We know, we know. This is a waterpark and sport doesn’t happen in a waterpark. (That time we raced to eat an entire cheeseburger meal on a single lap of the lazy river doesn’t count.) After riding the many waterslides, however, Aqua Park Qatar gives you the chance to try the world’s first surfing half pipe simulator ride. Ride up curved walls at a 90-degree angle to the direction of the water and then tell us this is not a sport.
Aqua Park Qatar, Salwa Road, www.aquaparkqatar.com (4490 5672).
While most watersports are races, rides and dives, water polo is basically rugby in a swimming pool. The fast and ferocious team sport is an organised version of the informal chuck-a-ball-around-game many people try in swimming pools themselves. As with most things sporty, the place to try it in Qatar is at the Aspire Zone complex. As well as being home to an Olympic-sized swimming pool and spectator facilities for up to 4,500 people, the Hamad Aquatic Centre is a place for world class water polo matches and training.
Aspire Zone, Aspire Zone Road, www.aspirezone.qa (4413 8188).
Banana Island Resort by Anantara
Any watersports centre that requires a 25-minute catamaran ride to arrive at is a step above the usual offering. This banana-shaped island resort is a premium staycation spot with a dive centre, good snorkelling waters and kayak, yacht or fishing tours. However, being the fans of the “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” mentality that we are, it seems rude to make the trip and not sample a banana boat ride. Perhaps being dragged along on a giant inflatable banana is not technically a sport, but it will almost certainly leave you in the water. Clinging on for as long as you can it is the aquatic version of a bucking bronco and is a lot more challenging than it looks.
Banana Island Resort by Anantara, Banana Island, www.anantara.com (4040 5050).
Blue Pearl Club
This multiple-venue sports membership club is an incredible addition to Doha’s entertainment line-up for anybody interested in pursuing an outdoorsy lifestyle. It has permanent bases at Porto Arabia, Qanat Quartier Marina and the Marsa Malaz Kempinski. Furthermore, it hosts sessions and equipment hire at beaches in Fuwairit, Zekreet, Inland Sea and Dukhan. The various locations offer some combination of surfing, kiteboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing and kayaking. There is a strong community feel to the activities and a genuine belief that watersports are more than just a hobby, but a way of life to totally immerse yourself in. To talk the water life with fellow enthusiasts, head along to one of the three bases and meet like-minded surf-style dudes.
Blue Pearl, Porto Arabia, Peal Qatar, www.clubbluepearl.com (6660 2830).
A premium private members club in West Bay, this sporty enclave has some good facilities and views out across the Arabian Gulf. The 200m of private beach can be used for lounging around and enjoying the Arabian sun. Or, if you’re feeling more active, there are great options for motorised watersports. Water-skiing, wakeboarding, banana rides and Screamers are all offered here. If you want to be towed along at high speeds by a speeding boat and expect diplomacy from the people who fish you out of the water when you inevitably fall in, then there are few better options. Oh, and they have floating, donut-shaped barbecue boats you can rsail up and down the West Bay while grilling meat on.
Diplomatic Club, West Bay Lagoon, (4484 7450).
First you must show off your courage, coordination and strength – only then will you truly understand the way of the dragon. So say dragon boat enthusiasts, anyway. The fun and social watersport also happens to be a great workout and if you have never seen it in action picture 20 paddlers in what looks like an extended kayak with a dragon’s head carved on the front and you are more or less there. There are a few teams, races and even a festival as well as weekly training sessions. One such team is the Doha Dragons, although there are others welcoming newcomers, too.
Various locations, wwwdohadragons.com (no number).
You can snorkel anywhere you can swim, but some places are better than others. If you’re not yet PADI qualified or just want a leisurely float among some interesting sights then try Fuwairit Beach. Access may be limited for a few months while the resident hawksbill turtles are nesting, but travel around 100km north of Doha most of the year and you will find clear waters and a variety of sea life to get to know.
Off Al Shamal Road, 100km north of Doha. Set GPS for 26.019814, 51.379373.
As well as being home to the excellent Poseidon Dive Centre, the Hilton in West Bay has watersports managed by the highly regarded Blue Marine group (www.bluemarine-me.com). This means guests and visitors can try all kinds of exhilarating pasttimes, including flyboarding (think jet-powered water skateboards flying up to 15m in the air and you have it), jet skiing, donut rides, water-skiing and more. And all of this is within view of the West Bay skyscrapers and on the Hilton’s plush private beach. It doesn’t get much better for an all-round experience.
Hilton Doha, Diplomatic District, West Bay, www.hilton.com (4423 3333).
The popularity of stand-up paddleboarding in Qatar continues to grow as the sport makes a splash at more venues. We’ve seen yoga on boards, races on boards and guided tours on boards, but it all starts with lessons and the tentative steps of a beginner. You will fall in. Don’t worry. It is a watersport so getting wet is part of the fun. An organiser like those at Bay Club in the Intercontinental Doha will have you standing up and paddling around the seaside in no time. When you get more accomplished, try the SUP yoga sessions here. Jet skis and flyboards are also available at the hotel’s private beach area.
InterContinental Doha, West Bay, www.ihg.com (4484 4919).
Katara Beach Club
You probably know Katara as a cultural quarter with an amphitheatre, opera house and galleries. It has so much more and fully deserves to be one of the nation’s favourite corners. There are gondola rides. We should say that. And pedal boats and sailing excursions. So far, so standard. Here’s the thing, it also has motorised activities to blow your mind. Don’t believe us? How does a motorised robot shark sound to you? The Seabreacher can be piloted in tandem or solo. Or there is the Jetlev-Flyer. Never heard of it? All we’re going to say is that it is a water powered jetpack that lets you fly over the surface of the sea.
Katara Beach, Katara Cultural Village, www.katara.net (4408 0000).
Marsa Malaz Kempinski
This swanky hotel excels in many areas. The restaurants, nightspots and spa are all top-notch, but it might be the watersports facilities that are the most impressive of all. Out on a private stretch of the Pearl-Qatar is a well-maintained strip of private beach. Here you can try paddle-boarding, kayaking or just pedal boat rides if all you fancy doing is some casual splashing around. Take your day on the water to the next level aboard the hotel’s state-of-the-art Mastercraft X25, which means you can water-ski, banana boat and donut ride over the Arabian Gulf waters. But here you’ll be able to do it faster than anywhere else.
Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl-Doha, www.kempinski.com (4035 5011).
Poseidon Dive Centre
Diving has long played a part in Qatari culture. It was once a pearl diving hub and the love of the sea still plays a part in the nation’s heritage. Take a scuba diving tour and all year round you can see blue angel fish, natural corals, stingrays, barracudas, turtles, groupers, banner fish, king fish and lots of smaller fish, especially on wreck dives. There are a variety of dives off Doha’s coast with most ranging from six to 20 metres. There are dozens of different training courses at this well-regarded dive centre. Ranging from taster sessions and junior bubble maker lessons to advanced training and photography courses find one that suits you and dive right on in.
Poseidon Dive Centre, Hilton Doha, West Bay, www.pdcqatar.com (6608 4040).
Regatta Sailing Academy
There is sailing and then every other watersport which is desperately trying to be as cool as sailing. That is what yachting enthusiasts will tell you, anyway. We’re not talking about the floating superyacht of a billionaire, but actual real-life sailing. With port, starboard, masts, anchors and, well, sails. Officially recognised by the UK’s Royal Yachting Association, this is a watersports centre where you can learn the highest form of boating skills and undertake theory and practical testing. Various levels of junior and adult sailing are taught with a variety of craft. It is also a community hub for sailing enthusiasts around the region and organises races and competitions.
Regatta Sailing Academy, Katara Beach, www.regattasailingacademy.com (3363 2515).
For all the jumping in, flying over and speeding around it, the best way to experience the sea is from the deck of a private yacht, dhow or powerboat. This Porto Arabia firm specialises in all things Marina. You may spot the water taxis shuttling around Pearl-Qatar waters, but it is the numerous charters that are more interesting. There are various craft, ranging from luxury ships with bedrooms to customised fishing boats and even traditional dhow cruises available. Training, berthing and boat owner services are available.
Ronautica Middle East, Marina Way One, Porto Arabia, The Pearl-Qatar, www.ronautica.com (4409 5279).
Sealine Beach Club
Escape Doha for a day and head south to this sporty beach club. The drive is around 50 minutes, meaning you have time to let the suncream settle while planning your activity schedule. Flyboarding, jet skis and banana boats are all present and the remote location means you don’t need to worry about disturbing central solace seekers.
Sealine Beach, A Murwab Resort, Mesaieed, www.sealinebeachqatar.com (4476 5299).
This Ritz-Carlton property has sandcastle competitions for kids on the beach. If that brings images of childhood holidays to your mind then you are blessed with some happy memories. More can be made with a sunset paddleboard trip. The watersport facilities, like the gorgeous hotel and general vibe of this property, are mellow. Glide a kayak up and down the water’s edge for a while before slouching back into a sunlounger to look out from the private beach.
Sharq Village, Ras Al Abu Abboud Street, www.ritzcarlton.com (4425 6666).
The St. Regis Doha
The iconic St. Regis hotel in New York is famed for the many decades of prominent Big Apple hospitality. It doesn’t, as far as we are aware, offer sunset boat cruises, snorkel excursions, tube rides, or water-skiing lessons. Mark this up, then, as a win for the Doha branch. We doubt New York even has knee-boarding. If the seaside sports are too salty, or plain fast and furious for you, the hotel’s Olympic-size pool frequently hosts water polo matches, and there is the occasional aqua-fitness class you can join as well. Boat trips take guests out to Sand Island where you can enjoy an underwater world as well as look back at the skylines of modern Doha.
The St. Regis Doha, West Bay, www.stregisdoha.com (4446 0000).