One of the things we looked forward to in visiting Dubai was the Desert Safari. We know that a trip to the Middle East won’t be complete without being in the desert so we made sure to include this in our itinerary.
We booked an Evening Desert Safari online just a week before our trip. The package was worth 100 dirhams and includes the following: a hotel pick-up (3 in the afternoon) and drop-off (just before 10), a drive through the desert (4x4 dune bashing), an extremely short camel ride, evening entertainment, and barbecue dinner.
The most important tip we can give you: do not eat anything heavy before the dune bashing! Your head and body gets literally thrown inside the car! It’s a vomit-inducing, bumpy, and jumpy ride. We drove by hilly areas and a lot of slopes - it was a roller coaster ride in the sand. It’s safe to say it may not be for everyone, I particularly had an aching neck afterwards.
After the dune bashing, we got off in an area in the desert where other tour groups parked. There were activities like sand boarding, taking pictures on and with camels, riding an ATV, or simply watching the sun set in the desert. It’s best to make use of your time as soon as drop off. We first and foremost took a camel ride just for pictures, alternatively you can do a camel ride for 15 minutes.
It was our first time to be on a camel so I was very excited. Most of the time I felt like we were going to fall, especially the part when we were about to get off and the camel knelt down. But we felt terrible after our ride when we saw someone hit a camel on the head when the camel wouldn't get up. We're definitely not doing this again!
We couldn’t find the area where they did sand boarding and this made Dexter really upset. So instead we just walked around the desert to watch the sunset.
Evening performances of belly dancing started around 6:30. As our package isn’t a private trip, we were with more or less 200 people. There were kiosks that sold souvenirs, shisha pipes, and complimentary henna tattooing. Since we felt tired and hungry we just sat ourselves to a table and met other travelers.
Wondering how we fought the 200 others in the barbecue buffet? We were offered VIP treatment (for 30 dirhams or maybe you can haggle for less!) so our table was the first to be served with drinks and appetisers even before the show started. Otherwise, the buffet is only open until after the performances… so just imagine 200 hungry people rush to the buffet to get their fill! Food selection was plenty - we particularly loved the grilled chicken!
On our way out we got souvenir pictures from our camel ride and we had to wait for our driver for a few minutes. A long day well-spent!
What we thought of the Desert Safari
The Evening Desert Safari was definitely an experience and one that we recommend if you’re visiting the Middle East. It did not live up to my (unrealistic) expectations though - I imagined fine red sand like in the movies, a more intimate setting, petting or feeding camels, and a more relaxed pace. Dexter didn’t get to do his dream of sand boarding as well. If this is what you’re looking for, the elegant fairytale version of Desert Safari, there are “luxury” packages that offer private tours. But if you’re in for a package deal that can get crowded and touristy, the experience still truly counts.
Our top tips and suggestions
- As previously mentioned, don't eat anything heavy before the dune bashing!
- Bring anti-sickness medication, you might need it.
- Wear comfortable footwear. Sand easily gets inside your shoes, so it's best to wear slippers or sandals.
- For the ladies, you can wear sleeveless tops and skirts or shorts. It gets windy late afternoon so bringing a light jacket or cardigan would do.
- Bring cash! There are souvenirs at hand or you may wanna be served an early dinner too!
- Avoid carrying big bags only because the place can get crowded and there are no lockers for valuables.
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