Dazzling Dubai

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A city full of glittering skyscrapers, luxury hotels, megamalls, beaches and a man-made island… all built in the middle of the desert. Dubai definitely sounded like a place worth visiting! I can honestly say it’s like nowhere else I’ve been to so far. Best experiences? It was a tough decision, but here are my carefully chosen top 4.

Skydiving Over the Palm

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I’d read that skydiving basically involves flying up really high in a plane, and then jumping out. Sounded like madness, but skydiving over “The Palm” in Dubai turned out to be one of the coolest experiences of my life!

The plane takes you up to 13,000ft, they open the doors, count to 3… and then you jump! Now I’m not a huge fan of heights. I got stuck up a tree once and couldn’t get down for 3 hours. Terrifying! But this was totally different.

Out I jumped… Instantly felt the wind rushing against my face. Felt my heart pumping, my legs jangling, and possibly said something like “Waaaaaaaaahhhhhrrrrrrgghhh!!!”

And then I opened my eyes. Wow! The views of Dubai were mind-blowing. Desert, ocean, skyscrapers… it felt like I could see forever. Then the parachute opened and – WHOOSH – everything slowed down and we gently floated to earth.

I have to admit, I was relieved when my 4 feet hit the ground, but once I’d caught my breath, I was ready to do it all over again!

Head to the Top of the World’s Tallest Building

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Ilona Ignatova / Shutterstock.com

After jumping out of a plane at 13,000ft, I’d gotten a taste for heights, so heading up the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world – sounded like the next obvious adventure. I read some amazing facts about this skyscraper. It weighs the same as 100,000 elephants (or about a billion geckos), it’s over 2,700 feet tall, and has 163 floors!

Now I’d heard you could catch an elevator, but still, I was ready for a long trip. I even thought about taking a packed lunch. But this wasn’t an ordinary elevator. It reached the observation deck on the 124th floor in about 90 seconds. Yep, it’s fast!

And when you reach the top, it’s like standing on top of the world! Huge floor-to-ceiling windows let you see Dubai in every direction!

I timed my trip perfectly for sunset. Once the sun goes down, all the city lights and stars come out. Wow! There can’t be many better places to watch the sunset than the world’s tallest building.

My gecko mates back home are going to be seriously jealous when they see my photos of this one!

Shopping in the Souks

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Sanchai Kumar / Shutterstock.com

People love shopping in Dubai. It’s world famous for luxury designer stores and it has the biggest shopping mall in the world! But those sort of fancy places can be pretty expensive for a gecko on a budget. And besides, visiting a megamall didn’t sound nearly as exciting as shopping in one of Dubai’s traditional souks.

I took a water taxi to a place called Dubai Spice Souk – one of the city’s traditional markets. As soon as I stepped inside, it was like entering another world!

The place was full of narrow little lanes lined with merchants selling every spice you can possibly imagine! Nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, saffron… the smell of the air was incredible – and pretty full-on for a gecko with a super sensitive nose!

Anyway, I spent an hour “haggling” my way around all the stalls over spices, dried fruits, nuts, teas, coffee, incense and a traditional rug before getting a great deal on a box of Turkish delights (scoffed before I even left the souk)!

Yep, this authentic Dubai shopping experience is definitely a lot of fun.

Splash Out at Aquaventure Waterpark

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Kotsovolos Panagiotis / Shutterstock.com

Dubai gets seriously hot, so the Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis The Palm resort is basically heaven on earth! Spectacular water slides, gushing rapids, a 20-metre-high zip-line, tropical swimming pools, splash playgrounds for kids … this is one awesome water park. You can even dive in huge aquariums full of tropical fish, swim with dolphins or take a dip in a shark-filled lagoon (the friendly kind, obviously).

But the rides were definitely the best bit for me, especially “Aquaconda” – the biggest waterslide on the planet. A group of you sit in a rubber raft and get catapulted down a dark, twisting tunnel before being shot out through a huge glass tube – I think I screamed and laughed the whole way around!

But after my 15th go I felt a bit dizzy and had to lie down. Still, lounging in the sun on the amazing beach they’ve built inside the park was a pretty good way to feel better.

Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Dubai Desert

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After jumping out of a plane, taking in the sights from the world’s tallest building and zooming down the planet’s biggest water slide, I had time for one more adventure. Going up in a hot air balloon over the Dubai desert – it was the perfect ending to my trip.

After driving out of the city at dawn, we reached a silent world of sand dunes where our balloon was waiting. While everyone climbed inside I was still wondering how a basket and some hot air was going to get off the ground. But after a blast of fire, up we went, rising over the desert just in time to see the sun coming over the sand dunes. It was completely magical.

As we floated around, we learnt about all the wildlife that call this place home. Gazelles, camels, even the odd gecko lives out here. We’re a pretty tough bunch you know!

Anyway, after a relaxing hour we drifted slowly back to earth. Everyone got personalised flight certificates and an ice-cold drink. Not a bad way to finish off an unforgettable trip.
After this fantastic experience in Dubai, I’m packed and ready for the next stop on my grand gecko adventure. The UK, here I come!

Published 10th February 2016

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