Roving around Ras Al Khaimah
After a change in our company’s holiday policy, I was keen not to whittle away an obligatory day’s holiday in Dubai and therefore when the latest public holiday was announced I spent some time seeking out the best of the local hotel deals that would support my continued exploration of the Emirates.
In the eight years that I have been living in Dubai, I have made a concerted effort to get out of the city and discover the rest of the country, finding plenty of things to see and do in neighbouring Al Ain, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Fujairah. Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Ajman however are still relatively unknown to me, in fact my knowledge of Ras Al Khaimah was previously limited to a luxurious girls weekend away in the stunning Cove Rotana (review here) where we didn’t even venture out of the hotel! As a result I decided to make Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) the next destination on my hitlist.
The Golden Tulip Khatt Springs was offering an inclusive package for the long weekend with a whole host of benefits. It seems that a lot of people had found this promotion attractive, judging by the number of people crowding the lobby. Unfortunately the hotel was not at all geared up for the rush and the resulting service was therefore appalling. In order to escape the hordes of boisterous children, we ordered a couple of beers and some bread and hummus and, switching into 4WD, took the car up the nearest mountain track for some off-roading before parking up on one of the peaks to enjoy the sunset in peace.
The hotel didn’t go much further to redeem itself with a horrendous service at the pool and over breakfast, and when I spotted dead cockroaches in the spa prior to my camel’s milk bath and massage, it really did little to relax me and set the mood. The hotel is built on the site of natural hot springs, although this is unfortunately not worked into the spa treatments, and a quick scope of these hot springs confirmed that they were not a place that we would be spending any period of time at!
The next day, armed with the trusty Off-Road Explorer, we set out early to follow the Falaj Al Mualla route through the desert. The scenic drive took us out to rustic villages, around the camel race track and surrounding camel farms before heading into the dunes. Unfortunately this was as far as our off-roading took us on this occasion – the driver was far from confident as the ghaf trees became fewer, and the sand softer! With wheels back on solid tarmac, we explored the local villages and oases, even stumbling very unexpectedly on an ostrich farm!
With our desert exploration abandoned, we decided to head to Ice Land Water Park. We had been given the tickets as part of the hotel’s weekend package and I was curious about the polar-themed park of which I had heard so little. We decided not to stay and use the park’s many facilities, but had a good wander around the grounds down to the beach. I was impressed with what we saw, the park was not too busy and had a good selection of activities, not just limited to rides (such as mist-cooled football pitches) and appeared to be clean and well maintained. It seemed much more loved than the neighbouring Dreamland Aqua Park, and a much less hectic alternative to the parks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Our legs suitably stretched, we jumped back into the car for a slow drive along the coast road, taking in the airfield, lagoons and mangroves. We made a short stop at Banyan Tree RAK Beach for a late lunch – having previously stayed at the hotel’s desert location (review here), we were keen to see if the beach accommodation would measure up. We were guided to a little boat from the jetty at Al Hamra, which ferried us over to the little spit of sand that hosts the luxury hotel. Lunch was fantastic and the service was as outstanding as I had remembered from its sister property. We spent a very relaxing hour here here watching water sports enthusiasts take advantage of the wide range of activities available – making mental notes to return for more than just a lunch next time!
The final stint of the journey was much less exciting, heading straight up to Emirates Road to ensure a drive home which was as short and stress-free as is possible in the UAE (much-needed after such an active weekend!) Hopefully the next time I make the journey will be to stay at the Banyan Tree’s beach resort and/or to have a go at flying a micro light at the RAK airfield!