Third time camping in the UAE and we thought we were seasoned veterans but boy do we still have so much to learn!
Our first practice run on Jebel Ali beach in the oppressive October heat was quite a learning experience in so many ways that our second camping trip to Dibba benefited much from it although we did get our SUV stuck in the sand but hey – now we know that we have to (1) deflate our tires before driving on soft sand and to (2) always bring a tow rope.
This time we headed back towards the East coast to the Al Aqah area of Fujairah. The plan was to camp close to Snoopy Island so that we could do a bit of snorkeling from the beach to the island.
Before heading to our camp site, we decided to first do a bit of wadi bashing!
Actually, I don’t know if driving at 10km per hour (6 mph) constitutes as “bashing” but I did live vicariously through my friends Rob and Ruth who revved their engines up to a whole 40km!
We weren’t seasoned off-roaders so all that rock and gravel and bumpiness plus a sleeping toddler in the back seat made us drive a little more cautious that we probably should have in our SUV.
Our wadis of choice were Wadi Sidr and Wadi Sana. The landscape wasn’t too exciting – just rocks and more rocks but at least it was hilly and it’s always nice to get out of the flatness that is Dubai.
We saw a lots of goats and a few camels on the drive up. Once camel was so still that Scotch thought it was a statue.
When we finally reached the top of the wadis, we could see all the way to Dibba. It was quite windy and hazy but a nice view and refreshing breeze.
After taking a few moments to enjoy the scenery, sneaking in a quick snack of bread, pate, cheese and salami, it was time to continue our drive to the coast and set up camp.
When we arrived at Al Aqah by Snoopy Island, the camping spots closest to Snoopy were either already taken or weren’t nice at all. We ended up camping a bit up from Snoopy alongside the Le Meridien Al Aqah. It seemed like a good idea at the time…
A few campers decided to take a dip in the sea and reported back that there were lots of jelly fish in the water. But not to worry about being stung as they were all dead!
Soon, we started to notice that the sea water was turning darker and darker – almost black. And then we smelled it – petrol. There must have been some kind of oil spill in the area: dead sea life, petrol smell, oil stains on the bottom of Scotch’s trousers…No more swimming for us that weekend – Grr!
So we turned our attention to food and the boys started up our first campfire and BBQ.
I say “first” because the tide started to come in and wiped out our BBQ pit. So we moved the fire a little further back but alas, that too went with the tide.
At this point, there was a bit of panic as we all started to realize that the tide was coming in fast and was getting closer and closer to our tents. Confident that we could stay put and not have to completely relocate, we moved our cars out of the area and dragged our tents as far back as we could – which was about 10 feet (3 meters) as we had camped in front of a construction fence. Whoops.
When all the moving was done and the pandemonium had subsided, we all settled in to our third (and final) campfire to enjoy what was left of dinner.
The wind had greatly picked up and was lifting some of the tents off the ground – including ours which had Wee Scotch’s travel cot inside. At that point in time, I think my husband and I would have abandoned ship except that we had both been drinking and didn’t want to risk driving.
As luck would have it, the fence that had prevented us from moving further up the beach allowed us to tie down our tents to it. So although the wind was still quite fierce and continually blew sand into my food (not yum), at least our tents were finally secured and Wee Scotch was able to go to bed and we could enjoy some peace and quiet around the campfire.
The night club that is the Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort began spinning its club music which progressively got louder and louder as the night wore on. And then, as I was about to fall asleep, BOOM BOOM, came the fireworks. I suppose if I had been looking for a camp site to party on it wouldn’t have been so bad but I was actually looking forward to some peace and quiet, stargazing, and a good night’s sleep. By the way, if you are into stargazing, don’t plan a camping trip during a full moon – too bright!
The next morning, the wind had died down significantly, Wee Scotch slept through all of it (thank goodness!) and a bunch of weary campers began to make breakfast and enjoy some lovely Taiwanese tea made complete with Chinese teapots and tea cups.
Despite all our challenges, or perhaps because of all the challenges, the camping trip was actually quite a fun one. It’s always nice to be able to hang out and share the experience with good friends. Shame about the swimming and snorkeling but we didn’t mind too much and as you can seen from Wee Scotch’s face, he still enjoyed himself playing in the sand.
After a breakfast of steak, pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages, we broke down the camp site and did a bit of sightseeing to Khor Kalba before heading back to Dubai.
On our way to Khor Kalba, we drove through Bidiyah and visited Bidiyah mosque which is the oldest mosque in the UAE. Officially called Al Masjid Al Othmani, it is still in use today and is thought to date back 600 years to the middle of the 15th century.
Khor Kalba is the most northerly mangrove forest in the world and home to a variety of plant, marine and birdlife not found anywhere else in the UAE. Upon reaching the Khor, Scotch being a huge bird watcher immediately set off with his binoculars in search for kingfishers and other birdlife while Wee Scotch and I enjoyed a picnic lunch under the shade of a tree.
Then it was back to Dubai and thoughts of the next camping trip where we’ll, hopefully, stake our tents far away from the incoming tide and be able to swim, snorkel, stargaze, storytell, smoke shisha, and stuff our bellies full with BBQ food.
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Getting There and Beyond:
Routes of Wadi Bashing were planned using the UAE Off-Road Explorer book which can be purchased at most Dubai supermarkets (Carrefour, Spinneys, Waitrose, etc) and bookstores.
Purchase price was 125 Dirhams.