Desert Safari Experience in Dubai
A trip to the Middle East can mean a myriad of experiences, depending on what you’re looking for in the sprawling urban landscape. However, one item that is on every person’s to-do list – from first-time tourists, to seasoned visitors, to residents and citizens alike – is the famous desert safari out on the sandy dunes. Dubai, a hub of the Middle East, too has its fair share of sprawling desert dunes, vast empty landscapes that provide the perfect opportunity to explore the terrain. Apart from being a haven for tourists thanks to its luxury and accessibility, the city is famed for its cultural heritage as well; from museums to historically maintained neighbourhoods, Dubai offers a number of interesting experiences to learn about life in the Middle East, with desert safaris playing an important role in promoting information on how Emiratis thrived in the harsh desert. Far from being an interesting tourist experience alone, desert trips – and desert safaris – offer people the chance to experience and learn more about the way Emirati citizens used to live in the desert, before modernisation. Desert safaris have also grown to become an iconic past-time, thanks to the introduction of after-trip entertainment, adventurous activities, and a scrumptious traditional Emirati dinner.
Rides on the desert dunes
The first, most exciting step of the desert safari is driving on the dunes, informally known as dune-bashing. This is not only a thrilling adventure of riding up and down the sand dunes in a 4X4 vehicle, but provides the perfect opportunity to drive deep into the desert, the perfect spot for a number of sand-related activities. Booking an early-morning journey is perfect for the early birds, as you can experience the sun hitting the soft waves of sand as you cruise above, below, and on the dunes; morning trips are also useful as there are a wide variety of sports and activities on the sand, from riding on dune buggies to sand-boarding. Evening trips, on the other hand, are the perfect way to end the day – the sunset and early twilight is fantastic to see out in the desert, away from the bright lights of the city, and night-time drips include services like buffet dinners, entertainment, and overnight camping trips.
Desert safaris are extremely popular in the UAE, not just for dune bashing in an SUV, but for the myriad of activities that take place on the sand. One fun activity is sand-boarding, which involves sliding down the slopes of a desert dune on boards that are fastened to your feet – similar to snowboarding. The soft sand on the dunes is optimal for sliding down atop a board, and the various sizes of the dunes makes it accessible to people of all ages. Don’t worry about slipping and tumbling down – the sand cushions your blow, making it perfectly safe to try out. Sandboarding is a wonderful solo sport, and requires no extra equipment except one sandboard that you strap into – the cherry on top is its ease of access and availability; many desert safari deals offer sandboarding as an add-on experience, making it a great way to experience Dubai’s sand dunes and snap some truly stunning photos.
Quad biking and dune buggying, on the other hand, are perfect sports for those interested in driving or in motor sports, as these vehicles allow unlimited access on the desert waves. The vehicles themselves are tough and sturdy, and with proper safety and security measures in place, it is easily one of the most fun, family-friendly adventures to experience while still being able to cruise on the desert. Quad bikes are all-terrain vehicles with low-pressure tires, along with a seat for the driver, and low handlebars for steering. Quad bikes are great vehicles for those who are enthusiastic about driving, or those looking for a different perspective to enjoy and soak in the desert.
The camel ride is a must on any visitor’s itinerary, and is often included in the myriad of experiences offered during the desert safari. A popular reason as to why camel rides are so highly recommended is because camel rides are calm and mellow; the movement of the camel may be slightly rocky, but riders soon get used to the camel’s rhythm. More importantly, camels are able to traverse far distances without needing food or water, and this has made them indispensable to the Arabs living in the desert, especially as a form of transport. Camel rides, therefore, are a great way to experience how local Bedouins crossed vast expanses of the desert, and with a guide by your side, it’s a safe, yet exciting form of transport that’s suitable for children and adults alike.
Desert safaris are a fun way to experience the desert as well, particularly wildlife in the desert – one popular holiday trip is to book a desert safari in the Dubai Desert Conversation Reserve. This conservation reserve covers approximately five per cent of Dubai (the emirate), and is home to around 560 species. Those who opt for this kind of safari will be able to visit the reserve and help contribute to conservation efforts. The desert safari is often accompanied by a guide who will be able to point out various indigenous plants and animals, along with a chance to record your visit and the wildlife you come across. The conversation reserve also has a lake, where guests are allowed to drive past and click some stunning Instagram-worthy photos.
Evening safaris in particular are a delightful experience, as the dune-bashing experience ends at a desert camp. Evening safaris are the perfect way to end the day, with dinner being offered at the desert camp – options vary from traditional Emirati dinners to more continental dishes – along with henna tattoos, local camel rides, stalls that offer sand art, secluded spots for shisha, and the ever-popular belly dances. Dinner is often followed by traditional Arabic (Gahwa) coffee, and fresh dates and other fresh fruit. Dinner and post-dinner entertainment include a variety of dances on stage (with floor seating set up around the stage), and include belly dances and Turkish dances (the whirling dervishes), along with other forms of entertainment. As the night progresses, guests are either taken back to the starting point, or are invited to camp out in the desert overnight. Armed with a sleeping bag and a blanket, guests are allowed to sleep under a clear, starry night sky on the desert, a wonderful opportunity to go star-gazing, away from the bright lights of the city. Many tours that offer this package also include breakfast for the next morning, before you are taken back to the starting point.
What to wear, what to bring
When planning a trip for a desert safari, one of the most important things is to wear appropriate clothing – keep in mind that the days are quite hot, and the nights (and early mornings) can get quite cold, so make sure you wear neutral, breathable clothes that are adjustable for both temperature ranges and for plenty of dust. For early morning safaris, try and wear a hoodie, or a pullover for the early morning breeze, with a light t-shirt underneath with the temperature picks up. For desert safaris, try to wear comfortable trousers and long-sleeved tops, to avoid getting burned by the sun. Though shorts may be preferable, keep in mind that you’ll be inside an SUV, so shorts may be uncomfortable. Another issue is sand-boarding – tumbling on the sand with shorts on can result in sand reaching uncomfortable places. For accessories, carry a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes – if that isn’t preferred, a hat is a good option, or a light shawl to protect your head from the sun. For footwear, sneakers or flip-flops are decent options, as you will be in a 4X4 vehicle for most of the journey; for stretches of walking on the sand, sneakers or light boots are recommended to walk on the dunes and keep your feet warm, though sandals are also acceptable. Finally, it’s important to cover any exposed skin with sunscreen, to avoid sunburns, and wear lip balm to avoid your lips getting chapped from the dry desert heat. If you’re bringing family members, or staying the night, you can bring extra blankets, a towel, and snacks for the children.
Desert safaris, by and large, are a popular way to explore Dubai’s deserts, take part in fun activities on the sand, soak up some traditional culture, and click stunning pictures of the sun, the sand, and the clear blue sky. Be it an early morning trip where you ride the dunes as the sun comes up, or evening safaris where you sandboard down the dunes along with a setting sun, desert safaris have long been a fan-favourite for people who live in the Middle East, and for those who love to visit.
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