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Dubai desert safaris

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 07 April, 2024

Due to their often inaccessible locations, unrelenting heat and generally harsh living conditions, deserts are not something we come across or get the chance to experience often – which is why this is such an essential Dubai experience.

First, there are your desert outdoor activities for those with an interest in adrenaline. These include sandboarding, dune-bashing (driving over dunes in 4x4s) and quad biking. A number of more nature-themed safaris head instead to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, a stunning environment populated with rehabilitated indigenous wildlife, including the once-endangered Arabian oryx and gazelle.

Second, a trip into the expansive desert outside of the city also allows you to tick off a checklist of distinctly Arabian experiences. Many tours will include the option to ride on a camel, watch a traditional falconry display, smoke a sheesha and get a henna tattoo.

Your Lawrence of Arabia desert experience concludes at a Bedouin-style desert camp for dinner, with entertainment supplied by traditional local performers, including belly dancers.

Platinum Heritage and Sonara Camp are amongst the best operators that have overnight camp options. You could then also arrange a sunrise hot air balloon flight – a surreally beautiful way to see the desert.

Some of the desert activities have minimum age requirements; for example, dune buggying is for over-14s only (passengers) or over-18s (drivers), camel riding for over 5s. The sunset dinner safaris are a great experience for children from about 5 upwards.

Desert falconry & wildlife

Falconry has been an integral part of Bedouin culture for centuries. Platinum Heritage offer a unique trip to witness an authentic desert falconry display, and even learn the basics. On the way back, you’ll take a guided wildlife safari through the Conservation Reserve.

Logistics

Price from: £20+
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: 4+ hours

Getting there & doing it

Numerous operators run tours into the desert, offering a variety and mix of activities and adventures, but it’s best to pick one that is licensed to operate in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, a pristine environment full of indigenous wildlife. See their website for details.

For the full Arabian experience – distinctly touristy but lots of fun – choose a sunset dinner safari which ends at a makeshift Bedouin encampment within the reserve. If your focus is the wildlife, choose a nature safari.

Your tour operator will pick you up from your hotel and drop you back at the end of the day. All food and drinks are provided, including bottled water. Dinner generally includes an Arabic feast and there is always an abundance of food.

Take a hat and sunscreen during the hotter months and a scarf or shawl during the cooler months – the desert gets much colder than the city after nightfall.

When to do it

Desert safaris run all year round. Pick-up time for the sunset dinner safari is usually around 3.30pm (later in summer), with drop-off at the end of the evening, around 10.30pm. Other tours vary.

Despite the tours starting in the late afternoon, try to avoid the summer months, which can be too hot to be enjoyable.

Who to go with: organised tours

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  • Dubai

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  • Dubai

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Dubai Red Dune Desert Safari: Camel Ride, Sandboarding & BBQ Options

  • Dubai

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  • Dubai

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