Captain a self-drive boat along the Dubai coastline
Captain a self-drive boat along the Dubai coastline Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Can’t tell your port from your starboard but always wanted to captain your own speed boat along the Dubai coastline? Here’s some good news, we found a place in Dubai where you can rent a boat and drive it too, and you don’t need a boat licence.

Last week, I had the chance to try a Hero OdySea self-drive boat at Dubai Harbour Marina. And, honestly, not only was it one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in Dubai, but also one of the best ways to see some prominent landmarks along the Emirate’s coastline.

Clint Egbert/Gulf News

As someone who enjoys water activities but has never tried water sports, self-driven boats, or jet skis, I was testing new waters.

Normally, you would need a boat licence to ride a speed boat or to captain your boat, and I do not have one. But, with Hero boats, that is not a requirement.

Don’t know how to ride a boat? That’s not a problem either. Just before you begin your tour, a tour guide uses a simulation model to teach you how to ride the Hero boat.

The boat that has a single gear for accelerating, slowing down, stopping and reversing, is fairly easy to manoeuvre. And, a boat tour guide is assigned to ride in a separate boat close to you.

Before my tour began, my boat tour guide, Ali Bakar Mohammed, helped me dispense the slight nervousness I was feeling, and then showed me how to ride the boat.

He also demonstrated some hand commands that he would show when we would be out, and I would have to follow suit. He said: “You need to make sure not to overtake me. Stay behind my boat or parallel to it, depending on my instruction. Keep an eye on my hand commands at all times and follow them. And, lower the boat speed in case we cross any big waves.”

Agreeing, I marched on to the wooden jetty with him, where the boats were parked.

The boats parked at a jetty in Dubai Harbour, Marina Zone C
The boats parked at a jetty in Dubai Harbour, Marina Zone C Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

I was still worried if I would tip the boat over by driving it wrong or by taking a very quick turn in the water. Another boat guide, Sylvester Louie Delfin Bedia, who handed me a safety vest and helped me board my boat, assured me that Hero boats are non-tippable. “These are RIB boats or Rigid Inflatable Boats that are designed in a way to ensure that they do not tip over,” he explained.

I followed the instructions to start the boat, and followed Ali, steering the boat away from the jetty, my heart beating fast.

But, just 10 minutes into the tour, I was comfortable with maneuvering the boat. Soon, I was riding at a speed of 50km/h, the maximum you can reach on a Hero boat. Any time I slowed down, Ali would loudly cheer me on.

He asked me to remain parallel to his boat most of the time, during the 90-minutes tour.

At times, when bigger boats or groups of jet skiers passed, or when we neared ships that were parked, he would take the lead and I would carefully follow his hand commands.

We stopped at famous landmarks like the Burj Al Arab, Atlantis, the Palm, the World Islands, and the Bluewaters Island where Ain Dubai, the world's biggest and tallest observation wheel, is located.

For tourists, the boat tour guide gives them more information about the landmarks at each stop.

But, the best part of my tour was when I got to captain the boat freely, further away from the shore, where no other boats interrupted us. On one side was the Dubai skyline peeking through settling fog, and on the other, the Arabian Sea. By now, I was sure that this would not be the last time I was renting this boat.

the best part of my tour was when I got to captain the boat freely, further away from the shore
The best part of my tour was when I got to captain the boat freely, further away from the shore Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Cost and booking

Tickets for Hero Odysea signature and sunset boat tours are available on the Hero OdySea website for Dh700. There are four time slots 9am, 11am, 1.30pm, and 3.30pm (sunset tour). You have to arrive at Dubai Harbour, Marina Zone C, 10 minutes ahead of your booking time.

Can anyone ride the self-drive Hero boats?

If you are a water sports adventurer or a tourist visiting Dubai, this is a must-try activity. These boats can be driven by anyone above the age of 18 years, with no recent physical injuries or surgeries. Pregnant women are also advised not to ride the boat for safety reasons.

The boats can hold two people at a time, and a total of 220kgs safely. Children above the age of six can accompany an adult on the boat.

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