I’ve been having an affair !! I tried to keep it quiet, but to be honest I couldn’t help myself !! Those of you who know me for real, or through my social media channels may have spotted the tell tale signs a while ago, you see I’ve been cheating, yes cheating on my ‘home town’ of Dubai and staying away with my new love, and I’ve done it more than once !! Yes – it’s out and it’s public, I’ve been enjoying regular jollies away from Dubai and instead staycationing away in Abu Dhabi. Phew, I can mop my brow at the feeling of relief by coming clean and admitting my “guilty, not so secret, secret”
If you have been following any of my social feeds recently you will have noticed a trend in my use of the hashtags #StayCationWeekend and #AbuDhabi . Just 115 kilometers away from Dubai and fairly easily reached after a short drive Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and lies on a T-shaped island which juts out into the Persian Gulf.
I’ve lived in Dubai for six years and am embarrassed to admit that I’ve only visited Abu Dhabi a handful of times, always on business trips, always battling the traffic and struggling to find somewhere to park vaguely close to the office I was visiting and then doing the return journey home tired and weary after a long day with the only thing on my agenda being to reach home safely. For many people this is their daily journey done day in and day out or at least a few times a week.
My first trip to Abu Dhabi outside of a business trip took place last year during Eid. Wanting to take a short break and having left my planning to the very last minute, I wanted to book a reasonably priced 5 star hotel in Dubai, however my last minute planning left me with little choice in Dubai and so my searched widened to Abu Dhabi where, much to my surprise, I found that I could get a much better deal and with greater availability. And so I booked into Etihad Towers, which had recently opened. Lovely though the hotel was, unfortunately I was ill, with the onset of what I later found out was pneumonia, and ended up staying in bed for the entire stay. Sadly I didn’t get to enjoy any of the facilities on offer at the hotel with the exception of room service tomato soup, which was exceedingly good, and the remote controlled curtains which I could operate from my bed, the highlight of my stay as I was very weak, although I do remember smiling at the rubber turtle in the bathroom a whimsical replacement for the rubber duck and being pleased that there was a Nespresso machine in my room.
Undeterred by last years trip, this year I was determined to return to Abu Dhabi, to explore a little, relax a lot and to enjoy a few weekends away at prices, which seemed to be more reasonable than those being charged by the hotels in Dubai. It’s also an idea opportunity to try out some new restaurants and food experiences. And I guess it’s fair to say, in hindsight, this is where my affair with the Abu Dhabi staycation started and continues, as I’ve stayed in six different hotels in the area in the last few months and can see many more weekends ahead.
Not having to travel during peak hours always helps, as does the flexibility to stop en route for a coffee or a little detour to see something of interest or simply not to feel rushed knowing that the end of the trip is a period of relaxation helps too. Travelling outside of rush hour means that a trip to Abu Dhabi from new Dubai typically takes a maximum of just over an hour door to door which is enough time to feel like you’ve left Dubai and that you are indeed, on holiday – or should I say a staycation.
Details of the hotels I stayed in are covered in Part 2 – but for now, here’s some information on Kayaking in the Eastern Mangroves
KAYAKING – EASTERN MANGROVES
Comprising of a residential area, the Anantara Hotel and a whole host of restaurants and outdoor activities the Eastern Mangroves is a lovely find in Abu Dhabi. Easy to find – it’s just off the E10 this is sure to be a new hangout for me.
I stayed at Anantara hotel in a room overlooking the Eastern Mangroves booked through a deal on LastMinute.Com – it’s the time of year where although it’s getting hot, if you live in Dubai or the Middle East the weather is still extremely bearable – particularly if your main plan for the trip involves nothing more energetic than lying by the pool and enjoying a chilled drink or two as well as regular dips in the chilled pool.
A few days before checking in, the hotel sent me some suggestions for activities during my stay – the usual promotions with the spa and recommendations to book restaurants ahead of my trip, however what grabbed my attention was a kayaking trip into the Mangroves for a bargain price of 150/AED. The trip is booked with Seahawk who are located just in front of the hotel and on the Eastern Mangroves boardwalk and involves a 2 hour kayak trip around and through the mangroves – how far you get into the mangroves depends on the tide and the size of your group.
Booking my trip for 4pm I was the only person signed up for my trip and so persuaded my guide, Ryan that a double kayak would be just what we needed to allow me time to take photos as well as to enjoy the trip – plus he could double up as my ‘engine’ if I got tired LOL. Ryan is a trained marine biologist and although he’s a recent joiner to the Eastern Mangrove tour his knowledge of the mangroves were extensive as he explained to me about the mangroves (which are protected as part of a conservation project) as well as the wildlife we saw on our trip – mainly crabs and some birds. Ryan explained that due to the heat, the majority of the birds usually seen in the mangroves had already migrated.
The trip was fascinating, as there were just the 2 of us and it was high tide I got the chance to kayak into the peaceful, narrow and very shallow inlets of the mangroves and got the opportunity to take photos of the Abu Dhabi skyline from the water as well as to get some close up shots of the crabs which Ryan skilfully caught for me.
Towards the end of the trip we took chance to kayak to a small beach area, enjoy some chilled water and fruit and there was also the opportunity to take a swim too as well as to wave to the next group of adventure seekers as they started their kayak trip – sadly the tide being higher meant they would not be treated to the inside waterway that we visited. Returning to the dock at sunset was beautiful and I was just in time to take some great sunset shots before getting ready for the opening of Boa Steakhouse – the intended purpose of my staycation, a favourite in Los Angeles BOA Steakhouse opened it’s doors recently at the Eastern Mangroves.
The launch party was everything I expected, beautiful cocktails as well as some beautiful food from the menu I sampled earlier at a press preview. Fantastic to see the restaurant in full operation with the lights dimmed and the music turned it, it’s definitely a place to revisit.
Top Tips : take sunscreen and a hat, wear an outfit you don’t mind getting wet and swimwear if you want to swim. You can buy dry bags at the pier if you want to take a camera/phone with you. Trip timings change depending on tide and temperature. Take a change of clothes if you don’t want to drive home in wet gear.