Dubai is renowned for its sky-high hotels, Michelin stars and rooftop statement pools, lesser so for its beaches. That’s a shame, because the UAE’s best-known emirate boasts miles of talc-white sand, lapped by the (mostly) tranquil Persian Gulf. While the region may not be able to compete with the likes of the Red Sea or the Great Barrier Reef for jaw-dropping marine life, there are some excellent snorkelling spots – you just need to know where to look. From an aquarium to a lagoon inspired by the lost city of Atlantis, here are the best places for snorkelling in Dubai.
Where are the best places for snorkelling in Dubai?
Dubai’s flagship snorkelling spot is a surreal experience. Located on Palm Jumeirah Island – the world’s largest man-made island – the Ambassador’s Lagoon is a large open-air aquarium inspired by the lost city of Atlantis. Under the guidance of a trained expert, visitors can swim alongside thousands of colourful marine fish, sharks and rays, while admiring the “ruins” of Atlantis far down below. The lagoon is home to 65,000 marine species, so you’re guaranteed to see something exciting.
Another of Dubai’s superstar water attractions, the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is home to around 70 marine species, including 300 sharks and rays. Daring snorkelers are invited to get up close to the majestic predators from the safety of an underwater cage. Those made of less steely stuff can opt for a guided tour of the wrecks, as well as more approachable marine life, like starfish and clownfish.
Occupying a prime position in the Gulf of Oman, Fujairah boasts the best snorkelling in the UAE. It’s easy enough to get to the emirate from Dubai city centre, with dozens of tour operators offering round-trip transportation and guided excursions. The waters here a brimming with colourful coral reefs and are rich with marine species. Look out for frolicking dolphins, turtles, sea cows and porpoises.
4. Musandam Oman
Located on the outskirts of Dubai, Musandam Oman is one of Oman’s great wildernesses and the “Norway of Arabia”. The largely untouched environment encompasses towering mountains and pristine waters, where you can spot basking sharks, whales and dolphins. At the Lime Rock sites, there are a series of shallow caves that offer an enthralling snorkelling experience: the deep fissures formed by fast currents are mesmerising. You’ll also have the chance to swim alongside snapper, angelfish, clownfish, hammer, batfish, stingrays and the occasional turtle.
5. Jumeirah Beach
The Pavillion Dive Centre at Jumeirah Beach is a must-visit for beginner snorkelers and divers. After a morning or afternoon’s instruction, you can head back to the sandy stretch to take a dhow cruise, relax in the shade or join the queues for the best watersports on the island.
6. Al Mamzar Beach
Al Mamzar Beach is a hidden gem. Situated on the west coast of Deira, the 106-hectare stretch is one of the region’s most beautiful – and peaceful – beaches. The site was inaugurated in 1984 with five separate beaches and acres of green lawn, and it’s since become a firm family favourite. Close enough to the hustle and bustle of the city yet far enough to feel like an escape, it’s the perfect spot for a snorkel. There’s a designated area for barbecues too and picnics too.
7. Kite Beach
Kiite Beach is one of Dubai’s most popular beaches, for good reason. The 14 km stretch offers sweeping views of the city, including the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. Shops and food trucks line the walkways too. Ideal for sunseekers and sports enthusiasts, it’s the perfect spot to test out your snorkelling skills. It also frequently ranks as one of the best free beaches in Dubai. Wakeboarding, kitesurfing and stand-up paddleboarding are popular too.