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Discover underwater Yas Island by mask and snorkel

Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island is known for being jam-packed with exciting theme parks, leisure centres and designer shops, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few quieter ways to spend a day. Disappear beneath the waves on a diving excursion that reveals all the underwater enchantments of the Persian Gulf. 

The clear waters surrounding the United Arab Emirates have become a hotspot for scuba divers over the past few years, drawing novices and experts alike thanks to excellent visibility, warm temperatures and a diverse choice of dives. Whether you’re venturing underwater for the very first time, are trying to get your PADI licence, or hope to introduce yourself to some local marine life, Yas Island’s diving schools can cater to every ability level and interest.

Buried treasure

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© Philip Lange/Shutterstock.com

The theme parks Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld are two of the island’s biggest attractions, but unsurprisingly, the latter has the most to offer divers. In addition to 43 rides (including five exclusive ones), Yas Waterworld also boats a unique diving attraction based on the old Emirati pearl diving tradition. The experience lasts for one hour, and involves diving to the bottom of a five-meter deep tank to collect three oysters. Sounds easy? Think again. You’ll only have a pair of goggles and no oxygen tank, so you have to hold your breath and plunge in. The experience takes place four times each day and is open to swimmers aged eight and over. After the dive, you’re shown how to correctly open an oyster and extract the pearl. You can take the pearl home as a souvenir and there’s an option to have it set into jewellery, too.

Schools of fish

There’s no shortage of excellent diving schools in Abu Dhabi. Al Mahara Diving School offers more than 50 diving courses to suit all levels and abilities. They run trips to nearby dive sites like Sadiyat Reef and the Old Cement Barge, as well as longer excursions to shipwrecks around the east coast. They also organise night dives, so you can spot nocturnal marine life such as cuttlefish, brittlestars and crustaceans. Another popular company operating from Abu Dhabi is Emirates Divers. They offer PADI courses at all levels, from junior to advanced and specialised. Their program also includes excursions to coastal reefs and off-shore shipwrecks. Neither school is far from Yas Island: it takes less than half an hour to reach Emirates Divers from our Park Inn by Radisson, Yas Island Abu Dhabi and a few minutes more to reach Al Mahara.

Spectacular sights

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The waters of the Persian Gulf are known for their warm temperatures and fantastic visibility: you can expect to see 15-30 feet in front of you. In the coastal dives (18.6 miles or less from land) you’ll see colourful hard corals, nursery grounds for young marine life, and plenty of exotic fish, including the endangered hammour. You’re also likely to spot stingrays, snappers, and bream. More advanced divers can seek out sea turtles and barracudas in and around the offshore wrecks.

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