As the weather cools, we’ve got a whole bunch of ideas to get you exploring and enjoying the great outdoors.
After one of the hottest summers on record, we’re more than ready to welcome the balmy November days that make Bahrain such a great place to live, specially if you’re an expat whose home country is entering a grey, wet and miserable winter. And, with cooler weather inbound, there’s never been a better time to get outside and take in some of the great activities available across the island. We’ve come up with our top 20 things to do that will get you out of the house, away from your screens and taking in some precious fresh air at the same time as having fun and maybe even getting a bit fitter. We’ve even spoken to a few proponents who told us what they love about their particular sports and Naturopathic Doctor (ND) Taal Bastien writes for us on why getting outside is good for the mind, body and soul.
Best Foot Forward
Walking is an activity the vast majority of us do daily, without even thinking about it. But here we’re talking about more than just the short stroll from car park to office or shop to shop in the mall. It’s time to do some mindful walking and that means distance. Laceup your trainers, grab a water bottle, slather on the sunscreen (yes, you do still need it, even on our coolest days) and hit the pavements. Formal, organised walking groups seem to be few but there’s nothing to stop you getting together with friends and heading to one of the designated walking parks such as the Tubli Walkway, City Walk Riffa, Dohat Arad Park or even the Pearling Path, where you’ll have the chance to take in some culture too. Our four-legged friends also really appreciate walks and will add some fun to a, usually, solitary stroll. Don’t have a dog? No problem. Head to the BSPCA or BARC (Bahrain Animal Rescue Centre) to borrow a willing canine or two and get those legs moving – who knows, you might even discover your new best friend while you’re at it.
Speaking of pet pooches, Wagalag, the social doggy community that organises group walks and get togethers, is planning to resume its activities this month. Make sure to keep your eye on their social media pages for information.
Not keen on dog walking but still want to do your bit for the community? Then how about getting involved with a beach clean. Bahrain Beachcombers meet regularly at Nurana Island and never fail to come up with bag loads of trash, helping to keep the area pleasant for other beach users. Their winter season meets are about to start up and you can find details on both Facebook and Instagram.
Feel the need for speed? Step that walking up a level and break into a run. Bahrain Road Runners at brr.bh has a full calendar of events throughout the year from short races to half and full marathons. There are also walking meets and an aquathlon. Bahrain Social Runners is a group of enthusiastic athletes which arranges running, swimming and cycling programmes for its members. They meet weekly and also take part in races. You can find them on both Facebook and Instagram. Check out triathlon. bh for various race levels from sprint (short-distance) triathlons to a full Olympic-distance event. We’re also hoping for the return of the famed Spartan race in the coming months but nothing has been announced as yet.
Between the enthusiasm of Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa and the achievements of Team Bahrain Victorious, it’s no surprise that cycling is becoming ever more popular. If you feel the urge to get on your bike, the island presents plenty of opportunities. The Cyclones Cycling Club is a group of likeminded people who get together to explore the Kingdom’s highways and byways and members also regularly take part in competitions. Find them @ cyclones.bh to learn more. Girls can also sign up to @cyclingbees which is a group of female cyclists who meet very early Friday mornings (and sometimes on other days), their rides are escorted by a car to keep everyone safe and deal with glitches such as punctures and they make a habit of stopping off at funky new eateries and coffee houses for snacks along the way.
If you’re concerned about cycling on the roads, Shaikh Nasser has created a 10km cycling loop down near Zallaq and it’s bikes only, so no traffic to contend with. Also Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) has reintroduced Batelco Fitness on Track which offers both cyclists and runners the chance to exercise in a safe and controlled environment. The sessions are in the mornings and evenings, advanced booking is necessary at bahrainghp.com and the dates run around the BIC’s racing schedule.
Fancy getting in the swing? Then, golf’s your thing and there is a variety of spots to get a round in. Bahrain Golf Club is apparently the cheapest place on the island to hit a bucket of balls down the range and Awali Golf Club and the Royal Golf Club will also welcome you. The latter even has a Thursday evening golfing event which takes in a round on the Wee Monty course with food and drink stations along the way.
And, if none of these float your boat, you could have a day at the races as the new season has just started at Rashid Equestrian & Horse Racing Club; pick up one of the electric scooters that are available to rent at venues across the island; check out social media for news of car boot sales and fairs; put the pedal to the metal and take part in a go kart race; or check out the latest sport sweeping the Kingdom – padel, a cross between squash and tennis which can be played both indoors and out on specially enclosed courts.
DARREN SCHNEIDER OF BAHRAIN BEACHCOMBERS
So, the reason I started the group was that during my morning runs on Nurana island, I noticed there was an incredible amount of rubbish washed up on the beach and trapped in certain areas… some days more than others, some of the plastic would get washed out on the high tide and come back in on the low tide. Something had to be done, hence the birth of Bahrain Beachcombers back in 2014. To date we have picked up tonnes of plastic with the help of local businesses, the military base, clubs and schools as well as some amazing locals and expats donating a few hours on a weekend to help keep the island beaches clean.
All At Sea
As an island nation, it would be surprising indeed if we didn’t have a great range of watersports to offer. Bahrain has great traditions of both sailing and diving and these pastimes are still popular today. Though, unlike the pearl divers of old, we, thankfully, no longer have to hold our breath!
RYA (Royal Yachting Association UK) sailing lessons, which will start you off in a small dinghy to get you used to being on the water, are available through Scubalife at both the Yacht Club and Amwaj Marina. Trust us, once you get the hang of it, this is an activity which will work every muscle in your body, leaving you happily exhausted. It’s also fun and sociable and an excellent way to see some of Bahrain’s impressive coastal areas.
If you don’t fancy sailing a wind-powered craft, Dragon Boating is great fun and firmly under the control of the rowers and their steersperson. Think the opening scenes of the original Hawaii Five-0 (we’re showing our age here) and you’ll know what we mean. Bahrain has its own Dragon Boating Association and training takes place at Bahrain Rowing & Canoe Centre in Bahrain Bay. Head down early morning and you’ll see teams out on the water paddling furiously to the beat of a drummer. There are several training sessions each week and teams compete among themselves and also across the region.
Live out every kid’s dream and take to the skies, if only briefly, with Fly Boarding, which is offered by Extreme Sportz Bahrain. Fly Boarding lets you experience the thrill of flying using jet propulsion powered by a Jet Ski. It is an amazing sport which has become very popular and instructors promise they will get you up in the air whether you are completely new or an experienced rider.
Head to the coast any weekend and you will spot wakeboarders and water skiers taking to the waves, some more successfully than others – you will always spot those who’ve had lessons and those who are just flying by the seat of their pants. Wakeboarding is probably the coolest of the towing watersports and we think everyone should give it a go. Scubalife offers lessons in both sports and says water skiing requires little actual strength, being more about technique, and can safely be enjoy by those aged eight and above.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding and kitesurfing have garnered increasing popularity in the Kingdom over recent years and it’s easy to see why. Paddle boarding can be a relaxing way to get out on the water while working your core muscles and kitesurfing is a hugely exciting caper that allows you to fly over the waves, a bit like surfing but with the addition of a kite to pull you up into the air! Both, along with kayaking, wind surfing and loads of water activities, are available through Beach Culture Bahrain and are certainly on our list of things to try this winter.
Of course, we couldn’t mention watersports without talking about SCUBA diving – yes it has capitals and stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. Bahrain waters have wrecks, coral reefs and a rich assortment of marine life to get acquainted with – all you need is a few lessons and off you go. There are various places around the island to learn to dive including Scubamaster and Scubalife as well as social diving groups which organise trips and even holidays and can be joined once you have your dive licence.
Whether you’re a sporting veteran or a newcomer, there’s no excuse to stay on the couch this winter season with all this and more on offer.
LOUISE O’LOAN OF THE BLACK DRAGONS
I initially started out rowing and when that dissolved, I looked to their neighbours [at Bahrain Bay] – dragon boating. I started out in the social team taking my time to learn some techniques and getting in some paddle practice. When the race season began, I was already hooked and wanted to participate. We competed in the social category and came in second.
I love how the sport brings people together from different areas, backgrounds and ages. At 50, I’m the oldest member and our youngest is 14. Being outdoors in the sun and on the sea is so cathartic especially Friday early morning training. It’s quite invigorating to go for a paddle and have time with friends and teammates early in the day.
BSAC DIVER JODIE MARTYNDALEHOWARD
I started diving in 2007 as I grew up going to pool sessions with my dad, who is a diver. Since then, I have become a BSAC assistant instructor and a PADI Open Water instructor.
I love the escapism of diving. When you go out on the boat you get away from everything going on in life, you switch off and enjoy the day. You get to meet new people from all walks of life and it’s a supportive community.
I’m really passionate about helping women learn to dive as it can be daunting given that it’s a very maledominated sport.
It’s also incredible to start learning to appreciate the little things in life. From a distance it may not look like there is anything to see. But, when you focus and look closely, there is life everywhere.
Wreck diving is my favourite kind of diving and my favourite site in Bahrain is a wreck which is out towards Abu Thelma reef.
However, we are so lucky in Bahrain to have huge reefs close to shore and you can go diving almost anywhere and see something amazing.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Dr Taal Bastien ND on what puts the great in ‘The Great Outdoors’.
I walk through the trees and marvel at their grandeur. The wind moves the branches above me and the rustling of the leaves ebbs and flows with its passing. As I inhale the cool, crisp, autumn air my nose tingles with the mingled scents of the trees around me, mulch underfoot and the damp musk of the gathered leaves and foliage that blanket the forest floor. Subtly, I can feel my mood shift and my spirit lighten as my shoulders descend down my back away from my ears and the knot in my stomach, which I didn’t know was there, slowly starts to unravel. This is forest bathing at its finest.
The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture coined the term ShinrinYoku in 1982 as the act of making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest. Their antidote to the skyrocketing rates of stress and burnout that accompanied the 1980s’ tech boom was simple: encourage people to spend more time in nature and reconnect to their surroundings.
Nature therapy is the umbrella term for practices, techniques and therapies that use nature to improve mental, physical, and emotional health. It goes by different names, so you may know it as ecotherapy, forest therapy, forest bathing, grounding or earthing, but the unifying premise is that spending time in nature is good for you.
Since the 1980s, thousands of studies have been conducted to explore the benefits of nature therapy. What they found is that spending time in nature lowers concentrations of cortisol, lowers pulse rates, lowers blood pressure, increases parasympathetic nerve activity and lowers sympathetic nerve activity compared with city settings. Essentially, science agrees, spending time in nature really IS good for you.
Every culture across the globe has traditions, some dating back thousands of years, that honour nature and the healing it can provide. And studies now support those claims. So, the question then becomes, how do we incorporate this safe, effective and accessible practice into our lives?
I was born in the Pacific North West of Canada so I’m familiar with the landscape and what is available, but I’m new to Bahrain and the Middle East. As someone who loves to be outside, I am excited to discover my new home. Where do you feel the most connected to the Earth and your natural surroundings?
Taal is a Naturopathic Doctor at InTouch Integrated Rehabilitation Centre.