You’ve wined, dined and fought for an Insta-worthy spot in front of the Burj Khalifa – so what’s next? Dubai definitely has plenty to offer when it comes to glitz and glamour. But if you’ve had your fill of swanky lounges and malls that require orienteering skills, there’s a simple fix: head to the desert.
To be fair, Dubai’s expansive desert shouldn’t be left as an afterthought. If you want to get a real feel of the emirates, it should be right up there on your to-do list alongside eating your weight in shawarma. Not only that, this is probably the closest you’ll ever come to living your action hero fantasies. Quad biking, skydiving, dune bashing, camel riding… Arnie would be proud. On the other hand, if it’s a more chilled vibe you’re after, you can enjoy a serene dinner under the stars or a spot of wildlife watching.
Gearing up for the ultimate Dubai desert experience? Well, here you go, adventurer; these are the activities you need on your itinerary:
You’re picturing a beaten up old Land Rover creeping around the dunes amidst hushed voices, right? Well, you can do that (but you can bet that vintage Land Rover will be beautifully restored). But a desert safari Dubai style can also mean crashing over the dunes (sheer drops included) in a swish, modern 4×4.
Both types of safari lead to the same point; a tasty Arabic dinner set in a traditional Bedouin camp, complete with evening entertainment and photo ops galore.
Platinum Heritage is your best bet if you’re looking for a luxe experience (remember those vintage Land Rovers we talked about?). The award-winning company offers all kinds of desert tours; everything from falconry to hot air ballooning, all meticulously organised and truly sophisticated – with the price tag to match.
Rayna Tours is a more budget-friendly option, with a range of shared and private safari options. Want to spend the morning riding the dunes? No problem. Fancy camping overnight after an evening indulging on barbequed delights while enjoying a traditional Arabic belly dance show? Rayna Tours is the one for you.
When you think of quad biking, Dubai probably doesn’t spring to mind. Well, it should. Thrashing around on a muddy track in the middle of nowhere is old news. Thrashing around on sand in the middle of nowhere is where it’s at in Dubai. Not to mention a whole lot more photogenic. You have two options for quad biking in Dubai’s desert; find a safari that has it on the itinerary or rent a quad bike independently.
Big Red Quad Bike Rental
Big Red Quad Bike Rental offers standard rentals as well as day tours that include activities like sandboarding and camel riding. You can book a pick up from your hotel, or meet them in the desert which is only 40 minutes from the city.
Big Red Adventure Tours
Big Red Adventure Tours provide well-organised tours with either one or two hours driving time. Hotel pick up and drop off is included in the packages. Sidenote: they also do dune buggy safari tours.
If your heart is set on the full blown Arabian experience (and why not?) you can’t miss a camel ride. Dubai is serious about its humped inhabitants; you can find everything from camel races to camel soap (hint: it’s for you, not them) in the desert city. So, if it’s a camel ride you’re after, you won’t have to look too hard. Most of the tour companies offering desert safaris will give you the chance to add it to your itinerary, but below are a couple of good, well-respected options for more ethically-minded tour providers.
Go for Destination Insight if you’re just looking for a quick plod. They offer treks of 30 minutes or one hour, with various possible add-ons like meals, quad biking and falconry displays.
If you want to go full Michael Palin, opt for Platinum Heritage’s camel safari. Hailed as the most authentic experience, you’ll get to enjoy a sunset camel trek before getting cosy in a torch-lit Bedouin camp for an evening of shisha, drumming, Yola dancing and Henna tattooing.
To get the best view of Dubai’s desert you need to look from above. Around 13,000 feet above to be more specific. Jumping out of a plane is a pretty good way to make your trip to Dubai even more memorable (hopefully for the right reasons). When it comes to skydiving in Dubai there’s pretty much one option; the very aptly named Skydive Dubai.
Well if you’re going to see the desert, you may as well do it in style. Just imagine how other-worldly all those sand dunes look from the sky – pretty spectacular stuff. There’s no better place to conquer your fear of heights. If you’re an experienced skydiver you can go it alone, or for the first-timers, there’s the tandem dive option (phew!).
The company offers dives above Palm Jumeirah island, too, and every dive comes complete with a USB full of photos and video footage, so you can see how truly hideous you looked falling from the sky at speed.
Too worn out from window shopping, but still want to get in on the desert action? Head over for dinner instead. There are a few dining options to choose from in Dubai’s desert, though as they’re all set inside resorts they’re on the pricier side. But hey, what better excuse to get dressed up and make a real night of it?
Al Diwaan restaurant is a seriously elegant fine dining spot, located at the Al Maha resort. Choose a table on the terrace for dinner, then head upstairs for a cocktail with movie-esque views over the Desert Conservation Reserve.
Sonara is the newest addition to Dubai’s desert dining scene, and with its open-air kitchen and elegant tables dotted around the sand, it offers something a bit different and well worth experiencing. Stop by for a refreshing mojito at the bar lounge and admire the views.
Al Hadheerah is the place to go if you’ve worked up an appetite. It’s all about the buffet at this alfresco spot inside Bab Al Shams resort. Fill your boots from the ten live cooking stations while watching the live entertainment (think belly dancing and Arabic music). Don’t miss the sunset from the rooftop bar for a great photo opportunity.
Whether you’re searching for the fanciest beachside lounge or the best desert safari, Dubai is your oyster with the Orbzii app. Download it now and to Dream, Plan & Book your next trip to the City of Gold.