When planning a trip to Dubai, chances are the idea of a shining metropolis comes to mind; days filled with luxury shopping, world-renowned restaurants and lounging by the beach. But Dubai was built on sand, which is why a desert safari remains a must-do activity in the region. With multiple operators and plenty of destinations to choose from, it can be overwhelming finding the best option, which is why we’ve rounded up seven of our favourite tours, whether you want to take to the air or hop on a camel.
If you’ve got cash to burn, there is no desert tour quite like that hosted by Platinum Heritage. From your hotel, be whisked away in a decked out open-top vintage Land Rover. Listen to the ancient tales of Dubai’s history from your knowledgeable guides on the ride to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Then, settle in for the evening with a four-course meal, while enjoying the evening entertainment with traditional dancers and a falconry show. Hop on a camel to retire to your tent for a peaceful slumber in preparation for an early-morning hot air balloon flight over the rolling dunes.
This tour, accurately named Adventure Unlimited, is not for the faint of heart. Perhaps the most adventurous half-day desert tour, travellers should be prepared for an adrenaline pumping ride over roller coaster-like dunes, some even standing at a 90-degree angle. To top off an already epic adventure, grab a board and hit the hills for a bit of sandboarding. Note that you must be 18 years of age and have a valid international manual driving license.
Hop in the car and hit the road right before sunset to head to the desert. For an unforgettable experience, book a dune buggy as the blazing sun meets the orange sand along the horizon. After ample photo opportunities, return to camp by camel, and then prepare to practice your belly dancing with Emirati instructors. Indulge in an open bar (unless it’s Ramadan), as well as henna. Once you’ve finished your barbecue dinner, settle in for a night of stargazing and storytelling from expert guides.
Discover a different side of the desert on this nature safari. Aboard a 4×4, you’ll zoom across the desert until you reach the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Here, you’ll uncover the unique flora and fauna that grow in this harsh climate. Keep binoculars handy to spot wildlife, from Arabian oryxes to gazelles. After the tour, cosy up for a traditional breakfast among the sand dunes, then pack up and head back to the hotel with plenty of time left to explore the big city.
If you’re visiting Dubai on a tight timeline, book TourRadar’s multi-day tour that ends the trip on a high, spending the night camping in the desert. Over three days, experience a romantic Dhow Cruise on a traditional Middle Eastern boat, marvel at the architectural feat that is the Jumeirah Mosque and take in the history of the city at the Dubai Museum. Then, for your final evening, leave civilization behind to sip on spiced Arabian tea and enjoy a traditional barbecue dinner. Cap off the evening with a Middle Eastern music performance, before snuggling in your tent under a night sky that rivals the best dark sky reserves.
For those who aren’t the biggest fans of overnight camping, but want to experience desert life, this evening safari lets guests relish a few hours under the Arabian moon before whisking them back to the city. With service straight from your hotel door, voyage to the luxurious camp in a Toyota Land Cruiser, then transfer over to a buggy for some dune bashing. Get in the party spirit with henna tattoos and live performances, then enjoy a desert dinners: grilled prawn, apricot stew, lamb and fresh salads.
While most visitors try their hand at dune buggies, why not break the mould and tackle the sand dunes in a Hummer? Enjoy the thrill as you crash down hills at heart stopping 90-degree angles. For those worried about the danger element, rest assured the Hummer is actually one of the safest cars to tackle the desert, with gripped wheels and smoother traction. After the adrenaline wears off, nestle in for an evening of shisha and strong Arabic coffee (no promises it won’t keep you up all night).