleased to know that not only is the water in this part of the world gentle, but it's also the perfect temperature year-round.

Some of the best beaches in Abu Dhabi include Saadiyat Beach and the private beach at Saadiyat Beach Club - both of which play active roles in the protection and conservation of endangered Hawksbill turtles - Corniche Beach, Yas Beach, Al Bateen Beach, Mirfa Beach and the private beaches at Nation Riviera Beach Club and Intercontinental Bayshore.

4. Kayak in a protected island reserve

Desert Islands Watersports Centre is situated at the jaw-dropping Sir Bani Yas Island, one of eight islands making up the desert islands of Al Dhafra and a nature-based destination home to stunning wildlife, family-friendly adventure, five-star boutique hotels, luxury villas, purpose-built stables and historical sites.

One of the treasures of this trip is the chance to kayak along numerous routes through the area's non-fishing zone that stretches 8km from the shores of the island's incredible nature-based wildlife reserve. The waters around this life-giving island are teeming with marine flora and fauna unique to the region, also allowing for some of the world's best snorkelling and diving.

5. Glide through the water on Nurai Island

There is something wonderfully idyllic about taking time out on a private boutique island, which is exactly what you can do at Zaya Nurai Island. Perched in the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf, to the east of the Abu Dhabi coastline and a short 15-minute boat ride from the shores of the city, it's hard to believe that this peaceful, paradisiacal island is so close to the city. 

This is a playground for the young and the young at heart, with an ultra-luxurious resort offering visiting and staying guests a range of watersports, including scuba diving, snorkelling, jet skiing, water skiing, SUP, fly-fishing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, banana rides and more.

6. Spot a wealth of wildlife in the mangroves

Not many people know, but Abu Dhabi boasts some of the planet's most unique and important ecosystems: mangroves. Home to crabs, herons, flamingos, fish, turtles, foraging foxes, dugongs and dolphins, Mangrove National Park is the perfect place to escape the bustle of the city.

Explore this fascinating natural landscape in a kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard. Access this experience at Eastern Mangroves Marina, adjacent to the five-star Anantara Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi Hotel. You'll be able to book kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing and other water-based tours to explore the lush mangroves from here.

7. Speed down man-made white water rafting channels

Looking for a dose of adventure travel? A little more inland, Wadi Adventure is a fantastic family-friendly adventure park that sits at the base of the majestic and history-rich Jebel Hafit mountain, Abu Dhabi's tallest peak about an hour and a half away from the city in Al Ain. This epic spot is home to the Middle East's first man-made white water rafting channels, measuring 1,100 metres in length and perfect for rafting and kayaking.

Families and groups of friends will love it here, but it's also great for team building and corporate events. Sports professionals from around the world regularly visit the park, which also provides training programmes and complete packages, including accommodation and airport transfers.

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