If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a HUGE proponent of exploring the country you live in. Qatar is no exception (especially since international travel is not particularly accessible right now) and I’ve been compiling a series of posts for you to devour & save when planning for future trips to Qatar. You can find them in the menu tab: Life in Qatar. Purple Island should actually take center stage for MUST SEES in Qatar. About an hour out of Doha, it’s a leisurely drive with stunning scenery welcoming you at the end. There are a 2 main ways to visit Purple Island and this post serves as a comprehensive guide to the different ways to do so. Choose what fits your preferences!
You can watch the video here:
What is Purple Island?
Purple Island is also known as Al Khor Island ( جزيرة الخور), as well as Jazirat bin Ghanim so don’t get confused if you see these signs or hear of these places. They’re all referring to the same place. It’s not really an island as its connected to the mainland but its a refreshing change of pace from the city. It’s lush, green and filled with abundant mangroves & picturesque waters. According to the Qatar Museum website, it was a place of trade with Bahrain and was used by fishermen or pearl divers in the 2nd millennium BCE. The island was named for its red-purple color from the shellfish found there. You’re guaranteed to see fish, fossils & crabs however if you’re extremely lucky, you might even spot a flamingo!
You do not need a 4WD vehicle to access Purple Island but you will need a car. It is possible to find a tour operator to take you, wait a few hours for you and return you to Doha.
There is no entry fee to visit Purple Island.
There are no eateries/washrooms on the island and limited shaded area.
Strategy 1: A leisurely walk around the island
This is the most popular way to visit Purple Island. Drive directly to the Purple Island Parking lot and haul your kit & caboodle as you traverse the raised walkways while admiring the gorgeous views surrounding you. This is an easy 10-15 minute walk until you reach the miles & miles of open land where you can set up your picnic, climb the hills and be near the water. Arriving just before sunset is ideal for this as you can see from the photos below!
Tips: Wheelchairs & prams can easily navigate the walkways but may encounter difficulties on the island itself. No swimming is allowed. Please take all trash with you when you leave as the island is getting polluted to people’s carelessness.
Strategy 2: Kayaking around Purple Island
While this is touted as as ‘adventurous’ activity by the tour operators that offer it, kayaking is relatively calm and is one of those water activities suitable for non-swimmers (and children accompanied by adults). Unless you have your own kayak, you will need to go through a tour company so you can use their equipment. You can opt for a single or double kayak; everyone is given a lifejacket and a basic lesson. Unless you have utterly no motor skills, there’s a limited chance that you will fall into the water but nevertheless, the water is shallow and only reached my ankles.
Each company will have their own packages and prices so do shop around. The first time I tried was with Discover Arabia (150QAR pp) and I found the experience to be rather disorganized. That’s not to say it was bad or that I regretted it, I just thought it could’ve been handled better because there was a lot of waiting around and a lack of clear communication. I did provide my feedback to the company which they said they would take into consideration so I can only hope they’ve improved. I still managed to get these wonderful photos and see beauty of the island so all was not lost.
I signed up for sunrise kayaking with Aqua Sports (200QAR pp) to try the kayaking again. This time I actually got to go into the mangroves and the guides gave us information about the plants & area. It would definitely be my choice if I had to recommend a company to go with. You get into your kayak, kayak around the island and get off at certain points for spectacular vistas.
-Each tour operator has their own meeting point so best to make sure of the location before you set out. (Its not near the Purple Island parking lot & will involve you going off a tarred road).
-Wear footwear that you would be comfortable getting wet and while a bikini would be unnecessary considering Qatar’s modest culture, do wear clothes that are quick dry (like exercise clothes).
-Be sure what you’re getting when you book an experience. For example if you want to kayak in between the mangroves, look for a tour experience that caters to that. If you are happy to just do open water kayaking in the sea, then look for that. Each package is difference and not all are upfront about what you can expect so make enquiries before booking.
-The end of January appears to be flamingo season. They’re visible around 6:30am!
However you decide to visit Purple Island, make sure you don’t drop this off your list in favor of other- more convenient- sites. It really is a lush oasis, something to make you forget that you’re in the middle of a desert!
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Is Purple Island in Qatar now on your list of places to visit? Let me know in the comments below!