Dalma island is situated in the Arabian Gulf, part of Abu Dhabi emirate and has been on the “to do “ list for a while. Everywhere that is possible to visit in the UAE, will be visited!
Dalma can also be referred to as Delma Island: the road- signs, as normal in the UAE, are a mix of interpretations of the Arabic translation. Luckily with this name not too much guesswork is required !
The island is situated 42 kms off the coast of Abu Dhabi and 116 kms from Doha, Qatar. Access to the island is either via ferry from the small port near Jabal Al Dhanna or by plane from Abu Dhabi. The population consists of around 10,000 Emiratis and Qatari, who have been granted UAE nationality. It’s a farming and fishing island.
Finally in August 2015, the visit took place. As it was right in the middle of the hideously hot Arabian summer, the camping idea was abandoned, and a long day trip was the schedule.
Ferry times and distance to the port from Dubai meant a 4am start, through summer fog and finally onto the tedious road which eventually leads to the Saudi border at Ghuwaifat. It’s a 3 hour plus drive, the border road is under re-construction, so it was hot, dusty, and little to look at apart from the new Etihad railway. The land here is desert and flat Sabhka plains inland with a coastal ridge on the seaward side. Most of the seaward side is inaccessible, owned or leased by Oil & Gas giants.
Mugharrag Port is a small port on the border of Ruwais, and as it was the 9am ferry on a Saturday, there were no queues. The passengers seemed to be mostly construction or government workers heading back to the island after the weekend. The voyage is about 1.45 minutes, flat calm and the time passed quickly, helped by super sweet chai from the onboard chai-waller.
Leaving the ferry we headed off to the right side of the island. Dalma is very small, but has been inhabited for over 7,000 years and was once the Gulf’s most important pearl diving settlement. Dalma’s freshwater reserves have enabled settlements and it is historically important within the region for being one of the places that early settlers were able to inhabit.
Reaching the tip of the island after a 5 minute drive, along white sands and bordered by the most intense turquoise sea, there is a small mangrove area. There was a 5 hour wait till the return ferry, so plenty of time to check out bird and sea shore life.
Bivalves and…. were prevalent, Storks and Herons in the mangroves, but it was hot – over 45 degrees and the sea felt like a freshly boiled kettle. Unsurprisingly there was little marine life to be found on the shoreline.
Continuing round the island, doing a bit of beach off-roading to add some excitement to a very hot day and a seemingly empty world, again the most beautiful beaches, totally devoid of life except palm trees and the occasional fishing boat out on the azure sea; heat and culture leaves the beaches empty in this part of the world..
Dalma town has several mosques, one main one, large and colourfully decorated, a small port and associated shops, a small shopping centre, a large palace; is all beautifully green along the roads, the town gardeners, have created a lovely oasis. Dalma has plenty of fresh water, hence its settlement history. Fruit and vegetables not normally associated with the arid Emirates are grown here in abundance.
Near the port is the Delma island museum, located in Al Muraykhi House and open from 8-00-1600, Sat-Thurs, with free entry. The house dates back to the time when Dalma was the pearl diving centre of the Gulf and there are some interesting items on display. Sadly, no guide, it is very small, so some nice pictures, but not a great deal of fact.
Below the town is a long reclamation area, leading to the tip of the island, a small village, partially abandoned and at the far end, a private jetty, boats, walled off land, with a large villa, looked expensive, but that’s usual in this part of the world.Again, beautiful and empty beaches, not a soul in sight.
The interior of the island has one road leading to an army base over sharp edged rock, but off the high point, there are farms on the island on the fertile lower slopes. Dates, fruit and vegetables are all grown here.
It’s probably a good place for a camping weekend in the winter months, but as the temperature was edging close to 50 on the mainland, and not too much less on the island, it was time to pick up the ferry and head home.
I’m glad I went, it’s a historic island in the Gulf, hopefully in the future some more archeological investment will be made.
It was a long day trip but fascinating to visit. The vision of the UAE shown in the media is of glitz and glamour, but outside of the city, there’s a wealth of local life to be seen.
With the language, cultural and traditional divide for men and women, it’s not easy to assimilate into local culture; exhibitions and photographs offer an opportunity to view from afar, but to get a flavor of life, visiting the remoter places offers an small insight into a unique and difficult existence.
http://dalmaisland.com for island information but a Google search for Dalma or Delma is worthwhile before the trip.
Flight time from Abu Dhabi: 45 minutes.Daily flights apart from Friday,according to current web information. contact DOT, Abu Dhabi.
E11 from Dubai to Ruwais, leave the E11 onto E30,
Turn to port for Dalma island. Private ferry for Sir Baniyas Island is further on, ensure you take second left at roundabout for Dalma ferry, well signed.
Port location on google maps is :
Ferry times available from dot.abudhabi.ae