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Explore a new world with the UAE's first underwater safari.

Abu Dhabi: Looking for an adventure this summer? You won't need to look too far as Abu Dhabi has launched an underwater snorkelling safari tour - a first in the UAE.

And no, you don't have to be a professional diver to do it.

The four-hour safari tour involves snorkelling in two different locations of Yas beach on Yas Island and a walking tour that promises some unique marine animal sightings along the way.

Under-water journey

"Our under-water journey begins and ends at Yas Island. At first we go out in power boats to the Ooid shoals on Yas beach. Ooid shoals are nothing but a result of tidal waters rolling up sand on the shallow beds of the Arabian Gulf. The salinity of the water and its warm temperature roll up the sand into spherical walls making them look rather unique," explained Mark Freeman, owner and managing partner of Noukhada Adventure Company that launched this tour in June.

Found mostly in shallow tropical seas like the in Bahamas, the ooids are a rare occurrence in the coastal waters of the Arabian Gulf. "When it is low tide - one gets a better glimpse of the Ooid shoals as they are more exposed. Marine adventurers and geologists are very excited to find them on our tours," said Freeman.

The snorkelling safari also involves walking around the shoals to catch a glimpse of marine animals. "During low tide, some exotic marine animals show up on the shallow side of the water, waiting for a strong tide to wash them off to sea. On one of our trips, we found moon snail nest eggs and cattle fish swimming up here. As people wade into the water, they also get to see coral reefs.

"Assuming the wind is not too strong, we get back into the boat and head off to the north part of the Sadiyat Island - Ra's Al Ghurab. Here again, depending on whether people are comfortable in deep or shallow water, we do some more snorkelling in select routes around coral reefs. We take ample care while snorkelling to not knock off any coral heads," said Freeman.

According to Freeman, best times to snorkel are in the mornings when the tide is low. "We have a daily time-table of the tides on Yas beach. Those booking for an underwater tour can check this before fixing the time with us."

The tour costs Dh300 per person. People are advised to bring their own food and water for the trip.

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Publication:XPRESS (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Jul 17, 2014
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