Mangrove kayaking in Abu Dhabi does not list on one's itinerary when travelling to the UAE and it is a pity because it is one of the very few experiences in the country that take you close to the rugged nature. As an outdoor enthusiast who loves adventure, I am quite surprised that I didn't get myself to experience this superb activity before, despite having lived in the UAE for over 7 years. This winter, when the weather began to improve, I decided to get myself out there to explore the amazing Eastern Mangrove Lagoon National Park in Abu Dhabi.
Although Dubai & Abu Dhabi are more popular for the desert safaris and cruises, what a lot of people do not know is that a unique marine ecosystem exists in this hidden part of the capital city, where kayaking in the calm lagoon waters, amidst a coastal forest, can be an extremely exciting, yet slightly challenging experience. Mangrove kayaking in Abu Dhabi is a unique activity meant for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers.
What to expect when Mangrove Kayaking in Abu Dhabi
First of all, kayaking is an activity that requires a fair amount of arm strength, so be prepared for a good upper body workout! Even if you have not experienced kayaking before, I would encourage you to try it out. There is a short briefing session before the tour begins, which is a good introduction to the basics of kayaking - how to manoeuvre the kayak in a certain direction, how to signal your tour guide in case of an emergency, how to start or stop the kayak, or get yourself out of the swamp with ease. It is not rocket science, but it can be slightly challenging when the mangroves become extremely narrow with hardly any space to move your paddles.
Choose between tandem or solo kayaking: You have the option of taking a kayak entirely for yourself or with a partner. If you're not very confident of your strength and rowing capabilities, it is always better to choose a tandem kayaking tour. However, syncronising between the kayaking partners is a skill you'll have to learn to master if you want the kayak to move in the right direction, and with a good speed!
Pay attention to the briefing: The waters of the lagoon are fairly calm and thus easier to kayak in. However, make sure you pay attention to the briefing by the qualified instructors, as there are times that you may not be able to keep up with the entire group and might lose sight of the professionals. Enjoy the amazing views, kayak at a comfortable pace but be safe! Rest assured, the instructors will make sure to keep you within their sight at all times. Do focus on the safety instructions before you begin the tour.
The guided tour lasts for 1.5 hours: Although experienced kayakers can rent a kayak and explore the mangroves on their own if you're not very confident or do not know the area well, I'd recommend you to go for a guided tour. However, be prepared to kayak for 1.5 hours with only one short break (a visit to the island on your way back from the mangrove forests). It can be tiring but totally worth it!
The mangroves can get very narrow: Most of the tour will take you through a wide lagoon with mangroves on both sides but with ample distance to allow you to comfortably paddle the kayak. However, should you choose to explore the very interiors with the help of your tour guide, be prepared to paddle through extremely narrow inlets which aren't the easiest to manoeuvre in but are sure to give you a rush! The excitement is in finding your way amidst the low lying trees, the narrow waters and small marine wildlife. You can, however, choose to kayak only in the open, wider waters and not navigate the forests, if you're not comfortable. I'd recommend to get your adventure on, and go for it!
What to carry for Mangrove Kayaking in Abu Dhabi
You will most likely get splashed so I recommend you to be in swimwear or bring a change of clothes. A hat, some sunscreen, waterproof shoes or sturdy slippers and a wet bag to store your belongings would be a great idea. Drinking water is available on site and you can carry it in a bottle if you like. Also, a towel to wipe yourself later would help. Sunglasses are a great idea, especially if you're doing the afternoon tour. You would want to carry a camera or phone for lovely pictures but it is likely to get wet so its best to carry it in a protective waterproof bag. Lifejackets are provided.
How to book Mangrove Kayaking in Abu Dhabi
My tour was through Al Mahara Diving Centre that provides several options of Mangrove Kayaking in Abu Dhabi to choose from (such as sunset tour, full moon tour, etc). The guides are absolutely amazing and the tour group is usually kept small which provides a personalised, well-conducted experience overall.
I personally recommend their Sunset Tour as you'll get some really incredible views!
The prices: AED 160 per person for adults & AED 110 per person for kids for a guided tour.
For an unguided tour, AED 160 per tandem kayak rental and AED 110 for single kayak rental.
Disclaimer: Although my Mangrove Kayaking in Abu Dhabi was sponsored by Al Mahara Diving Centre, the opinions in this post are my genuine views on the activity.