Dubai is an amazing city to visit in and of itself. There are many marvels to see and do in this city that has risen from the desert in only recent years fueled by the oil off its coast. However if you are like me and enjoy the city but also like getting out of it and experiencing nature, a trip to Dubai wouldn’t be complete without a safari adventure in to the Arabian Desert just outside of Dubai!
There are many companies in Dubai offering different safari trips in to the desert from quick couple hour trips to longer dinner trips to even overnight stays. Your choice is up to you, what you want to experience and how much you are willing to pay. Just remember, being that this is Dubai, expect to pay more. The concept of “budget” doesn’t really exist here.
I went on the Heritage Dinner Safari with Platinum Heritage Tours – a luxury tour company. This particular tour costs 545 AED ( about $150 USD) and includes the following:
- Tour by 1950 Vintage Land Rover (personally I find these really cool!)
- Drive through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve area of the desert
- Dinner in an exclusive camp located out in the middle of the desert among the sand dunes under the stars
- Sunset in the desert
- Falconry demonstration with date juice out among the dunes
- Camel Rides
- Henna Tattoos
- Arabic Coffee
- Bread making
- Exotic desert wildlife
- Demonstration of how previous generations made food in this desert wasteland before Dubai became the metropolis it is today
The price seems a little high compared to what I am used to but again this is Dubai and it was a luxury tour company. Like any tour you get what you paid for and in the end this was a great amount of value for the money. There were very good reviews online for this tour and company and I can see why.
The tour starts with a pickup in the city at your hotel (or in my case I had to walk a few blocks to the hotel because I was staying in the EastFlat Hostel). However if you are staying in a hotel, they claim they will pick you up from any hotel in the city. The transfer vehicle from the hotel to the desert starting location is a regular van with A/C (much needed in Dubai!) and the journey takes about an hour each way.
Once outside the city at the entrance to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve you transfer to the vintage 1950 land rover. These things are awesome and more representative of old Dubai where this was the vehicle of choice for getting around the desert terrain. I particularly like Platinum Heritage since they have these vehicles whereas other companies drive you through the desert inside regular, modern vehicles. Let me tell you, it’s way more fun to be in one of these old land rovers, exposed to the elements, sand flying in your face as you soar over the tops of the dunes! It’s exhilarating to say the least!
Once in the rover, you drive around the desert for a while stopping at various places to take in the serene landscape of the desert and some of the wildlife that are out and about living out in this barren wilderness. We also stop at a great viewpoint up on some higher dunes to watch the sun setting over the Arabian desert around you! It is such a surreal experience to see a sunset over a desert because of the reflection of the sun on the sand combined with the color of the sunset itself.
Just before sunset, we headed to a spot in the dunes where the company had some blankets set up with some date juice to drink while watching a falconry act. This was pretty standard if you’ve ever seen similar bird shows.
After the presentation and when the sun has set we made our way in the land rovers to a camp in the middle of the desert for dinner. it was a very nice camp set up among the rolling sand dunes complete with bathroom facilities. Here we started with some traditional juice and a demonstration of how the people used to make food with clay pots and large stone ovens before Dubai became what it is today. It’s weird to think how people lived here such a short time ago and how fast Dubai has completely transformed itself. It’s crazy what oil and money can do.
We sat around a small table in the sand with a group of other people for dinner where they brought several courses of VERY delicious food. There were definitely no complaints about the food with Platinum Heritage. if you wanted to try it, the dinner also offered a traditional camel dish which I was not hesitant to try. It was good but a little chewy. Probably because the camels they eat are the older ones who are near the end of their lives anyways so t’s not necessarily the finest cuts of meat. The community aspect of the dinner where you sit with other tourists is always nice too. It’s a great chance to meet people from different countries and different walks of life.
After dinner there is the option of taking camel rides just outside the camp. This was nothing special really. The camels just took you on a short circle that only lasted a few minutes but you could ask the guides to take you on a longer loop to which they obliged. After dinner, everyone sat around on a carpeted area in the sand within the camp to watch some traditional belly dancing, have some shisha and get a henna tattoo if you wanted. I figured I paid for this so I too got a henna tattoo of a scorpion on my hand! It looked awesome.
After the evening festivities, the land rovers take you back to the desert entrance where we are taken on the 1 hour return journey by van back in to Dubai. All in all, it was an awesome experience and tour! I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this company to anyone looking to do a similar excursion on their visit to Dubai. It is definitely worth the money and a nice little escape from the hustle and bustle of Dubai.