Dubai: Psssst! There’s treasure chests hidden all across the UAE and you likely don’t know.
That person you see walking through Safa Park, looking at a GPS and scanning the ground carefully — they’re in the know.
They’re geocachers — hunting for the hidden secret treasure troves right beneath you feet, in cracks in trees, or buried under bushes in the desert.
Safa Park is a location for one of the hundreds of geocaches in Dubai and one of more than two million geocaches around the world, according to the geocaching.com.
A geocache is a hidden box that can only be found by using the coordinates found on the website. At N 25° 14.656 E 055° 21.562 you will find a geocache called the ‘Dubai Micro Mystery’.
With the help of a smartphone or device with GPS, you can go to that spot and then proceed to find the hidden box in the area. The geocaching app helps to log your finds, leave reviews, or say if it was beyond your reach — sometimes literally.
Once the hidden box is found, you can sign your name or — if you’ve brought something to add to the collection of goodies — you can take one too. The hidden boxes are ‘caches’ while ‘park and grabs’ are when the cache is fairly easy and doesn’t take much of a trek and a search.
‘Travel bugs’ are tags you buy and register online with one or multiple goal locations. The owner will be able to track where it goes.
‘Nano caches’ are magnetic caches with enough room for a paper scroll and are roughly the size of a bullet.
For Ged Langosz — or ‘Desert Trekker’ in the geocaching world — it all started when he stumbled upon the geocaching website more than seven years ago. Since then, he has found more than 260 caches and he’s made a fair number of them too.
If you’ve been geocaching in Dubai, you will most likely know of one of them — it lies submerged in the Gulf and requires scuba diving to find it. With a metre and a half of visibility at the best of times, only two have succeeded.
“You have to know what you’re doing,” Langosz said.
For him, geocaching is a chance for a little adventure, a camping excursion, a hike, or a scuba dive. When Langosz first started geocaching in Dubai there, were only a few dozen caches. Now there are many and he appreciates a challenge, hence the ‘park and grabs’ aren’t for him. But they are exciting for parents who have young children who want to join in the excitement of finding hidden treasure.
Another cache Langosz hid is called ‘Animal Instincts’. He recommends it because it’s not hard to get to but does have a bit of a challenge. It requires the treasure hunter to answer some questions at the Arabian Wildlife Centre in Sharjah. Once the questions from A to N are answered, the coordinates are: North AB° CD. EFG, East HI° JK. LMN.
The online comments on this cache rave about how nice it was to go to the wildlife centre and learn a few things.
“You can learn a lot about a country,” he said. “Back in Northern Ireland, we have seen bits and parts we’ve never seen before. Historic churches I never knew were there.” He is planning another trek in Northern Ireland that will require him to hike up the mountains. There are seven of these and it can take a few hours to climb up each one, but this is why Langosz enjoys geocaching so much.
He has planted a ‘travel bug’ before in Dubai with its goal destination to be around where his grand daughter lives. “People picked it up and moved it from location, to location, to location until it made it all the way up to Ireland and my grand daughter could go and find it,” Langosz said.
Julie Brown geocaches with her two daughters and they go by the name ‘Desertsparkles’. Brown discovered geocaching through a National Trust programme called 50 things to do before you’re 11¾ and, as a geography teacher, the hobby is right up her alley.
Together they have done about ten caches in Dubai and they have planted a few travel bugs. Brown says that she and the girls like doing some of the ‘park and grabs’ because they can spice up a simple errand run.
“It’s a great way to get the kids out and about,” Brown said.
The cache they planted is somewhere they knew, somewhere quiet in a park that they don’t think many people know about.
Brown has done some geocaching in Europe and says they put coins from the UAE into those.
“Some of these things are planted in the most stunning places,” she said. It’s a way for locals to show visitors some very unique and beautiful places they would not have seen otherwise.