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Dubai: Adventures in the Desert

by Moderator October 2012 - last edited November by Community Manager

Modern-day Dubai might look like a futuristic space-age city, but it's the vast Arabian Desert that really feels like another planet. No visit to the UAE is complete until you see this eerie landscape for yourself, so we've gathered a few of the most popular ways to experience it...

 

Desert adventure safaris

A dune bashing safari followed by an evening barbeque at a desert campsite is the most popular day trip excursion in Dubai. Most tours start around 3pm and the drive from your hotel to the desert in an air-conditioned 4WD is only about 45 minutes.

 

After an exhilarating session of bumping and bashing over the sand dunes, twisting over peaks and plunging down steep slopes, you'll disembark for optional sand boarding and quad bike riding before one of the photographic highlights of your trip: the sun setting over the desert.

 

Dubai desert dune bashing © robertpaulyoung Dubai desert dune bashing © robertpaulyoung

 

When darkness descends you'll head to the campsite and be met with Arabian coffee and sweet sticky dates before sitting down to a barbeque buffet. After a belly dancing show, and the chance to get a henna tattoo and buy souvenirs, you'll either settle down for the night (if you've chosen the overnight option) or be driven back to your hotel. Most tours last around six hours.

 

Numerous operators in Dubai offer this excursion, so the best bet is to ask for a recommendation from your hotel, or check out some of the leading companies such as Viator, Star Mark Travels and Desert Safari Dubai, or book in advance with Virgin Holidays.

 

The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is a protected area which covers 4.7% of the total land area of the Dubai Emirate, established to conserve the natural inland desert ecosystem of Dubai. Only four operators have permission to offer tours within the conservation area, to ensure minimal impact on the environment and fewer crowds.

 

 

Arabian oryx © neekoh.fi Arabian oryx © neekoh.fi

 

While all the operators offer similar tours to the desert safaris above (there are nine Bedouin-style camps in the reserve) a less touristy alternative is an early morning trip to see the rare migratory birds and native wildlife – Arabian oryx, gazelles – of the Ghaf Forest. With managed feeding points and watering holes, chances of witnessing animals at close quarters are good. You can also try your hand at traditional Arab pursuits such as archery, falconry and horse-riding.

 

Luxury desert resort experience

Al Maha is a luxury 42-suite desert resort and spa – also located within the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve – which has just announced three new day trip excursions for visitors to Dubai. Previously only available to resident guests, the hotel's tranquil setting and facilities are now available for everyone to enjoy.

 

The Pool Package gives full access to the main pool and spa facilities, which includes sauna and steam room, hydrotherapy bath, cold plunge pool, jacuzzi and fitness centre, plus lunch and a gift voucher for AED 100 (about £17) to be used in the spa or shop. Cost: AED 550 (about £93) plus tax.

 

Al Maha swimming pool © Emirates Hotels LLC Al Maha swimming pool © Emirates Hotels LLC

 

The Spa Package includes all of the above plus a choice of any 60 minute spa treatment valued at AED 450, such as the After Sun Soother, the Al Maha Frankincense Facial, or the Desert Hot Stone Massage. See the full list of treatments at the Timeless Spa. Cost AED 1000 (about £170) plus tax.

The Activities Package includes any two activities ranging from horse-riding on professionally groomed Arabian horses who live in air-conditioned stables on site, a wildlife drive, camel safari and archery. Visit the Falconry mews and stables, and also receive full access to the main pool and spa facilities, plus lunch. Cost: AED 950 (about £160) plus tax.

 

Horse riding at Al Maha © Emirates Hotels LLC Horse riding at Al Maha © Emirates Hotels LLC

 

 

Hot air balloons

We've previously recommended hot air ballooning in our guide to Dubai by Air, Land and Sea but it's worth mentioning again as it really is the best way to experience the sheer magnitude, grandeur and silence of the desert. Floating over this sea of apricot sand dunes as the sun rises will undoubtedly be the most serene experience of your stay. Balloon Adventures tours last around five hours from pick-up to drop-off, and depart from a remote desert location north of Al Ain in Abu Dhabi.

 

 

Hot air ballooning over the Dubai desert © Balloon Adventures Hot air ballooning over the Dubai desert © Balloon Adventures

 

Visit Virgin Holidays for a winter sun city break at a wide range of Dubai hotels. Virgin Atlantic operates a daily direct flight to UAE from London Heathrow.

Header photo of Al Maha resort © Emirates Hotels LLC


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TauqeerGillani November 2012 - last edited April 2013 Moderator

Dubai Desert Safari trip is a fun way to explore the Desert in Dubai, we are ISO Certified Desert Safari Dubai Tour Company, offer Best Rates with best Desert Safari Tour.

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juliemagon21 April 2013 - last edited April 2013 Moderator

Dessert safari
.....one of the best place where you can enjoy your trip of Dubai.

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malikasad March - last edited April Moderator

Dubai Desert Safari is certainly a must go place for everyone irrespective of their ages. A memory to share with your kindred souls and chums back home, So hold your seat belt tight and get ready for the thrill. Trip Discovery highly recommend a go on Dubai Desert Safari and it will be worth every penny spend. more tours in dubia visite . [removed URL for solicitation]

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rosiebetty2648 April - last edited April Moderator

i would love to go on an adventure holiday to the desert. that wold be amazing. there is so many different places that i want to visit and never have done as none of my family or friends want to. i think i am going to try a [removed URL for solicitation] so i can do what i want.

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Mark-Devis April - last edited a month ago Moderator

We went for our wedding anniversary. We had great time specialy on Desert.  Food was average but overall experience was excellent. Highly recommended.

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About the author: Maxine

Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.