|Sports enthusiasts spoilt for choice|
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Another game loved by Bahrainis is basketball. Regular matches are scheduled in the Juffair Dome, where international fixtures take place. If you’d like to catch a game, the Bahrain Basketball Association (17741010) can give you a list of upcoming games.
Waterskiing, once the favourite sport of this family, has taken a back seat for us – not because of lack of facilities, of which there are many, but due to a renewed interest in competitive sailing. Of course, if you’re visiting Bahrain on holiday, you should find boats keen to take you out at all the leading beach resorts and watersports clubs.
Boating and sailing are, naturally enough for an island nation where the temperature of the shallow coastal waters is pleasant year-round, very popular and relatively easy to arrange. You may be lucky enough to find that your hosts are among the considerable number of people in the country who own a boat, but if not, try the Bahrain Yacht Club (17700677) or Zallaq Sailing Club (17836078) – the former also offers boat trips out to see the dolphins – a magical experience that we have shared with visiting friends and relatives on several occasions. Once, we recommended to a Bahraini friend that he take his children out dolphin watching at the weekend – a trip that left him awestruck!
If you’re a competitive sailor, see if you can hitch a ride crewing in a Cruiser Fleet race (call the Cruiser Fleet Captain on 17590730), or maybe even in the annual Cable & Wireless Regatta, which will take place at the Bahrain Yacht Club in November 2005. There’s also an Open Regatta at the Club in May.
Those who prefer to let others do the work can hire private dhows for day trips. These traditional Gulf boats offer a unique way of seeing some of the outlying islands (fashts), most of them barely more than sandbars. The cost of hiring a dhow means you’ll probably need a group to make it cost-effective, but it’s amazing how easy it is to persuade people into taking a dhow trip! Be prepared to bring your own food and drink, not to mention plenty of sun protection. The experience is well worth it, and guaranteed to make memories that will linger long after the tan has faded.
Another exciting boat adventure to take is the journey to Hawar, a glittering jewel of a beach resort set in the aquamarine waters of the Gulf south-east of Bahrain’s main island. Not only are the beach and swimming pool facilities superb, there are ample opportunities for sailors and fishermen to enjoy their sport, while paddle boats, kayaks, jetskis, pushbikes, quad bikes and two-wheel scooters can be hired from the hotel. Trips around the island may also be arranged, and the resort boasts floodlit tennis courts. Call 17849111 for details (17290377 for reservations).
Because of the high insurance risk, it’s not as easy as it used to be to hire jetskis so it helps to know someone who owns one if you’re into that sport. However, jetskiing is available at the Ritz Carlton (17580000). The Ritz boasts a superb white sandy beach fringed by date palms, a lagoon and a man-made island, not to mention a luxurious indoor/outdoor pool complex. The resort offers the chance to go water-skiing, windsurfing, sailing and kayaking or take a ride on a pedalo or ‘banana’. There is a fully equipped Marina at the Ritz Carlton.
Fishing is another popular pastime in Bahrain and you should be able to find someone willing to take you out to try your luck from the Yacht Club - in 2001, a stingray weighing in at over 50kg took first prize in a fishing competition so there are some pretty big fish out there…
Seeing marine life in its natural habitat can also be enjoyed year-round in Bahrain’s warm waters. Most watersports clubs offer dive courses, but if you’re a qualified diver and you’d like to go exploring beneath the waves – well, ripples really in these tranquil waters! – you should contact Aquatique (17271780), which offers guided dives starting at BD35 for two dives (BD30 if you have your own equipment). Marine turtles, dolphins and dugong are all to be found among the brilliantly-coloured fish that populate Bahrain’s waters.
Underwater visibility is best in the summer and some divers have been lucky enough to find their own Bahraini pearls. When booking a dive, be prepared to show your diving certification card.