A trip to Dubai cannot be said to be complete without having experienced a Dubai Desert Safari.
Delighted by Dubai’s luxurious skyscrapers and white beaches, visitors often forget that they are in the Arabian Peninsula, which for the most part is occupied by one of the largest and most spectacular sandy deserts in the world.
The Dubai Desert Safari experience is one of the most authentic adventures that can be done in Dubai: it is the best way to get to know the Arab Emirates and to explore the hinterland, discovering remote villages, wonderful landscapes and the famous red dunes of Arabia.
The Dubai Desert Safari offer is wide and there are several agencies that offer this experience, so finding your way around the different offers can be confusing. Moreover, it is important to rely on a good operator, who will guarantee you an unforgettable experience without a hitch.
In this post I will give you some useful tips for a perfect desert safari!
What is a Dubai Desert Safari?
A Dubai Desert Safari is a trip to the Dubai Desert, one of the most beautiful and authentic regions of the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai Desert Safaris usually provide several fun activities to do (4×4 dune safari, quad biking, camel ride, sandboarding and more), but there are also options for those looking for something more peaceful and romantic, such as a nice dinner under the starry sky, a night in a tent in a desert camp or a visit to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the first UAE national park.
Those who prefer more sustainable solutions can opt for an incredible experience (which is also my favorite, and I will talk about it soon!): a Dubai Desert Safari on board an authentic open-top 1950s Land Rovers, the same vehicle used over 6 decades ago by the first British explorers. You will retrace the tracks of the explorers, meeting the local populations, the Bedouins, and you will spot wildlife (including rare desert antelopes) in the Reserve.
If you are looking for a truly unique experience, take a look at the hot air balloon ride, which allows you to live the experience of flying on the Dubai Desert, to visit a falconry and to spot local fauna such as camels and wild gazelles.
Depending on the type of experience the tours go to the Lahbab dunes (the famous big red dunes), the Hatta Mountains (one of the most remote places in the UAE, on the border with Oman) or the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (a park national where you can see wildlife).
Usually Dubai Desert Safaris include pickup and drop-off directly from your hotel, transportation and local food and drinks during the experience.
Which Dubai Desert Safari Tour to Choose?
When choosing your Dubai Desert Safari you must consider what type of activity you would like to do in the desert, what experience you want to live and how much time you have available.
First you need to choose the time of day you want to experience Dubai Desert Safari:
Dubai Desert Safari in the morning is the option chosen by lovers of adventure sports, such as Sand Boarding, Quad Biking and above all Dune Bashing: expert drivers will make you experience very strong emotions on the desert dunes.
Most travelers choose to do the Dubai Desert Safari in the evening. These tours can offer the same activities as those in the morning, but allow you to enjoy the beautiful sunset over the desert, take a camel ride and participate in a traditional BBQ (also suitable for vegetarians).
It is the most complete and undoubtedly the most romantic experience. By choosing to spend the night in the desert you can enjoy all the fun activities and in addition you will have an unforgettable dinner under the starry sky in a desert camp, with typical specialties grilled on the fire (also suitable for vegetarians) and then spend the night in a traditional tent, sleeping on the typical bedouin bed! Recommended for those looking for a more peaceful and relaxing experience.
MY CHOICE: Dune Bashing is a fun experience if you’ve never tried it before, but I enjoyed more spending the night in the desert or taking a ride on an authentic 1950s Land Rovers to see the wildlife. But it’s a matter of personal taste!
The price depends on the type of experience and the quality of the service. The experiences that I recommend here are those that have the best value for money and that are offered by the best local operators, in terms of safety and quality of experience.
The Best Morning Dubai Desert Safaris
Dubai Desert Safari in the morning is mainly chosen by lovers of Dune Bashing.
You will be picked up with a 4×4 and driven to the Lehbab Desert, a vast area where there are the largest dunes: once there your expert driver will drive the 4×4 on the sand and begin a series of spectacular and thrilling evolutions on the dunes. Not for weak stomachs!
Here you can see the famous Camel Rock and Fossil Rock of Sharjah, marine fossil rocks that stand out in the dunes.
You can also try sandboarding on the dunes, and you can visit the Al Khayma Desert Camp, where you can take a camel ride.
If you are a daredevil you cannot miss the experience of the Dune Buggy or the opportunity to explore the Dubai Desert by Quad Bike (ATV). This region is famous for being one of the best in the world for quad biking (in my opinion THE BEST!).
Hot Air Balloon Adventure: the Dubai Desert from above!
If you are looking for a truly unforgettable experience, this is the one for you!
The excursion begins early in the morning (at 4.30 AM) so you can see the sun rising over the desert: a unique sight that deserves to be seen at least once in a lifetime.
Once you reach the desert you will board the hot air balloon and fly for over an hour admiring the rising sun.
Once back on the ground you will enjoy a fantastic and rich breakfast in the desert and you will have the opportunity to meet camel breeders, falconers and see the desert wildlife, including rare specimens of Arabian Oryx!
The Best Evening Dubai Desert Safaris
Most travelers choose to live the experience in the Dubai Desert in the evening, enjoying the best of the hours when the sun sets on the red dunes.
Tours depart in the early afternoon (usually between 2.00 PM and 3.00 PM) and offer activities similar to those in the morning:
- Dune Bashing lovers can choose for a 4×4 Dubai Desert Safari that includes this exciting experience, as well as the opportunity to try sandboarding and take a camel ride.
- If you are looking for strong emotions, you can choose to explore the desert by Quad Bike (ATV) or try one of the most fun activities to do in Dubai, the Dune Buggying.
- If Dune Bashing is not for you, you can opt for a more authentic camel trek: you will enjoy a long camel ride and then relax in a Bedouin-style camp with tea or coffee and a nice and rich barbecue.
Evening Dubai Desert Safaris usually offer the possibility to dine in the desert, with a barbecue of local meat – sometimes you can also taste camel meat – and vegetables, as well as soft drinks and local fruit.
Those looking for a more peaceful and memorable experience (with less crowd and a better contact with nature) can choose from some experiences that in my opinion are among the most beautiful that can be lived in Dubai:
Private Astronomical Evening Safari and Dinner Under the Starry Sky in the Dubai Desert
This unforgettable private safari allows you to enjoy the best of the Dubai Desert with calm and tranquility, away from mass tourism.
You will travel to the desert by vintage 1950s Land Rover and at sunset you will see the desert come to life: it will be easier to spot wildlife and you will be able to discover nocturnal animals thanks to high-tech night binoculars.
An expert guide will help you explore the wonders of the sky with professional telescopes and then you can relax in a wonderful camp owned by a local royal family: here you can enjoy a delicious typical 3-course dinner and if you want you can try smoking the traditional aromatic shisha pipe.
Old Fashioned Dubai Desert Safari with Dinner Under the Starry Sky
With this experience you can explore the Dubai Desert just like the first British explorers did over 60 years ago, aboard an authentic 1950s Land Rover.
You will go to the most intimate places in the Dubai Desert, far from where most tourists go, where you can enjoy the best of nature and wildlife.
Your expert guide, specialized in ecotourism and cultural heritage, will drive you through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the first UAE national park, which is home to 50 species of exotic plants, 120 birds and 43 protected mammals and reptiles.
The safari will take you to a private refuge belonging to a local royal family in the desert where you can relax and enjoy activities like camel rides, henna tattoos, shisha and falconry, you can watch the preparation of bread and learn some typical local recipes.
Finally you can enjoy a delicious dinner under the stars, cheered by the music and the songs of the Bedouins.
This is the ideal choice for travelers attentive to sustainability and ethics: these experiences are organized by Platinum Heritage Dubai, a local operator specialized in safaris of the best quality, with the best guides, the best safety, and above all a conscious attitude towards nature (a contribution towards local conservation is included in the tour price).
The Best Overnight Dubai Desert Safaris
If you want to experience all the magic of the Dubai Desert you must live the experience of spending a night under the starry sky, sipping a traditional tea around the fire and then sleeping in a tent, on the typical Bedouin bed.
Your guide will pick you up in a 4×4 Land Cruiser and from Dubai you will travel for 1 hour to the Lahbab Desert. Here you will enjoy the exciting experience of Dune Bashing as the Land Cruiser goes up and down in the sand dunes.
At the Bedouin-style camp of Al Khayma you can enjoy a traditional coffee with typical sweets and dates, you can make a camel ride around the camp and then you can relax by smoking shisha or doing a henna tattoo, while enjoying the sunset over Dubai Desert.
In the evening while the belly dancers move on the rhythm of the Bedouins, you will enjoy a buffet dinner of grilled meat and vegetables, and before going to sleep you can contemplate the starry sky above you while sipping a good traditional tea around the fire.
The next morning, remember to wake up before dawn (the guides will usually tell you exactly what time) to not miss the sun rising over the dunes. After breakfast you will return to Dubai, ready for a new adventure.
Old Fashioned Dubai Desert Adventure
This is the quintessence of Dubai Desert Safari. It is a unique and unforgettable experience, perfect for those who want to experience the magic of the desert away from mass tourism.
This is in fact the only experience that allows you to dine and sleep in an ancient Arab home, part of a reserve owned by a local royal family. This allows you to live a more intimate experience, to fully enjoy the silence and wonder of the desert and its magical starry nights.
During the day you can spot wildlife and explore the wildest corners of the Dubai Desert aboard an authentic 1950s Land Rover, while in the evening you can enjoy a delicious dinner based on traditional specialties.
Dubai Desert Safari Best Deals
There are so many things to see in Dubai and tickets can often be expensive. This can be challenging for those traveling on a budget.
But there is a simple and effective way to save up to 60%: there are tourist cards that allow you to enjoy many of Dubai’s main attractions for free.
You can choose between the GoDubai All-Inclusive Card and the Dubai Unlimited Attractions Pass, both of which include the Dubai Desert Safari with BBQ Dinner (but also include other iconic attractions, such as visiting the Burj Khalifa or the Dubai Aquarium).
What to wear for the Dubai Desert Safari?
Whether you prefer to dress like real desert explorers, with traditional Arab clothes, or with a fresh and comfortable t-shirt, when you go to Dubai Desert Safari it is essential (for your comfort and your health) to observe some tips on how to dress and what to put in the bag:
- Wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothes. Unlike the other places in the Emirates you will mainly be in the company of other tourists here, so even a decent top or t-shirt can be fine.
- If you are fair-skinned (or have sensitive skin) make sure to protect it well (the sun in the desert can be very strong): wear a shirt. There are also shirts and T-shirts designed specifically for places like this, which offer excellent breathability and UV protection.
- For boys an excellent solution is shorts or cotton trousers, while girls can opt for cotton or linen pants or for one of those wide ethnic-style trousers.
- To be more comfortable the best solution can be sandals (or something like that), so they don’t fill up with sand. However the place where you will go is suitable for any type of shoes.
- In the desert the temperature tends to drop in the evening, so bring a lightweight jacket or a cardigan.
- Take only the essentials with you, space in 4×4 is limited so it is better not to bring bulky bags.
- Limit jewelry and make-up: consider that creams and make-up with the heat and sweat of the desert tend to melt and could irritate the skin.
- Don’t forget to wear a hat, sunglasses and good sun protection! The sun of the Dubai Desert can be very very strong!
5 Tips For Your Dubai Desert Safari Experience
- If your experience includes Dune Bashing, have a light and early lunch. It’s better not to eat too much or drink a lot of water before, because dune bashing is very bumpy and some people may feel nauseous. It’s better not to participate in wild parties the night before. Once, I was with my friends, and the night before we had partied late and drank a lot. The next day we had the brilliant idea of going to do dune bashing. Well, it was a really bad idea. Trust me, don’t do it!
- Don’t bring too many valuables with you: some money can be useful to buy some extras or souvenirs at the camp, but consider that the value for money of the souvenirs sold in that place is not convenient.
- Remember to bring your camera. Maybe it’s the only thing really needed during your Dubai Desert Safari! Get ready to take amazing pictures!