Desert Safari in UAE - Top Places & Operators to Get you Started on your Arabian Adventure

The first thing that comes to our minds when we think about U.A.E are the sand dunes and vast stretches of sand spreading on and on and the sun setting over a sea of gold. Desert safari in UAE is one of the best ways of experiencing this mesmerizing landscape. From the shifting sands of Abu Dhabi to the glorious sunsets over the exquisite horizon of Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates is one of the most sought after travel destinations of the enchanting middle east. Desert safari in UAE is a thrilling adventurous activity where you will ride the sand on a jeep drive which will be going topsy turvy all the time, therefore, it is not for someone with a weak heart. This is generally followed by a break at a campsite, a camel ride and a henna tattoo, sand boarding and much more. 

Top Places for Desert Safari in UAE.

1. Al Lahbab Desert

Al Lahbab Desert
Located some 50 km outside Dubai city, this is an ideal choice to go dune bashing, sandboarding, enjoy a BBQ meal dinner and Bedouin-style camp. The beautiful sand of Al Lahbab are a popular choice for desert safari in UAE. The red desert dunes will make for an experience you will never forget. The desert is named after a small village, while the safari you will also get the chance to experience the rural culture of U.A.E.

2. Jebel Maleihah

Jebel Maleihah
Popularly known as the Fossil Rock, this place is located on the road connecting Sharjah and Kalba. What sets it apart from the rest of the choices on this list is that you can actually find marine fossils here. This is so because many years ago U.A.E was under the sea located under the Tethys ocean. Close to this point is another fascinating structure known as the camel rock. As the name suggests this rock is shaped like a camel.

3. Liwa Desert

Liwa Desert
Located near the Rub Al Khali, the Liwa oasis is the go-to place for the experienced dune bashers. It has the highest dunes in the country. It is famous for hosting a number of festivals and challenges. The soft sand and the thrill of competition makes it a busy place. Rich in desert culture it is home to fifty villages. You may get a chance to explore this life in a desert village at its earnest here.

4. Bidayer

Also known as the "Big Red" because of its terracotta red colour. This gigantic sand dune, perfect for dune bashing and quad bike riding, makes it very famous among adventures. This dune will be an ideal attempt for an amateur driver as it is comparatively easier. Watching the sand change colours from yellow to red as the day passes is astounding. 

5. Rub Al Khali

Rub Al Khali
Also known as the 'empty quarter' it is the largest contiguous sand desert in the world. Spread across an area of 650,000 square kilometres, it is a sight to behold and explore in a jeep or on camelback. It will take you around 2 hours thirty minutes to reach it from Abu Dhabi to explore this area. 

6. Al Faya Desert

Al Faya Desert
The huge gently sloping dunes in this region are perfect for dune bashing whether you are an amateur or an expert. Located a 50 minutes drive away from Dubai, Al Faya desert is also ideal for camping. As you see an endless stretch of sand. 

Timings for Desert Safari in UAE 

Morning Safari 

If you can wake up before sunrise, then you are in for a treat. The desert is at its coolest in the early hours of the day which makes morning safari a very refreshing experience. Watching the sunrise over the sand dunes is a sight to behold. Capture this scenic beauty in your camera to make your friends jealous. You will also have a chance to go for a hot air balloon ride and marvel at the sea of gold beneath you. All other activities such as quad bikes, camel rides and sandboarding are available. The morning safari is generally 4-5 hours long but you can easily lengthen it if your tour operator is agreeable.

All Day Safari 

In this option, you get to experience the desert in every phase of the day. From the cool morning sunrise to a refreshing dinner while enjoying a belly dance performance. It is more or less a continuation of morning desert safari. This option is not very popular, therefore confirm with your operator before booking. The advantage of this tour is that you get to enjoy hot air ballooning and dinner in one trip since the other time options do not have this.

Evening Safari

If waking up early is not your cup of tea, then this is the perfect alternative as you get to enjoy the sun setting. Take a camel ride while watching the sunset over a dune or try to chase it in the jeep. The trip will start somewhere between 2:30 to 3 o'clock in the noon and will be of some 6 to 7 hours. This desert safari will be followed by drinks and dinner at a campsite. Most tour operators include a drink of the traditional shisha and also have vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, but it would be advisable to confirm before booking.

Overnight Safari 

Overnight Desert
Lying under the starry sky on cool sands and watching the sand shine in the white glow of the moon. Don't you wish to have this magical experience?  The time duration for this varies from operator to operator. To have the complete experience, the ideal time required will be 10 hours. You will experience the desert like never before and also explore the maximum number of activities during this safari. The highlight of the safari at this time would be the photoshoot in their traditional attire and resting in Bedouin-style bed. The cherry on top of the cake is that you get to see both sunset and sunrise.

In all of the above-mentioned options, you can expect the following things to be included

- A 4×4 comfortable vehicle which will pick you up from your hotel and drop you back. Some operators take extra charges if your hotel is very far, but it is generally complementary.
- Refreshments such as Arabic tea and coffee, water and a restroom break before the adventure actually begins.
- Photo stops so that you can capture the moments in your camera.
- Alcohol is not included in most packages but is available for purchase.

Must Do Things during Desert Safari in UAE

Quad Biking

Quad Biking, Desert Safari in Dubai
Due to shortage of time and this being an expensive activity, most operators make it an optional activity which you have to pay for separately. Chances are your tour operator may not mention it to you as well. We would strongly advise you to try this activity, it is the perfect thing if you are looking for an adrenaline rush. If you are an experienced quad biker, then the dunes of U.A.E deserts will be a treat like none other. As for the amateurs, you will have a great time as your guide helps you manoeuvre the desert.

Camel Ride

Camel Ride, Desert Safari in Dubai
Explore the deserts of U.A.E in the traditional manner on the "ship of the sea". Get atop a camel and make your dream of travelling the middle east like the royals come true. It is one of the major attractions during a desert safari in UAE. Camel safari brings to you the pleasures of the desert at a slow comfortable pace instead of the jerky ride of a Hummer.

Sand Boarding 

sand Boarding, Desert Safari in Dubai
Gone is the craze for snowboarding, the new thing which everyone wants to try is sandboarding. Sandboarding is sloping down a sand dune on a board similar to the one used in snowboarding. The best part, you don't need to know this sport to try it and try it on the gentler slopes. For the experienced ones, U.A.E offers some of the largest sand dunes in the world, going as high as 300m and even more. 

Enjoy Belly and Tanoura Dancing during Dinner 

Belly Dancing, Desert Safari in Dubai
If the tour operator has included dinner in your itinerary, then you are in for a real treat. Some operators have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options but confirm with your operator beforehand. Along with BBQ dinner don't forget to try the Shisha, traditional Arabian smoking pipe. 
While eating a lavish BBQ dinner enjoy a performance by tanoura and belly dancers which you will always remember.

Hot Air Balloon Ride

This activity needs another article altogether to justify how popular it is among tourists as well as locals. The best time to take this is during sunrise, but you can also opt for an evening one if you wish to also enjoy the dinner at the campsite. It is by far the most luxurious way of travelling and exploring the desert as you glide through the air watching the desert underneath you.

Bedouin Night

If you opt for night stay then you will also get a chance to spend a night in a Bedouin-style camp. Bedouin is the name of a tribe of travellers in the Middle East. Travelling all the time, they seem to have mastered the art of luxurious camps and beds. Most of the desert safaris will take you to camps which have been permanently set up and entertain guests every day. These camps try and capture the Bedouin lifestyle as closely as possible.

Photoshoot in complete Arabic attire

Photoshoot in Arabic attire
Get a chance to dress up in typical Arabic attire and get as many pictures as you want. This is included in most of the tour packages.

Tips to Keep in Mind

- Pets such as dogs and cats are not permitted on the safari
- Wear light clothes which cover you completely, sunglasses and a hat to protect yourself from the heat in the desert.
- Make sure that your desert safari is insured from the moment they pick you up till they drop you back to your hotel.
- Children below the age of 3 are not allowed.
- Pregnant women and people who back problems are not allowed to take the safari.
- If you have some physical condition which may aggravate due to jerks, shocks or heat, please consult your doctor before taking the desert safari.
- Do not forget to take your camera along, because most operators stop the vehicles on the top of a dune for you to take some pictures. 
- Since you will be going off the road, ensure that your 4x4 is in good condition, especially the tires.
- Avoid activities like sandboarding and quad biking during noon as the desert gets very hot during this time.

The desert safari in UAE will be a once in a lifetime experience which will enrich your knowledge about the lifestyle of the royal as well as the local people of the middle east.

This post was published by Ananya Sinha

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