Dubai has become a household name in the last few years, both as a business as well as a tourist destination. However, like most tourist stops, the shops, restaurants and malls form the gist of the tourist experience.

There is so much more to Dubai than just malls, and the myriad of outdoor activities could very well be the highlight of a visit here. A Dubai experience encompasses mountains, desert and water, with dinner cruises and diving adventures included. Here are eight outdoor things to do in Dubai you might not have heard about.

#1: Desert Safari Dubai

Did you think safaris are limited to Africa? A desert safari here is a little different, and the desert, like the sea, defines the landscape of region. It defines the region’s culture. It’s hypnotic, and should not be missed, even if it is inhospitable and arid.

The basic desert safari in Dubai consists of an experienced guide explaining the history and other aspects of the desert, during a 45 minute trip to a camp in the desert. There, a belly dancer and a “tanura” live dancer will entertain you while you sup at a buffet. This is timed right with the sunset for a stunning desert experience.

#2: Horse Riding

Ever wanted to feel like a hero racing across the desert in search of someone to rescue? Not many people know that wild horses ran free in the desert, born for life in the sands.

They were highly prized from antiquity up to the present, protected and honored, used for both commerce and racing. Horse racing is still a favored pastime in the UAE. Climb on a beautiful desert horse and ride around the warm sands to see what it’s all about. Beginners will be taught how to ride.

#3: Scuba Diving

When the words scuba diving are mentioned, people visualize the crystal clear, blue and teeming waters of Mexico, the Bahamas and the Greek Isles. They don’t visualize Dubai, and that’s a shame. This area of the world has been trading with everyone since time began. Where there is water (and boats), there are shipwrecks. There are also coral reefs, a complete ecosystem to see, as well as whale sharks. The local guides are a wealth of information regarding everything underwater. Prefer underwater cave exploration? Got it covered. Are you a beginner and would like to check it all out? Not a problem. All the necessary gear is available for rental.

Although most people don’t think of the UAE as a Scuba Diving destination, it’s an activity that is very much alive in the country and on the West Coast – there are some extremely pleasant dives.

There are several sites wherein a ship or barge was sunk either by design or by disaster. An explosion, for example, sank the MV Dara in 1961 in Dubai in 66 feet of water. Today, divers can view guitarfish and whale sharks. Al Fujairah is the site of Inchcape 1, a barge purposefully sunk in 2001 in 104 feet of water. Divers will watch as all brands of schools of fish explore the wreck, with a moray eel as The Boss. Al Fujairah is also the location of Sharm Rock and Martini Rock. Around Sharm Rock divers will find corals along with pufferfish, clownfish, piperfish and dozens of other species of fish. Martini Rock is a marine park carefully protected so divers might see stunning corals with lionfish and eels swimming around them.

#4: Deep Sea Fishing

Most people don’t associate the UAE with fishing, and although it is not the cream of the crop like the Bahamas, the fishing here is definitely up there with some giants caught now and again, and a consistent catch most of the time.

The best fishing season is December to March and the most common catch is barracuda, king fish, trevally, cobia and the occasional blue fin tuna.

The best deep sea fishing in Dubai happens about 20 KM offshore and consists of a mix of bottom fishing & trolling.

#5: Palm Island Sea Cruise

This is a tour of Dubai’s coastline with all its history and beauty. For example, the Jumeirah Coastline stretches almost from one end of Dubai to the other and includes a sea view of the Burj al Arab. This is a stunning luxury hotel in the shape of a sail. Also on the tour is the Dubai Marina as well as a Cruise around the Palm Island and the World Islands. Experienced guides will tell you all about the history of what you’re seeing. It is a gentle cruise, perfect for those who suffer seasickness.

That concludes the “touristy” things to do in Dubai. The following are for those who like to explore on their own. The first is water attractions. All of Dubai is on the coastline, so there will be plenty to see other than the usual tourist stuff.

#6: Yacht Rental

Yacht rental might be a little expensive, but it ensures a private experience rather than a group one. Cruise wherever you wish, have a barbeque lunch or dinner after you’ve dropped anchor in the ocean for a swim. It’s up to you where to go and what to see.

#7: Dhow Cruise Dinner

One thing most people don’t recognize is that the UAE rests beside water. It’s called the Persian Gulf, and it empties into the Arabian Sea. With that said, a dhow is a wooden boat traditionally used in commerce

A dhow for a dinner cruise in the Dubai Marina includes a buffet dinner accompanied by either a singer or belly dancer. The dinner keeps visitors entertained while cruising Dubai’s water canals, especially the famous Dubai Marina.

#8: Musandam Day Trip

Many people aren’t aware that aside from desert sands, mountains are a feature of the United Arab Emirates or UAE. Musandam is located in Oman, but is geographically placed so it is accessible to anyone in the UAE.

Tourists rarely see it; it is usually frequented only by locals.

The Musandam Day Trip Tour is a day long tour, complete with snorkeling and lunch. Enjoy the breezes, the views of the mountains and the ocean for a day you won’t forget.

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