It was through my random scrolling on the internet which led me to finding out about Shuweihat Island in Abu Dhabi. There are so many places that fall under the radar in this region with little to no information posted about them but yet they are absolute must sees- this is one of them (another is Ain Sahban in Oman). When I saw photos of those beautiful rock formations, I sent an article about this to my bestie, Expat Lion and next thing I knew, we had allocated a day to go and started planning our trip- yay for adventurous friends!
This post is aimed at people living in the UAE but can easily be added on as part of a holiday. Having a vehicle is essential for this trip- there are no public transportation options.
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The inaccessibility of many hidden gems is what puts people off visiting them in the UAE. For those without SUV’s or 4WD vehicles, it may be too risky to visit some of the off the beaten path sites. However this is not the case for Shuweihat Island in Abu Dhabi! You can do the entire journey in a regular car. While the last 20 minutes does consist of you driving on a gravelly road, the terrain can be managed by a regular vehicle (however I would advise you not to go after a heavy rainfall which may soften the sand).
We started our journey in Abu Dhabi city having spent the night there before we set off in preparation for the drive ahead. You can reach this spot from Dubai or other emirates but it will take you considerably longer. The Google Maps link to Shuweihat Island will lead you directly to the island:
If you want to find the really scenic spots once you’re on the island, you can use this link:
The drive is generally easy and you’ll spend the majority of it in the 160km/h zone in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi. Drive carefully and be aware of the many trucks that use this route. You will pass the town of Ruwais and take the turn towards ‘Al Hamra Airport’ which will eventually lead you to Shuweihat Island.
The island is actually used by the UAE military so respect the forbidden entry zones and places where you cannot take photos/videos. There are no facilities on the island (no stores or bathrooms) so you can stop in Ruwais (the nearest town) to top up at the mall before heading to the island. There is also a small ADNOC service station just before turning off the highway to Al Hamra Airport which you can use for refuelling and bathroom visits (there is no shop there).
There are many people camping and barbecuing on the island, near the beach despite a sign strictly forbidding camping. Unfortunately these people also litter the area making it unsightly. There are huge trash cans on the road leading to the island… make sure to gather your dirt and throw it away once you leave. Park you car near the fence (opposite the no camping sign) and walk the rest of the way if you don’t have a 4×4.
Upon arrival, we were slightly surprised to see so many people (mostly families) who were already there when we arrived at 8:30am. We simply didn’t realise that people had been camping there from the night before! Nevertheless, the area wasn’t overrun with people and we walked for around 2 hours, taking photos, admiring the unique rock formations and hidden coves. To say its beautiful is an understatement! The unique rust colour of the rock coupled with their unique shapes makes for beautiful photos. Add in the sea’s various shades of turquoise and sapphire and you have gorgeous views.
There is some climbing and scrambling involved if you want to explore so I recommend shoes with good grip. They may also get wet as you will have to walk along the shore.
After our explorations, we enjoyed a small picnic, gathered our trash and eventually left. The weather was very windy which meant that it was too cold to go swimming (sadly). I regretted not bringing a jacket. The ideal time to visit would probably be when its a bit warmer (March-May).
Note: This experience can be enjoyed by people with mobility limitations but the terrain will not lend itself to a smooth wheelchair ride. Young children will need to be monitored vigilantly as the cliffs are steep with no railings/barriers at the edges.
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The cool water laps at my feet, fizzing and bubbling like soup. Even though the sun is beating on my back, beaming in my eyes, I can’t help but smile as the wind caresses my face. Waves ahead roar and roll down, crashing onto the shore with a soft hiss; peeling away at the deep bronze sand beneath my feet, framed by the orange hues of the large rocks making up this peculiar coastline.
This is another place worth putting on your list if you enjoy a long drive of enjoying the various scenery that the UAE has to offer. This can be coupled as part of a relaxing trip if you book accommodation in the Liwa/Ruwais area or as an extension to visiting Sir Bani Yas Island. When I first set eyes upon the scenery of Shuweihat Island, I couldn’t believe that I was still in the UAE. It really is worth a visit and since its so accessible, I recommend a visit at least once for UAE residents. Apart from petrol, it will cost you nothing else to visit Shuweihat Island in Abu Dhabi. You could also camp if you wanted to extend your time there but please do clean up after yourself.
Have you been to Shuweihat Island? Or have I just put it on your list? Let me know in the comments below!