“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” Frank Herbert
I am not a natural camper but having said that I survived our first desert trip last year, one might even say I enjoyed it, so I felt more prepared for this weekend’s outdoor adventure to the depths of Abu Dhabi’s Western Region, but I will in all honestly never get used to the lack of toilet facilities.
Our outdoor enthusiast friend aka ‘party leader’ is a keen camper, trekker, astrologist and photographer who LOVES camping! An excellent planner with all the gear and all the ideas, he’s our very own Bear Grylls just without the SAS training and to my knowledge he doesn’t drink his own pee, but I wouldn’t put it past him! This weekend’s plan was for a spot of remote beach camping in Al Sila on the Pearl Coast, just eighteen kilometres from the Saudi Arabia border.
As per the itinerary we set off in two parties, the first explorers departed in a convoy of three cars as the site scouting party late morning and family Brett, also in a convoy of three cars setting off a couple of hours later as instructed. Not the most scenic journey, highway E11 from Abu Dhabi to the Western Region is quite boring and very long to say the least (also one of the region’s most dangerous roads), kilometre after kilometre of identical straight road broken up with the odd gas station and scattered palm trees. Eldest son was in front as he has to win at all costs, we were steady in the middle and second son was happy to follow at the back. Waypoints and coordinates were conveyed from party one and plugged into good old google maps and after passing the oil and gas fields at Ruwais, three and a half hours and three hundred kilometres after setting off we finally headed off right to Al Sila, a remote place with a small local population and some camels.
Just a few kilometres into sleepy Sila we turned off onto a bumpy track road until we reached the coast late afternoon in time for sunset. Making it off road to their selected site we joined the scouting party who had already set up camp, complete with fire pits ablaze and whole chickens roasting on the mechanised spit over the roaring flames. We quickly set up the three remaining tents as daylight was fading and joined the circle of camping chairs around the fire ready for a night under the stars.
The Sila area has a beautiful coastline lined with natural unspoilt beaches that are awash with natural debris such as seaweed, plants and driftwood but spoilt by the vast amount of rubbish, especially plastic bottles washed up from the sea as the municipality does not operate any beach cleaning in this area. The beauty of this area is its space and freedom to pitch your tent without restriction, away from the city it has low light pollution that is perfect for undisturbed camping and stargazing.
A great feast was had, from prime steak to toasted marshmallows, lots of laughs (toilet humour aplenty), wood collecting, fire building and commaridary made it a great evening. Temperatures dropped quite dramatically so many layers were added before we retired to our respective tents for some erratic sleep.
Up early the next morning we were all back around the fire to stoke the embers and cook some breakfast before our brave (some would say crazy) fire jumping party leader had a dip in the shallow deep blue sea while we all just watched, shivering.
These waters are home to wildlife including flocks of flamingos and it’s the world’s largest protected area for dugongs (also known as the sea cow). We may not have seen the later but we did spot a flock of pink tinged flamingos on a detour on the way home, photographed expectedly by party leader, a man of many talents! Of course we saw lots of sporadic dromedary herds, even spotted some lesser seen black camels and their young.
Another great weekend with friends and family enjoying more of what the UAE has to offer in terms of the great outdoors, it’s not all malls, five-hotels and brunching here you know! Thanks to party leader for all your efforts once again, I’m already looking forward to our next camping adventure, honestly I really am!
Unless otherwise stated, all views and photos on this page © Jo Brett 2016. All rights reserved. Additional photos are used courtesy of Firoze Khambata. Thank you for contributing.