Snorkeling is not an extreme sport, but when my tour guide at Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands announced that we’d take a dip at Shark Point, my heart sank. I was scared more for my younger brother and sisters, whom I had convinced for months to take this trip sans flashbacks of Jaws.
We took a leap of faith into the blue waters and instantly were transported to another world with a crystal clear vision of the life beneath. Canon-ball-sized sea urchins, colorful nudibranchs, and royal blue tang fish were all at an arm’s distance from us.
We challenged ourselves to swim from our boat to the shoreline and back and spotted a few leopard sharks. Truth be told, I was more terrified of stepping on a sea urchin than being hunted by a shark. Snorkeling was magical in retrospect. The extremity of the situation – of being in water surrounded by magnificent animals made of 750 pounds of lean muscle and nearly 300 razor-sharp teeth left me with much more than a thrill.
Besides busting stress, research suggests that extreme sports can develop valuable personal attributes such as courage and humility.
The Dubai Fitness Challenge, which tasks Dubai residents to commit to 30 minutes of exercise every day for 30 days, is almost halfway through, though there are still plenty of events to get involved in. We recommend you go outdoors during the annual event and do something out of your comfort zone, skydiving or diving with sharks. The region has a lot to offer when it comes to extreme sports. Here are the best picks.
MOUNTAIN BIKING AT HATTA
You’ve probably explored Hatta’s awe-inspiring mountains or hitchhiked there for a weekend excursion. Try mountain biking at Hatta Wadi Hub, dubbed as Dubai’s largest and most dynamic national park comprising several cross-country cycle routes, each of various grades, that cater to all levels of ability, from beginners to experienced riders. The Hatta trails are free to ride and are open all year round.
Kalaripayattu is a martial art form that originated in 1362 and today is an integral part of the culture of India’s southern state of Kerela. It has four stages of intense training. The first sets the foundation for the entire training; exercises include postures, jumps and leaps, circular sequences, kicks, leg swings, and various other movement forms. The second phase comprises training with wooden weapons. Only when students demonstrate control and mastery over mind and body do they graduate to the third stage, where they can use sharp and lethal metal weapons such as the spear, bow, dagger, and mace. In the last stage of training, students can fight armed, unarmed, or multiple opponents without using weapons.
If you’re looking to take an extreme plunge, the Dubai Aquarium – one of the largest suspended aquariums in the world – provides an opportunity to swim alongside Sand Tiger sharks. The dive into the 10-million liter tank allows face-to-face interaction with the largest collection of Sand Tiger sharks in the world, along with over 300 sharks and rays and a bustling cluster of marine life. Prior training may be required for the extreme dive, but lesser intense options are also available.
Jumping out of an airplane requires a leap of faith in yourself, your equipment, your instructor, and whatever provides you strength at that moment. For a thrilling airborne experience, consider a free fall of over 120 miles per hour. You must have confidence, but too much of it is a dangerous quality in a skydiver. If this activity is on your bucket list, November is the perfect time to strike it off. Consider SkyDive Dubai’s options available at two of UAE’s most iconic locations, the Palm and Desert Dropzones.
Ever desired to amp up your workout regime? Electromuscular stimulation (EMS), a full-body training exercise using impulse current, may provide an answer. How the EMS training works is it amplifies electrical impulses controlled by the central nervous to reach deeper muscle layers by applying electrodes directly above the muscle. Can you burn more calories and build more muscle through this technique? Sure. But does the thought of electricity passing through your muscles give you second thoughts? Give it a trial run before drawing a conclusion.