Eight days in the Arabian Gulf
by Tom Isitt
Although the United Arab Emirates and Oman is still a relatively new cruising ground, there is now some very good facilities for superyachts in the region. This, coupled with excellent dive sites, world-class cuisine and the clear waters of the Gulf really puts it on the map as a new superyacht must-go area.
Day 1: Abu Dhabi – UAE
Join your charter yacht in the Yas Marina, a short drive from the airport in Abu Dhabi. This is home to the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix, and is one of the most modern and glamorous marinas in the world. If you charter when the Grand Prix is taking place (early November), you will be afforded unparalleled views of the race, and be in the thick of the action for the post-race parties. Once you’ve met the crew and settled in on board, head for the Viceroy Yas Marina Hotel, an extraordinary and very luxurious hotel in the marina where you will find excellent bars and several very good restaurants. Alternatively, take dinner on the aft deck of the yacht and enjoy the views of the yachts in the marina.
Day 2: Dubai – UAE
A leisurely day to get you into the swing of your charter holiday. Wake up late and have a leisurely al fresco breakfast. At this point you may want to have discussions with the Captain and the Chef about your itinerary and about the menus for the day. Get underway and head north-east for Dubai, a gentle couple of hours at sea during which you can start work on your sun tan and get the feel of your sea-legs.
As you arrive in Dubai, get the captain to take you on a brief cruise around the extraordinary new developments there – the islands of The World and The Palm, where the impressive Atlantis Palm Hotel & Resort sits. You will probably berth somewhere in the Dubai Marine area, near to the Dubai International Marine Club in Jumeira. In the evening you can dine on board, or maybe take a taxi into town and chose from one of the many superb restaurants Dubai has to offer.
Day 3: Dubai – UAE
If you haven’t been to Dubai before, today is your chance to go exploring. And even if you have been before, there are always new things to discover. With the whole day to yourselves, you could take a 4×4 desert safari, go to the camel races, head for the malls, take a trip up Dubai Creek and go to the old town to see the gold souk, the spice market, and soak up a bit of traditional Dubai. Or there’s the world-class golf courses, or you could potter around in the tender, or hit the beach. Endless opportunities in this city that really bridges the traditions of the Middle East with the Western world.
Day 4: Musandam Peninsular – Oman
It’s a long day at sea today, so ask the captain to get going at daybreak while you stay in bed and awake to the gentle thrum of the engines and the slight pitch and roll of the yacht at sea. You’re heading north-east up the coast, past the lesser known (and significantly poorer) Emirates of Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain and Ras al-Khaimah, to Oman and Musandam at the very tip of the Arabian peninsular.
Until now the coastal scenery has been fairly unexciting, but as you head north-east things become more interesting. This is where the Eurasian and Arabian tectonic plates meet, and the resultant geological formations are magnificent – stratified cliffs thrust up from the sea-bed, bent and buckled by extraordinary forces. Rounding the tip of the peninsular, you will find yourselves in the Omani harbour of Khasab, the end of the line for road traffic in this part of the world.
Day 5: Khasab town and Musandam – Oman
Spend the morning exploring Khasab town and it’s wonderful fort. The town itself is quiet and sleepy, but the fort is fascinating, and gives a rare glimpse of what life was like here several hundred years ago.
Return to your yacht for lunch, and in the afternoon head out into the fjords of Musandam Peninsular. Off the north-east corner of the peninsular are what appears to be a sprawl of islands, but in fact they are one landmass attached to the Musandem by a 200-metre wide isthmus. Although described as fjords, these flooded valleys and mountain-tops are more reminiscent of the Dalmatian Islands in the Adriatic Sea than anything you’ll find in Norway or more northern latitudes. And they are stunningly beautiful, in a wild, inhospitable way. There are almost no signs of human habitation, except for a couple of tiny fishing villages, and the only signs of life you will see are the numerous dolphins found hereabouts.
Depending on the weather conditions, the captain should be able to find a very quiet bay in which to anchor overnight. With no light pollution, the night skies in this part of the world are sublime. Spend the evening sipping something delicious and star-gazing from your sunlounger.
Day 6: Musandam Islands – Oman
A lazy day exploring, so have a swim in the clear, crystal waters of your anchorage, have some breakfast, and be guided by the captain as to where to go today. There are dozens of sandy beaches, most of which you will have entirely to yourselves, so meander where you please. You may come across the occasional tourist dhow or fishing boat, but otherwise it’s just you and the dolphins.
The crew can set up a shaded barbeque wherever you fancy, and you can spend the day snorkelling, kayaking or simply loafing about. In the evening, the captain will find another idyllic anchorage in which to overnight.
Day 7: Sailing day
It’s another early start for the crew as you head back south-west towards Dubai. With a couple more days in your itinerary you could spend a day or two exploring the east side of the peninsular and the Gulf of Oman, but this time we’re heading home. If you feel so inclined you can enjoy the sunrise over Musandam and then take a long breakfast on the aft deck. Or you could stay in bed until a more civilised hour.
With the relatively uninspiring coastline of Ras al-Khaimah slipping past on your port side, make yourself comfortable on a convenient lounger and spend the day immersed in a good book. By nightfall you will be back in Dubai for the night. At this point it might be nice to give the crew a night off and head for dinner ashore. Choose from the glitzy and trendy restaurants of Nobu, Hakkasan, Gaucho, The Ivy and many others. Unfortunately there isn’t too much in the way of “local” cuisine, but you may be able to find good Lebanese options.
Day 8: Yas Marina – Abu Dhabi
Time for one last swim and a few more hours in the sun as you head back to Abu Dhabi and the Yas Marina. As you leave your charter yacht you’ll look back on the last week and be pleased that you’ve probably seen more of the Arabian Peninsular than some ex-pats who’ve lived there for years.