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Flying high in Abu Dhabi

If you are planning a trip to Abu Dhabi during your stay in Dubai, then you are probably considering making the journey by taxi or as part of a guided tour. But if it's the wow factor you're looking for, there's only one way to arrive in the capital city in style - and that's by air.

  • Seawings
    Viewing Dubai from the air puts a different prespective on this magical city.Image Credit: Supplied
  • Seawings
    Emirates Palace is reputedly the most expensive hotel ever built, and whether you view it from the air or grouImage Credit: Supplied

Seawings, a local seaplane charter company, has just added four new routes to its repertoire.I was among the first few to experience its new excursion called the Royal Fly and Dine. This involves arriving by seaplane at Abu Dhabi’s jewel in the crown hotel,Emirates Palace, for lunch. Billed as a ‘lifestyle product’, you can expect more than just a short flight along the coastline. I arrived at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa and after checking in, was escorted by golf buggy to the hotel’s beach-hut-cumdeparture- lounge.

Overlooking the hotel’s plush marina, I sipped on an orange juice, and listened to peacocks chirrup in the background.It’s easy to feel like an A-lister as you nibble on canapés and enjoy a head and shoulder massage while taking in the spectacular sea views. This is the ultimate in luxury, and sharing the plane with just a handful of others adds to the feeling of  exclusivity.

As my plane pulled up in the marina, the hotel’s guests looked on enviously. I tried to maintain an air of cool,as though I board seaplanes like most people catch taxis, but it was all lost when I squealed in delight as the pilot helped me inside. The plane is small, but comfortable,and every seat has a window view, so there’s no scrabble to get the best chair.

After a few final safety checks, the plane is untied from its mooring and motors along at a gentle pace out of the marina. It’s an odd feeling sitting in a plane as you pass yachts, but it’s one that doesn’t last long. Once safely out of the harbour, the pilot propels the plane up and out of the water in a surprisingly gentle take-off. Though it’s a small plane, there aren’t any scary moments.

 As the plane swoops away from the sea,views of the rolling green grass of the golf course and the stretch of brilliant white yachts disappear, making way for the Jebel Ali Palm construction. It’s a brilliant opportunity to capture history in the making on your camera.

The Palm is taking shape and it’s fascinating to watch the process from 300m above sea level. The fronds are clearly visible and the sheer scale of the man-made island is truly breathtaking and worthy of admiration .Jebel Ali lies on the cusp of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The geographical contrast between the two emirates is obvious from the air. Once Jebel Ali Palm has slipped from view, dozens of natural islands, both inhabited and uninhabited, appear, lining the coast.

On a clear day, stretches of barren desert and large villas with their own helipads are visible across the mainland. The sea appears a gem-coloured blue-green, punctuated by dark swirls of coral reef. The scenery changes dramatically as the plane approaches Abu Dhabi city. Flying along the city’s corniche,there are excellent photo opportunities for capturing the skyscrapers on film. The pièce de résistance of Abu Dhabi’s impressive architecture is the Emirates Palace.

Reputed to be the most expensive hotel ever built, it is staggering to view from the air. The plane circles its grounds so that the impact of the truly palatial building can be taken in. The plane eases into the water outside the hotel before pulling in to the marina to moor. The flight takes around 25 minutes — a journey that would take around 90 minutes on clear roads. The hotel is extravagance at its best. Gilt finishing, marble floors and high ceilings all greet you as you enter the hotel from its private beach entrance.

The restaurant,Le Vendome Brasserie, is just as impressive, with a large terrace overlooking the sea and an international buffet full of tasty Arabic mezze, seafood, salads and a tempting array of desserts. The service, as you’d expect from one of the most exclusive hotels in the world, is impeccable. The meal is included in the flight package, which costs Dh1495.Seeing the UAE by seaplane is the ideal way to make your vacation an unforgettable experience.