(CNN) — With more than 200 islands, stretches of quiet beaches and nearly eternal sunshine, Abu Dhabi has plenty to offer water lovers.
“My personal favorite in Abu Dhabi is kayaking in the natural mangroves on a two-hour guided tour,” says Gretta Beckett, an Abu Dhabi resident.
Adventure traveler Laura Coughlin points to Abu Dhabi’s massive water cable park. “There’s nothing like it in the Middle East,” she says. “Even pro-boarders come to check it out. Our country’s only pro wakeboarder, Omeir Saeed, is often here cheering on budding wakeboarders.”
These epic water activities make the most of Abu Dhabi’s incredible landscapes and endless sunshine.
Visit a flamingo oasis
Less than 25 miles from Abu Dhabi lies a sanctuary for wildlife. Al Wathba Wetland Reserve supports a myriad of plant, aquatic and bird life, including thousands of migratory flamingos.
The reserve was created by accident when a water treatment facility hit capacity and flooded the surrounding land. What were once arid salt flats now teem with life.
During the winter months, thousands of greater flamingos flock here. They are notoriously picky about where they breed and conditions have to be just right.
On Thursdays and Saturdays, visitors can explore the site on a variety of trails. A planned observation platform will give visitors a bird’s-eye view.
Pretend to be mermaids at a water park
The region’s first water cinema is here, and when the show is done, there’s a kid-friendly mermaid school.
It’s even possible to plunge down the Middle East’s longest suspended roller-coaster or race headlong against five others down a massive water slide.
The flat waters of the UAE are ideal for wakesurfing, a sport that involves riding a shorter surfboard behind a special wave-creating boat. Once the art of standing up has been mastered, you can progress on to flips, 360 turns and even ever-so-serene board yoga.
The surrounding promenade is full of restaurants for breakfast after. Or for sunset riders, there’s drinks at the Anantara Eastern Mangrove’s outdoor terrace for waterfront views of the marina.
“Abu Dhabi’s protected waterways make the water flatter, meaning you won’t fall as much,” says Mullet.
Gather pearls from a traditional dhow
A local guide talks through the extensive history of pearl diving in the region (including how divers wore weights on their legs and clipped their noses shut), then provides dates, tea and a pearl-opening demonstration. Anyone who finds a pearl gets to keep it.
Explore history along a scenic route
The trip passes the Maqta Fort, a local heritage site over 200 years old, then winds past Abu Dhabi’s mangroves. Flamingos can be spotted here.
Toward the end, there’s a scenic view of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Skip the boat with a cable park
This massive cable park involves a huge overhead cable that pulls riders along the lake at speeds of nearly 24 miles per hour (38 kph), no boats required.
The wait time is minimal, as the system can pop out 13 riders per minute. For those into advanced wakeboarding, the dedicated extreme course is great for intense training.
Compete against friends in an inflatable course
This 84-piece obstacle course has bridges, ramps, steps and slides, challenging visitors to balance and climb their way to success.
Kayak in luxury
The trip involves potential spotting of wildlife like foxes, turtles, flamingos and the ever-charming sea snakes.
Leave the city center for quiet waters
In this scenic area you’ll find more locals than tourists — possibly because of the 40-minute drive from Abu Dhabi’s center.
Yet with multiple companies offering everything from jet skiing (ideal in the flat waters) to serious wakesurfing (again, great on the glassy surface), Ghantoot has plenty to do all day.
Soar above the sea with jetpacks on your feet
Not for the faint of heart, this wild water sport involves strapping on jet-propelled boots then bursting up out of the water.