Aviation Adventures in the Northern Emirates of the UAE
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
This supplier brings their fabulous experience from South Africa and New Zealand to Ras Al Khaimah, with a twist! A hot air balloon ride to see the gorgeous sunrise over the desert landscape? No problem. Amp it up a little with a DJ? They have it! And if you really want to jazz it up and take a ride in an aerobatic plane with one of the former Red Bull aerobatic flight pilots (who just happens to own the company) - you can do that too!
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Historically, when people think of the UAE, they think of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The Northern Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) is rapidly becoming known as the "Adventure Emirate," mainly because it has the Big 3 Dunes, Beaches and mountains, and soon, #4 Gaming! RAK is about a 50-minute drive from Dubai, which means you should plan to stay the night before your early morning departure. Need accommodation?
Welcome to Marjan Island, the center of the rapidly expanding area of RAK for tourism & entertainment! Long the place for locals to escape the hustle & bustle of Dubai for “staycations,” The island is being transformed into The Arabian Strip to be anchored by the multi-billion-dollar Wynn Casino/Resort complex. There are currently accommodations to suit any pocketbook. The Movenpick, Hampton Inn, and Radisson Blu have opened in the last two years. Rixos is very popular with its “all-inclusive” format. There are also two Ritz Cartons and the Waldorf Astoria. All the hotels listed have private beaches.
We had recently been reading about the introduction of a balloon company, Action Flight, and decided to check it out. Flights are 400 AED per person (about $108) and reservations can be made online or with WhatsApp. The booking was flawless with excellent follow-up the night before. To increase the fun factor, we decided to go on Christmas morning! Our 05:30 pickup was right on time. Vehicles were 4+4, and the final 15 minutes were spent surfing through the dunes in the dark! There is just something proper about standing in the desert in the dark illuminated by headlights from the 4+4s and joking with the crew about the balloon being tethered to a 4+4, and they tell you that if the wind picks up, they must start the truck to keep it from being dragged! The level of training and experience is quite impressive. Captain J.P. has over 3000 flights, and when not in the UAE, they perform flights in East Africa & Europe. The crew was already set up on our arrival, provided us with coffee & tea, and had us quickly in safety gear with Captain J.P. giving us our safety briefing. A surprise: all the crew and guests had brought Santa hats and were wearing festive sweaters!
The flights are 50-70 minutes depending on the landing site. We ascended 3000 feet for sunrise as the sun emerged over the Hager mountains. We observed a variety of wildlife, date farms, and, of course, camels. We skimmed across the dunes at 150 feet for quite a while with the silence occasionally broken by a short blast of the balloon’s burners. The landing was my favorite aspect of the flight. J.P. picked out a large dune in the distance and said we would land at its base; he set us down with 2 hops. Great Fun! Like the ride at the theme park, where you want to do it again!
Upon landing, the crew set up a table with sweets, champagne (a tradition), and a certificate. The balloon has a trapeze-mounted Go Pro camera that records each flight and can be purchased at additional cost.
The company has been operating for a year and has aerobatic flights in its portfolio (which look amazing!). Wayne, the company owner, flew acrobatic flights for Red Bull and they will use the same type of aircraft.
In summary, it is a well-planned and executed event with expert staff that genuinely enjoy their guests, their profession, and this magical place. This is a must-do excursion for all your clients visiting Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah who don’t mind an early wake-up call. Even if they do – encourage them to set that alarm!
Need to Know
I recommend Action Flight AE for couples or families traveling to the UAE. It would best be done as a part of a side trip to Marjan Island or Ras Al Khaimah. Reach out to me and let me plan your fantastic trip to Dubai that includes a few days in the northern Emirates!
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