UAE: 2-day swimming ban due to killer whale-sighting lifted in Abu Dhabi

Over the past two days, some establishments were asked to ban guests from entering the sea, while others even closed their beaches completely

By Harriet Shephard

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File photo
File photo

Published: Thu 11 May 2023, 5:45 PM

Last updated: Thu 11 May 2023, 8:00 PM

Hotels and residences across the UAE Capital have been advised to lift their restrictions on beach swimming and sea activities, originally enforced after two orcas, also known as killer whales, were spotted off the coastline of Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, May 9.

Over the past two days, some establishments were asked to ban guests from entering the sea, while others even closed their beaches completely.


However, in an email issued by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) and obtained by Khaleej Times, hotel operators are now permitted to resume sea activities under the provision that they follow strict guidelines.

“Swimming activities may resume in your respective establishment’s beach with several recommendations,” the email read.


The statement declared that lifeguards must remain on the lookout for orca whales, and immediately ask guests to leave the sea if one is spotted. In addition, hotels are required to report any whale sightings to DCT.

A rare sighting

The orcas were originally captured on film and shared on social media by Egyptian Abu Dhabi resident Ahmed Afifi, who was out fishing with four friends.

Speaking to Khaleej Times yesterday, he recalled the moment the whales appeared: “Suddenly, one of the other anglers on the boat said that he spotted a whale jumping out of the water. At first, I couldn’t believe it as I have been doing [these fishing trips] since 2008. I go fishing every other day and I’ve never seen a killer whale around in Abu Dhabi.” The whales then appeared to travel north.

Today (May 11), Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan shared a clip of the mammals in the waters of the Gulf near Jebel Ali, Dubai.

Part of Abu Dhabi’s healthy marine ecosystem

While orcas are not considered a threat to humans, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi has urged people to keep a safe distance from them.

The environmental regulator noted that the species is one of the most well-travelled marine animals, and that they have an amazing ability to adapt to both cooler climates and warm waters.

Speaking on Instagram, the agency said: “Although this sighting is rare, orcas frequently visit Abu Dhabi's waters. This is a testament to the healthy marine life that call Abu Dhabi home.”

Anyone who spots an orca is asked to call the Abu Dhabi Government call centre on 800 555.

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