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No visit to Dubai is complete without a luxury Dubai evening desert safari, and the best desert safari is one that is both an adrenalin rush and an entertaining evening with good food and traditional Arabic hospitality.
I didn’t truly appreciate the endless majesty of the desert landscape or understand the profound attachment that it’s inhabitants have to it, until I did my first Dubai evening desert safari.
It was May 2007 and my cousin was on a 3 night Dubai stopover before he traveled onward for his work assignment in the UK. He invited me to join him on a desert safari as I had never been on one in the six months since I arrived to start my expat life in Dubai.
After a 30 minute drive to the outskirts of the city, the convoy of Land Rovers stopped at a small strip mall to de-pressurise their tyres. We were encouraged to go inside the shops and because it was hot, buy water and ice lollies. My poor cousin nearly fainted when he saw that two soft drinks and two ice lollies cost over AED50. Thankfully that was the last shock of the day.
I was spellbound by the undulating dunes that varied in color from sandy beige and peachy brown to light taupe rose as the light faded at sunset, and have been entranced by the desert since.
My second experience with Simone and my brother on a desert safari in 2012 was such a disappointment. I booked the tours on Groupon because at the time I had no idea which ones were any good, and it was cheap. The disillusionment started when we were moved from the brand new Land Cruiser that came to pick us up, to a 20 year old vehicle with threadbare seats for the dune bashing part of the safari. The actual dune bashing consisted of driving over the sand from the main road to the farm where the dinner was being held. The ‘dunes’ were no higher than the molehills in a garden.
Read more: Pros and Cons of Expat life in Dubai
How to choose a Dubai Evening Desert Safari
The cost of desert safari in Dubai varies by company and depends on the package selected at the time of booking. The most popular is the evening desert safari that includes dinner and entertainment, but there are also options for an overnight desert safari or a morning desert safari.
- Many of the desert safari deals offered online are very basic, with the safari part being nothing more than a rough ride over a few sand hills (not even actual dunes), followed by a low quality dinner. In my experience the cheaper the price of desert safari deals, the worse the experience. That can range from old vehicles that can barely scale a dune (hence the rough ride over aforementioned sand hills) to reheated food that was cooked in the morning.
- Book your Dubai Desert safari tours with registered tour operators. This is important because the registered tour operators employ skilled drivers who know how to maneuver the vehicles on the sand dunes. Unskilled drivers are a health hazard as they may cause accidents on the dunes during the dune bashing or get stuck in the sand and burn out the engine trying to get free.
- All reputable operators offer a pick up and drop off service from your hotel or residence. This is particularly important at the end of the night when you are exhausted and reach back to the city between 22:00 and 23:00.
- Reputable tour operators offer complimentary water during the desert safari. Many others stop at pre-determined road side stores to de-pressurise their tyres and encourage tour participants to purchase often ridiculously priced water, soft drinks and snacks.
- Individuals with impaired mobility must check whether wheelchair users can be accommodated on a desert safari. Others with impaired mobility or joint diseases, like myself, find sitting on carpets on the ground to dine on low tables extremely uncomfortable, if not painful.
- If you suffer from motion sickness I would advise that you drink your medication when you leave the city. I had forgotten to take mine and by the end of it I was feeling like my head was going to explode and I was very close to vomiting.
What is included on a VVIP Dubai Evening Desert Safari
I have been on a few over the past 13 years but the best desert safari in Dubai was the most recent luxury VVIP Dubai evening desert safari with Royal Mirage Tours, for a team building session. The skilled drivers made the dune bashing more fun and exhilarating than a roller coaster ride. The Desert safari camp felt like a palace out of my Arabian dreams.
The desert safari price in Dubai ranges from AED 130 per person for a non-private arabian desert safari to AED 500 plus per person for a VVIP evening desert safari in Dubai.
At the time of booking this VVIP tour from Royal Mirage tours cost AED 2500 per SUV with a maximum of 6 passengers. They also have private desert safari tours for AED 1600 per SUV. The standard evening Desert safari in Dubai costs AED 230 per person in a shared SUV. The private and standard evening desert safaris do not include all the activities of the VVIP option.
- Pickup and Drop off to any designated place (pickup from 14:00 and drop off from 21:30)
- Drive by visit to the Camel Race Arena and Dubai Camel hospital
- Dune Bashing
- Sand Boarding
- Quad Bike Ride (20 Mins)
- Desert sunset view
- Bedouin inspired Desert safari camp
- Traditional Arabic welcome with fresh dates and coffee or tea
- Camel Riding and photography
- Henna Painting
- Falcon photography
- Dinner Buffet
- Tanoura Dance Show
- Belly Dance Show
- Fire Dance Show
Read more: Where to stay in Dubai for all budgets
What to wear on a Dubai evening desert safari
- Mandatory requirements are a sunhat or visor and sunglasses to protect your eyes against the harsh desert sun.
- If the wind picks up and you suffer from any allergies it is advisable to wear an anti-dust face mask or even disposable surgical masks. This will prevent the fine desert sand from filling up your nasal passages and airways. A thin scarf may be used instead.
- Closed shoes or sneakers are easier to walk with on the hot sand.
- Long sleeved t-shirts and trousers are advisable to protect limbs from the hot sun and sand when out on the dunes for sandboarding or quad bike rides.
Read more: What to wear in Dubai – The Dubai dress code
Dune bashing Dubai
The drivers must de-pressurize the tyres before the vehicles go out on the dunes for dune bashing to prevent the vehicles from sinking into the dunes. We stopped briefly at an exhibit of military vehicles while they did this.
Tour participants have an opportunity to try sandboarding when the dune bashing is completed. It is a fun activity, but can be a struggle to learn how to balance for long enough to get to the bottom of the dune without toppling off the sandboard. Getting back up the dune is a mission and by the end of it you may have sand lurking in every orifice.
When the dune bashing is over they need to re-inflate the tyres to drive on the roads.
Quad bike safari Dubai
After the sand boarding the desert safari continues with a quad bike safari at a small village a short distance from the desert. There is a camel viewing area and a few small kiosks for refreshments.
Bedouin inspired desert safari camp
The bedouin style desert safari camp was a luxuriously appointed thing of beauty. Surrounded by palm trees, it was a respite from the desert winds and heat and had luxurious clean rest rooms, a souk as well as a chillout and shisha area. The large dining area was adjacent to the stage for after dinner entertainment.
Camel ride Dubai
The evening desert safari camp had complimentary camel rides after the welcome drinks and dates were consumed.
Dubai desert safari dinner buffet
The buffet dinner offered on the Dubai evening desert safari by Royal Mirage Tours is as good as any you will find in a five star hotel in Dubai. The catering is done by the Jebel Ali Golf Resort Hospitality and Events division and all foods are freshly cooked on the afternoon and evening of the event.
The variety was astounding, from Arabic Cold Mezzeh and a full salad bar and bread, to soup, fresh barbeque and hot dishes including grilled fish with lemon butter sauce, lamb tagine and vegetable korma. This was followed by a variety of hot and cold desserts.
Soft drinks and juices were complimentary with the dinner but all alcoholic beverages are chargeable.
Dubai evening desert safari desserts
I love making desserts more than eating them, but always feel obliged to taste a variety to check how good they are 🙂
My favorite Arabic dessert is Umm Ali and Barazek cookies (pistachio, honey and sesame).
After dinner entertainment
After dinner we were entranced by the tanoura, belly dance and fire dance shows. The skill of the tanoura and belly dancers was evident and made for very entertaining routines. To preserve the modesty of the female performers we chose not to display any photos of their revealing outfits.
The fire dance show was amazing and hard to capture on video or photo.
To keep warm during the evening we wrapped ourselves in the soft clean fleecy blankets provided by the establishment. By the time we left for the 45 minute drive back to Dubai we were exhausted but thoroughly content. It was a wonderful afternoon on the dunes of the Dubai desert and an evening spent eating delicious and tasty food and being entertained by skilled performers. This is one activity worth paying extra for because it is a truly unforgettable once in a lifetime experience.
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