The UAE’s second smallest emirate puts on a big show for local marine enthusiast.


If you’re a lover of all things marine, then the Umm Al Quwain Marine Festival, held every March, is the event for you and after it’s inauguration last year, this year’s event returned bigger, better and more competitive than before.

As it’s a community event with everyone welcome, there were many nationalities and age groups engaging and enjoying the festivities, spending the day with family and friends, whilst enjoying the fresh Umm Al Quwain air.

The festival featured a full range of exciting activities, including a 500m-kayak race, a free diving competition and the highly competitive Kingfish event – all with big prize monies. Competitors were leaving with big smiles and even bigger cheques, with the winners of the kayak or free diving competitions receiving AED5000.

A traditional rowing boat competition started the festivities on day one. Here, the captain of each boat has a crew of eight oarsmen, which he has to keep pulling together as they focus on speed to reach the finish line. The khor in Umm Al Quwain has many shallow areas with strong tidal currents flowing, so strategy involves navigation as well as encouraging the human power machine.

The next day, the excitement started with the 500-metre kayak race, which got the adrenaline pumping amongst some fierce competition. Jiffry from Sri Lanka was tutoring outdoor sport during the day in Abu Dhabi and came by road to compete – walking away with third place and cheque for AED1500 – a very happy paddler.

Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a beginner, this race is open to all and next year promises to be a thrilling experience with some of this year’s spectators vowing to enter next year.

The circuit is a paddle around a 500-metre track marked with buoys and a straight run back to the finish line on the beach. Safety cover was provided by rescue boats and rescue PWCs, including a guest appearance of Shafi from DIMC in Dubai.

Visitors, sailors and fishing enthusiasts enjoyed shopping around the marine exhibition stands where there was representation from many UAE marine companies. Instead of wandering around the bazars searching for boat parts and equipment, everything was here in one place, with some great deals and discounts especially created for the show.

The big prize for the free diving competition attracted many extreme sports fans in their camouflaged wetsuits, however here, scuba gear was only for the safety team. Competitors had to use only a mask and snorkel as they searched the waters for hidden treasure in the form of yellow pained clay pots. The winner, a Frenchman named Till, promotes eFoilers by day, however he managed to collect the most clay pots in the competition and walked away with a decent prize.

The on-water demonstration in the marina had a display of fishing boats and day cruisers, both monohull and catamarans and even some fancy swan styled boats to excite the family members. Gulf Craft displayed some of its latest catamaran fishing vessels that attracted a lot of attention, mainly due to their twin hulls providing a wide and stable platform for fishing and entertaining at sea.

After the kayak race it was time for the fisherman to cast their lines and take part in the Kingfish competition. This was everybody’s chance to showcase their fishing skills and compete against other enthusiasts from across the region. With plenty of different fish in the waters off the coast of Umm Al Quwain, bait and lures also became a big part of the competition preparation too.

Nobody went hungry either thanks to an incredible selection of Arabic and Emirati food, all homemade and served with a friendly smile. From savoury falafel and shawarma to sweet baklava and some very tasty local lasagne, all were made more delicious by the fresh sea air. Spicy or sweet, there was a dish there for every taste.

After the delicious food, visitors could stroll through the marine stands and check out the incredible exhibits. From beautiful displays of seashells and coral reefs to exotic fish and sea turtles, there was much to see and learn about. The local heritage tent gave the opportunity to speak with experts and learn more about the fascinating world of UAE marine biology. Here, the team at “Blue Eco” explained how they gather information about the bio life in Umm Al Quwain, recording what fish are, and where they live. They record how much carbon is absorbed into the marine vegetation, which becomes silt on the riverbed and how this affects climate change. It’s not just wading in the sand, they also use high-tech underwater cameras and drones to monitor from the skies and underwater.

Freediving championship: The rule for winning the freediving championship was simple - collect the most jars and win AED 5000.

With the festival drawing to a close, there was still time for one last adventure – to take a sunset boating tour and explore the stunning coastline of Umm Al Quwain in a whole new way. Paddle past ancient ruins, mangrove forests, and secluded coves, all the while enjoying the breathtaking sunset views. It’s a truly unforgettable experience and the perfect way to end an incredible day at the Umm Al Quwain Marine Festival.

The Umm Al Quwain Marine Festival is a celebration of all things marine and next year, it promises even more. With a 500-metre kayak race, a Kingfish competition, Arabic food, exhibition stands, and sunset kayak tours, there will be something for everyone to enjoy.