There are a lot of things to do in Dubai. Visiting the tallest skyscrapers, witnessing modern cityscape, enjoying dinner on an Arabic boat and the list goes endless. But, a trip to the desert is inevitable to understand the heart of Dubai because that’s where it all began.
The loose flowing sand, the Bedouin traditions, Arabic cuisine, and the camels is a recipe for an exploration of the time immemorial.
A desert safari trip adds a flavor of adventure to the whole mix to make it even more exciting. There are certain things to know and to take care of before you plan your safari trip to Dubai.
This definitive guide to choosing the best desert safari in Dubai everything you will ever need to make an informed decision.
What is a desert safari Dubai?
Dubai Desert safari is an adventurous yet nostalgic trip to the deserts of Dubai. The journey begins as the desert safari driver arrives at your location, preferably at your own stay, be it your home or hotel, and picks you up.
Deserts are not like the roads. They offer a different driving experience and requires 4×4 vehicles to manoeuver.
On the way to the desert, there is a brief stopover for refreshments. To prepare the cars for a desert drive, drivers deflate the tires to nearly empty. Yep, you need flat tires to move over desert sand.
After entering the desert, all the safari cars form a convoy at the first sunset photo point. On a safari trip, there will be many photo-stops for capturing the mysterious desert dunes against the orange dusk sky.
The towering dunes, when combined with speed and audacity, results in nerve-racking fun. After the thrilling ride over the sands, the whole convoy head over to the camp.
The safari camp is modeled like a traditional Bedouin camp that comes complete with traditional refreshments — Arabic coffee and Kahwa, opportunity to dress up in Abayas and Kandoras and get a henna tattoo from an artist, and a handful of entertainment.
This detailed guide will help you discover the best desert safari, Dubai.
What are the activities in a Dubai desert safari?
There is no shortage of adrenaline pumping activities in a desert safari Dubai. After the cars form a convoy at the photo-stop, it is time for the most adventurous part of the trip. The ‘all-wheel-drives’ move through the enormous dunes at baffling speeds climbing up and down the dunes like a roller coaster in the desert. This is not for the faint-hearted. Enthusiasts have nicknamed this action-packed thrill, and that’s what it has been called ever since — dune bashing.
Between the half an hour desert dune bashing, there will be enough halts for the guests to take pictures and also try their hands at sandboarding. Sandboarding is the desert-version of snowboarding. The boards used and the techniques to be employed are a bit different, though.
Because the sand is more coarse and abrasive as compared to snow, the sandboards are made of harder materials. So don’t take your snowboard out on the sand even if you do mind paying for a new one.
Usually, the safari operator will provide the sandboard. Get on top of the tallest dune, strap your feet onto the board and zoom down to the bottom. Don’t be afraid to try it out. Sand is very forgiving to falls. In some desert safari options, you can also glide by the camel farms.
Then after comes the camp. The visit to the desert camp helps us understand the life of local Arabs of the past centuries. It is good to know that not every olden day Arab lived in the desert. Most of the Arabs were town dwellers. They lived among the more civilized portion of Dubai. Those who lived in the desert are called the bedouins.
Those with adventurous flair haven’t run out of things yet. They should hop on a quad bike and go for a spin. Quad Bikes, or All-Terrain Vehicles as they are called, effortlessly work through the grueling sand.
Those who have firsthand experience of life in Dubai before its modern glory would have innumerable stories to tell about their camels. They are called the ship of the desert. Desert safari offers the opportunity to ride these magnificent beasts to your heart’s content. They are no friendly creatures to strangers; that’s why their mouths are muzzled.
Don’t miss the chance to hold the falcon, the national bird of the United Arab Emirates, and snap a picture with the beautiful avian. They are one of the fastest living things on earth.
The hubbly bubbly is available at the Shisha corner. Shisha was the traditional recreational habit of Arabs.
As it gets darker, the mood inside the camp brightens up. Dance shows and sumptuous barbecue buffet will culminate the joyous evening.
Dubai Desert safari is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic and sought after pastime activities in the region.
What to wear for desert safari Dubai
Keep in mind that summers in Dubai are hot. So dress for the weather. Pick your desert safari outfit wisely. Wear loose comfortable clothes for your trip, preferably light-colored cotton or linen.
Don’t wear your best clothes because you are going to the sands. Therefore, expect your clothes to be covered in dust by the end of the day after all the adventures.
It is more comfortable to walk the desert wearing shoes. But it is not advisable to wear low top sneakers or tennis shoes. If you do, you will have to remove them from time to time to get rid of the irritating sand that gets inside. Wear high top shoes with socks or even open-toed ones.
Hats and sunglasses will be quite handy in the desert. Also, bring your sunscreen and wear as little jewelry as you can.
If you are visiting in the winter, keep a jacket with you as the temperature will drop drastically in the desert after the sunset.
Which desert safari package to choose
When it comes to choosing the ideal safari package for you, make sure to go through the details of all the various safari options out there.
Evening Desert Safari
This is the complete desert safari you can get. The trip begins around 3:30 in the evening, depending on your location, as you are picked up by the driver. You reach the desert around 5. Half an hour of desert dune bashing and few photo-stops later, you travel to the Bedouin camp.
With an evening desert safari, you get to enjoy all the camp activities, including the dinner and entertainment. Some of the things in the camp are optional and will require you to pay, like the quad bike and picture with the falcon.
After the sunset, the camps livens up with energy. The venue lits up and live performances of Arabic folk dances bring joy in the air. That’s made even better with a toothsome Barbecue dinner buffet with enough dishes to satiate the taste buds of vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians.
When you finish the dinner and done lazing in the night time vibe of the desert, you will be dropped back at your location. The entire trip lasts for 6-7 hours.
Morning Desert Safari
If you are short on time or not interested in the desert camp or dinner, you should opt for the morning safari. But unlike the evening safari, this begins around 8 O’clock in the morning. The morning safari packs all the fun of evening safari dune bashing, sandboarding, quad biking, and camel riding minus the camp and dinner.
Overnight Desert Safari
Overnight safari gives some unique opportunity. You can stay in the desert camp through the night. Overnight package has everything that an Evening Safari has with the night’s stay in the desert.
Being far away from the city all through the night in itself is something you should experience. Everything here is different from a city; the sounds, the light, the wind, and even the smell. In the absence of external light, the night sky can be seen in its full glory. Pick out all the constellations and look at the heavenly milky way.
Private Desert Safari
If you like the comfort of a car all for yourself and your friends, then go for the private desert safari. The price of the private safari is for the whole car and not per head.
Private safari, but, is not a separate safari. Luxury desert safari is available for evening, morning, and overnight safaris. If you want, you can also buy the VIP seating in the desert camp, which is a luxurious seating where food and shisha will be served at your table.
Budget Desert Safari
Yes. Sometimes you will have to cut the costs a little bit, or you have too many people along with you for the trip to afford a premium desert safari. If so, this is your ideal go-to option. In a budget safari, the trip to the desert is on a bus as compared to a car in the above-mentioned ones. The bus ride will be shared by other safari goers as well.
But the bus cannot drive in the desert, though. From a pick-up point near the desert camp, all of you will transfer into a four-wheel-drive to go to the camp. En route, there will be a short yet thrilling desert dune bashing. The drop off to your location will be on a bus too. Other than that, you get everything else.
Self-drive Desert Safari
As the name implies, you drive yourself to the desert, however, not in the desert. From the aforementioned pick-up point near the camp, the licensed safari driver picks you up in a safari car. After that, it’s pretty much the same as budget safari.
But this option gives you the freedom to come at your will. The only thing is that you have to reach the pick up in the scheduled time.
Hatta Mountain Safari
Hatta is an exclave of Dubai surrounded by Sultanate of Oman. Tall and formidable mountains form the terrain here. It is these mountains that creates picturesque valleys which are mostly dried up.
Safari trip through these valleys uncovers secrets that lie within these rocks. The natural pools in the mountain depressions are too scenic to describe in words.
The mountain safari includes a dune bashing ride in the red dunes which is on your way to Hatta.
Choosing the Best Desert Safari Operator in Dubai
Almost as important as picking the right kind of desert safari package is the selection of the best safari company to make your trip a long-lasting memory. There are all kinds of people who will offer to take you to the desert; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Make sure to go through these points before booking your tour.
Better avoid freelancers
While not all freelancers are terrible, most of them are. So often, they do not deliver on their promises and will charge you more for the things that you will never get to see.
Don’t go for the wholesalers
There are agencies which claim to provide safari tours, and then they slice up their total booking and source it out to freelancers and other safari providers. The downside of this is that you never know what you are going to get. It turns out to be a game of luck.
It will be astronomically better to just go squarely to safari provider who operates their own safari camps, vehicles, and drivers.
Choose a reputable company
Operators are mandated to procure proper licenses from the government authority for legally conducting safaris. Make sure that the company you are opting for play by the book. Check about the services and packages they provide.
Finally, safety is of the utmost importance. Safari vehicles are supposed to have safety features like roll bars, seat belts, and first aid.
How to book a desert safari
Booking a safari trip is quite simple. Calling or chatting up with service provider will usually do the work. You will have to pay an initial amount to make the reservation. If the company offers secure card payments, that’ll be even better. As soon as you make the payment, you will receive the confirmation of your booking.
The only thing remaining from your part is to show up at the scheduled time and location of the trip.
How much does a Desert safari cost
Cost of the safari depends on the package you choose. A typical desert safari prices range anywhere from 100 AED to 300 AED. But there are websites that provide deal prices. With a bit of research, you can find the cheapest desert safari Dubai.
Tips to make your desert safari exciting
- Don’t eat a heavy meal before the trip because the bumpy ride over the dunes can cause you discomfort.
- The space inside the safari vehicle will be limited. Therefore carry as little with you as you can.
- Try not to carry valuables and jewelry with you.
- Opt for safari packages without desert dune-bashing if you have a weak stomach or are prone to motion sickness or back problems.
- Always follow safety instructions from the guide.