A Dubai desert safari is an essential part of any trip to the United Arab Emirates, and it will be one of the most unique and memorable experiences you’ll ever have.
Any good desert safari tour should begin and end with a pick-up and drop-off at your hotel. We did our excursion out of Dubai, but pick-ups and drop-offs can also be arranged from hotels in Abu Dhabi. Pick-ups are usually between 3:00 and 4:30 PM, so you can squeeze in some activities in the morning before heading out.
Here are some of the highlights of our Dubai desert safari tour. I recommend that you look out for tours that include these activities to really take advantage of what a desert safari has to offer!
Dune Bashing: So this is basically like a roller coaster over the desert dunes – and it’s really fun! In a 4×4 Toyota SUV, our driver Ram took us on a bumpy 40-minute ride over the hilly sand dunes. I do love a crazy roller coaster, but this jaunt is much more mild. However, I did experience some drops and jolts that left me at the edge of my seat (quite literally). The drivers are very experienced: you’ll see their smug smirks as they calmly maneuver the vehicle while watching their passengers shriek in fear. The six of us in the car laughed almost the entire way as Ram zigzagged through the sand, making some of us particularly nervous, haha – just listen to the video below.
Photo Opps: No good tour would dune bash through the desert without stopping for awesome pics. After about 15 minutes of bashing, we stopped in the middle of the dunes to take some incredible photos. Our driver Ram doubled as a photographer and insisted on taking photos of us while jumping in the air. Although jumping-in-midair pics are not my style, I obliged Ram. After seeing the photos, I was quite pleased with my decision. Ram took photo bursts, which means he captured us preparing for the jump, in mid air, and down on the sand again – and, as you can see below, the pics are pretty funny. Even if you do not like the photos themselves, laughing at your faces in them is worth it. The photos also capture the desert background and the sand flying in the air as we jumped, which I think looks pretty cool. Make sure to get yourself a good photog like Ram during this pit stop.
Sandboarding: WARNING – THIS IS MUCH HARDER THAN IT LOOKS. Contrary to what you may think, sandboarding is little like snowboarding. While sandboarding, the idea is just to head straight down the relatively steep slope – and that is daunting. I wiped out both times I tried, but the challenge made this activity really fun.
Dinner at Bedouin-Style Camp with Entertainment: After dune bashing, we arrived at our desert camp for dinner. We were greeted with Arabic coffee, dates, and sweets before sitting down around a stage to eat. We were well fed: appetizers included falafel and curry chicken empanadas, and dinner consisted of a Middle Eastern buffet with meat and vegetarian options. The best part of dinner was undoubtedly the show. I did not expect much from it at first, but I was quickly proven wrong. The belly dancer Rafaela was impressive, and her performance included a series of acts with some catchy tunes. My favorite part was when she balanced a sword on almost every part of her body – needless to say, we were all mesmerized (especially the men…haha). The camp also offered a variety of activities, including henna tattoo painting, pictures in traditional dress with falcons, and shisha smoking. Unfortunately, we did not have time to take advantage of all these offerings as time was slightly limited.
Desert buggy ride: Many tours include the option to ride a desert buggy through the sand dunes for about 20 minutes for an extra charge. Although we opted out of this activity, it did look fun. If you want to try the desert buggy, keep this option in mind as you browse through tour offerings.
Camel Riding: Camel riding was included in our tour once we arrived at our desert camp for dinner, but we opted out. I had already ridden camels in Morocco, and this 5-minute ride in a circle did not seem particularly appealing. Although I loved my experience on this tour overall, this particular activity was the least enticing. If you want a more meaningful camel ride, I suggest you look into tours that give you 20-minute rides at least.
After an exhilarating day in the desert, Ram drove us back to our hotel in Dubai. I highly recommend that you look into a desert excursion while planning a trip to the Emirates! Even amid all the excitement of the safari, you’ll still have opportunities to capture tranquil moments like this:
Thanks so much for reading, and please comment below for tips to plan your own Dubai desert safari!