After almost two years of COVID restrictions, cancelled holidays and dreary winter evenings in front of the TV, I jumped at the chance of a weekend away in the sun-drenched city of Ras Al Khaimah – Dubai’s neighbouring Emirate.
Pitched as a trip for thrill-seekers, I was keen to see what it had to offer – particularly as it's only a 45 minute drive from glitzy Dubai, famous for its bottomless brunches, fancy restaurants, sky-scrapers and reality star clientele. Just how different could it be?
Well, very, actually.
While it still has the luxury accommodation we have come to expect from the UAE (we stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island, which boasts 4 swimming pools, a near-private beach and 13 luxury restaurants), once you leave the hotel gates, it’s the traditional landscape of mountains and deserts where you’ll get your kicks – not the nearest pool bar.
Our first stop was the Bear Grylls Mountain Camp, created by the adventure man himself. Run by a team of highly trained instructors, you can do anything from a full survival course to rock climbing and archery. And if you're keen to do it all, you can opt to stay on site in one of their simple but comfortable cabins right in the valley of the mountains.
We tried our hand at some rock climbing – a brand new experience for me – and despite my hesitations as I looked up at the daunting rocky mountain in front of me, I managed to get to the top. And abseil back down again – with a nice big fist bump from my lovely instructor, who motivated me the whole way.
A brilliant start to the day!
Next up was the activity all thrill-seekers flock to the Emirate for; the world’s longest zip line. And you can forget the Go Ape zip lines you're used to, this Guinness World Record holder is the longest in the world, over 6000ft high and one of the most scenic ways to cross a mountain you'll ever come across.
After a short drive up the winding mountainside, we were instantly sent into a “flight” briefing before being dressed in our safety equipment, which includes a bright orange body suite, helmet and an array of giant metal hooks. And then it was into the minibus and up to the floating platform. It was at this point the nerves started to kick in. It seems that watching people being thrown off a mountain isn't the most zen of experiences.
The zip line is suspended off the famous Jebel Jais mountain, 6,345ft above seal level, and exceeds speeds of over 90mph. And rather than the seated position you might associate with a standard zip line, with this one you are suspended in the air as though you are flying.
When it came to my turn, amazingly my nerves had disappeared and I couldn't wait to tick it off my bucket list. 'Are you ready?' the instructor asked before unhooking me from the safety and plunging me into 90mph speeds across the mountain.
Whizzing into the bright blue skies, I couldn't stop smiling as I tried to take in as much of the breathtaking scenery as I could. Luckily we opted for the GoPro experience, so everything was caught on camera! The whole experience lasts about 90 seconds, and ends at another floating platform suspended in the air before you embark on a shorter zipline back to safety. Such an exhilarating experience perfect for thrill-seeking families, couple and groups of friends alike.
And our adventurous day did not stop there, ending with a sunset hike and a guided meditation at the 1770 Camp experience. The views along the red soils of the Jebel Jais mountain left us barely able to put our cameras down, while the traditional Emirati food – cooked by local tribespeople – we were served at the end left us all going back for seconds.
We warmed ourselves next to the fire (temperatures drop to 10 degrees in the mountains) and took in the last of the views as the sun dropped on what had been an incredible day.
It was safe to say I slept like a baby that night.
Finishing up the trip was a visit to the Suwaidi Pearl farm, where we were taught about the fascinating history of pearl diving in the UAE, and the 'last authentic and traditional town still standing in the UAE' Al Jazirah Al Hamra.
So if you're keen for some winter sun and adventures, make sure Ras Al Khaimah is top of you list. We promise you won't be disappointed.
Rooms at the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island start at £102 per night.
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