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cage dive

Ever since I was a young girl, the ocean has intrigued me. It wasn’t until 2004 that I first dived (in Queensland) and then again in 2010 (in the Maldives). I was mesmerised. I found that the life under the ocean to be fascinating, intricate and integral part to our very existence and an instructor once told me that krill is the most important thing to humans. (Google it, it’s a fact!)

So when we moved to Dubai in 2012, imagine my excitement that Dive With Sharks was available in a Mall!

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/

Dubai Mall aka World’s largest Mall aka A billion squares of shopping aka you need 10 years to look at each shop, has also a Guiness World record  for the ‘World’s Largest Acrylic Panel’ in an Aquarium.

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/

What makes this aquarium so special?

Well, the 10-million litre Dubai Aquarium tank, located on the Ground Level of The Dubai Mall, is one of the largest suspended aquarium in the world.

It houses thousands of aquatic animals, comprising over 140 species. Over 300 Sharks and Rays live in this tank, including the largest collection of Sand Tiger Sharks in the world.

There are numerous ways for visitors to experience the main Aquarium tank, which measures 51 metres in length, 20 metres in width and 11 metres in height.  The website claims that:

  • The 48 metre walk-through Tunnel provides 270 degree views from 11 metres below the  surface of the tank
  • Visitors can go on a Glass-bottom boat ride, providing unique views of the tank from beneath their feet
  • Those who want to experience a dip in the tank can opt for a Cage Snorkeling Experience
  • And for the adventurous ones, a Shark Dive is a once in a lifetime opportunity, bringing you within inches of a large variety of sharks and rays

This last point was something that I was keen to try so on Sunday, I signed up, booked and paid. I was determined to tick this off my bucket list!

The booking and payment was simple enough, it was done via phone. Exchanged a few emails for medical forms and contracts and I was good to go. There was a choice to do a practice dive at Al Wasl Diving Centre or (for an extra charge) at the actual Dubai Aquarium. I selected to practice dive at Dubai Mall Aquarium, mainly due to time restrictions and although it was a big price difference, I didn’t have the luxury to be able to scoot around town.

I was very happy with this choice, because it meant that I got to know my diving instructor well and I could ask plenty of questions. I asked the obvious “Will a shark eat me?” and Ivan giggled tremendously and said “Probably not!” He explained to keep my hands to myself, follow him, do not wave manically and most of all to listen to instructions. And then he said “Don’t worry it’ll make good footage” and we laughed. For anyone living in the UAE, finding a HUMOROUS person is a rarity, so I quadrupled laughed.

After a ton of paperwork, we went through some testing and then it was time to get the gear on and practice in the cage!

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en

I was nervous because all of a sudden I needed to remember everything I was a tested on. “Remember to equalise…. Remember to equalise…..Remember to equalise……Remember to equalise…..” was on repeat in my mind.

OFCOURSE I forgot to equalise when I got into the water and immediately felt a panic.

However, Ivan was very, very patient and calm and within a second I held my nose and all of a sudden the pressure was fine. We practiced how to get rid of water in my goggles, checked my gauge, did an emergency procedure if I lost my mouth piece (I gripped that baby with all my might) and how to regulate my mouthpiece. It was very intense, so I recommend that you listen very carefully during the training session. I also recommend you ask any questions (however trivial they seem), because soon after this – the REAL dive happens.

When Ivan was satisfied with my 2 minute practice (alone) then I was ready. Side note: He said I was a very calm breather and I told him “Really?! Because my heart was beating out of my chest!”

He strapped on the Go-Pro and took some happy snaps. I was happy to let him take care of taking pictures, because frankly at this stage, I was beyond anxious at forgetting to breathe. Number One rule for diving: NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATHE. As stupid as it sounds, it’s a common occurrence.

We stepped into the Aquarium entrance, and like a superstar people wanted to take pictures with us! It was funny that tourists mistook me for a pro. With a weights belt strapped onto my waist, a heavy tank, and a million pipes, I just smiled, posed and moved along.

I must stop here and mention ever so gently: PUTTING ON A WETSUIT IS HARD WORK. One piece of advice, keep the shower water running – think, friction.  Also note, Dubai Aquarium is very hijab friendly and provide the appropriate wear for ladies who wear hijab.

Back to the dive.

Here I am:

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

My heart was racing, my hands were shaking and my legs were stiff. But I knew I had my 3 little munchkins waiting to watch Mamma swim, so I made a quick prayer and stepped into the cold water.

 

family waiting ever so patiently!

family waiting ever so patiently!

Ladies and Gents, let me introduce you to water pressure. This lovely concept will wreck havoc to your lungs, ears and sinuses if you do not descend slowly and calmly. Follow the instructors lead and make sure you signal the appropriate problem you have. Unfortunately, the fist 3 metres I went down too fast and I honestly felt like my head was going to explode. I panicked and started to rush up the rope. This is a no-no. Ivan again calmed me down and I somehow tried again. I descended ever so slowly and blocked out my fear. I concentrated on the task at hand and before I knew it, I had descended 35 feet and although my head felt heavy, I was breathing fine. Woohoo.

My view.......

My view…….

This is where the action happens. I saw every type of animal species there was and Ivan guided me around the tank. Yes there are sharks everywhere. Small sharks, big sharks. Sand Tiger Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks and other sharks that I don’t know their exact name but somehow couldn’t stop staring at the teeth.



 

We swam around for 30 minutes and it was pretty magical waving to my kids on the outside of the tank. They were cheering for me and i wanted to smile (but water would enter my mouth) and I wanted to shriek with excitement (but sharks would probably have eaten me) so I ended up looking like this.

poses

Posing so calmly, but my heart was racing!

I highly recommend this activity for anyone wanting a thrill.

Cost: 1150 dh including training + 220 for video footage.

Till next adventure,

be happy.

 

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C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S.

You are probably reading this because you are inundated with facts and figures and nerves about moving to the best city in the world. The city that only dreams big, and literally too. It wins every single Guinness Book of World Record.

—[Random fact for you: Dubai, the city of gold, made the world’s longest 22-carat hand-made gold chain measuring a total of 5.522 kilometres. Moving on.]—

I’m going to be straight with you and tell you all about what to expect. You’re welcome.

1/ When you become A Dubai Person, you will always, always, always, always start your conversation with: “Where are you from?” and “How long have you been here?”

 

 

 

2/ Expect some traffic jams. A LOT OF TRAFFIC JAMS.

 

3/ You will never be able to go to  a public toilet in another country again.

4/ Carrying your groceries? Pushing your trolley of goods to the car? Assembling your bookshelf? NEVER AGAIN.

 

5/ You will never, ever have to cook again.

6/ Your accent will change. It’ll be a mix of Arabic, Philipino, Russian and British. Add a splash of American.

 

7/ Sometime between your 1-8 month of arrival, you will stop expecting people to give you their addresses. Landmarks and famous buildings will be enough information for you to be able to navigate to their home. YOU WILL HATE GOOGLE MAPS.

8/ Warning, Warning. You have been warned: ETA of terrible home sickness 6-10 month period.

 

9/ When you do go back “home” you will want to come back. You have caught Dubai Fever. Be careful, after 3 years you will never go back.

10/ If you are a parent, you will hunt down places at school as if your life depends on it. HUNT IT DOWN.

11/ If you are not a parent, you will still hunt down places at school as if your life depends on it. (Some schools have a 3 year waiting period. Insanely popular schools have messages on their crappy websites about 2045 being full.)

 

12/ When you get to Dubai, this will be you upon seeing the prices of things.

13/ After 6 months, this will be you.

14/ This will be your reaction every single time you see prices for homes for sale or rent.

 

15/ Don’t worry. YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND why the landlord needs 1 cheque. And you will never understand how they expect people to have 1 cheque ready for a whole year’s rent.

 

16/ Bring every single document with you. Marriage licence, change of surname licence even your pen licence from primary school. They need everything here. AND make sure it is all certified. Then get ready for them to ask you for a document NOT on the list.

17/ Going to Westfield will feel boring, after Dubai Mall.

 

18/ Resaturants. They will seem less glamorous to you. Be careful, Pierre Herme is just an everyday thing here. #justsaying

 

19/ You will learn that Dubai has 2 seasons. 1. HOT and 2. WE-ARE-2-INCHES-AWAY-FROM-THE-SUN-HOT.

 

20/ Air Conditioning will become a norm. In fact, you will need a jacket in Dubai only for indoors.

 

21/ Dubai gives M U L T I C U LT U R A L a whole new perspective. 20 different nationalities in one classroom in common AND there’s every kind of cuisine available. Feel like Uzbekistani food? No problem.

 

22/ Make sure you buy extra bed linen and sleeping bags – you will host all year around because as I first mentioned – YOU ARE MOVING TO THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD.

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My best friend came to Dubai and she was only here for 2 short days. She’s an adventure junkie and loves to travel outside her comfort zone, so I planned an unbelievable 48 hours.

Here I present to you:

THINGS TO DO IN DUBAI ON YOUR SHORT TRIP.

DAY 1.

I picked her up and bought her to my side of town, a place called Jumeirah Beach Residence otherwise known as JBR. This place has had a major renovation/rejuventaion (still going) and is spectacular to visit. With an endless choice of cuisine (there’s well over 100) let your tastebuds choose. In this particular case, bestie and I went to the new area of JBR called The Beach. (I know, creative right?) The Beach is a new complex which has an outdoor cinema, a large grass area, a playground, indoor cinemas, heaps of showers and bathrooms, prayer facilities and of course a zillion restaurants. All overlooking, yep you guessed it… The beach!

 We ate at Operation falafel and devoured every last bite. Their food is amazing.

After breakfast, we took a short drive to one of the best malls in the world. The Mall of the Emirates is famous for it’s shopping, but my friend and I were there for one reason only – to escape the heat and SKI.

SKI DUBAI:  This place is visible from the moon, I reckon. The mall is weirdly shaped because of the ski slope necessary to make Ski Dubai as believable as possible. And trust me when I say, it’s just like going to the snow. The service is impeccable, you get every single item from the one place (nearly all of it inclusive in price) and then you choose the package you desire. We knew we had a long while (both hubby’s were watching the kids) so we purchased the Super Pass and booked ourselves in to… MEET THE PENGUINS!!!! So this is what we did for well over 4 hours:

We, went on all the rides dozens of times ( The bullet was my fave). We hugged and got a kiss from the beautiful penguins. We had a hot chocolate at the bar in the middle of the snow. And we yearned for warmth. So off with the ski clothes and back into the mall.

TIME TO SHOP: We were starving but couldn’t resist to have dessert first. So we demolished heaps of cinnabons. They look like this:

Then we went to shops like – H&M, Bershka, Pull and Bear, Debenhams, we got our makeup done (for free) at Harvey Nicholls, we went into Chanel, Burberry, Prada and LV (it’s cool getting doors opened for you by serious looking security guards) and then gawked at the massiveness of Carrefour. With our hands full, it was time for Dinner.

(LATE) DINNER: You can’t book a table at The Cheesecake Factory but the wait is well worth it. We were given a cute booth and the menu was colossal. 10/10 for taste. And the cheesecake… we went for White Chocolate and Raspberry Truffle cheesecake. YUMMY!

the-cheesecake-factory

DAY 2:

Time for some Waterpark action.

aquaventure_Aquaventure at Atlantis hotel is perfect. It is large enough that you will need 500 hours to take everything in, but we were there for 2 reasons.

This and this.

The ride was perfect for our adrenaline seeking selves and swimming with the dolphins was magical. There is a 30 minute chat with the dolphin handlers (did you know they hire people from all over the world?! what a job!) and then into the water we went. The dolphins are super smart, friendly and very fast. I couldn’t keep my eyes open while going on a ride on their back!

Because we were time restricted, we left Aquaventure and headed downtown. Normally, this is not advisable ( we were buggered!!!!), but in this case there was no choice.

Downtown Dubai is lit up like no other city in the world.

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It is the home to Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall and of course 10,000 other people enjoy downtown too, so make sure you do NOT drive there between 5-8pm. You will be advising the road, due to traffic.

Arriving at Dubai Mall, we went ice skating. There are a variety of skills on the Ice Rink so don’t worry and don’t feel self conscious. They have lively music, and help is available to little kiddies too.

After ice skating, we went to the Dancing Fountains. At 6pm, lines open for the Abra cruise, which (for a small fee) takes you on a little tour of the fountains and parks in a unique position to watch the show. The Show consists of a fountains dancing to the melody of a song. It is truly genius.

Afterwards, we ate at the following places for the following reasons:

The Social House : the Wagyu + mushroom Bolognaise is superb

Laudree : Because you can’t get enough macaroons in life

Pierre Herme : As above

– Cookies from Ben’s Cookies: Because the line isn’t long for no reason.

– A red velvet cupcake from The Magnolia Bakery : Because appearing on Sex and the City is enough to make you go there

– A rainbow slice, bubblegum cake from The Hummingbird Bakery: enough said.

We then went to the top of the world at Burj Khalifa. What. A . View.

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We said goodbyes and of course i reminisced about much there is to do in Dubai. I’ve complied some below.




MADINAT JUMEIRAH

Bec Judd recently visited this place. Check out her blog here. This place is my ultimate fave hangout – cafes, cars, lounges, shisha, having dinner on the beach and much much more is all available. Don’t forget to have afternoon tea at Fayrooz.

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     BURJ AL ARAB

OK, so it is the world’s only 7 star hotel and it’s clear why. We stayed here once. I know. ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE!!!!! And go to here to read my experience.

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   SKYDIVE DUBAI

Ronaldo, Rita Ora, Paul Van Dyk, Don Diamont, Usher, Felix Baumgartner, Shah Rukh Khan, Swedish House Mafia, Cristine Reynes, Akon, Michelle Rodriguez are some names that have taken the lunge. These are some images of the view – can you even handle?

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  DESERT SAFARI

A must do! There are many options – dune bashing is a fave of ours and kid friendly (above 10).

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Here are some links to some of my faves:

http://www.platinum-heritage.com

http://www.desertsafaridubai.com

https://www.arabian-adventures.com/en/tours-and-safaris/index.aspx

 

Till next time,

be happy.