Experiences that get the adrenaline flowing can make for some of the most memorable moments of any trip, whether you find yourself scrambling over rocks to reach a mountain peak or soaring through the air attached to a bungee. Many destinations around the world where these kinds of adventures are possible have been prioritizing accessibility in recent years, with the wheelchair-accessible trails in U.S. National Parks as just one example. But wheelchair users and other People of Determination still face many barriers in exploring destinations to their fullest, which can make for frustrating and disheartening experiences. That’s why Dubai has taken a comprehensive approach to integrating accessibility into its tourism infrastructure in an attempt to welcome every kind of traveler.
Dubai is home to buildings whose highest stories reach into the clouds, desert sands that stretch for miles, beaches with inviting shorelines, and high-speed ziplines in an urban setting like you’ve never seen. Adventure is literally everywhere, and it’s within reach for everyone.
Chelsie Hill, accessibility advocate and founder of wheelchair dance team the Rollettes, is a passionate world traveler who joined our team on a recent trip to Dubai.
“I have always dreamed of seeing the desert and riding camels, but I was afraid the workers would turn me down because of my chair. It was the complete opposite; they wanted to help figure out how to let me experience it all!”
This is indicative of attitudes in Dubai that led the city to officially designate individuals with accessibility needs as “people of determination.” The locals here know that their city is worth being experienced to the fullest. From the design of the architecture and its accessible infrastructure, to the incredible range of adventure activities that can satisfy the thrills of any and every traveler, Dubai is made for everyone. The Emirate also teems with natural beauty, and visitors can choose to interact with it however they like: on the sea, in the sky, or over the sand. That doesn’t even cover the man-made wonders here, like the world’s first indoor ski slope! Let’s break it down.
On the Sea
Dubai Marina and the surrounding waters off the Emirate’s beaches are the perfect place to indulge in your favorite water sport pastimes, like surfing, or to try something new and exciting. The range of activities here cater to everyone from beginners to veterans of the waves. If you need surf coaching in a chill setting, or just a place to make your home base and grab some coffee before or after you hang ten, look no further than Surf House Dubai. Their team of instructors are happy to assist you and get you geared up for a day of surfing or stand-up paddleboarding, and you can unwind at the on-site cafe and yoga studio.
One of the most thrilling new water sports to arrive on the scene in Dubai is flyboarding, a kind of water-powered hover boarding experience that propels riders into the air above the water. Hydro Watersports offers flyboarding and other thrills from their convenient location on the beach at Jumeirah Palm Residences, near Dubai Marina. If the sun is beating down on you during your visit, put an exciting twist on things and try flyboarding at night when the gear lights up with LEDs and you can get a full view of the city all lit up. If you’re interested in seeing more of the city from the water, book one of their jet-ski tours to learn all about Dubai’s architecture while riding the waves.
Dubai’s calm waters provide a great environment for learning to surf, but anyone looking to pick up some real speed while they’re on the board should consider kitesurfing during their time here. Even though the sport is notorious for its learning curve, the skilled and encouraging instructors at Kitesurf School Dubai offer a guarantee that they can turn you into a fully solo kitesurfer by the end of just one session. You can either get one-on-one instruction or join one of their group classes as a fantastic activity with a few good friends. If you’d rather do something more relaxing while watching the kitesurfers, they offer stand-up paddleboarding, too!
In the Sky
Choose a skyward-bound activity in Dubai to match any level of adrenaline-seeking that satisfies you. Seeing the desert meet the city and then the sea is remarkable when experienced on the ground level, but another kind of awesome entirely when observed from the sky. Photographers especially will love the vantage points you can get from some of the aerial adventures on offer here, hot air ballooning most of all. A trip with Balloon Adventures Dubai also promises an immersive cultural experience in addition to this natural beauty — after starting your climb at sunrise, your hour-long flight will conclude with a Land Rover ride to a Bedouin camp for an amazing traditional breakfast.
If you want to push yourself and truly feel like you’re flying, head to Skydive Dubai for one of their thrilling adventures. Their desert dropzone, about 20 miles outside of the city, is the perfect place for your first skydiving experience — you’ll have a lot more confidence knowing that you’re falling in tandem with one of their experienced instructors. If you want to up the ante and aren’t afraid of looking down at this point in your skydiving career, go to their premium location at the Palm Jumeirah in the city of Dubai and towards this iconic symbol of the Emirate from 13,000 feet. Another option for seeing the city from thrilling heights is a Gyrocopter ride, a flight in a unique two-person aircraft.
“Dubai is a very wheelchair friendly city and very accommodating for wheelchair users. One of the highlights of my trip is when I flew the Gyrocopter, I never thought that I could fly one in Dubai and see the beautiful city from above. It felt magical and I will forever cherish that moment.”
That’s Marcela Marañon, a travel accessibility advocate who felt encouraged all throughout her time in Dubai to experience everything the city has to offer. “Wheelchair accessibility is a plus for me. If I see that I’m having lots of difficulties accessing places during my trip, I get very discouraged to continue exploring and want to stay in my hotel.”
There are countless other high-flying experiences in Dubai, from seaplane excursions to helicopter tours and the world’s longest urban zipline over the Dubai Marina. Check out some more of them here!
Over the Sand
“I think the outdoor feature I find most interesting in Dubai is the desert. I think that what makes Dubai’s desert different from other locations as a photographer is the fact that you are not just getting out to photograph sand dunes, but since it’s only a 20 minute drive from the city, you get to photograph all different sorts of things. There are people playing cricket, super cars that go out to shoot, and people having bonfires. Having all this at your disposal with a desert backdrop really makes it fun to photograph sunset there.”
Just as photographer and travel filmmaker Matias de Rada says, the desert in Dubai is a place where all sorts of different people come to live the adventure they need that day, whether it’s dune bashing in a Land Rover or just relaxing with a picnic. To get to the center of the action, head straight for the biggest sand dune in the Dubai desert with a company that takes inspiration from its name, Big Red Adventure Tours. You can choose to ride along as someone else takes the wheel of a dune buggy, or get on an ATV yourself to kick up the sand. There’s a full team of mechanics, instructors, and tour guides on hand, making sure you’re covered to have the time of your life.
If you’re at a loss for what to do or overwhelmed by the amazing variety of experiences in Dubai, leave it to Arabian Adventures to cater an experience to your liking from one of their many packages. Whether you want to get out into the desert and photograph the gazelle, ride a camel, or indulge in a safari and an intimate desert-set dinner afterwards, these industry-leading experts have got you covered.
What kinds of adventures will you have in Dubai? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!